Court asked to stop P900-M San Pablo loan dealBy Maricar Cinco
Inquirer Southern Luzon
SAN PABLO CITY—A group of taxpayers sought to stop and nullify the P900-million bank loan of the city government on grounds that it was approved without a public hearing.
The five-year loan, “approved in principle” by the Philippine Veteran’s Bank (PVB), was appropriated for various city projects, including a convention center and the upgrade of a college to a university.
Local civic and Church groups questioned the passage of City Ordinance No. 2011-10 that authorized the city government to enter into a loan agreement without a feasibility study.
“The assailed ordinance is a byproduct of a confused sense of priority,” said the taxpayers, represented by a Rowena Valdellon and Esteban Silva Jr. of the Ateneo de San Pablo Alumni Foundation Inc., in a petition they filed on Monday at a Regional Trial Court here.
At least 100 petitioners held a rally at the Doña Leonila public park here before they filed the petition for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to stop the loan.
The P900-million loan was allocated for the following projects—P140 million to pay for a previous loan with Land Bank of the Philippines; P200 million each for a multipurpose convention center and a tourism and economic center; P180 million to convert the Dalubhasaan ng Lungsod ng San Pablo, a city college, into a university; P130 million for a food and transport terminal; and P50 million to buy an 8- to 10-hectare land in Barangay Malamig for the planned convention center.
The technical descriptions and designs for the convention center won’t be available until after it has been bid out.
On Tuesday, Edgardo Adajar, city councilor and author of the ordinance, said the council approved the loan agreement on June 8 because there was an “urgency” to push through with projects on education, tourism and employment.
He said the ordinance went through public hearings and meetings with village chiefs.
City Vice Mayor Angelita Yang, in her letter addressed to the petitioners, said “all public hearings … (were) open to the general public.”
She said the absence of an invitation to the hearings “does not preclude any person or group of persons from attending and participating in public deliberations.”
San Pablo, one of the oldest cities in the country, has an internal revenue allotment of at least P400 million a year.
Adajar said the city has the capacity to pay the loan because of its good credit standing with financial institutions.
“This is political harassment. There are people behind (the petitioners) who have plans to run in the next elections,” Adajar said.
He denied reports that the land in Barangay Malamig on which the convention center would rise is owned by dummies of Mayor Vicente Amante, who is on his last term.