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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas dismissed the administrative and criminal cases filed by an Iloilo capitol official against Tesda Director-General Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco and a Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) official.

The Ombudsman said Provincial Administrator Manuel P. Mejorada failed to prove that there were irregularities in the purchase of two dump trucks worth P2.9 million sometime in 2003.

The cases, docketed as OMB-V-C-06-0249-E and OMB-V-A-06-0260-E, were filed in 2006.

The money used to buy the heavy equipment was sourced from Syjuco’s Countrywide Development Fund or pork barrel when he was still congressman of Iloilo 2nd district.

Aside from Syjuco, Mejorada also sued Cecil Caligan, former head of the 4th Engineering District which covers the 2nd district and Juanito Tizon, chairman/president of Julian Motors.

Mejorada complained that the purchase was irregular on the ground that the trucks were overpriced at P1.49 million each.

Mejorada also claimed that the trucks were not “reconditioned” and “in good running condition” but were actually rotting and rusting at the DPWH depot.  

He also alleged that the dump trucks were originally owned by the Tawo kag Duta sa Kauswagan Foundation which Syjuco established when he was still running for congressman.

The trucks ended up with Azure after a series of sale between the foundation and another buyer.

Syjuco and Caligan were also accused of pressuring the lowest bidder, Julian Motors, to withdraw from the transaction and give way to Azure Builders Corp.

But the Ombudsman-Visayas said Mejorada failed to prove his allegations, particularly the alleged conspiracy between the respondents and overpriced trucks.

The anti-graft body said the bidding for the heavy equipment were open and transparent as it was specified in the bid documents that the engineering district will buy trucks that are “reconditioned” and “in good running condition”, not brand new items.

The withdrawal of winning bidder Julian Motors from the transaction does not prove that Syjuco and Caligan pressured the supplier to back off.

The Ombudsman said Julian Motors voluntarily withdrew in view of anticipated delays of payment and fund releases.

As regards the issue that Syjuco’s foundation was the former owner of the trucks, the Ombudsman said there was no proof that he used his power as congressman to influence the transaction.

The anti-graft body said Syjuco did not coerce Caligan to buy the dump trucks from Azure Builders.

There was also no overpricing in the purchase even if the original cost of the trucks was P800,000 per unit.

“This could hardly be considered as grossly disadvantageous to the government. If a vendor is able to sell something higher than its acquisition cost, it is not conclusive of the fact that it defrauded the vendee. Any seller for that matter would certainly want to sell his products for a profit,” the Ombudsman said.

Carla Narvios-Tanco, Ombudsman graft investigation and prosecution officer 2, recommended the dismissal of the cases in February 2007.

Then OIC-Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago recommended the approval of the two resolutions on March 20 2007 which were finally approved only on March 25, 2009 by Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro.

Copies of the resolutions were sent to the parties involved October 2009.

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By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman in Western Visayas denied violating the red plate policy it is implementing by allegedly misusing its official car.

The issue on the alleged misuse of the Ombudsman car surfaced when the vehicle was spotted in Cabatuan last September 10. The town was celebrating its annual patronal fiesta on the said date.

Reports surfaced that Deputy Ombudsman for Visayas Pelagio Apostol attended the fiesta after leading the strategic planning and assessment of Ombudsman-Western Visayas.

The alleged use of the Ombudsman car to attend the town fiesta is a violation of the red plate policy which mandates that government vehicles should be used for official purposes only.

But in a text message to The Daily Guardian, Ombudsman graft investigator Evangeline Nuñal said they observed proper procedure when Apostol used the office car.

Nuñal said Apostol led the Ombudsman strategic planning in Iloilo City on September 10.

The following day, Apostol was to attend the anniversary celebration of Ombudsman Western Visayas office in Iloilo City. 

Apostol decided to go home to his in-laws in Cabatuan instead of staying in a hotel.

“He normally stays there instead of a hotel. The trip (to Cabatuan) was official and we have properly accomplished the trip ticket which is open to scrutiny by the public,” Nuñal said.

Nuñal said the Ombudsman is not exempt from laws governing the use of government resources.

“We encourage people to report whenever they feel that the law is being violated especially by the Office of the Ombudsman. We always welcome feedbacks from the public.” She added.

Meanwhile, the Ombudsman is set to charge five public officials in Western Visayas for alleged misuse of official vehicles.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

THE Office of the Ombudsman in Western Visayas will ask the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to explain and resolve the delayed remittance of retirees’ pensions.

This after the Ombudsman received complaints from GSIS pensioners in the cities of Bacolod and Iloilo about the 8-month delay in their monthly pensions.

Evangeline Nuñal, Ombudsman graft investigator, said 79 pensioners from Bacolod City and 40 pensioners in Iloilo sent their complaints to the People’s Graftwatch in their respective areas. The Graftwatch then forwarded the complaints to the Ombudsman-Western Visayas office for investigation.

