Ombudsman finds probable cause in nepotism charges vs NIA execs

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has approved the filing of appropriate charges against three top officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) after finding probable cause on allegations of nepotism filed against the respondents.

In a resolution drafted by graft investigation officer Sergio Duke Villar, the Office of the Ombudsman has found basis in prosecuting Modesto G. Membreve (regional manager of NIA Region 7), Julius S. Maquiling (regional manager of NIA Region 10), and Olimpio J. Galagala (head of engineering, operations and maintenance section at the Bohol Provincial Irrigation Office based in Tagbilaran City).

The case stemmed from the alleged appointment by Maquiling as casual employees of a certain Hannah Grace V. Membreve (Membreve’s daughter) and Ronaldo B. Hilot (Membreve’s son-in-law) and Ma. Hedda M. Hilot (Membreve’s daughter) in 2009.

Records showed that Galagala, on July 1, 2009, requested Maquiling to detail Hannah Grace Membreve to the Bohol Provincial Irrigation Office. On February 8, 2009, Galagala requested Maquiling to detail Hannah Grace, Ronaldo Hilot and Ma. Hedda M. Hilot to the Bohol Irrigation Office. Both requests were allegedly approved by Maquiling.

In December 2010 anti-graft crusader Engineer Nilo Sarigumba and lawyer Josephus Gaviola sought the Ombudsman to probe the appointment of the three Membreve siblings.

In his counter-affidavit, Modesto Membreve claimed that he was “stranger” over the appointment of his daughters and son-in-law in NIA Region 10 Office. Membreve also denied he was involved in their transfer from NIA Region 10 to Bohol NIA Office, which is under NIA Region 7.

Finding probable cause in the complaints filed by Sarigumba and Gaviola, the Ombudsman cited Section 59 of the Administrative Code of 1987, which defines nepotism, stating that “all appointments in the national, provincial, city and municipal governments or in any branch or instrumentality thereof, including government-owned or controlled corporations, made in favor of a relative of the appointing or recommending authority, or of the chief of the bureau or office, or of the persons exercising immediate supervision over him, are hereby prohibited.”

“As used in this Section, the word ‘relative’ and members of the family referred to are those related within the third degree either of consanguinity or of affinity,” the Code stated.

To constitute a violation of the law, the Ombudsman said, it suffices that an appointment is extended or issued in favor of a relative within the third degree of consaguinity or affinity of the chief of the bureau or office, or the person exercising immediate supervision over the appointee.

“It is immaterial who the appointing or recommending authority is,” the Ombudsman noted.

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