09:50 PM March 22nd, 2011

By: Neal H. Cruz, March 22nd, 2011 09:50 PM

QUEZON CITY prides itself in being the richest city in the Philippines. The city government has billions of pesos deposited in the banks. All that money comes from taxes paid by the residents and businesses of the country’s largest city.

The problem of most Philippine cities is the lack of funds. They don’t have enough money to finance essential services and infrastructure projects. Not Quezon City. Its problem is that it has too much money, as a result of which corruption is very bad in the city government. And among the worst offenders are the representatives of the people themselves: the councilors.

There are thousands of ghost employees in the city’s payroll, most of them supposedly working for the councilors. Each of the 26 councilors has 124 employees but only 20 or so of them are real flesh-and-blood employees. The others are non-existent. They exist only in the payrolls and in the personal data sheets, most of which are fake. Somebody collects and pockets their pay every month.

Each councilor has an P800,000 monthly payroll. There are 26 councilors. So do the arithmetic and you will have an idea of how much taxpayers’ money is lost to ghost employees. A rough estimate of the amount stolen is P4 billion yearly!

Not only that. Each councilor has a P43-million pork barrel. They are free to spend it for whatever projects they report to the city treasurer. What they report is not exactly what is spent for the projects, many of which are also ghosts. Much of the money allocated for projects of councilors go to private pockets.

How do I know all these? A whistleblower, a former employee of the QC Council, couldn’t take it anymore and decided to spill the beans. Former Sen. Nene Pimentel presented him at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel last Monday.

Pimentel, who acts as counsel for the whistleblower, Jimmy Lee Davis, has filed complaints with the Office of Ombudsman against three councilors for starters: actor Roderick Paulate, Marvin Trillo and Francisco Calalay. The complaints were accompanied with fake data sheets of the ghost employees and fake job orders for ghost projects.

The personal data sheets have photographs supposedly of the employee. But they are ID photos bought from photo shops and affixed to the data sheet. The photos are not those of the employees listed on the sheet. The persons in the photos do not know that their photographs are being used to steal the money of taxpayers.

Investigators should publish these pictures in the newspapers and ask their owners if they are employed by the QC government. Almost all of them are unaware that they are in the city government payroll. Somebody collects their monthly pay and signs their names on the payroll. A look at the payroll shows that many of the signatures, supposedly of different people, look as if they were signed by only a few people. You know where the money goes.

It is likely that a syndicate or syndicates have seen a gold mine in the rich coffers of the city government. Syndicate members fill up the fake personal data sheets, procure the ID photos, fill up the fake job orders, and collect the pay of the ghost employees.

Are the councilors in cahoots with the syndicate? They sign the payroll. Is Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte, chair of the city council, aware of what is going on? She approves the payroll. Sources say there are indications that she does not like it but she cannot put her foot down because she would lose allies in the city council. By the way, all the councilors are members of the Liberal Party.

Does Mayor Herbert Bautista know about it, too? Most likely, as rumors about the anomaly has already leaked out. I don’t know if it is true, but there are reports that the city treasurer has already frozen payments for the payrolls.

The syndicate seems well-informed and has many operatives. A day after Pimentel filed his complaints with the Ombudsman, the councilors already had copies of the complaints. Shortly after the Kapihan sa Diamond, I received a call from a public relations man asking if I would write about it and wanting to meet with me.

Who is this Jimmy Lee Davis? According to his affidavit, he has been an employee of the city council and has worked in the offices of many councilors from 1992 to 2010. His exposé, he said, is factual and true. Ghost employees in the offices of city councilors are proliferating.

The staff members of the councilors filled up the personal data sheets of the supposed employees “to support the payrolls using fictitious names and pictures to complete the P800,000 monthly payrolls of each councilor,” Davis said.

He continued:

“In fact, I suggest that the Maintenance and Other Operating Expenses (MOOE) portion of the annual budget of the Sangguniang Panglunsod (SP) of Quezon City should be subjected to thorough scrutiny by the Office of the Ombudsman or whatever office of the government has the power to do so.

“I am also convinced that the employees in the payroll of each councilor should be investigated so that our graft investigators may see for themselves that out of the 120 plus employees of each councilor, only a few can personally show up because most of them are ghost employees.”

Pimentel and Davis said they were initially concentrating on Paulate, Trillo and Calalay because if all the 26 councilors were charged at the same time, the supporting documents would “reach the ceiling.”

Davis said he has already received death threats because of this expose, which was the reason he decided to go public.

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