THE two employees of the Iloilo City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) who were relieved amid allegations of rice pilferage denied sneaking out government grains from their warehouse.
Edwin Florendo and Jonathan Celiz said they never diverted government grains from the CSWDO warehouse to private stores in the city as alleged in a white paper sent to media outlets early this week.
City Administrator Hernando Galvez earlier confirmed that Florendo and Celiz were relieved from the CSWDO while the fact-finding investigation on the alleged rice pilferage 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.
Celiz and Florendo are allegedly the drivers of CSWDO vehicles that were photographed sneaking out sacks of government rice then delivering them to sari-sari or retail stores in the city.
In a radio interview, the two drivers said there were instances that they delivered rice to a store in Bolilao village in Mandurriao but it was meant for safekeeping.
The duo said the store where they left CSWDO rice was owned by the sister of the day care center worker in Bolilao. The grains were meant for the day care center’s feeding program.
The white paper and attached photos also claimed that Celiz and Florendo were also spotted delivering CSWDO rice to another store in Nabitasan village in LaPaz.
But the owner of the store told Aksyon Radyo-Iloilo that it so happened that the day care center is right beside her store, thus it appeared in the photos that the CSWDO personnel were unloading rice at their place.
Meanwhile, the ad hoc committee tasked to probe the issue will conduct an inventory of rice and other goods at the CSWDO stockroom starting today, Apr 21.
Lawyer Mary Joan Montaño, Internal Audit Service Office head, together with Engr. Eduardo Vargas Jr., of the General Services Office (GSO), Edsel Muyuela of City Accounting Office, Precious Hope Morante and Norwain Diaz of the City Legal Office already inspected the stockroom on Apr 20.
The ad hoc committee was created by Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and headed by City Legal Officer Atty. Lorna Laurea.
“Because of the EO issued by our mayor, the Ad Hoc Committee will conduct an inventory of rice and other goods. This is with regard to the alleged unauthorized disposal of rice and other goods by the CSWDO,” a press statement from City Hall quoted Montaño as saying.
During the inspection, it was found out that the sacks of rice from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)-6 are also stored at the CSWDO stockroom.
“We have seen that the sacks of rice coming from DSWD are also here, we will request for additional manpower to help us transfer the sacks of rice so that we can start the physical counting as soon as possible,” Montaño noted.
The inventory will be compared with the inventory of CSWDO to know if the records tally, she added.
Aside from inspecting the CSWDO stockroom, padlocks were also changed to avoid further anomalies.
Montaño gave the spare keys to Mario Mahinay, CSWDO supply officer, for emergency purposes. (With a report from Iloilo City PIO)