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OMB unmoved by Palace inquiry

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THE Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) under former Supreme Court associate justice Samuel Martires is in another controversy after a former mayor of Isabela decried its inaction over the plunder and corruption complaints that he filed against the top officials of the province nearly two years ago and for ignoring a letter from Malacañang requesting to provide him with a status of the cases.

In a talk with Pinoy Exposé, Manuel Siquian, former mayor of Angandanan, Isabela, said they were forced to seek the assistance of Malacañang thru the office of Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin late last year after their letters of inquiry sent to Martires and already totaling “12 to 14 letters,” received no response.

The follow up letters involved the cases of plunder (3 counts) under RA 7080 and violations of RA 3019 that Siquian filed against Governor Rodolfo Albano III and Vice Governor Faustino Dy III for a road project in Isabela budgeted at more than P1.5 billion out of the P2.9 billion loan the province took out with the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) on March 2, 2016.

The cost of the project, the Ilagan-Divilacan Isabela Road Rehabilitation and Improvement Project (IDRRIP), yet to be completed but supposed to be originally finished by March 2021, has also ballooned with an additional loan, in two tranches, totaling P450 million, taken out by the provincial government.

Of the original 81 kilometers of the road project only 64 kilometers have been actually completed, Siquian claimed, citing the audit report of the Commission on Audit (COA) for the province of Isabela.

“Were it not for the anomaly of overpricing and plunder, malversation and falsification of documents claiming that the project is already finished, I filed these charges with the OMB,” Siquian said.

He added he filed the cases against Dy III at the OMB last July 27, 2020, and the cases against Albano on December 27, 2021. Since then, Squian claimed they have been repeatedly following up the cases at the office of Martires but to no avail up to now. “There was no reply at all. ‘Dedma’ lang siya (Martires),” Siquian bewailed.

Undeterred, Siquian last October 24, 2022, sought the help of Malañang in asking Martires to give him an update of the cases by providing the Palace of the copies of his complaints and evidence.

In response, Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (DESLA) Atty. Anna Liza Logan, told Siquia in a letter last November 23, 2022, that it is “constrained” from acting on the cases as they have already fallen under the OMB’s jurisdiction.

But in a separate letter to Martires the following day, November 24, 2022, Logan “respectfully requested” the OMB “to provide Mr. Siquian an update or status of the said case.”

“…(T)his letter should not be treated in anyway as favoring an person or influencing any findings on the matter, and the letter should be evaluated based on applicable laws, rules, and regulations.

“Advise on the action taken directly to the letter-sender and with a copy furnished this office, will be highly appreciated,” Logan added.

But more than 2 months after the Palace request for the OMB to provide him with an update, Siquian said Martires remained unmoved.

“Kahit pala ang Palasyo, binabalewala lang ng Ombudsman ni Martires,” Siquian noted as he called for the removal of Martires, claiming he is “destroying” the integrity of his office.

He also appealed for President Marcos Jr. to take action against Martires to “protect” the legacy of his father, Pres. Ferdinand Edralin Marcos, who created the OMB thru a presidential decree, PD 1487 on June 11, 1978.

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