Former MMDA officials face graft charges

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Former MMDA Chairman and newly-elected Marikina First District Rep. Bayani Fernando, among others, has been slapped with graft charges owing to the anomalous utilization of funds from the Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF).

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has decided to file graft charges against former Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) officials, led by ex-Chairman Bayani Fernando, for the anomalous use of Metro Manila Film Festival (MMFF) funds, her office announced Tuesday.

The Office of the Ombudsman cited a Commission on Audit (COA) report of alleged irregularities in MMFF fund disbursements from 2003 to 2009. These include a ₱1.6 million cash gift to Fernando, ₱11.8 million spent for “cultural projects,” and ₱10.8 million in cash incentives granted to the chairman and members of the Executive Committee.

Among those facing graft charges are former Director Leonila Querijero, Consultant Rolando Josef, Chief Revenue Officer Cleofe Ablog, and General Manager Robert Nacianceno. Also charged with graft is incumbent MMDA Assistant General Manager Edenison Fainsan.

Morales said Fernando and the others acted in conspiracy to authorize and approve the irregular payments and expenditures, which "depleted the funds of the MMFF, thereby causing it undue injury.”

Fernando was the MMDA chairman from June 2002 to December 2009. He was elected in May as Marikina's First District Representative.

As of posting, Fernando could not be reached for comments.

Fainsan and Querijero also were found guilty of grave misconduct and ordered dismissed from service. Their penalties include perpetual disqualification from holding public office and forfeiture of their retirement benefits.

COA said the MMDA failed to present official receipts issued by local government units (LGUs) proving that they received funds granted for “cultural projects.” It also said cash incentives were given out without being covered by a properly approved payroll, and that these incentives were paid in checks in the name of Ablog and as pay-to-cash.