Ex-Surigao del Norte gov faces plunder complaint over alleged misuse of disaster funds

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 6) — Former Surigao del Norte governor Francisco Matugas is facing a plunder complaint over the alleged misuse of the province’s disaster funds worth at least ₱50 million.

Oscar Pospia Jr., a resident of Surigao del Norte and head of the provincial environment department, filed the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman.

Pospia is also chief of staff of incumbent governor Robert Barbers.

He accused Matugas of plunder, technical malversation, graft, and violating the procurement act when the former governor authorized the use of disaster funds to purchase children’s story books.

The disaster funds were intended for victims affected by Super Typhoon Odette in 2021

Habang naghihirap ang mga kababayan namin sa Surigao, hirap sa pagkain, wasak mga bahay nila, nalaman namin na may pondo pala ang probinsya na higit ₱50 million,” Pospia told reporters after filing the complaint on Tuesday.

Instead gamitin sa rehabilitation ng aming probinsya, lalong-lalo sa government infrastructure, mga paaralan at relief or pagkain, yung pondo ay pinangbili ng children's books na hindi kailangan noong panahong iyon kasi wala naman face-to-face na klase,” he added.

[Translation: While our countrymen in Surigao were suffering, lacking food, their houses destroyed, we found out that the province has a fund of more than ₱50 million. Instead of using the funds to rehabilitate our province, especially government infrastructure and schools, and to distribute relief or food, the funds were used to buy children’s books that were not needed that time since there were no face-to-face classes.]

Other former Surigao del Norte provincial officers were named as co-respondents, including provincial accountant Myrla Padayhag, schools division superintendent Teresa Real, and members of the Bids and Awards Committee of Department of Education Surigao del Norte Division.

“There was no approval or consent from the PDRRC (provincial disaster risk reduction council), nor was there a revised plan for realignment submitted to the budget office,” the complaint read.

Asked why he filed the complaint only recently, Pospia said it took a while to gather documentary evidence needed for the complaint.

Hindi naman po basta-basta kelangan kuhanin mga records [We can't just retrieve the records],” Pospia explained.

Matugas, meanwhile, told CNN Philippines that he has yet to get a copy of the complaint.

“I’m sorry I can't give you my side [because] this is the first time I heard that there’s a complaint against me,” he said.

Responding to the complaint, Matugas’ son Surigao del Norte 1st district Rep. Francisco Jose Matugas called the allegations “absurd and obviously politically motivated.”

“We have documents from three national government agencies to prove that the purchase of the books were above board and followed the law,” the younger Matugas said in a social media post on Wednesday. [embed post]