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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

MEMBERS of the Iloilo City Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) can still be held liable for the alleged substandard rifles purchased for the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team even if the supplier has refunded the City government.

 

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia said the fact that R. Espineli Trading decided to return more than P600,000 to the City Hall does not exonerate BAC members from any legal responsibility relative to the rifles deal.

 

City treasurer Katherine Tingson confirmed that Roberto Herbolario of R. Espineli has refunded the city P638,839.32 as indicated in Official Receipt No. 3132947 after the media exposed the five defective rifles the firm sold to City Hall.

 

Tingson said the rifles are still in their vault as only the General Services Office (GSO) headed by Agustin Sangrador can return the items to R. Espineli.

 

Bedonia said the BAC should have conducted a post qualification audit by test firing a sample of the rifles before the committee awarded the contract to R. Espineli.

 

The post qualification audit is done after the BAC has determined the lowest bidder and before the contract is awarded to the winner.

 

Bedonia said the post qualification audit is the most important phase of the bidding process as this will ascertain if the bidder followed the specifications set by the BAC as regards the items to be purchased.

 

The DBM official said a gun expert representing the BAC should be present in the test firing.

 

A representative from the end user, in this case the SWAT, should also be present in all BAC meetings to guide the committee on the details of the rifles, Bedonia added.

 

Bedonia said the GSO can also be held liable for accepting the alleged substandard rifles without any test firing.

 

The Sangguniang Panlungsod the other day passed a resolution requesting Sangrador and his two supply officers, City Administrator Melchor Tan, and the City Treasurer’s Office’s (CTO) in-charge of cash division where the rifles were kept in the vault for a closed door executive session at the vice-mayor conference room 9am of Dec. 16.

 

Councilor Erwin Plagata, who authored the resolution, said they will be forced to relay the rifles issue to the Ombudsman if said officials don’t attend the meeting.

 

The City Council will conduct an investigation to know whether there were irregularities on the bidding process of the substandard rifles.

 

The alleged substandard rifles were exposed in the media after SWAT members complained before the City Council appropriations committee that the firearms’ target sight cannot be zeroed-in while the paint flaked when scratched.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

SEVERAL members of the Iloilo Sangguniang Panlalawigan have been offered concessions by Governor Niel Tupas Sr. in a bid to realign the majority in the provincial board relative to the ongoing budget wars.

 

A capitol insider who requested anonymity for lack of authority to speak on the matter said five provincial members met with Tupas the last two days to discuss the 2009 annual budget, which the governor vetoed, and the 10% salary increase for provincial government employees.

 

Among those who met Tupas were board members Jett Rojas, Mariano Malones, Macario Napulan, Richard Garin and Cecilia Colada. The five SP members are aligned with the opposition led by Vice Governor Rolex Suplico.

 

According to the source, the board members were offered 100% salary increase and “pork barrels” next year if they shift their alliance to the Tupas administration.

 

Tupas only has three allies in the provincial board – Rodolfo Cabado, Shalene Hidalgo and June Mondejar.

 

Apparently, Tupas is wooing the board members to avert a possible override of his veto on the approved 2009 annual budget which he called as confusing and filled with errors.

 

The governor is also rallying support to pass the 2008 budget and grant the 10% salary increase for capitol workers before the year ends.

 

Malones in a radio interview said he will decide on the budget issues based on public welfare instead of political affiliation.

 

Malones said he the majority has made “unsound decisions” in the past which affected the delivery of services to their constituents.

 

Suplico said he will find out if there will be major changes in the SP “since this is a numbers game.”

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ARE the bullets issued to the PNP Regional Mobile Group (RMG-6) based in Victorias City, Negros Occidental substandard?

 

This question will be answered once the Scene of the Crime Operatives (Soco) has finished evaluating the live M-16 bullets issued to RMG-6 members found in the ambush site at Brgy. Estado, Victorias City Wednesday afternoon.

 

The ambush mounted by the New People’s Army resulted in the death of PO1 Jean Tacadao of San Lorenzo, Guimaras and wounded Police Officers 1 Annie Lou Patricio, Jocelyn Tibar, Marife Cantomayor and Melanie Tupas.

 

Reports from Bacolod City said Supt. Remus Zacharias Canieso, RMG-6 director, only had magazine left in his M-16 Armalite rifle when reinforcements arrived at the ambush scene.

 

Canieso and the surviving RMG-6 members said most of their bullets did not fire as they fought back the rebels.

 

But Chief Supt. Isagani Cuevas, Police Regional Office-6 director, said they cannot conclude yet if the bullets issued to the RMG-6 were substandard amidst reports these were manufactured in China.

 

Cuevas said they are evaluating the ammunitions and other possible factors why the bullets did not fire.

 

The PRO-6 chief said suppliers of bullets and firearms comply with the standards set by the PNP national command.

 

“Everything is being looked into right now. There are many factors that might have resulted in the dud bullets. We can’t conclude that these ammunitions are substandard. We are evaluating all possible causes,” he added.

 

Cuevas yesterday awarded the PNP Wounded Personnel Medals to the four injured RMG members for their bravery during ambush.

 

The awarding was held at the Our Lady of Mercy Hospital in Bacolod City where the wounded police officers are recuperating.

 

Cuevas also ordered the whole PRO-6 to stay alert for future rebel attacks as the Communist Party of the Philippines is set to celebrate its anniversary December 26.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

TEN women believed to be victims of human trafficking were rescued from a nightspot disguised as a boarding house in Iloilo City proper Thursday morning.

 

Combined forces of the Iloilo City Task Force Adams Apple, PNP Women and Children’s Concern Desk (WCCD), City Social Welfare and Development Office (CSWDO) and Visayan Forum mounted the operation on Partners’ Place at Brgy. Sto. Rosario-Duran, Iloilo City.

 

Councilor Ely Estante, TF Adams Apple chair, said they received information from four other women earlier rescued from the same establishment that several minors and a pregnant woman were allegedly employed in Partners’ Place as commercial sex workers (CSWs).

 

Nine of the rescued women are natives of Mandaue City, Cebu while one is from Bacolod City.

 

Estante said Mandaue City Vice Mayor Carlo Fortuna coordinated with Mayor Jerry Treñas about the plight of his constituents in Iloilo City.

 

Information relayed to the rescue team indicated that the women were recruited by persons identified only as Jerry and Gemma to work in Iloilo only to end up as CSWs.

 

Estante said the standard fee of each woman is P1,200, half of which will go to the woman while the other half goes to the manager.

 

Estante added Partners’ Place has a boarding house permit instead of a nightspot. The owner of the establishment is out of the country, according to the rescue team.

 

The rescued women were investigated by the WCCD before they were turned over to the CSWDO which will temporarily shelter them at the Visayan Forum, a non-governmental organization crusading against human trafficking, facility.

 

Estante said Fortuna will arrive in Iloilo City Saturday to facilitate the return trip of the rescued women to Cebu.

 

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