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Pangasinan town mayor, vice mayor, 17 others face raps for misuse of excise tax fund

ALCALA, Pangasinan – Nineteen officials of the town of Alcala, Pangasinan were accused of allegedly misusing in 2011 the town’s share from the accumulated excise tax from 1997 to 2007 in a case filed last week before the Ombudsman for Luzon.

The complaint accused the 19 officials, led by then Mayor Manuel Collado and then Vice Mayor Paolo Mencias, now the town mayor, eight councilors, and heads of various departments of the municipal government of alleged technical malversation and violation of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Save the Pangasinan Movement Inc., represented by its president Manuel Tolentino and its secretary general Fleurdeliz Cabalteja filed the case.

At least P2.7 million from the Tobacco Excise Tax were misused for the six infrastructure projects bid out and built by the municipal government, the complainants said.

In their complaint affidavit, Tolentino and Cabalteja charged the municipal officials for technical malversation under Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code and violation of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and violation of RA 6713 otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The two said RA 8240 provides among others that 15 percent of the incremental revenue from excise tax on tobacco products shall be allocated and divided among the province’s producing burley and native tobacco in accordance with the volume of tobacco leaf production.

This act specifies that the fund shall be exclusively used for programs like cooperative projects that will enhance better quality of agricultural products, livelihood projects, and agro-industrial projects that will enable the tobacco farmers to be involved in the management and subsequent ownership of projects such as post-harvest and secondary processing like cigarette manufacturing and by-product allocation.

The complaint said that in 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo released the 15-percent share of beneficiary local government units consisting of provinces, cities and municipalities producing burley and native tobacco covering the period 1997 to 2007 amounting to P6.3 billion.

Of the amount, P600 million was shared by the Fifth District of Pangasinan with then Rep. Mark Cojuangco as congressman, while Alcala, which was the district’s biggest producer of burley and native tobacco, has a share of P332 million.

Basis of the distribution of the 15-percent LGU share was 80 percent to the municipalities and cities in the congressional district; 10 percent to the provincial government of the beneficiary province; and 10 percent to the municipalities and cities.

The complaint stated that sometime in 2011, six infrastructure projects–all farm to market roads–were bid out by the municipality of Alcala using the share of the town from the excise tax and the winning bidder for all of these was Mecer Construction owned by the family of then Vice Mayor Paolo Mencias, now the town mayor.

“The law on tobacco excise tax, RA 8240 and JMC (Joint Memorial Circular) 2009-1 is very explicit in its mandate that the funds ensuing from the collecfion of the tobacco excise tax shall be applied in the pursuit of projects specified, ” the complaint stated.

The two complainants said the provisions of RA 8240, Section 8 or in JMC 2009 do not allow the use of Tobacco Excise Tax fund for infrastructure projects, unlike in RA 7171 which seeks to promote the development of farmers in the Virginia tobacco-producing provinces where the law expressly states that the fund thereof may be applied for the construction of farm to market roads.

The two told newsmen the municipal government also built palay and corn dryer in Barangay Bersamin, Alcala using another P2 million from the excise tax of the municipality which today remains a virtual white elephant.

They said part of the excise fund of the municipality were used to buy molasses and corn grits for a dairy farm in Laoac, Pangasinan, supposed to be a district project of then Congressman Maek Cojuangco.

The two said that the share of the fifth district in the amount of P600 million was released at one time thorough then Congressman Cojuangco and was supposed to have been distributed to other towns and city with Alcala getting its share of P232 million

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