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Imee Marcos denies anomalies in cash advances of tobacco funds.

Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos on Wednesday denied that there was anything anomalous in the release of millions of tobacco funds for minitrucks and minivans through cash advance.

The House of Representatives inquiry into the alleged misuse of P66.45 million Ilocos Norte provincial government tobacco funds for minicabs, buses and minitrucks centered on the provincial government's resort to cash advances, even though this mode of disbursement is prohibited unless for emergency or payroll purposes.

'Hindi naman ibig sabihin may naibulsa (It doesn't mean it was pocketed),' Marcos said in response to questions about the legality of the disbursement method posed by her political foe majority leader Rudy Farias.

Marcos said the Commission on Audit (COA) did not also issue adverse findings on the disbursement of tobacco funds through cash advance.

Farias asked Marcos if she did not find anything anomalous in the staggered release of P32 million in cash for the payment upon delivery of the minitrucks and vans.

Marcos acknowledged that P32 million is a big amount to be carrying around, but the provincial government's cashiers handle as much as P75 million.

When Farias asked if she would entrust that hefty amount of cash to a cashier, Marcos said the question was 'speculative,' and that the COA did not even issue a notice of disallowance on the transaction.

'Public office is a public. People are accountable at all times. We should serve to the highest integrity. Kung pera 'yan, if that were your money, would you entrust it to someone?' Farias said.

The vehicles in the allegedly suspicious transactions were also fully delivered, Marcos said.

'Kumpleto naman ang vehicles, resibo, wala namang reklamo ang suppliers. Kumpleto, walang anomaly (The vehicles were complete with the receipts and the suppliers had no complaints. It was all complete, no anomaly).... They said all vehicles were there. I have no reason to believe otherwise,' Marcos said.

Farias later called the provincial government's resort to cash advances of millions of public funds a 'gangster type' of transaction.

'Para kayong gangster na cash ang barayan eh,' Farias said when he was interpellating the vehicles supplier Granstar.

Later in the hearing, Commission on Audit (COA) commissioner Jose Fabia said the disbursement of public funds through cash advances should have raised red flags already, but this mode of disbursement should comply with the guidelines that it should be liquidated within 60 days.

'Actually, itong cash advance, hindi dapat in-allow in the first place. Nonetheless, mayroong regulation ito na it should be liquidated at the end of the year or 60 days after the issuance of the cash advances,' he said.

Farias then lamented the Sangguniang Panlalawigan's resolutions condemning the House inquiry as political persecution and even declaring the majority leader as persona non grata, when it was the provincial government which committed irregular cash advance disbursements in the first place.

'Yun ang pinakamasakit. Ito ginagawa ko trabaho ko, ginagawa akong demonyo. Samantalang silang gumagawa nang masama, pinupuri mo,' Farias said in addressing the Sangguniang which expressed solidarity with the six provincial government officials who were earlier detained for contempt at the House for not participating in the probe.

Marcos was accompanied by her mother Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos, her brother former Senator Bongbong, and a family friend, former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile.

In an interview before the hearing, Bongbong said the hearing initiated by the resolution of a family foe Farias is tinted with political color.

'This began as political conflict in Ilocos Norte that turned into a personal one,' he said in an interview.

In calling for the probe, Farias alleged that about P66.45 million tobacco funds were used to purchase minicabs, buses and minitrucks for the different Ilocos Norte municipalities, even though the law-Republic Act 7171-that imposed the tax on Virginia cigarettes states that the excise tax should be used for livelihood projects and infrastructure projects benefitting the tobacco farmers.
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Geographic Code:9PHIL
Date:Aug 9, 2017
Words:741
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