Graft raps against San Pedro stemmed from a HongKong trip

A graft complaint against Muntinlupa Mayor Aldrin San Pedro was filed Monday before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly bringing along 32 Department of Education (DepEd) officials in an all-expense paid trip to Hong Kong in January.

In a 28-page joint complaint-affidavit filed 11:40 a.m., Muntinlupa Councilor Allen Ampaya and a certain Amelita Argana accused San Pedro of “persuading, inducing, and influencing” the DepEd officials to violate professional conduct by going with him to Hong Kong from January 28 to 30.

Complaints hurled against San Pedro included alleged violation of Section 3(a) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, in relation to Section 4(b) of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

They also accused him of violating Section 4(a) in relation to Section 11 of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The DepEd officials in the trip included 10 division supervisors, two division coordinators, and 18 elementary and high school principals of DepEd Muntinlupa City. At least seven Muntinlupa City officials and employees assigned to San Pedro’s office also came along for the Hong Kong trip.

GMANews.TV tried to get San Pedro’s comments on the complaint against him but he has yet to return the calls as of this posting.

Lawyer Harry Roque said a separate complaint will be lodged before the Commission on Elections.

“This has everything to do with the fact that he is a public official. There was a violation of the law, he has to be held responsible for that,” Roque said.

‘Dispensers of undue patronage’

In accusing San Pedro of footing the bill for the entire trip, the complainants said: “Mayor San Pedro should know that spending for this trip using public funds… is not an efficient, effective and economically sound manner of using the dwindling funds of our city.”

The complainants said the Muntinlupa DepEd officials were “transformed from non-political civil servants into dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.”

The complainants cast a doubt on San Pedro’s intention in taking the DepEd officials with him to Hong Kong, saying it could have been related to his current bid to get re-elected as mayor. San Pedro is running under the administration Lakas-Kampi-CMD party.

Meanwhile, one of the complainants — Ampaya — is seeking re-election as councilor in the first district of Muntinlupa and is running under the ticket of former Muntinlupa Mayor Jaime Fresnedi, who is challenging San Pedro in the mayoral post in the upcoming elections.

“It is not coincidence that a re-electionist like Mayor San Pedro would be giving a bakasyon-grande to these Muntinlupa DepEd Officials who will be serving during the 10 May 2010 elections, who are also shoe-in [Board of Election Inspectors] in Mayor San Pedro’s district,” they said.

“Clearly, the favor he granted them was in expectation of certain favors they in turn will grant him when the time comes. This is nothing but crass political patronage,” they added.

Grand vacation

The complainants said they first learned about San Pedro’s “bakasyon-grande” (grand vacation) through a newspaper column last February 4 stating that the mayor and “some 30 teachers, principals, and DepEd officials” reportedly all took the same flight to Hong Kong on January 28.

The same newspaper column enumerated names of people believed to be in the flight based on a supposed passenger manifest for the Philippine Airlines flight that the group took.

In their complaint-affidavit, Ampaya and Argana have also requested the Ombudsman to issue a sub poena directing the Philippine Airlines to produce a certified true copy of the passenger manifest for the January 28 flight.

Just the same, the complainants tried cross checking the names and found that the people whose names were in the manifest indeed worked for the Muntinlupa DepEd, based on a 2009-2010 directory for division key officials, supervisors and public school principals.

Records from the DepEd-National Capital Region showed that the school officials were granted permission by the DepEd to travel abroad, provided that the trip would be considered a “vacation leave of abscence with pay” and “no government funds shall be used.”

But the complainants argued that the purpose of the travel was “questionable” because in the same DepEd certification, the “personal business” trip was suddenly referred to as an “educational trip.”

This would mean that the DepEd regional director should have been required to indicate how the trip could have served the “interests of the public” — because two days in the three-day trip fell on school days, the complainants added.

San Pedro, who became mayor in 2007 after beating the wife of Fresnedi, also faced graft and plunder complaints in March 2008 for implementing 11 infrastructure projects worth P238 million without going through all proper bidding in September 2007.

San Pedro was Fresnedi’s vice mayor before the former assumed the top post in Muntinlupa City. — with a report from Carmela Lapeña/RSJ, GMANews.TV

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