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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE executive department of the Iloilo provincial government is proposing to spend more than P1 billion next year.

In an endorsement letter dated October 15, 2009 sent to the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, the Office of the Governor pegged the executive budget for 2010 at P1.3 billion.

A total of P1,375,221,778.55 was set aside for the province’s Annual Investment Program (AIP) next year which will be funded from the 20% Internal Revenue Allocation Development Fund, general fund and other funding sources of the province.

The AIP serves as the blueprint for the programs and projects of the provincial government. It mainly covers five sectors: general public services, social services, economic services, institutional services and other services such as infrastructures.

Based on the breakdown furnished by the executive department, a total of P590,683,429 was allocated for personal services which includes salaries and other benefits of provincial capitol workers.

A total of P342,103,262 was set aside from monthly operating and other expenses while P30.065 million was allocated for capital outlay.

Some P230,098,570 was allocated for the 20% development projects while aids to barangays amounted to P1.721 million.

A total of P20 million will be set aside for loan amortization and P65 million for the 5% calamity fund.

The budget for election reserve is pegged at P3 million while the allocation for terminal pays amounted to P17,328,739.

The 2010 budget has been referred to the committee on appropriations for deliberations.

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‘CRUSADING ART’  Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. (center) announces his plan to regain the governor’s office in the 2010 elections during a press conference in Iloilo City Thursday. Behind him are his supporters (from left to right) including his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr., 4th district Rep. Ferj Biron, running mate Board Member Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr., 1st district Rep. Janet Garin, former congressman Licurgo Tirador and Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico. Thirty-two of the 43 municipal mayors support the Defensor-Garin tandem. (Photo by Tara Yap)

‘CRUSADING ART’ Iloilo 3rd District Rep. Arthur “Art” Defensor Sr. (center) announces his plan to regain the governor’s office in the 2010 elections during a press conference in Iloilo City Thursday. Behind him are his supporters (from left to right) including his son, Board Member Arthur Defensor Jr., 4th district Rep. Ferj Biron, running mate Board Member Oscar “Richard” Garin Jr., 1st district Rep. Janet Garin, former congressman Licurgo Tirador and Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico. Thirty-two of the 43 municipal mayors support the Defensor-Garin tandem. (Photo by Tara Yap)

Defensor-Garin tandem vows reforms at provincial gov’t

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HOUSE Majority Floor Leader Arthur Defensor Sr. wants to restore decency at the Iloilo provincial government and the people’s trust and confidence in government, reason why he wants to return to the capitol.

Defensor proffered this motivation when he formally declared his candidacy for governor in the May 2010 elections at Hotel Del Rio Thursday morning before a big group of local political leaders.

Defensor also introduced his running mate, Board Member Richard Garin, but cut short of their lineup for the provincial board.

Defensor said he is on a “crusade for reform and restoration of the people’s faith and trust in government”.

He said he had no plans to return to the provincial capitol “as I felt I have served the people well with honor and dignity.”

But Defensor said there is a need to “put an end to continuity” and restore honor and dignity in the provincial government.

Apparently, Defensor was making swipes at the present administration of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. which has been beset by issues of graft and corruption.

Defensor said he is confident to win the 2010 elections with the support of at least 32 mayors, provincial board members and other political behemoths in the province.

He also basked in his alliance with Garin whom he described as an able ally at the Capitol.

“I fell honored and privileged to have Board Member Richard Garin as my vice governor,” Defensor said.

In response, Garin described Defensor’s nine-year stint as governor as “a time of peace, dedicated and fruitful work, recognizance (sic) of responsibilities and honest transactions and liquidations.”

PROGRAMS OF GOVERNMENT

Defensor said his programs will focus on developing additional sources of power, water and environmental protection.

Defensor will also conduct a reevaluation of the province’s health programs and hospitals.   

“We will also craft a comprehensive development plan to keep up with the changing times in our province,” he added.

Garin said one of his thrusts is on agriculture, particularly the establishment of an animal and plant laboratory.

