Wednesday, April 16, 2014
MANILA-A top-ranking official of the Department of Agriculture and a known trusted ally of Secretary Proceso Alcala on Monday denied the existence of irregularities in the Board of Directors (BOD) of the National Irrigation Administration, saying the allegations implicating him and two other NIA officials in the supposed corruption were the collateral damage of the reforms they are trying to institute in the controversial agency.
Breaking his silence on the issue, DA Undersecretary for finance Antonio Fleta said some regional directors at NIA were unhappy with the reforms being implemented by Alcala and came out with their accusations which were later dismissed as “unfounded and without strong legal basis” by the NIA’s internal audit services (IAS).
Fleta said the allegations against him stemmed from the reshuffling and re-assignment of some regional directors which prompted its employees’ association to claim that the Board has usurped the functions of the administrator.
“This (reassignment of regional directors) is part of the reforms we are doing now. The President mandated that there must be reforms so we recommended the reassignment of some regional directors to the Board,” Fleta said.
“Of course when you institute changes, surely there will be some resistance,” he said.
Fleta came out with his statements after the IAS issued its findings clearing him, and NIA deputy administrators Modesto Membreve and Lorna Grace Rosario of involvement in irregularities as claimed by the NIA Employes Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP), which, together with three other groups came out with an open letter calling on President Aquino to investigate him and the two officials.
In their open letter, contained in a whole-page paid advertisement in a national daily, the concerned officials said they have nothing personal against Fleta and the two other NIA officials but just wanted the irregularities investigated and pending the results, that they be relieved from their posts.
The open-letter followed a February 6 letter-manifesto of the NIAEASP to Mr. Aquino where it lamented the “very serious and alarming developments” in the agency.
Fleta said he welcomes any investigation to clear his name. He said he was disappointed the issue was published in the newspapers. “Why didn’t they just bring it before the Ombudsman?,” he said.
Fleta said prior to the reassignment of regional directors, they were asked to present their respective accomplishments. He said one regional director has been in his post for 20 years.
“He’s been there for 20 years so it’s about time he is replaced. Familiarity breeds contempt. If you are really good, you are not only good in your place but in other places as well,” he said.
He said it was puzzling why the NIAEASP was reacting to the reshuffling when the employees were not even covered by it. “The NIAEASP has no business in the reshuffling. It is not against their interests,” he said, adding the role of the BOD like himself is policy-making.
Fleta said his accusers dug up fabricated accusations and imputed malicious allegations. He said he is studying the filing of legal action against those involved.
He said the black propaganda campaign was well-funded and those who signed the open letter to Mr. Aquino was treated to a junket in Cebu.
Fleta said some of those who signed the open letter have signified intention to apologize.
NIA Administrator Claro Maranan earlier said NIA is bent on instituting reforms at NIA.
“Along the way, certain sectors are not compatible with some officials although the complaining groups themselves admitted that “allegations are not synonymous with proof,” he said, quoting from the open letter. – Manny Galvez
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