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SP, media probe P20.5 M Sendong Fund released toCatholicChurch-based NGO

By Frank E. Dosdos, Jr.

ILIGAN CITY – July 7 - After an observation report of the Commission on Audit stating that around P20.5 Million in Sendong Funds were released to a non-government organization as a cash advance to finance a housing project intended for typhoon survivors, the Sangguniang Panglunsod (SP) and some members of the fourth estate made separate inquiries on the matter last July 1 and 2, respectively.

In the SP probe, the Manager of the Land Bank of the Philippines, Iligan Branch, disclosed that P20,5l0,000 was released to Integrated Builders Foundation, a Roman Catholic Church-based organization represented by Msgr. Jemar Vera Cruz.

Vera Cruz who also appeared during the SP inquiry confirmed that the said amount was advanced to the said Foundation to build houses for Sendong survivors on a land owned by the Diocese of Iligan at sitio Tunggo in Barangay Buruun, this City.

He assured the SP that the amount released will be properly accounted.

Also present on behalf of the Diocese of Iligan was its counsel Atty. Leo M. Zaragoza, who likewise confirmed that the said amount was released by the City government to the Foundation.

Vice Mayor Rudy Marzo expressed his appreciation for the efforts of the Diocese Iligan to help construct houses for the survivors of typhoon Sendong.

However, Councilor Ariel Anghay expressed concern that the said cash advance was made to the said organization because he remembered that the SP authorized the City Mayor to enter into a Memorandum of Agreement with the said Foundation but did not authorize a cash advance.

He said that he was not certain whether or not government funds may be advanced to a non-government organization.

On the visit of the members of Media to St. Michael’s Heights Subdivision at sitio Tunggo in Buruun where the housing project was located, they were briefed by Architect Lord Jay Loma concerning the progress of works.

He said that 84 houses were already completed and have been occupied by the intended beneficiaries. He also said that another sixty units have been completed and are ready for occupancy. Sixty more units are expected to be completed this month.

He concluded that 85 more houses are to be constructed and completed in August, making a total of 211 housing units at P110 thousand each.

It was learned that the housing beneficiaries will pay P200 monthly for twenty-five years to defray the cost of the lot.

It is worthwhile noting that the said cash advance was taken from the remainder of the P242 Million pesos which the Department of Social Welfare given three days after typhoon Sendong to the Local Government of Iligan as shelter assistance to the survivors.

It was earlier reported that of the P242 Million, only P217 Million remained at the end of the previous administration as P25 Million were spent for 200 houses built by Habitat Foundation and 100 houses erected by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers (PICE).

Councilor Anghay concluded that he expects the Commission on Audit and the government agencies concerned to resolve whether or not it is in order for government funds to be advanced to a non-government organization.


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