TWO Iloilo City Hall employees were relieved amid the fact-finding investigation on the alleged pilferage of rice from the City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) warehouse.
City Administrator Hernando Galvez confirmed that Edwin Florendo and Jonathan Celiz were relieved from the CSWDO while the fact-finding investigation is ongoing.
But Galvez clarified that the relief order does not mean Florendo and Celiz are guilty as it was only meant to ensure smooth gathering of facts.
“This remains to be an allegation, and they still enjoy the presumption of innocence,” Galvez said.
Galvez and Florendo are allegedly the drivers of CSWDO vehicles that were photographed sneaking out sacks of government rice then delivering them to stores in the city.
The two will be temporarily assigned to other City Hall offices.
Galvez called on the public to testify and help shed light on the allegations.
“We will be very happy if there will be persons willing to testify, including those that bought rice. We encourage those who allegedly received the goods to come out to fast-track the probe,” Galvez stressed. Those who will come out to stand as witness can be a state witness”, he added.
Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, through Executive Order No. 36 dated April 18, 2017, created an Ad Hoc Committee headed by city legal officer Lorna Laurea to probe the alleged unauthorized/unlawful disposal of CSWDO rice.
Mabilog likewise directed lawyer Mary Joan Montaño, Internal Affairs Service OIC, to conduct a physical inventory of the existing stocks (rice & other goods) in CSWDO warehouse at Brgy. San Pedro, Molo.
Galvez said the investigation is meant to determine if the allegations are true or not. If there are bases and the allegations were to be found true, he said the City will file administrative or criminal charges against those involved.
“We hope we will find the truth, and may this serve as warning to all. We are not joking. We will investigate to put an end to this. If we need to put them in prison, we will do it to serve as an example,” Galvez said.
Before the photographs came out, there were already some allegations of misconduct at the CSWDO.
“Ti, may ulu-allegation sang nagligad, amo na ang gusto naton mahibaluan kag i-clear,” Galvez said.
The Ad Hoc Committee has no definite timetable in conducting the investigation but Galvez said Montaño was asked to conduct the inventory of stocks the soonest time possible.
Galvez said the CSWDO head Alfred Villanueva will stay.
In an earlier interview, Villanueva said: “My drivers and personnel are trusted…but there is a possibility that because of this trust, one’s credibility can be damaged.”
Villanueva said he welcomes the investigation as he will also create a committee to conduct a separate probe. He also denied that his personal car was also used to deliver sacks of government rice to stores.
“I won’t allow my car to be used for that! I won’t gamble my retirement for that,” the 64-year-old Villanueva said.