COA opinion sought on Museo Iloilo donation

Museo Iloilo. (Photo by Rjay Zuriaga Castor)

By Rjay Zuriaga Castor

A comment from the Commission on Audit (COA) will be sought to determine the legality of the donation made by former Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog to Museo Iloilo, according to Mayor Jerry Treñas.

“We are just being cautious, but if the COA says that it is allowed, then it would be good. If there’s an opinion from COA, then we are settled […] If the regional director says that it’s legal, we will leave the donations there,” he stated in a press conference on Monday, June 24.

The City Inventory Division of the General Services Office (GSO) and the legal office are currently drafting a letter to be sent to COA Western Visayas director Marilou Rizarri.

Museo Iloilo was notified last year to return the equipment, but they requested a delay at least five times without explanation, according to Treñas.

Treñas previously explained that the GSO stated that properties purchased using public funds cannot be given to a private foundation.

Museo Iloilo, located on Bonifacio Drive near the Iloilo Provincial Capitol, is currently managed by the Iloilo Cultural Research Foundation, Inc. (ICRFI). The foundation is registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, with a registration date of October 30, 1990.

The reclaimed items include tables, chairs, steel cabinets, glass doors, closed-circuit television, and air conditioning units, among others.

The city mayor emphasized his caution, recalling his personal experience when he was accused of giving unwarranted benefits to the Iloilo Press Club (IPC) by releasing P500,000 for the construction of the IPC building during his term as city mayor in 2003.

Treñas referred to the donation of Senator Loren Legarda using her “pork barrel” allocation, not funds from the city hall itself.

The funds were funneled through the city government to the IPC. However, a legal issue arose because the club was not an accredited non-governmental organization of the local government.

As a result, it was not eligible to receive aid from the city. Had the IPC been recognized and accredited, there would have been no legal complications.

Treñas then faced criminal charges for allegedly violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act filed against him before the Sandiganbayan. In 2018, the Sandiganbayan ordered his 90-day preventive suspension.

Fortunately, the case was eventually dismissed as the new IPC leadership, led by Daily Guardian founding publisher Lemuel Fernandez, was able to account for the expenses using relevant official receipts.

Treñas said he has also directed the GSO’s inventory division to review all city government donations to private foundations and to reclaim such items if found.