South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. (File photo)

GENERAL SANTOS CITY – A mayor in South Cotabato province is facing administrative and criminal charges for allegedly using public funds for personal use.

South Cotabato Gov. Reynaldo Tamayo Jr. said on Friday the local government has filed an administrative complaint for dishonesty and abuse of authority before the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) or provincial board against Tboli Mayor Dibu Tuan.

He said the case, which was received by the SP on Thursday, involved the supposed unauthorized and personal use by the mayor of the municipal government’s real property tax (RPT) collections.

The complaint for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act will be filed within the day by the Provincial Legal Office at the Office of the Ombudsman for Mindanao, he said.

“Our audit team tracked down and documented these illegal transactions, and gathered substantial evidence to warrant the filing of charges,” he said in an interview over radio station Bombo Radyo in Koronadal City.

The governor said the case stemmed from the discovery early this year by the Provincial Treasurer's Office (PTO) of numerous real property owners, including companies, in Tboli that have standing RPT delinquencies.

He said it came out during the tax mapping by the PTO in January and February in line with the province-wide condonation of penalties and interests for RPT payments.

Tamayo said the provincial audit team confirmed during their validation that some of the supposed delinquent real property owners have already paid their taxes, with some reporting advance payments, but these were not remitted to the municipal government's coffers.

It included the PHP6 million RPT payment made last year by Sumifru Philippines Corp., which operates banana plantations in Tboli, he said.

Since the payments were not reported as remitted by the municipal government, he said the province did not receive its 35 percent share from them.

The municipality retains 40 percent while the barangays get 25 percent of the RPT payments.

During the audit, Tamayo said some of the RPT payments could not be located and municipal treasurer Ritchie Calvo eventually admitted through an affidavit that the funds were allegedly “borrowed” by Tuan for “personal use.”

He said some of the transactions were reportedly signed by the mayor himself and a member of his staff.

When the controversial transactions came in April, he said the municipality paid the “borrowed” RPT collections using its peace and order funds, “making their situation more complicated.”

“We are obliged to file the case because millions were not remitted to the provincial government because of it,” Tamayo said.

HE said the move is not politically motivated and noted that they filed the complaints against Tuan “in the interest of the people.”

Tamayo, who already declared to seek reelection for his second term in the 2022 elections, is the national president of the Partido Federal ng Pilipinas.

Tuan is an ally of rumored gubernatorial contender, Deputy House Speaker and South Cotabato second district Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez.

Tuan has repeatedly denied the governor’s accusations and described it as a political vendetta.

In a radio interview on Friday, the mayor said he has yet to receive any summon or any order related to the case but said he is ready to answer them.

“When this started five months ago, I already said that I am ready to face and answer their complaints through the proper forum, and not in the media,” he said.

Tuan said the town continues to operate normally and the charges would not stop him and their personnel from rendering the necessary services to their constituents. (PNA)