Garin said he is concerned with the lack of facilities that will help Iloilo farmers diagnose animal and plant diseases.

SHOW OF FORCE

The declaration also served as a show of force, a coalition of major political sectors in Iloilo.

Aside from the Garins, who rule the 1st congressional district, Rep. Ferjenel Biron, Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico and former congressman Licurgo Tirador lent support to the Defensor-Garin tandem.

A total of 33 Iloilo mayors have committed to support Defensor’s candidacy even if his chief opponent, Barotac Viejo Mayor Raul Tupas, is the incumbent president of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines in Iloilo.

Reportedly, the Syjuco couple – TESDA Director General Augusto and incumbent Rep. Judy – will support the Defensor-Garin tandem despite their falling out with Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Oscar Garin.

Oscar Garin ran for governor in 2001 against Gov. Tupas but lost.

The Garins attributed the defeat to Augusto Syjuco’s sudden change of heart and turned his support to Tupas.

Another “surprise supporter” in the Defensor-Garin tandem is Board Member Rodolfo “Boy” Cabado who has been identified with the Tupas group.

Cabado said there is nothing shocking in his decision to support Defensor as their friendship goes a long way back when they belonged to the same law office before.

Cabado said Defensor has always been his ally throughout his political career.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

HERE’S why deals in the Iloilo provincial government should be closely scrutinized.

The Commission on Audit (CoA) 2008 annual audit report recommended to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to ensure that Capitol suppliers are “well-scrutinized, eligible, competitive and capable to deliver.”

The audit body based its recommendation on the circumstances surrounding the purchase of a laptop computer requested by the Provincial Health Office (PHO) in December 2007.

The PHO requested an Acer Aspire 5920G laptop computer with a memory size of 2,048 megabytes (MB) and processor type Intel Core 2 Duo T7300.

An Acer Aspire unit costs P99,000, according to the purchase order. But the laptop unit delivered by lone bidder Seven Seven Trading was an Acer TravelMate 6292. This unit has a memory size of 1,556MB while its processor is Intel Core 2 Duo T7100.

The Acer TravelMate laptop only costs P59,900, the audit agency said.

Despite the disparity between the purchase order and the unit delivered by Seven Seven Trading last February 2008, the Capitol inspection team accepted the laptop.

The audit body also found out that Acer TravelMate was already phased out from the market.

It was also found out that Seven Seven Trading, which is located on JM Basa Street, Iloilo City, is actually a middleman of another computer supplier Electroworld, Inc.

The CoA report said a certification issued by Electroworld to Ramie Salcedo, BAC chair and General Services Office head, proved that Seven Seven Trading does not sell Acer Aspire laptops.

“The certification issued by Electroworld Inc. to Mr. Ramie Salcedo proved that the item in the PO does not exist in the shelves of the Seven Seven Trading and dependent only in the stocks of Electroworld, Inc., the source of the said laptop unit,” the CoA audit report said.

CoA also questioned the eligibility of Seven Seven Trading saying no computers were displayed in the store but only sells school supplies and compute inks.

Salcedo defended the deal saying the two laptops have the same function.

The Acer TravelMate became cheaper compared to Acer Aspire because of technological advancements, Salcedo said.

Currently the media is taking a vigilant look on the bidding process for the purchase of P33-million worth of equipment for various district hospitals in the province of Iloilo.

Reports say the process is being influenced by people at the governor’s office who are asking huge commissions from “favored” suppliers.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Department of Health (DOH-6) is keeping tabs of the bidding process on the P33-million hospital equipment upgrading project of the Iloilo provincial government.

Dr. Ariel Valencia, DoH-6 regional director, said they assigned a technical working group (TWG) headed by Drs. Clodualdo Divinagracia Jr. and Emilia Monicinpo.

“The technical working group will look into the specifications of hospital equipment to be purchased by the provincial government. In fact, we retrieved the listing of hospital equipment to be purchased and find out if these match the standards and specifications of the department,” Valencia said.

