Defensor Sr., ex-mayor told to respond to graft raps

THE Office of the Ombudsman (Visayas) has directed former Iloilo Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. and former Lemery Mayor Ligaya Apura to file counter-affidavits to the criminal and administrative charges filed by investigative freelance journalist Manuel “Boy” Mejorada for the alleged illegal use of public funds for the repair and rehabilitation of barangay roads in the municipality of Lemery this year.

In a two-page order, Deputy Ombudsman Paul Elmer Clemente gave Defensor and Apura, who is now the vice mayor of Lemery, a period of ten days to submit their counter –affidavits and controverting evidence to Mejorada’s allegations that the former Governor illegally transferred P1,480,015 in February this year.

Mejorada said he was served a copy of the Ombudsman order yesterday by the warrant service officer of the Pavia police station.

The Ombudsman has docketed the cases as OMB-V-C-19-0158 and OMB-V-A-19-0191. For the criminal case, Defensor and Apura are charged for illegal use of public funds or property, violation of Section 3 (e) of RA 3019, and falsification of public officer, employee or Notary or Ecclesiastic Minister.  Administratively, Defensor and Apura are accused of conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, grave misconduct and serious dishonesty.

In his complaint, Mejorada said Defensor illegally transferred funds from the maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) account of the Provincial Engineer’s Office for the “gravelling, re-gravelling and rehabilitation of barangay roads” for five barangays in the municipality.

Based on the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed by and between Defensor and Apura, the funds were intended for the repair and rehabilitation of barangay roads in Layogbato (P280,347.00), San Diego (P265,684.00), Capiñahan (P256,128.00), Dapdapan (P478,584.00) and Marapal (P199,272.00), or a total of P1,480,015.

Mejorada said Defensor committed technical malversation when he drew the funds from the MOOE of the Provincial Engineer’s Office under Supplemental Budget No. 3 of the Province for 2018.

Worse, Defensor and Apura falsified the MOA in making it appear that they were authorized to enter into an agreement when the Sangguniang Bayan resolution they attached to the same was approved only on December 27, 2018.

The MOA itself was signed on December 20, 2018, or one week before the authority was adopted by the SB of Lemery, Iloilo.

Mejorada claimed that the funds were intended as election campaign funds given out by Defensor to his political allies.

“Aside from the fact that the transfer of funds was illegal, I have evidence that the gravelling, re-gravelling and rehabilitation work for the barangay roads were done by truck teams of the PEO,” Mejorada said.

“The barangays never got to spend any funds for the repair and rehabilitation work because everything was done for them by the PEO, for free,” he added.