Body of evidence (Part II)

The avalanche of documentary evidence that established the financial interests of City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog in the corporations that misappropriated, and absconded, the P2 million financial grant given by the United Parcel Services (UPS) for the improvement of English language teaching skills of public school mentors in Iloilo City apparently put him in a corner.

And the best effort his spokesman and alter ego, Jeffrey Celiz, could do was try to pull a Houdini act and show that it involved private organizations, and that no injury to the public had been caused by the swindle. This was what happened last Wednesday night when Celiz, along with HALIGI Foundation executive director Norman Tabud, engaged me in a face-off over Bombo Radyo Iloilo over this scandal.

Basically, the defenses put up by Celiz and Tabud can be summarized as follows:

  • No public funds were involved, and the transaction was between private corporations;
  • Mabilog could not be held accountable for any unethical transaction or behavior under the concept of corporations have separate and distinct juridical personalities from their individual stockholders;
  • The training program did take place; and
  • That the TESDA training school was authorized to conduct the training despite the fact its license was only for technical and vocational courses, specifically call center agent training.

Maybe Celiz fancies himself as a topnotch legal eagle in the mold of a Raymund Fortun or Estelito Mendoza or Jose Flaminiano in trying to extricate his boss from the quagmire of financial scandal. But what he has done was sink Mabilog deeper in this mess because he merely strengthened public perception that he was only trying to punch holes in an airtight case.

Let me address the defenses raised by Celiz and Tabud one by one.

First, while public funds were not involved, and the transaction was by and between private corporations, there is still the primordial public interest that’s at stake. The transactions of private corporations are not beyond the scrutiny of media and regulators like the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). And contrary to what Celiz wanted to purvey, the officers of corporations can be held accountable for any misfeasance or malfeasance.

What happened in the swindle of the UPS funds is a classic case of corporate fraud. And Mabilog, as the chief financial officer of the HALIGI Foundation, is right at the center of it. It is clear he was the mastermind of this fraud. As such, it is a legitimate public issue to be tackled in an investigative report.

Second, HALIGI’s Tabud presented volumes of documentation to prove that the training did take place, to include photographs of the participants undergoing vocational/technical training in speech labs designed for call center agents. Unfortunately, I’ve seen equally voluminous documents submitted to justify expenditure of public funds for ghost projects. Just recently, 2nd district Rep. Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco furnished me signed delivery receipts for the P3.25 million fertilizer fund scam in Alimodian as part of his counter-affidavit to my complaint before the Ombudsman.

Indeed, there might have been a training course. But it wasn’t the type that could justify the exhaustion of the P2 million UPS fund. In the first place, Panpacific Career and Management Institution wasn’t the right school for the purpose. It was basically a speech lab center where English speaking skills of those aspiring to be call center agents can be sharpened over a certain course duration. The training that was required necessitated a series of lectures in a classroom setting.

The only purpose why Mabilog made it look like there was a training course with Panpacific Career and Management Institution was to siphon the money. He needed to submit a liquidation report to UPS that was believable. And this is the reason he changed the name of Panpacific which was originally known as Panpacific Call Center and Training School. Mabilog knew it would have raised suspicions of the donor UPS. So he resorted to a disguise, a camouflage.

Lastly, Panpacific Career and Management Institution lacked the appropriate license to offer training courses other than call center agent training. Its TESDA accreditation, it must be emphasized, was only for call center agent training.

Here, Celiz propounded a wildly twisted argument. He said the Department of Education was a higher authority than TESDA for the purpose of authorizing the training. DepEd, he said, was a party to the memorandum of agreement (MOA) along with HALIGI, Victory Educational Services Inc (owner/operator of Panpacific). There’s no more need for any other authority, he said.

Does Celiz really think Ilonggos are stupid enough to believe him? I’d venture to say even the DepEd officials who were involved in this program would have cringed in shame at this kind of argument. Of course, it’s not true. All schools are subject to regulation and monitoring. And the agencies who oversee education at all levels are DepEd (for elementary and secondary), TESDA for vocational/technical, and the Commission on Higher Education (for baccalaureate and graduate programs).

Mabilog is trapped by the very arguments used by Celiz and Tabud. This transaction exposes the dishonesty nature and scheming character of this young man who happens to be the City Mayor of Iloilo City. He masterminded a big swindle that deprived our teachers of an honest-to-goodness training program that would benefit our school children. It is a most shameful display of greed and opportunism on the part of Mabilog.

UPS saw an opportunity to help; Mabilog saw an opportunity to steal.

