Cebu City Councilor faces graft rap over city’s scholarship program

December 16, 2012 11:24 am 

CEBU CITY, Dec. 15 — A resident of Barangay Inayawan, Cebu City has filed a graft complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas against Cebu City Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa for allegedly benefitting from the city’s scholarship program.

Abellanosa owns the Asian College of Technology, where about 5,000 of the 7,000 scholars of the City Government for school year 2010 to 2011 are enrolled.

Philip Banguiran asked the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas to investigate Abellanosa for alleged violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Abellanosa described the complaint as “political grandstanding” on the part of lawyer Aristotle Batuhan, who will be running against the councilor for the Cebu City south district congressional seat.

”I suspect Batuhan to be behind this. I challenge him to file to (sic) complaint himself,” Abellanosa said.

He said Batuhan had raised the issue against him in the past.

The City Council earlier passed a resolution authorizing Mayor Michael Rama to enter into a memorandum of agreement between the Department of Education and ACT for the city’s scholarship program.

The complaint said the passage of the resolution favored Abellanosa’s school and violated the law.

The complainant said the passage of the resolution favored Abellanosa’s school and violated the law.

Section3 (b) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act provides that “directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage, or benefit, for himself or for any other person, in connection with any contract or transaction between the government and any other part, wherein the public officer in his official capacity has to intervene under the law.”

The city allocated P100 million in 2011 for the program. The amount is supposed to increase every year.

To encourage high school graduates from public and private to enroll in college, the city offers them P10,000 tuition assistance and P500 allowance per semester, which will be paid directly to the school.

Beneficiaries of the program also received from the city P1,000 as monthly allowance.

In his affidavit, Banguiran said Abellanosa’s ACT was given a “tax reprieve” by the City Government.

”Actions effectively deprived the City Government and its constituents of taxes due from private entity and clearly favor ACT over other taxpayers who were similarly situated,” the complainant said.

Abellanosa said the “tax reprieve” that Baguiran is referring to is not only for ACT.

He said other schools, which are participating in the city’s scholarship program also have a compromise agreement allowing them to pay only half of their tax liability.

The schools that did not sign a compromise agreement went to court questioning the City Government’s taxing powers over academic institutions when they are non-stock, non-profit organizations.

Abellanosa denied benefiting from the transaction with the City Government.

He said he abstained from voting in all council resolutions covering the memorandum of agreement between the Cebu City Government and ACT.

He said there was nothing to gain from the program because ACT does not charge tuition beyond City Hall’s budget of P10,000 per scholar.

On some instances, he added, ACT would waive at least P5,000 in fees.

He said ACT has 4,000 scholars under the Cebu City Scholarship Program out of the total 7,000, and none of them have complained.

He said the city even owes ACT more than P60 million. But instead of collecting the amount, he said, he would likely take out a loan to sustain the program.(PNA)

HBC/EB/BH

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