Two (2) officials from the Department of Finance’s (DOF) attached agencies are facing preliminary investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman due to non-disclosures and misleading information in their sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), together with other administrative violations under Civil Service Regulations.
The Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) initiated separate complaints on June 28, 2013 against RENE MANUEL A. OCHAVE, Attorney II at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and MARI ANN C. OSMEÑA, Supervising Insurance Specialist at the Insurance Commission (IC), both of whom have withheld facts of ownership of some properties and businesses in their individual SALNs and provided false data therein, based on RIPS’s findings gathered during its official investigation.
Details in Atty. Ochave’s SALNs regarding his declared real properties in Cainta, Rizal, Bulan, Sorsogon, and Daraga, Albay were heavily discredited by official records which RIPS procured from the concerned government agencies.
It was plain from the 1994 Deed of Absolute Sale that Atty. Ochave purchased the Cainta residential lot for only seventy five thousand pesos (Php 75,000.00), in glaring contrast with his 2002 to 2011 SALNs wherein he reported that the same property actually fetched a much higher cost of one hundred eighty seven thousand five hundred pesos (Php 187,500.00), “which consequently bloated the total amount of his assets,” RIPS’s complaint stated.
Meanwhile, tax declarations covering Atty. Ochave’s residential property in Daraga, Albay rendered his admissions thereto in his 2006 to 2011 SALNs as decisively untrue.
It was established that the three hundred seventeen (317) – square meter parcel of land in Albay was registered under the names of Atty. Ochave’s spouse, Ma. Lourdes de Vera – Ochave and a certain Agnes Socorro de Vera Monreal. On the basis of the deed of Extrajudicial Settlement of Estate, the said lot was part of the estate of the late Natividad Mabini way back in 2001.
RIPS pointed out in its complaint that, “respondent should have declared his wife’s property in his SALN as early as 2001 and not belatedly in 2006 onwards.”
Upon checking with the Municipal Assessor’s Office of Bulan, Sorsogon, no fact of property registration yielded in its records pertaining to the land which Atty. Ochave and/or his spouse claimed as his/theirs per Certification dated 20 September 2012.
Another trend in Atty. Ochave’s SALNs for the years 2002 to 2011 is using the current fair market value of his real assets, instead of the actual acquisition cost, as a gauge in assessing the total worth of his real property holdings, which enabled him “to bloat his net worth for each year,” RIPS alleged in its sworn statement.
Supreme Court rulings are to the effect that the acquisition cost of a property is the main factor in determining the value of one’s assets, as required to be declared in the SALNs. Also, R.A. No. 6713 provides that all government employees and officers are required to state the acquisition costs of their properties apart from their assessed values and current fair market values.
There were also contrasting facts in reference to Atty. Ochave’s 2011 Isuzu Crosswind as declared by him in his SALN for the same year, with an acquisition cost of four hundred twenty eight thousand eight hundred pesos (Php 428,800.00), forty percent (40%) of which was thru bank financing plus the amount of sixty five thousand and forty pesos (Php 65,040.00) as four (4) months amortization.
Incidentally, RIPS secured the Isuzu sales invoice dated 07 September 2011 which showed that the motor vehicle was sold to Atty. Ochave’s spouse for one million seventy two thousand pesos (Php 1,072,000.00), with a downpayment of four hundred twenty eight thousand eight hundred pesos (Php 428,800.00). Moreover, Mrs. Ochave executed a Promissory Note with Chattel Mortgage dated 31 August 2011 in favor of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) for the outstanding balance of seven hundred eighty thousand four hundred fifty eight pesos and eighty eight centavos (Php 780,458.88), payable in forty eight (48) monthly installments of sixteen thousand two hundred sixty pesos (Php 16,260.00) at an interest rate of 21.48%.
Further investigation on Atty. Ochave’s business venture, “COF Resto & Bar, Inc.” revealed that he served as one of its incorporators in 2007 as borne from its Certificate of Incorporation on 07 September 2007. However, he disclosed in his 2008 to 2011 SALNs that his connection with the said company commenced a year later, or in January 2008, “when in fact, he should have declared the same in 2007 when he truly acquired said business connection,” averred RIPS.
RIPS’s authorized investigation on Osmeña bared that she made several inconsistencies regarding her 1982 house and lot in Pacita Complex, San Pedro, Laguna.
Initially, Osmeña reported in her 1994 SALN that she acquired the above-identified residential property thru installment since 1982, which fact was similarly reflected in her SALNs for the years 1997 to 2003. Yet, a perusal of her 1982, 1984, 1990, and 1993 SALNs divulged that she failed to report the said property therein. In her 2011 SALN, she did not account for any real property at all.
She likewise made variations in the acquisition date of the Laguna real property, wherein in her 2004 to 2007 SALNs, she did not indicate when it was acquired while alternatively, in her 2009 SALN, she stated that she held the property in 1989.
Similarly, in her 1999 to 2002 SALNs, Osmeña reported a car which she procured in 1997 but did not disclose such fact in her 1997 and 1998 SALNs. Later on, she left out the acquisition date of the said car in her 2003 to 2007 SALNs.
Consequently, documents secured from the Land Transportation Office (LTO) revealed that three (3) vehicles were registered under the name of Osmeña’s spouse, Jesus Mondejar Osmeña, namely: Toyota Corolla sedan; Toyota Innova; and Mitsubishi Lancer. The last two (2) vehicles, with Certificates of Registration dated December 3, 2008 and April 20, 2010, respectively, are nowhere to be seen upon a basic inspection of Osmeña’s 2009 and 2011 SALNs.
Osmeña did not also report her husband’s Mandaluyong-based business in any of her SALNs.
Section 8 of Republic Act 6713 requires all public officials to disclose their assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections “including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under eighteen (18) years of age living in their households.”
Travel records from the Bureau of Immigration (BI) confirmed that Osmeña travelled abroad for twenty-three (23) times from 1999 to 2012. Nevertheless, her trips to South Korea, Thailand, Singapore, Australia and Japan were the only ones applied for with travel authority by Osmeña, per Memorandum issued by the DOF’s Central Records and Management Division. Specifically, her requests for travel authority to Thailand on April 16 to 24, 2004 and Australia on May 17 to 31, 2004, per 2nd Indorsement dated April 16, 2004, were “not given due course,” RIPS alleged in its complaint.
Osmeña’s failure to submit her SALNs for the years 1983, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1991, 1992, 1996, 2008, and 2010 is supported by a Certification issued by her agency, despite its Administrative Division’s diligent efforts to locate the copies of the SALNs for the said years, to no avail.
Collectively, Ochave and Osmeña’s illegal acts constitute several violations of Section 7, Republic Act 3019, as amended, Section 8, Republic Act 6713, Falsification of Official Documents and Perjury under the Revised Penal Code, Civil Service Rules on Grave Misconduct and Dishonesty.
In particular, Osmeña is dealing with additional raps for Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service as penalized under the Revised Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service (RRACCS) and pertinent executive issuances on foreign travel of government officials.
Pending preliminary investigation on both officials, the Office of the Ombudsman is endowed with power to place them under preventive suspension pursuant to the “Ombudsman Act of 1989”