Valencia said they will also determine if the price range of the equipment is commensurate to the specifications and standards set by the health department.

The DOH-6 chief said the TWG will not approve the payment for sub-standard hospital equipment purchased by the provincial government.

“The specifications of the equipment must meet our standards or else we will not endorse the payment to the supplier. Aside from accountability, we also want to assure that the public will use standard equipment,” he added.  

As regards qualifications of the bidders, Valencia said it is the responsibility of the provincial Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).

Valencia said the P33-million funding is part of the Health Facilities Enhancement Program from the Office of the President.

The hospital enhancement program began in 2006 and aims to upgrade the equipment of provincial and district hospitals in the country.

Part of the fund went to Western Visayas, with P33 million allocated to Iloilo province in 2008 and another P38 million in 2009. The DoH will handle the bidding of the 2009 budget.

Valencia said Western Visayas congressmen worked together to allocate funds for the hospital facility enhancement project.

Valencia said Iloilo is the remaining province that has yet to bid out the needed equipment for district hospitals.

Medyo matagal na, last year pa dapat natapos yan. The other provinces were already done with the acquisition last year. We are under pressure to finish everything by December 2009 because the President wants to inaugurate all the facilities by then,” Valencia said.

Meanwhile, a member of the Provincial Legal Office reportedly blew his top upon learning that bid documents for the hospital equipment were sold to “favored contractors” or suppliers who are willing to give kickbacks to certain capitol officials.

But Atty. Edgar Sumido denied the report even as he stayed clear of the transactions.

“I hope nothing like that is happening,” Sumido said. He refused to expound on his reply. 

Sumido also denied having any knowledge that bid documents were sold to chosen contractors only. 

 “I have my own obligations.  I know nothing of such things,” he added.

Reports say some people at the governor’s office are “trying to influence” the bidding process.

Sumido said the BAC has been reshuffled because of the sterilizer and anesthesia machine controversy.

He said it cannot be possible that the same contractors are being favored under the new BAC composition.

The BAC, which is headed by provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, posted an invitation to apply for eligibility and to bid last July 3.

The contracts involve “supply, installation, testing and commissioning of various hospital equipment” for eight Iloilo provincial and district hospitals.

The recipient hospitals are the Iloilo Provincial Hospital in Pototan, Dumangas District Hospital in Dumangas, Ricardo S. Provido Memorial District Hospital in Calinog, Dr. Ricardo Y. Ladrido Memorial District Hospital in Lambunao, Ramon Tabiana Memorial District Hospital in Cabatuan, Federico Ramon Tirador Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Janiuay, Don Valerio Palmares Memorial District Hospital in Passi City and H. Aleosan District Hospital in Alimodian.

The bids will be opened July 27, 2009 at the conference room of the Provincial Legal Office.

The provincial government was under fire early this year for the controversial purchase of the P1.3-million autoclave sterilizer by the Passi City district hospital and the P2.4-million anesthesia machine bought by the Calinog district hospital.

A Commission on Audit (CoA) report said Pacific Trade House (PTH), the winning bidder of the sterilizer, lacked a valid business permit when it joined the bidding January 22, 2008.

COA also found out that the sterilizer was locally manufactured and has no patent. In fact, the equipment conked out during the testing.

The audit body also discovered that Joemar Trading, which won the contract for the anesthesia machine, has interlocking ownership with PTH, CDC Pharmacy and Dione Trading.

CDC and Dione also joined the bidding for the anesthesia machine, COA said.

In its latest annual audit report, COA ordered the provincial government to refund the P1.3 million paid for the autoclave sterilizer. (With reports from Tara Yap)

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Sangguniang Panlalawigan of Iloilo will tackle the request of Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. to declare a state of “imminent public health hazard” in the province because of the A(H1N1) flu pandemic.

Citing the governor’s letter, Vice Gov. Rolex Suplico said the declaration will empower the executive department to release P1.3 million for the purchase of protective medical gears.