Body of evidence, Part I

There’s no more doubt that City Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog swindled the United Parcel Service of its P2 million donation to the improvement of English language teaching proficiency among public school teachers in Iloilo City. Over the last week, I’ve managed to gather incontrovertible documentary evidence to prove that Mabilog shortchanged both the donor and the supposed beneficiaries of the program —- the teachers and the school children.

This is a big scandal. It is shameful. It is tantamount to corporate fraud. And what’s worse is that it was done in the name of a noble objective of helping improve the public education system in Iloilo City. It was carried out under a disguise of promoting honest and accountable living for a graft-free Iloilo City. It betrays the true character of the man behind all these: Mabilog.

How did this happen?

Sometime in 2007, United Parcel Service, a world-wide logistics company based in Atlanta, Georgia, donated P2 million to the Honest and Accountable Living for a Graft-free Iloilo City (HALIGI) Foundation to undertake the special training of public school teachers and help them become better mentors on the English language. Apparently, English language competency improvement is a major program of UPS in its corporate social responsibility (CSR) portfolio.

Mabilog was vice mayor of the city at the time. He was also the chief financial officer (and continues to hold the position) of the HALIGI Foundation which he and his brother, Jeffrey Christian E. Mabilog, control. Jeffrey is the chairman of the board.

The financial assistance was booked in the foundation’s accounting records under the Journey Towards English Development for Mentors (JED-M). The financial reports of the foundation which were submitted to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) show that at the end of December 31, 2007, the fund stood at P2,000,000. It must be emphasized that the financial reports submitted to SEC are audited. The income and expenses reflected therein have been certified as “true and correct”.

By the end of December 31, 2008, the JED-M fund’s balance went down to P1,452,477.64. The audited financial reports showed no specific expenditures that can explain where more than half a million pesos from the JED-M fund were utilized. The only plausible expense item that could have properly been incurred was P60,880 for stipends and allowances. I had wanted the certified public accountant who audited the financial report to clarify this point. But several calls and text messages to Mrs. Irma D. Lim went unanswered.

In 2009, the foundation went on a spending spree. It reported a deficit of P1.2 million on a year that saw P404,000 of its money going to birthday cakes for senior citizens. At the end of the year, the money for the JED-M program was gone. It disappeared from its balance sheet. Again, nothing in the items of expenditures gave any indication where the balance of P1,452,47764 at the start of the year had gone.

When I filed a report about this glaring case of a trust fund being absconded by the foundation’s officers, I asked the editors of The News Today to solicit a clarification from Norman Tabud, the foundation’s executive director. Tabud is also an executive assistant in the city mayor’s office. Tabud belied the report. He said the money was spent for the JED-M program, with Panpacific Career and Management Institution as the training center that undertook it.

Tabud said HALIGI Foundation transferred the money to the Department of Education (DepEd) Iloilo City and it was the government agency that transacted with Panpacific Career and Management Institution for the conduct of the training. I checked with DepEd; no such amount was ever transferred to the agency. I checked with Panpacific Career and Management Institution. This is where I uncovered an even bigger anomaly: a blatantly dishonest and well-disguised scheme to defraud and swindle UPS.

Perhaps it could be said the discovery of Mabilog’s financial interests in Panpacific was a product of his own panic. When he learned that I went to the office of Panpacific on the 2nd floor of Angeles Arcade, he instructed the office secretary to report to the police that I had “harassed” them. That is totally false because I went there to inquire about their training facilities. The staff, after making me wait for 30 minutes, declined my request to just peek into the training rooms.

This gesture aroused my suspicions, especially because as I was waiting at the Panpacific office, I saw all the business registration papers displayed on the wall. There wasn’t a single registration document for a training school. Everything that I saw belonged to the Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. The office secretary who went to the police station also validated that she’s an employee of the Panpacific Food Services Inc., although she misrepresented herself to me when she tried to convince me the training school was authorized to conduct training for public school teachers.

The next day, I went to the SEC and dug out the articles of incorporation for Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. In less than 10 minutes, the papers were in my hands. Both companies were owned and controlled by Jed Patrick Mabilog. That, by itself, was prima facie evidence of a major wrongdoing, a corporate theft pulled off by an individual who advocated, or rather professed to advocate, honesty and accountability to achieve a graft-free society.

Indeed, there can be mistaking the link between Mabilog and the training school that supposedly conducted the training. The mere location of the “school” in Mabilog’s business office is damning proof of that. How can he explain his sharing the same space with his other private businesses? It can’t be that the training school is a “squatter” there.

As usual, the knee-jerk response of Mabilog’s ubiquitous alter-ego, Jeffrey Celiz, is that I manufactured the story to embarrass and humiliate him. Grudgingly, Celiz admitted that the Panpacific Food Services Inc. and Panpacific Pizza Inc. were indeed owned by Mabilog. (To be continued)