Balili land backfilling has ‘bloated’ cost, no authority
Suspended Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia has another burden to carry.
The Office of the Ombudsman has elevated to a formal investigation a complaint about the P27 million backfilling of the Balili beach property in Naga City, southern Cebu.
The anti-graft office also issued a “cease and desist order” to prevent the Capitol from paying P6.9 million for a delivery of filling materials.
It said no authority was given by the Provincial Board for the governor to hire ABF Construction and that the contract price for the work appeared “bloated”.
“In sum, the irregularities if taken together tend to establish that the transaction… is tainted with evident bad faith, gross inexcusable negliegence or manifest partiality,” the Ombudsman said.
The inquiry stemmed from separate complaints filed last December 2012 by Hilario Davide III and by Acting Gov. Agnes Magpale with PB Member Arleigh Sitoy of the Liberal Party.
Davide and Magpale, both running for the top Capitol posts in the May 13 election, announced the Ombudsman’s findings yesterday in a press conference.
The 2008 purchase of the Balili estate is the subject of criminal charges in a graft case pending in the Sandiganbayan after most of the 24.7 hectare land was found to be under water or classified as timberland.
The backfilling took place soon after.
In the current case, Garcia and 11 other provincial officials as well as the contractor will be given the chance to respond in a preliminary investgiaton.
Garcia’s daughter and lawyer Christina Codilla-Frasco yesterday said they have yet to receive a copy of the Final Evaluation Report signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“This is not a criminal case. This is a mere recommendation by the Deputy Ombudsman,” Frasco said in a text message.
“This recommendation is highly suspect because it is a mere three days before the elections and the complainants are running for governor and vice governor under the LP. The people know the truth and can surely look beyond this last ditch attempt to get ahead in the elections,” she added.
Garcia was impleaded with Acting Provincial Accountant Emmanuel Guial and former Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre on charges of violating Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, illegal use of public funds or property, grave misconduct, and gross neglect of duty.
Eight other Capitol officials and the president of the construction firm are also impleaded.
They are acting provincial engineer Adolfo Quiroga, the chairperson of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) Marivic Garces; BAC vice chairman Bernard Calderon; and BAC members Manuel Purog, Emme Gingoyon, Ma. Junelene Arenas along with alternate members Cristina Giango, Rosalinda Jao, and Bernabe Gilbor.
The province spent P27 million for “restoration” work at the Balili beach property.
In his complaint, Davide, said the backfilling was done in bad faith as it suppressed evidence in a pending graft case before the Sandiganbayan.
In its findings, the Ombudsman said no resolution was passed by the Provincial Board authorizing Governor Garcia to fill up the site with limestone or a resolution allowing her to spend government funds for this.
The outlay was taken from the province’s annual budget earmarked for “seaport/airport and other economic enterprise site development plan” for the years 2010 until 2012
The Ombudsman cited a Supreme Court ruling that said an appropriation ordinance that describes projects in generic terms does not grant the governor authority to enter into contracts without prior approval of the Provincial Board.
“In the instant case, Gov. Garcia should have obtained the approval of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Cebu before the contracts with ABF Construction were executed to fill up the submerged and mangrove areas of the Balili Property,” the anti-graft office said.
The second contract for the project was also bloated.
The Ombudsman said the cost for supply and delivery of backfilling materials was based on the cost of dredging “to unreasonably bloat bloat the ABC Approved Budget for the Contract (ABC). There is a clear showing that the filling materials were taken from an inland quarry site without the use of barge mounted dredging machine and divers.”
Irregularities were found in the bidding process as well.
Only the bid proposal of ABF CONstruction was opened and the BAC didn’t open the bid submitted by another construction firm. There was also no Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC) for the activity .
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