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Ejercito left P1B debts in Laguna

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STA. CRUZ, Laguna — Laguna province has incurred a debt of P1 billion under ousted Gov. ER Estregan Ejercito apparently due to unliquidated advances as indicated in a report by the  Commission on Audit (COA).
This was disclosed by Ejercito's vice governor, Ramil Hernandez, after he took over as governor of the province. Hernandez said he has ordered an investigation on where the funds went.
Ejercito has been ordered disqualified as governor by the Commission on Elections in a unanimous en banc resolution due to alleged flagrant overspending during the last elections where he was reelected by an overwhelming majority of votes.
 Ejercito initially resisted his ouster by barricading at the provincial capitol, but his uncle, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, convinced him to give up the post peacefully when he fetched him at his capitol office.
The Ejercitos hail from Pagsanjan, the town next to the capital Sta. Cruz, where Ejercito earlier served as mayor. Ejercito's wife is now the mayor of the town. 
"Walang masamang mangutang, kahit sa local government, walang masamang mangutang pero dapat yung inutang mo, inilagay mo sa maganda (There's nothing wrong with borrowing, even in local government, but the money should be spent in good use)," Hernandez said.
"Titingnan po namin, kunwari overspending, na-copy furnish po ako ng COA so maraming unliquidated dun talaga, maraming unexplained use of fund," he added.
The ousted governor has not reacted to Hernandez' claims.
Hernandez said he immediately looked into the provincial funds after assuming office following the Comelec decision to oust Ejercito. The former governor was found guilty of overspending for the May 2013 elections.
In its 2012 audit report on Laguna, COA cited deficiencies in the balances of inventories, land, property, plant and equipment accounts of the capitol.
Hernandez said, however, that he does not want to malign Ejercito, who accused him of colluding with Liberal Party member and political rival Edgar San Luis in filing the overspending case before the poll body.
State auditors uncovered the hiring of consultants for P7.3 million even as Priority Development Assistance Funds of more than P35.8 million directed to Laguna was unutilized during the audit period.
"Hindi ako [from the] Liberal [Party]. Actually ang kalaban ko noong eleksyon is the provincial chairman of Liberal Party. [My assuming Ejercito's seat] is non political," Hernandez said.
He also admitted that he ordered Ejercito's photos and banners removed from the capitol and around the province "to avoid confusion."
"Dapat ang chain of command dapat manggaling sa akin as governor. Kapag na confused ang employees, 'pag na confuse ang mga tao, makakaapekto 'yon sa trabaho. So to avoid confusion kailangan makita nila na yung in-appoint talaga ng law, yun ang naga-assume," Hernandez said.
Hernandez also said he will welcome Ejercito's offer to assist in ongoing projects being implemented by the local government. -Camille Diola

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