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Army chief asks COA to probe cost of brg’y projects in Camp

ORMOC CITY – Lt. Col. Edgardo F. Batenga, the brigade executive officer of the 802nd Brigade at Camp Jorge Downes here and camp administrator as designated by the Army Real State Office, has asked the Commission on Audit (COA) this week to investigate the allegedly anomalous infrastructure project constructed within the military reserve by officials of Brgy. Camp Downes here.
This, after Batenga sent a complaint to the Office of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales claiming of a “squatting syndicate” backed by the barangay chairman himself and at least three of his councilors.
Batenga, who personally delivered his letter to COA at the city hall here, wanted the agency to look into the fund utilization of three barangay projects and its necessity – the non-functional water reservoir, an unused material recovery facility (MRF), and the lighting at the basketball court inside the barangay elementary school.
Batenga suspects that the projects were overpriced. He said the water reservoir cost the barangay P57,000 while the MRF was worth P111,000 and the lighting at the basketball court was funded with P72,000.
Both the MRF and water reservoir were reported as “completed”, but the irony, said Batenga was that the reservoir was not yet finished and the Army was even being blamed for stopping its construction, according to a resident they spoke to.
However, the head of the COA here did not personally entertain Batenga. Her staff said she was in the city accounting office for an important meeting and would not even give out her name. Nonetheless, a reliable source said that she was just observing Batenga and press people who came with him from a distance.
Allegedly, the COA head was upset with the presence of media. A staff warned reporters who took pictures of the office, claiming it was invading their privacy forgetting it was a public office.
Batenga, on the other hand, said he already expected the COA head to avoid him because John Pilapil of Power FM here already reported his planned visit to her office in advance.
It was Wemia Seño, state auditor III, who entertained Batenga’s complaint saying this is a welcome development because they were already poised to audit Brgy. Camp Downes.
Batenga discussed with Seno the rationale behind his request, saying he just wanted COA to look into the financial record of these projects and their necessity, adding he cannot anymore file a complaint at COA anymore because he had just filed a suit against the four Barangay officials with the Ombudsman.
However, Batenga told media that he is not expecting for his request to prosper. He just filed the request with COA to verify if “justice” can still be achieved in Ormoc from a supposedly independent government office like COA. “If there is no action here, then I can file it now to the higher COA office because I have the received copy of the request already,” he underscored.
Batenga also furnished the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) a copy of the letter COA received. He was entertained by DILG city director Jesus L. Horca.
Horca said that DILG will look into the matter but they cannot take any legal action anymore because the complaint is with the Ombudsman already. They will just implement whatever the Ombudsman recommends.
EV Mail tried to contact Brgy. Captain Samuel Baldezanso for his side on the issue but efforts proved futile. He could not be reached through telephone in their barangay hall. Baldezanso reportedly has already made pronouncements that he would not give any further statements to the media.
During the Sangguniang Panlungsod (SP) session on Thursday, this week, the barangay council of Camp Downes passed two resolutions related to the issue. First was requesting the relief of Batenga and some other army officials in the 802nd IB. The second resolution was requesting city mayor Eric Codilla for legal assistance in this issue to prevent further disunity in their barangay.
To recall, the squatting issue in Camp Jorge Downes, a perennial problem in the area for years, started the controversy between Batenga and barangay officials. Batenga surprised barangay officials with his imposing strict rules governing the military reserve, compared to the tolerant behavior of past commanders.
Moreover, barangay officials have reportedly asked for the relief of the principal of the Camp Downes Elementary School for being “sipsip” to Batenga. Batenga has criticized the actuations of barangay officials of turning the school grounds into a disco at night and a venue for drinking sessions when it is expressly prohibited from such institutions. Batenga, for his part, said he is ready to face any complaint filed against him in court because he was on the right side and had documents to prove it. He added that he is not afraid whether city politicians withdrew their support to the army because of his action, alluding their role as soldiers was to uphold what was right and lawful and not play patronage politics.



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