The money will be taken from the 5% calamity fund of the 2009 budget.

Tupas cited in his letter request DBM-DILG Circular No. 2003-02 which allows the release of the calamity fund in preparation for disasters provided a state of imminent danger is first declared.

Suplico said the gears will be used by health workers in the province in responding to suspected A(H1N1) cases.

The Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) the executive will buy includes particulate respirator (N95), eye protection, gown and sterile gloves.

“It is apparent that the pandemic is not slowing down and there is a need to adopt measures to enhance the preparedness of our health professionals to handle the ‘swine flu’ in case it continues to spread in Iloilo,” Tupas said in his letter to the SP.

Suplico said he has reservations with Tupas’ request because Iloilo might be the first province to declare a state of imminent danger.

“There are only 22 confirmed cases in Iloilo with no fatality. Quezon City did not declare a state of imminent danger after an employee of the House of Representatives died of A(H1N1) flu,” Suplico said.

The governor said the equipment can be used for other epidemics that might recur such as SARS and Avian Flu.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Vice Governor Rolex Suplico assailed the latest edict of his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. authorizing the release of the P38.8-million Community Direct Action Program (CDAP) contained in the 2009 annual investment program (AIP).

 

Suplico said Executive Order No. 67 issued April 7, 2009 is questionable because it did not follow the conditions set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).

 

The vice governor was referring to the results of the DBM review on the 2009 annual budget dated March 20, 2009.

 

One of the conditions set by the DBM is the itemization or breakdown of allocations in the 2009 AIP.

 

But in EO 67, Suplico said they noticed that objects of expenditures such as construction of roads, bridges and other infrastructure projects were lumped together.

 

The vice governor said the governor should show which municipality will receive a certain amount of money to fund their projects.

 

The CDAP is considered one of the “pork barrels” of the Office of Governor which aims to help municipalities through various socio-economic related infrastructures.

 

In the project resumé attached to EO 67, CDAP funds are in the form of fund transfer or donation to the component local government unit to finance small infrastructure projects.

 

Suplico fears the release of the CDAP will be abused sans the itemized appropriation.

 

The vice governor said they are mulling to file more charges against the governor for violating the DBM conditions.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

GOVERNOR Niel Tupas Sr. will reorganize the provincial bids and awards committee (BAC) following his approval of the recommendations made by a special body that investigated the controversial autoclave sterilizer deal.

 

Tupas said he is looking for the replacement of General Services Office chief Ramie Salcedo as BAC chairman.

 

The governor said he is eyeing provincial budget officer Elena Lim to head the BAC but the latter has yet to give her nod.

 

Tupas mulled the BAC revamp after the former approved the findings of the committee headed by Atty. Jonel Alipao of the Provincial Legal Office relative to the P1.1-million autoclave sterilizer.

 

The committee exonerated the BAC of any liability in the deal and instead recommended that supplier Pacific Trade House (PTH) refund the provincial government’s money.

 

The Alipao committee also recommended the blacklisting of PTH and its sister companies from capitol transactions.

 

The Commission on Audit (COA) had earlier disallowed the purchase of the autoclave sterilizer for the Don Valerio Palmares Sr. Memorial District Hospital in Passi City.

 

In a notice of disallowance issued November 11, 2008, state auditor 4 Haydee P. Pasuelo said they found discrepancies in the deal.

 

“Ocular inspection conducted by the COA-Technical Services Office on August 21, 2008 disclosed that the unit is not in accordance with the duly approved Purchase Order, has no nameplate indicating the name of the manufacturer, origin of the unit, brand name/model and power consumption, and brochure submitted does not indicate the product patent number. It was also found out to be defective; thus the actual test was not performed at the time of the inspection,” the notice said.

 

The audit body also found “existence of fraud” in the procurement process based on the disbursement voucher and other supporting papers.

