Ex-Palawan gov Reyes pleads not guilty in P1.53-B Malampaya fund mess
Detained former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes has pleaded not guilty to charges of entering into anomalous infrastructure contracts funded by P1.53 billion in royalties from the Malampaya gas field in 2008 and 2009.
Reyes was arraigned on Tuesday before the Sandiganbayan Second Division for 14 counts of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which prohibits causing undue injury to the government and giving unwarranted benefits to private parties
He was also arraigned for 22 counts of violation of Section 3(g) of the same law, for entering into disadvantageous contracts on behalf of the provincial government.
Reyes, who is currently detained at the Puerto Princesa City Jail pending trial for the January 2011 murder of environmentalist broadcaster Gerry Ortega, had to be flown in from Palawan.
Since his plane was caught up in airport traffic, he ran late and had to be arraigned separately from his 34 other coaccused.
The Office of the Ombudsman has brought so many charges against him that Reyes waived the reading of the allegations and entered his plea quickly.
Ortega’s exposé of the alleged irregularities supposedly led to his killing.
The Reyes government got hold of the Malampaya money following the issuance of Executive Order No. 683 in 2007, an interim agreement that granted Palawan half its claim of the 40-percent share of the proceeds amid a dispute.
Prosecutors accused Reyes of conspiring with seven other officials to award the 209 contractors to 11 construction firms sometime in 2008, despite several violations of the Government Procurement Reform Act.
These include the failure to post the bid invitation online at the Government Electronic Procurement System and the province’s website, and the non-submission of bidding documents.
The infrastructure contracts were also allegedly disadvantageous for not containing a clause requiring the payment of liquidated damages in case of project delays.
Half the value of these projects went to Puerto Princesa City-based BCT Trading and Construction, whose 80 contracts are worth P722.75 million. Another large supplier is R.C. Tagala Construction of Narra town, which won 14 contracts worth P301.46 million.
Reyes’s charges comprised only 36 of the 158 charges pending in the antigraft court.
The other charges concerned the engineering office’s alleged fabrication of accomplishment and inspection reports, as well as contract violations, for 39 infrastructure projects worth P461.37 million.
Reyes’s codefendants include: provincial general services officer Ferdinand Dilig, provincial budget officer Luis Marcaida II, provincial planning & development coordinator Samuel Madamba II, provincial accountant Orlando Colobong, provincial legal officer Elena Melchor Vergara-Rodriguez and Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Rolando Bonoan Jr.
Codefendants from the provincial engineer’s office include: quality control division chief Alfredo Padua, assistant provincial engineers Manuel Cabiguen and Federico Rubio Jr., and engineers Renato Abrina, Pepe Patacsil, Bernard Zambales, Rolly Matudio, Bayani Buenaventura, Cecilia Colegio, Pedro Gatinga Jr., Rosario Abacial, Romeo Llacuna, and Tommy Panes.
State auditor Edwin Iglesia and senior technical audit specialist Ronelo del Socorro of the Commission on Audit were also named coaccused.
Accused private individuals include: A.L. Salazar Construction Inc.’s Abelardo Salazar, ANILOS Trading and Construction’s Fernando Tiotangco and Rebecca Tiotangco, AR Lustre Jr. Construction’s Armando Lustre Jr., BANZBUILT Construction’s Agerico Banzon, BCT Trading and Construction’s Bella C. Tiotangco and Teodorico C. Tiotangco, D.C. Sandil Construction & Realty Development Inc.’s Dennis Sandil, GOLDROCK Construction & Development Corp.’s Jesus Tan, ICON Trading & Construction’s Prospero Gabayan Jr., L.B. Leoncio Trading and Construction’s Lorenzo Leoncio, R.C. Tagala Construction’s Rosanno Tagala, and Seven Digit Construction & Supplies’ Ulysses Consebido.
Still at-large were provincial treasurer Teofilo Palanca Jr. and resident engineer Darrel Elivera of the provincial government, and private individuals Elizabeth Tisara (D.J. Builders Corp.), Efren Tabangay (E.D. Tabangay Construction), and Rodolfo Gallardo (RODCEL Construction).
Meanwhile, provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias and provincial engineer Charlie Factor have already died, extinguishing their criminal liabilities. je
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