Ex-Palawan gov Reyes, 41 others charged in P1.53-B Malampaya scam
MANILA — Former Palawan Governor Mario Joel Reyes and 41 others have been charged at the Sandiganbayan for anomalies in 209 contracts funded by P1.53 billion in royalties from the Malampaya gas field in 2008 and 2009.
The Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon filed 159 criminal charges, totaling 491 pages, for alleged procurement violations by the provincial government led by Reyes.
State prosecutors also alleged that the engineering office faked the accomplishment and inspection reports and allowed the violation of the terms for 39 infrastructure contracts worth P461.37 million.
These projects from across the island province—which included roadworks, schools, day care centers, and even an airport development project in San Vicente town—were actually unfinished at the time when these were certified as completed in 2008 and 2009.
Add to these the contracts with disadvantageous provisions, a total of 54 projects were singled out as riddled with irregularities.
The exposé of these alleged irregularities supposedly led to the January 2011 murder of environmentalist broadcaster Gerry Ortega. Reyes is currently jailed pending trial for that murder.
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 said Reyes conspired with seven other officials to award the 209 contractors to 11 construction firms sometime in 2008, despite the violation of several requirements under the Government Procurement Reform Act.
These included 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.
Likewise, the infrastructure contracts were found not to contain a clause for the payment of liquidated damages in case of project delay.
There was also improper evaluation of bid proposals as one set of key personnel was allowed to supervise construction work in different municipal projects with overlapping timetables. This violated the rule that evaluators must stay in the job site and handle only one contract at a time, the charge sheet read.
Half the value of these projects went to Puerto Princesa City-based BCT Trading and Construction which had 80 contracts worth P722.75 million. Another large supplier was R.C. Tagala Construction of Narra town, which won 14 contracts worth P301.46 million.
Due to these alleged irregularities, Reyes was charged with 14 counts of violating Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing undue injury to the government and 22 counts of violating Section 3(g) of the same law for entering into disadvantageous contracts.
Also accused of procurement violations were: provincial administrator Romeo Seratubias, provincial general services officer Ferdinand Dilig, provincial budget officer Luis Marcaida II, provincial engineer Charlie Factor, provincial treasurer Teofilo Palanca Jr., provincial planning and development coordinator Samuel Madamba II, and Sangguniang Panlalawigan member Rolando Bonoan Jr.
Reyes was also accused, along with provincial accountant Orlando Colobong and provincial legal officer Elena Melchor Vergara-Rodriguez, of approving the payments to three contractors despite incomplete supporting documents.
The Factor factor
It is actually Factor, not Reyes, who faces the most charges.
Reyes was not involved in most of the 159 charges, which are related to the provincial engineering office’s alleged offenses regarding 39 individual contracts.
Factor has been charged with 50 counts of violating Section 3(e) of the graft law, 76 counts of falsification, and seven counts of violating Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 1759, which penalizes violations of material provisions in government contracts. His bail for these 133 cases would cost P3.604 million.
His alleged cohort, quality control division chief Alfredo Padua, faces 39 counts of graft, 76 of falsification, and seven of violating PD 1759, or a total of 122 criminal cases.
Engineer IV Renato Abrina and assistant provincial engineer Manuel Cabiguen likewise face more charges than Reyes; they are accused respectively of 38 counts of graft, 38 of falsification and seven of violating PD 1759, and 36 counts of graft, 35 of falsification and seven of violating PD 1759.
Factor, Padua, Abrina, and Cabuigen, as well as assistant provincial engineer Federico Rubio Jr. and 10 resident engineers were accused of causing the government a total of P169.71 million in damages for faking the accomplishment reports to justify the payment for 39 unfinished projects priced at P461.37 million.
Egregious discrepancies allegedly attended seven of these projects, which were barely half-completed. A supposedly 100-percent completed road widening project in Coron, for one, turned out to be 13.81-percent finished only.
At the same time, state auditor Edwin Iglesia and senior technical audit specialist Ronelo del Socorro of the Commission on Audit regional office were slapped with one count each of graft, falsification, and violation of PD 1759.
Their charges pertained to the allegedly fabricated CoA inspection report for the San Vicente Airport Development Project dated Sept. 11, 2009. They stated that the project was 58.36 percent complete during ocular inspection, when it was only 8.8 percent finished.
Private individuals from the following Palawan contractors were also charged: 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.J. Builders Corp.’s Elizabeth Tisara; E.D. Tabangay Construction’s Efren Tabangay; ICON Trading & Construction’s Prospero Gabayan Jr.; L.B. Leoncio Trading and Construction’s Lorenzo Leoncio; R.C. Tagala Construction’s Rosanno Tagala; RODCEL Construction’s Rodolfo Gallardo; and Seven Digit Construction & Supplies’ Ulysses Consebido.
Also charged were the following contractors from outside Palawan: A.L. Salazar Construction Inc.’s Abelardo Salazar of San Juan City; D.C. Sandil Construction & Realty Development Inc.’s Dennis Sandil of Cainta, Rizal; and GOLDROCK Construction & Development Corp.’s Jesus Tan of Caloocan City.
Sought for comment, Reyes’ counsel Ferdinand Topacio said he would have to read the charges first. Ortega’s daughter Michaella did not respond to requests for comment. SFM/rga
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