 

“The bidding participated in by Pacific Trade House and CDC Pharmacy showed that there was collusion between the two bidders. The disbursement voucher revealed that the person who received the check for payment in favor of Pacific Trade House was the authorized representative of CDC Pharmacy in the name of Ma. Cherry D. Alaban. It was also noted that the delivery receipt, signed by the Nurse-in-Charge supposedly issued by Pacific Trade House, bears the Taxpayer’s Identification Number (TIN) of a Dione Trading. Further investigation revealed that this Dione Trading (which delivered the autoclave sterilizer) and CDC Pharmacy are owned by only one person,” COA said.

 

Unlike the Alipao-led committee, the COA held the entire BAC liable for the alleged anomalous transaction.

 

Held liable were Salcedo as BAC chairman, Lim as vice chairman, provincial engineer Gracianito Lucero, former provincial treasurer Melba Sullivan, provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada, and executive assistant Levy Buenavista. Also held liable were Governor Niel Tupas Sr. for approving the transaction and Mercedes Sibug as supplier..

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

CAPITOL employees will have to wait for sometime before they can enjoy the 10 percent increase in their salaries.

Governor Niel Tupas Sr. said he will not veto Appropriations Ordinance No. 2-2008 passed by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan Tuesday.

But the governor said he will not sign the measure and will wait for the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to rule on the legality of the ordinance.

AO No. 2 authorizes the governor to use some P37 million for the salary increase of Capitol workers.

Even if the governor does not act on the appropriations ordinance, it will take effect a5 days after Tupas received a copy of the measure.

Tupas said he cannot put his imprimatur on the ordinance “because it is illegal.”

“I cannot implement this ordinance because what I submitted was a supplemental budget,” the governor said.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico said the Sanggunian did not approve Supplemental Budget No. 1 because the Local Government Code prohibits such measures under a reenacted budget.

Suplico said they passed AO No. 2 in keeping with Executive Order 719 which ordered the 10 percent salary increase for government workers.

Board Member Rodolfo Cabado, who abstained from voting on AO No. 2, said he supports any moves to increase the salary of capitol workers “but this ordinance has legal infirmities.”

Cabado brokered the executive meeting between the Tupas, Suplico, the board members and DBM assistant regional director Alfonso Bedonia in an effort to thresh out the budget impassé.

A ranking official of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG-6) said only the governor can propose budgets which will be deliberated and approved by the Sanggunian.

As regards the case of the Capitol, the DILG executive said Tupas should have submitted an annual budget instead of a supplemental budget.

Capitol employees said they will wait for the results of the DBM review on AO No. 2 even as they hope to receive their salary differential beginning July 1.

“At least the Sanggunian approved the ordinance and the governor did not veto it. We can still wait some more until the DBM reviews the ordinance,” an employee said.

The budget impassé was triggered by the decision of the DBM to declare the 2008 budget as inoperative. The DBM ruling forced the provincial government to operate using the reenacted 2007 budget which is not enough to cover the 10 percent salary increase.

PROVINCIAL government officials and employees cannot as yet count on the P37.9 million appropriation ordinance enacted last Tuesday by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan for the release of their 10-percent salary increase because the measure suffers from legal infirmities, top capitol officials said.

 

Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada said the enactment of the appropriation ordinance, which was made upon the initiative of Vice Governor Rolex T. Suplico, does not comply with the requirements of the Local Government Code and should be deemed illegal.

 

“Vice Governor Suplico proposed an appropriation measure based on Local Budget Circular No. 88 dated June 20, 2008 of the DBM, and not on the basis of the request for supplemental budget submitted by Governor Tupas, contrary to what the law says” Mejorada pointed out.

 

“This is a big blunder on the part of Suplico as it violates the basic principle in budgeting that the executive proposes, the legislature disposes,” he added.

 

And as a consequence, provincial officials and employees are not likely to get their 10-percent increases retroactive to July 1, 2008 until a valid ordinance is enacted by the Sanggunian, Atty. Salvador “Kiting” Cabaluna III, provincial legal officer, said.

