Abellanosa faces graft probe over scholarships

Posted on December 14, 2012

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DOES being a city legislator and a school owner pose a conflict of interest for Cebu City Councilor Rodrigo Abellanosa?

The Ombdusman in the Visayas was asked to investigate Abellanosa because his school, the Asian College of Technology, is the biggest recipient of the city’s scholarship program.

A complaint was filed yesterday by Phillip Banguiran, a resident of barangay Inayawan, Cebu City, who cited Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

ACT enrolls 4,000 of the city government’s 7,000 scholars who avail of P10,000 financial assistance per semester.

Sought for comment, Abellanosa, who is running for south district congressman next year, said the complaint was politically motivated. He called it an act of desperation of his opponent, lawyer Aristotle Batuhan.

“I challenge him.. Why didn’t he file the case himself?” said Abellanosa.

He said the city government owes him P100 million in unpaid scholarship dues over the last two years.

The anti-graft law prohbits a government official from “directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract, or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity.”

The scholarship program started in 2011 during the term of mayor Tomas Osmeña. It lets accredited schools bill the city government for tuition and fees each semester up to P10,000 plus an allowance of P1,000 per month for those from the mountain barangays.

Abellanosa was a city councilor then. His school ACT was given a tax reprieve by the city government. A memo of agreement was drawn up between the school and City Council where Abellanosa was presiding officer pro tempore.

These “actions effectively deprived the Cebu City government and its constituents of the taxes due from said private entity and clearly favor ACT over other taxpayers who were similarly situated,” said the complainant assisted by lawyer Edmund Lao.

Abellanosa also sits in the city scholarship committee that reviews scholar applications.

Mayor Michael Rama said he will study how to “spread” out city scholars among the 20 universities and colleges in the scholarship program. /Ador Vincent Mayol and Doris Bongcac

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