BUTUAN CITY—An aged piece of heavy equipment has become this city’s newest campaign season celebrity of sorts.
This after a local radio station displayed outside its offices the Caterpillar bulldozer that the city government disposed of as scrap metal for a measly amount, but which later ended up being sold for P1.3 million, documents show.
Norberto Pagaspas, the radio station owner himself, is the one who bought the piece of heavy equipment from Emmanuel Vacalares, whose ESV Trading Co. won the local government auction for its “unserviceable” heavy equipment and service vehicles in 2011.
Pagaspas claimed he was totally unaware of the circumstances surrounding the equipment, and had refused to use the machine when he discovered that it was “fraudulently” obtained by ESV Trading.
The Caterpillar on display outside the station of Radyo Trumpeta along J.C. Aquino Avenue is just one of the several pieces of heavy equipment and vehicles auctioned off by the city government in early 2011. Curious residents started to trickle in to the display area early this week.
According to government records seen by the Inquirer, the auction yielded an estimated 874,000 kilograms of scrap iron, sold at P2 per kilogram. Pagaspas pointed out that the average price of scrap iron at the time was P18.
At P2 per kilo, the local government earned around P1.7 million. It would have earned some P15.7 million had the average buying price of P11 per kilo been applied.
The auction was a subject of a 2011 graft case at the Ombudsman, which accused Butuan City’s chief of general services, Gemma M. Reserva, of maliciously declaring as “unserviceable” the auctioned heavy equipment and service vehicles.
According to sources in the know about the transaction, no system of appraisal was instituted when the pieces of government property were auctioned off.
The list of irregularities is long, they said. They included the involvement of people in heavy equipment matters who have no technological know-how to handle deals involving these pieces of equipment. They include Cresencio Bermudez, who works in the city legal office, and Roy Rosales, who works in the engineering department. Both have no credentials in the heavy equipment business.
Another irregularity, the sources said, is the absence of documentation of the weight of each unit that was auctioned off.
They said the town’s mayor, Ferdinand Amante Jr., should also be held responsible for the mess.