Travel agency, food caterer, others seek payment
Anxious to get paid, more suppliers went to see Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale yesterday to present their bills for services rendered before she took over last Dec. 19.
They include a travel agency which said the Province of Cebu owed P1.5 million for local and foreign trips, and a food caterer with unpaid catering bills for P1.5 million.
“Before, we were paid by the province although it took a long time. But now, I’m afraid because this involves a huge amount. If we don’t get paid, we may have to close our business,” said Rosalinda Du of 3 L Catering Services which provided food packs and snacks for various activities in the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).
Like other suppliers, they worry about the effect of the change of administration with the six-month suspension of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia, especially after it was widely reported in the media that the provincial treasurer said the Province had cash flow problems at the end of the year and over P200 million in payables.
Still assessing the extent of unpaid obligations of the Capitol, Magpale and her staff tell suppliers the same message : Present your papers.
(See the partial list on page 31)
As more suppliers surface, their bills give details of expenses of the Garcia administration which were not publicly known before.
One travel agency bill showed a P20,676 expense for round trip plane tickets of Garcia’s son Paulo and his wife Michelle to Laoag, Ilocos Norte on July 2 and 3, 2012.
It turned out that the couple attended the birthday party of Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos to represent Governor Garcia.
Rep. Pablo John Garcia, the governor’s brother, commented that the agency “mistakenly billed” the Province of Cebu for that travel.
“There was never any intention on our part (to benefit from it), because this would never be paid and would never pass audit,” he said yesterday.
Garcia said the couple would pay the air fare from personal funds.
A P200,000 bill was also presented by Sugbutel Hotel in Cebu City for accommodating barangay health workers from Dec. 18 to 19.
Magaple’s staff suspects they were booked at Sugbutel for the night after being brought in from towns by bus to hold a vigil at the Capitol on Dec. 18, the day reports spread that a suspension order was about to be issued against Garcia. BHWs gathered again at the Capitol grounds on Dec.19 as a show of support for Garcia.
Governor Garcia yesterday continued to criticize Magpale for projecting a “negative image” of Cebu and being “so supcious of all suppliers, contractors”.
“This is creating havoc on the Cebu provincial government. For what? Just to pain a picture of me not being efficient enough or perhaps even trying to create a corrupt picture of myself,” said Garcia.
The decision to publicly disclose the fiscal status of the Province, said Magpale, was her commitment to do her duties “with transparency and accountability” and to “start right” by finding out how much was really in the coffers.
Magpale assured suppliers that the Province would settle all its obligations but would have to “prioritize” them and arrange for “staggered payments” because as of late December, the available funds in the General Fund was only P90 million as against the discovery of payables for over P200 million.
Malene Paradero of Skylark Travel and Tour caught up with the acting governor in the hallway of her office in the Legislative Building yesterday.
She was told to present full documents to support their money claims.
Paradero was upset by the presence of TV cameras when reporters saw her in the Legislative Building. She said she went to there to “seek justice” but refused to be interviewed. It was later learned from lawyer Chad Estella of Magpale’s office that the travel agency was trying to collect an unpaid account of P1.5 million.
Meanwhile, Du of 3L Catering Services said her company had to be paid for services rendered August to December last year.
FEP Printing Corp. told the acting governor on Thursday that the Capitol has not yet paid P9 million for issues of Sugbo News from January to June 2012.
A total of 120,000 copies of the newsletter were released each month, said a sales representtative. The Office of the Governor printed two issues of Sugbo News a month for the first half of the year in 2012, unlike the previous year’s schedule of one issue a month.
Acting Governor Magpale is seeking an audit by the Commission on Audit, and a cash examination by the Department of Finance. On the first working day of January 2013, she dropped Provincial Treausurer Roy Salubre after saying she lost confidence in him for various “lapses” and asked the DOF to immediately replace him.
Last Dec. 21, Salubre presented a cash report and explained that only P90 million was available in the General Fund, adding that this was the “first time” in recent years that the Capitol was “short of funds to settle our payables”.
“It’s up to Ma’am Agnes how to allocate this so as not to hamper operations,” Salubre said in a news conference attended by Magpale and Provincial Board members.
The payables include P68 million for 24 new air-conditioned tourist buses for selected towns in the Suroy-Suroy tourism program and e-Gwen program.
Magpale on Thursday said her staff found out that another fleet of seven tourist buses costing P18 million was already ordered.
“Sad to day, they already ordered the (seven new buses). The 24 other buses were already given. The suppliers agreed with our proposal to delay the payment for the seven buses,” she said.
In late December, a P3.5 million food catering bill was presented by Laguna Catering and Laguna Garden Cafe for meals and services since 2010.
The single biggest bill was P13.9 million for outsourced sercies of Perfect Clean General Services which provided the doctors and nurses in district hospital, as well as janitors in the Capitol, CICC, provincial jail, Museo Sugbo, South Bus Terminal and Larsian Stalls.
The agency said it was not yet paid for services from January to December last year, and wanted to end the contract when it expired last Dec. 31. Magpale approved a two-month extension to ensure that hospital services would not be disrupted and negotiated for staggered payments.
Garcia’s critics have called the suspended governor an “illegal tenant” in the Capitol and suggested letting the Province charge her for the cost of electricity and water being paid by taxpayers for her continued physcial occupancy of the Governor’s Office.
Magpale said “the clamor is really mounting” for this but is not inclined to do it.
“I’m personally evaluating (the situation) on a day-to-day basis. All these are included in our evaluation,” Magpale told reporters.
“The clamor is really mounting. Text messages that I get make me feel that I’m weak. No, I’m in control. This is not an indication of weakness,” she said of her policy to adopt “super maximum tolerance”.
“There is a whole spectrum of possibilities. I will not telegraph my punches,” Magpale said.
She repeated that she would not let herself be “distracted” by Garcia’s presence in the Capitol and would focus on doing her job.
Garcia has refused to leave her office at the Capitol since Dec. 19 in defiance of a six-month suspension order issued by the Office of the President as penalty for grave abuse of authority in an administrative complaint filed by vice governor Gregorio Sanches Jr. five months before he died in 2011.
Garcia, who called the order “illegal” and a “power grab” by the Liberal Party to unseat her in her remaining six months of office, pins her hope on a petition for the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO).
The Court of Appeals in Manila will hear oral argument of the parties on Jan. 10.