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Vendors sue Estrada, execs for graft over Quinta deal

/ 12:14 AM August 13, 2015

Making good an earlier threat, an organization of market vendors affected by the recent demolition of Manila’s Quinta Market has sued Mayor Joseph Estrada, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno and several local government and company officials over a contract that allows a private firm to modernize and manage the structure in the next 25 years.

In a complaint filed in the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday, the Manila Federation of Public Market Vendors Association Inc. accused Estrada and the others of committing graft and violating the procurement law for entering into an “anomalous” and “irregular” joint venture agreement (JVA) with Marketlife Management and Leasing Corp. (MMLC).

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Estrada and the other respondents allegedly committed manifest dishonesty, partiality, bad faith and gross inexcusable negligence in processing the JVA, according to the federation president, Juliet Peredo.

The organization is said to represent vendors from Manila’s 17 public markets.

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“Mayor Estrada’s approval of the JVA was in conspiracy with private individuals as well as public officials comprising the agreement… (and) circumvented national laws on procurement contracts to serve personal interests,’’ Peredo said in the complaint. “[It] clearly constituted a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act by giving MMLC unwarranted benefit, advantage or preference over the project without any competitive bidding or [an] alternative system of procurement.”

The JVA was also executed in haste, she said, noting that MMLC “has no track record, much less, adequate record of experience in the concerned industry and does not have the ability and financial base” for such an undertaking.

With a paid-up capital of only P3,125,000, the company also has no capacity to build, operate and manage Quinta with a construction cost of P90 million and working capital of P85 million, she noted.

Estrada also approved the MMLC’s unsolicited proposal to modernize Quinta on Oct. 20, 2014, a month before the company was incorporated, Peredo said.

Signed June 15, the JVA allows MMLC to renovate and manage the market for 25 years. In an earlier Inquirer interview, MMLC director Carlos Ramon Baviera defended the legality of the deal, saying it complied with City Ordinance No. 8346 which lays down the rules for such agreements between the local government and the private sector.

Baviera explained that once his firm takes over, it would remit 20 percent of the earnings to City Hall. He also spoke of plans to raise the daily stall rental to P70 to P80 per square meter—or double the current rate of P40 per square meter.

Aside from Estrada, Moreno and Baviera, the complaint also covers members of the city council, the city’s legal officer, treasurer, planning and development officer, engineer and MMLC board members Patrick Herlihy, Rolando Evangelista, Jacques Ian Lee and Joseph Michael Lagman. Moreno was included in his capacity as the council’s presiding officer.

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City Hall’s public information chief Diego Cagahastian on Tuesday said the mayor’s office had yet to receive a copy of the complaint.

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TAGS: demolition, Isko Moreno, Joseph Estrada, Manila Federation of Public Market Vendors Association Inc., Marketlife Management and Leasing Corp., MMLC, Quinta Market
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