Ombudsman fines ex-Daanbantayan mayor over Yolanda aid distribution

MANILA, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman found Augusto Corro, former mayor of Daanbantayan, Cebu, guilty of simple negligence for unclear policies in the distribution of financial assistance to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) survivors in his municipality.

Corro was ordered suspended for two months, which is equivalent to a fine worth two months' salary because he's no longer in service.

The former mayor was originally sued for graft and gross negligence but the Ombudsman said there is no probable cause to charge him criminally.

Corro's case sprung from a complaint of one of his constituents who was disqualified from receiving financial aid from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Daanbantayan was supposed to give out P30,000 to each family whose house was completely destroyed by Yolanda, and P10,000 to each family whose house was partially destroyed.

Complainant Renato Benatiro of Barangay Tapilon was originally on Corro's list of beneficiaries submitted to the DSWD, but he was later disqualified due to a circular.

In January 2015, the DSWD released a circular disqualifying residents living in unsafe or no-build zones from receiving financial assistance. Barangay Tapilon was listed by the Daanbantayan local government as an unsafe or no-build zone.

On March 25, 2015, however, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) issued a letter saying Barangay Tapilon is "generally not within a danger/unsafe zone for rain-induced landslide and flooding."

Corro said he merely withheld the distribution of the cash assistance to Barangay Tapilon residents. But the Ombudsman, in its resolution, said the remark next to affected residents' names on the list should not have been "unsafe zone" but "for verification."

Not graft

The Ombudsman said this does not amount to graft.

"The act of classifying complainant's abode and several others as situated within the danger/unsafe zones without proper reference to the CLUP (Comprehensive Land Use Plan) and multi-hazard maps, albeit improper and careless, does not, by itself, establish the presence of manifest partiality, evident bad faith and/or gross inexcusable negligence," the Ombudsman said.

"It is just unfortunate that DSWD was noticeably tardy in crafting guidelines for the proper implementation of its Emergency Shelter Assistance program."

Simple negligence is "failure to give proper attention to a task expected of an employee resulting from either carelessness or indifference."

The Ombudsman also suspended Heife Aplece of the Municipal Social Welfare Development Office of Daanbantayan. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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