Mayor warns of more suits on market fee collection fiasco
Expect more cases to be filed in the ongoing investigation into what Mayor Benjamin Magalong described as a long-time syndicated corruption involving city market employees and merchants leading to embezzlement of public funds.
The mayor made the warning as five employees of the City Treasury Office assigned at the city market were charged of malversation through falsification of public documents and falsification by public official on July 20 for padding receipts of collections from arrival fees or kuartais at the city market.
The mayor said a similar case was filed three weeks earlier and another case is being prepared against four more collectors as investigations go high gear to ferret out the truth.
As this developed, the mayor said the city has launched another investigation this time on the illegal transactions inside the market particularly on the sub-leasing of market stalls which is prohibited in the Tax Ordinance.
The malversation and falsification case against the city employees was filed before the City Prosecutor’s Office by the Baguio City Police Office represented by City Director Glenn Lonogan and Supervising Administrative Officer Marieta C. Alvarez in behalf of the city government.
The suit stemmed from the results of the investigation initiated by the mayor on the alleged connivance involving revenue collectors and supervisors to steal from the market fees collected, among which the arrival fees from merchants to allow them to sell their goods.
“Halimbawa, ang siningil nila sa merchant ay P4,000 pero ang naka-reflect sa duplicate copy ng resibo na isusumete sa City Treasury ay P70 lang. Ibinulsa na nila ‘yung iba,” Magalong said.
The mayor said the probe started earlier in May when one merchant brought his receipt and asked for verification of the fees paid.
A review of the duplicate receipts was conducted by the City Treasury Office through Alvarez as the head of the market office and discovered discrepancies in the amount indicated in the original receipts from the duplicate copies.
This prompted the mayor to order a review of all duplicate receipts covering year 2020 until June 2022 which yielded similar findings.
The mayor said based on the findings, it can be assumed that the city government had lost up to P50 million in total revenues from the arrival fees alone.
“Matagal na ito na nangyayari sa public market at tuluy-tuloy ang ating imbestigasyon kahit pa sa mga nag-retire na at dating empleyado. Sigurado ako lalabas lahat ng ebidensya at hindi sila makakatakbo. Sana makasuhan silang lahat at makulong sa dami ng ninakaw nilang pera ng gobyerno,” Magalong said. – Jessa Mardy P. Samidan and Aileen P. Refuerzo