3 AT CAPITOL SUSPENDED | ‘I feel I’m being persecuted’

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BY CARLA P. GOMEZ

Three more Negros Occidental provincial government employees have been suspended for 60 days pending investigation of complaints lodged against them, Provincial Legal Officer Alberto Nellas Jr. said yesterday.

Suspended were Ma. Mina Pellejo, Negros Occidental Comprehensive Health Program Division officer-in-charge and assistant provincial administrator, lawyer Ariel Cuaycong, and bookkeeper 3 Warlito Butalon of the Provincial Legal Office, he said.

In June, preventive suspensions were also issued against Provincial Budget Officer Jose Percival Salado Jr. and Mambukal Resort head Ellen Marie Jalandoni pending investigation of administrative charges against them.

Nellas said the five are among eight Capitol employees facing administrative complaints.

The case of Pellejo stems from an internal audit report stating that she went beyond the NOCHP budget and incurred liabilities, Nellas said.

Benefits were also allegedly released to alleged unverified NOCHP members, he added.

Pellejo, however, has denied the allegations against her.

The continuing nature of the program is such that the budget allocated for the year is not the limit of implementation to ensure continuity of the program. The limit in program implementation is the P5,000 cap per member, she said.

“If we do the math, for 2019, the cost per member did not go beyond the limit because NOCHP and hospital frontliners make sure to maximize the benefits from PhilHealth before charging expenses to NOCHP. Liabilities are a result of the delays in the processing of payments, because the documents required to process the same are still with the office of the provincial administrator,” she said.

As to the allegation that benefits are being released to unverified NOCHP members, she said the allegation is not true.

Program coordinators of NOCHP validate the membership through the NOCHP cards as a matter of standard practice. In case the member unfortunately failed to bring the NOCHP card, other valid, government-issued identification forms are required to be presented to the coordinators, as basis for validation in the membership database available at the NOCHP help desks, Pellejo added.

She also said she does not understand why she was served a preventive suspension on Wednesday when she was reassigned to the Economic Enterprise Development Department Tuesday by virtue of an order signed by Gov. Eugenio Jose Lacson.

The basis of the alleged administrative offenses for grave misconduct and gross neglect of duty against her was the show cause order issued by Provincial Administrator Rayfrando Diaz II which was based on an internal audit report, which she received for the first time as an annex to the show cause order, she said.

“But no matter how thorough my explanation was, including the fact that for almost a decade the program did not receive adverse finding from the Commission on Audit, still here comes the formal charge and preventive suspension,” she added.

“I feel I’m being persecuted for standing up for the program that has benefitted hundreds of thousands of poor Negrosanons. I stand to lose my job under this administration, but I’ll take all the pain of losing it because it is for a worthy cause,” Pellejo said.

Meanwhile, Cuaycong and Butalon are facing complaints for alleged inconsistencies in their daily time records, Nellas said.

The suspensions of Salado and Jalandoni end on August 7, he said.

Jalandoni has submitted her position paper, while Salado had opted for a formal hearing, Nellas said.

They have denied committing the alleged offenses claimed against them.*

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