THE Civil Service Commission (CSC), the main government agency tasked to imbue all government workers and officials with the spirit of integrity and professionalism in public service is now itself immerse in controversy after a complaint was filed at the Ombudsman seeking for the suspension of the executive director of the Career Service Executive Board (CESB).
In a complaint filed last February 23, 2023 a copy of which was only received recently by the media, the Ombudsman was asked to preventively suspend Maria Marcy Cosare-Ballesteros, head of the Secretariat and CESB Executive Director.
The CESB board is chaired by Civil Service Commission chairman, Karlo Nograles.
Ballesteros was accused of oppression, grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, serious neglect of duty and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.
According to the complaint filed by Atty. Julius Alegrado and Erick Jan Macapagal, Ballesteros not only violated RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) but also Executive Order 292 (Administrative Code of 1987), Presidential Decree 1445 (Government Auditing Code) and at least 4 other official orders and circulars.
The complaint is significant as Alegrado and Macapagal are the immediate subordinates of Ballesteros in supervising the affairs of the CESB Secretariat.
The CESB website identifies Alegrado as the director overseeing Policy, Planning and Legal, and Eligibility and Rank Appointment Service while Macapagal, is the director responsible for overseeing Performance Management and Professional Development service.
Series of questionable conduct
Among others, Ballesteros was tagged as the “mastermind” in the illegal use of the CESB service van for the wedding of Macapagal in Tagaytay last May 14, 2022, a Saturday, that was attended by Ballesteros, her niece and other CESB personnel, and the “coverup” that followed when the vehicle figured in an accident the night after the wedding.
The complaint said Ballesteros approved the use of the government-issued Nissan Urvan (OW-7896), fully aware that government vehicles should not be used for personal affairs and during weekends and despite being cautioned by Alegrado that it is subject to questioning by the Commission on Audit (COA). Worse, the vehicle’s registration was already expired at the time Ballesteros ordered its use.
On May 18, 2023, or 4 days later, Alegrado said he was informed that Ballesteros ordered the drafting of an office order claiming there was an ‘OED Planning’ on the day of the accident so it can be used as evidence to pay for the repair thru the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS).
The complainants added Ballesteros’ defense later that she did not commit anything wrong as she did not actually use the van to attend the wedding, that she shouldered some of the cost of the repair and that she reimbursed the government for the gasoline used during the wedding after being flagged by the COA, are untenable.
They noted that the accident and the finding of the COA could all have been avoided had Ballesteros listened to those cautioning her not to use the vehicle to begin with. The vehicle, the complaint noted further, was unusable for more than 7 months as a result of the accident.
Additionally, Ballesteros was also accused of overstepping her position after she started going after the complainants and other CESB personnel by no longer providing them with official documents and blocking their promotions.
Worse, Ballesteros was also accused of drawing overtime pay after an event in July 2022 despite this being prohibited by a joint circular between the CSC and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for all presidential appointees above the level of division chief.
In another incident, during the conduct of the ‘Assessment Center’ (AC) sessions, Ballesteros allegedly claimed the P10,000 ‘honoraria’ per session “despite her being physically or virtually absent.”
Ballesteros was also accused of “abusing” her authority by instructing one of her subordinates to approve her leave application, instead of having it approved by Nograles, her immediate superior.
Last January, a month before they filed the complaint, Macapagal said Ballesteros allowed her son, Rafael, and his fiancé, Maricris Moises, to use the room assigned for him during the CESB planning session in Baguio City. Moises is also the executive assistant to Ballesteros.
“The couple did not bother at all to leave Room 405 (of the Le Monet Hotel) and transfer to the room originally designated for Ms. Moises.
“Delicadeza being totally foreign to them, they continued enjoying the room paid for by the government while other CESB personnel content themselves in a triple sharing accommodation,” the complaint stated.
More time to answer, please
Responding to the order of the Ombudsman to file her comments, Ballesteros pleaded for more time, in a manifestation last April 14, 2023.
Ballesteros said she only received the OMB order dated March 31, 2023 only a day previously, April 13, 2023 and she needed “more material time” to prepare her answer and look for a lawyer to represent her.
According to Macapagal and Alegrado, the Ombudsman should immediately suspend Ballesteros, without pay, ‘to prevent her from frustrating or hampering her prosecution by intimidating or influencing witnesses or tampering with documentary evidence, or from committing further acts of malfeasance while in office.”