 

Cabaluna said that Section 318 of the Local Government Code vests the power to determine the executive budget on the chief executive, or the Governor in this case.

 

“The Sanggunian, on its own, cannot appropriate funds unless there is a request from the Governor, and backed by a certification of availability of funds by the Provincial Treasurer,” Cabaluna said.

 

“The power of the Sanggunian is only to give legislative authorization for the appropriation, nothing more, nothing less,” he said.

 

Because of this, Cabaluna said that the ordinance will necessarily have to be vetoed by Governor Tupas.

 

“The governor, much as he wants to implement the early release of the salary hike, is left with no choice but to exercise his power of veto because of the elementary blunder,” Cabaluna said.

 

Among the defects cited by Cabaluna are that it wasn’t made on the basis of a request or proposal from the chief executive, that it was enacted without a corresponding certification from the provincial treasurer as to the availability of funds, and that it was approved without going through the three-reading rule.

 

Mejorada added that this ordinance finds no basis in law as to its form.

 

The Code only speaks of two classes of budget ordinances, the “annual budget” and the “supplemental budget,” he said.

 

Suplico denominated this ordinance as an “appropriation ordinance,” he said.

 

“To which class does this appropriation ordinance belong?” he asked.

 

Mejorada said the action of the Sanggunian is clearly “ultra vires,” or beyond its authority to approve. “Suplico is unlawfully creating an entirely new class of appropriation ordinance,” he said.

 

“What is painful to contemplate is that eight members of the Sanggunian, including two lawyers in the persons of Arthur ‘Toto’ Defensor Jr. and George Demaisip, ratified this stupid and illegal act pushed by the vice governor,” Mejorada said.

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico ushers his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. inside the session hall before the executive meeting on the supplemental budget. (FAA)

Vice Governor Rolex Suplico ushers his uncle Governor Niel Tupas Sr. inside the session hall before the executive meeting on the supplemental budget. (FAA)

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE much-hyped meeting between Governor Niel Tupas Sr. and Vice Governor Rolex Suplico Wednesday did not break the budget standoff between the executive and legislative departments.

But the meeting somehow gave the top officials probable options to prevent the provincial government from running out of funds for the salaries and wages of employees.

The closed-door executive conference was held at the Sangguniang Panlalawigan session hall past 3pm with Alfonso Bedonia, Department of Budget and Management (DBM) assistant regional director, as the main resource person.

Capitol department heads who accompanied Tupas in the meeting were provincial legal officer Salvador Cabaluna III, provincial treasurer Corazon Beloria, provincial budget officer Elena Lim and provincial planning and development officer Mario Nillos.

Also present were board members Jeneda Salcedo, Jett Rojas, Macario Napulan, June Mondejar, Richard Garin, Rodolfo Cabado and Shalene Hidalgo.

The main topic of the meeting was the augmentation and supplemental budget Tupas submitted to the SP to replenish funds for Capitol operations.

A budget impasse is gripping the provincial government after the DBM declared as inoperative the 2008 budget approved by the SP.

Thus, the Capitol is now operating on the reenacted 2007 budget which is limited only to appropriations for salaries and wages of existing positions; statutory and contractual obligations; and essential operating expenses authorized in the annual and supplemental budgets for the preceding year.

Suplico said the Local Government Code prohibits approval of augmentation or supplemental budgets under a reenacted budget.

But Bedonia said the DBM might agree with a supplemental budget for the salaries increase of capitol employees since it is part of the mandatory expenses allowed under a reenacted budget.

The national government recently approved a 10-percent salary increase for all national and local public employees.

Bedonia said DBM Secretary Rolando Andaya will review the supplemental budget once it is approved by the SP.

Suplico said they have two options to make to solve the problem – pass the entire supplemental budget or approve the appropriations for the salaries and wages of workers.

The vice governor said they will carefully study the issue so that they will not be charged with illegal disbursement of funds.

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