Ombudsman files graft raps vs Syjucos

Posted at 08/14/2014 3:21 PM

MANILA - The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against former Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco and his wife for allegedly diverting Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to a supposedly ineligible non-government organization they founded.

In a statement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said she has also referred the case to the Anti-Money Laundering Council for immediate action.

The charges arose from the disbursement of then Iloilo Rep. Judy Syjuco’s P20 million pork to the Tagipusuon Cooperative, supposedly her family’s own NGO.

The money was allegedly coursed via the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), where her husband was former chief. Mr. Syjuco is also a former Iloilo representative.

The funds were originally appropriated for the Invigorating Constituent Assistance in Reinforcing Employment (I-CARE program), a TESDA scholarship program.

The Syjucos entered into a memorandum of agreement with TESDA Deputy Director General for Field Operations Santiago Yabut Jr. and Tagipusuon president Maria Nela Yniesto on December 23, 2005, allegedly to make it appear that their Education for All Projects was a counterpart of the I-CARE program.

The Ombudsman said: "the TESDA funds, which were originally appropriated by law for the conduct of job-related skills training programs, were applied differently from their purpose since they were utilized by Tagipusuon, under the auspices of the I-CARE Program, for the purchase of school bags, notebooks and uniforms, and thereafter, distributed to elementary and high school students instead."

It was also shown that "Tagipusuon used P916,000.00 of the funds as payment for the salaries and wages of the members/employees of the cooperative" which is prohibited under National Budget Circular No. 476, the Ombudsman said.

Around P546,181.16 was also supposedly used for administrative costs to cover office rentals, hotel expenses for general assembly, communication/cellphone load expenses and other expenses.

Both Yabut and Yniesta are also facing graft charges.

The Ombudsman said the "respondents entered into a contract or transaction that is manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government, when DDG Yabut and Cong. Syjuco entered into the assailed MOA with Tagipusuon, which was ineligible and not qualified to be a beneficiary to implement the subject government transaction."

The complaints against Milagros Hernandez, Buen Mondejar, Annabelle Quimbo and Cariza Dacuma were dismissed for insufficiency of evidence.