Legazpi City, March 9– The controversial P47-million Malampaya fund that had been allegedly misappropriated during the 2009 Mayon eruption resurfaced here as Albay province claim it has been fully accounted for.
Gov. Joey Sarte Salceda reportedly warned his provincial Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) officer to resign after the Commission on Audit started looking into the controversy that many in the listed beneficiaries who appeared in the Requisition and Issue Slip (RIS) submitted by the Albay DSWD officer allegedly denied receiving goods or cash assistance from the P47 million Malampaya fund released during the 2009 Mayon eruption for the thousands of evacuees.
DSWD Regional Director Arnel Garcia denied any knowledge about the P47 million fund for Mayon evacuees controversy, saying the DSWD Albay is under the provincial government.
In some instances where the COA sent confirmatin request to listed beneficiaries as provided by the provincial social welfare office for validation, red light alarms for suspected irregularities surfaced.
On June 6 last year, COA Asst. Commissioner Susan P. Garcia sent confirmation letters to beneficiaries based on the RIS report submitted by Albay DSWD provincial officer Yolanda Guanzon. Guanzon is reported to have filed an indefinite leave of absence from office.
Barangay chairman J. R. Maso of Pigcale in Legazpi City, was among those who allegedly received 2,000 bags of rice from the Malampaya fund for the Mayon evacuees. In the confirmation request sent back to COA, he however denied receiving the goods or anything from the fund.
On the same date, a similar letter from Garcia was sent to an unnamed barangay captain of Victory Village of Legazpi about the 2,200 bags of rice that the said barangay executive allegedly received during the 2009 Mayon eruption for the evacuees in his barangay. The incumbent barangay chair denied he had received any.
Radio reports said Guanzon and Salceda’s Atty Carol Sabio, accompanied by the president of Albay provincial barangay councils league Joseph Oro Lee, reportedly had been roaming around pleading to those who received letters from COA to accept that they received the rice assistance allegedly in exchange for cash.
In a radio interview by Sultan Wally of “D Wow” radio, municipal social welfare administration officer of Tiwi, Albay Cristy Candelaria, claimed that Guanzon and a lawyer allegedly came to her trying to convince her to admit she received the 250 bags of rice listed in her name in the RIS during the 2009 Mayon eruption.
In the end, while the provincial government of Albay was saying that the fund had been all accounted for, it rests on the Commission on Audit to say the final verdict if it truly was legally and lawfully accounted for, not the governor’s office.
As had been noted by the Bicol Street Journal, something in Albay has been “cooking” for sometime already. (with report from PNA/ Manilyn Ugalde)