No bidding for P1.9-M expenses for Asean CJ meet in Boracay—SC officials
Two Supreme Court (SC) officials said on Tuesday that the P1.9 million worth of hotel accommodation Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s office spent during a 2015 Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) conference did not undergo a bidding process.
But a finance official of the high tribunal said the allegedly lavish expenses were presumed to be regular since no notice of disallowance was issued to question it.
During the House justice committee hearing on Sereno’s impeachment, Deputy Court Administrator Thelma Bahia, chairman of SC’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), and Ma. Carina Cunanan, procurement head and assistant chief of SC’s administrative services, confirmed that the Boracay expenses did not go through bidding.
Leyte 3rd district Rep. and former appellate justice Vicente Veloso asked the SC officials in the hearing whether the expenses for the Asean Chief Justices’ Meeting underwent bidding.
Bahia answered: “Hindi po nagdaan sa procurement sa BAC. I don’t know what process dumaan.”
Cunanan, meanwhile, answered: “Yes, your honor.”
But Corazon Flores, chief of SC’s fiscal management and budget office, said her office presumed that the expenses during the conference were regular since the Commission on Audit (COA) did not issue a notice of disallowance on the said expenses.
“I can’t say for certain that there was no bidding because we don’t have supporting documents, but we can assure you that our finance and accounting division that our documentary requirements were complied with,” Flores told the panel on Wednesday.
“We didn’t get a notice of disallowance from the Commission on Audit so our presumption was that the transaction was regular and the papers were complete at that time,” she said.
Sereno was accused of corruption for allegedly booking a three-night stay in the Presidential Villa of Shangri-la Boracay during the conference, allegedly worth PHP200,000 a night.
Responding to the supposedly excessive spending of Sereno, the Chief Justice’s camp said that the Presidential Villa was chosen and paid for by the Supreme Court itself as the meeting area for the Asean meeting in March 2015.
“The signing of the Boracay Accord, the photo-op of the ASEAN Chief Justices, as well as side meetings between ASEAN Chief Justices, all took place in the Presidential Villa,” Sereno’s camp said in an earlier statement.
“Instead of booking additional rooms, Chief Justice Sereno, her staff and part of the secretariat were allowed to stay at the Presidential Villa after the official gathering of the ASEAN Chief Justices at no additional cost to the Supreme Court. By maximizing the use of the Presidential Villa, Chief Justice Sereno actually saved public funds. Clearly, there is nothing corrupt about this,” they said. /je
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