Nuñal said the case was assigned to her through a raffle by their office. Her first move is to send a letter to the GSIS regional and national offices asking for an explanation and resolution to the pensioners’ problem.

If GSIS does not respond to their first letter, Nuñal said they will send two more letters of the same nature.

If the state pension fund does not respond after three letters, the Ombudsman will launch a formal investigation which could lead to the filing of administrative and criminal cases.

Aside from the complainants in Bacolod and Iloilo, some pensioners in Antique and Capiz are also planning to send their own complaints to the Ombudsman through the Social Action Center of the Catholic Church.

GSIS pensioners recently complained that they did not receive their September pensions on the designated date.

Fe Panes, GSIS-Iloilo assistant manager, said the delay was caused by the “migration” or transfer of pensioners’ records to their new computer system.

GSIS is implementing an overhaul of its computer system after the software of its technology provider crashed.

Panes said GSIS sent text message broadcast to pensioners informing them about the delay in the remittance of their pensions.

But some pensioners said they did not receive any word from the state pension fund.

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

THE Office of the Ombudsman has taken interest in the controversial power supply agreement (PSA) between Iloilo Electric Cooperative (Ileco-3) and an independent power producer (IPP).

The anti-graft body has asked the National Electrification Administration (NEA) for a copy of the fact-finding’s team report on the PSA between Ileco-3 and Applied Research Technologies Phils., Inc. (Artech).

The three-man fact-finding team headed by Atty. Omar Mayo, NEA legal department chief, recommended the rescission of the PSA due to its grossly disadvantageous provisions that will burden Ileco-3 consumers.

The fact-finding also recommended that Ileco 3 directors will be preventively suspended and investigated for allegedly receiving bribes in exchange for the approval of the deal.

Edgardo Piamonte, National Electrification Administration (NEA) deputy administrator, confirmed that Ombudsman central office subpoenaed a copy of the fact-finding team’s report.

Mayor also confirmed that the anti-graft body asked for a copy of his report.

But the Ombudsman in Western Visayas said they have no records of any compliant or request for investigation on the Ileco 3-Artech deal.

Atty. Evangeline Nuñal, assistant graft investigation officer, said the complaint or request may have been filed with the Ombudsman Visayas in Cebu or their central office in Metro Manila.

Nuñal said the Ombudsman can also investigate alleged graft and corruption in government reported in the media.

Last May 5, former Judge Mateo Baldoza, Ileco 3 board president, told Joel Tormon of Aksyon Radyo that he received P75,000 cash from Gov. Niel Tupas Sr.

Baldoza said he received the money from Tupas during a meeting with Artech officials led by president Reynaldo Uy at the governor’s mansion in Jaro, Iloilo City last April 17.

The former judge alleged that Tupas asked him to help Artech while handing the money inside a white envelope.

The following day, Baldoza modified his statement saying it was a lady employee of Artech who gave him the money at the governor’s house.

He received another P75,000 cash from an Artech employee after they approved and signed the PSA in a hotel in Iloilo City April 21.

Lately, Baldoza said he stood by his first statement that Tupas gave him the money when the former faced the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) early this month.

The NBI had also launched an investigation on the issue based on the complaints of two Ileco 3 consumers.

Tupas denied bribing Ileco 3 directors saying he was only concerned with the looming power shortage in the cooperative’s franchise area.

Tupas said he wanted to assure that Ileco 3 will have enough power supply when its contract with National Power Corp. expires next year.

Domingo Beltran, Artech vice president, said they might sue Ileco 3 and NEA should the cooperative decide to rescind their PSA.

Beltran said it is up to Ileco 3 if it will decide to continue with the contract or not.

Tupas also accused Presidential Assistant for Western Visayas Raul Banias of spreading unsigned copies of the fact-finding team’s report to the media.

The governor said the report is not yet official as it remains unsigned and unapproved by NEA.

Banias, who requested the NEA probe, said Mayo and other NEA officials already confirmed the existence of the report which assailed the alleged onerous provisions of the contract.

Banias said the deployment of a NEA project supervisor to Ileco 3 is proof that NEA is seriously looking into deals and operations of the cooperative.

“NEA can always take over the operations of Ileco 3. We hope that NEA will hear the qualms of the consumers who are seeking justice for this alleged anomalous transaction,” Banias said.

 

By Francis Allan L. Angelo

 

ILOILO Governor Niel Tupas Sr. owns more than P25 million worth of properties, based on his latest statement of assets and liabilities net worth (SALN) submitted to the Human Resource Management and Development Office (HRMDO).

 

Tupas’ SALN for 2006 also shows that he is liquid having no liabilities or debts. His SALN for 2007 is unavailable.

 

The 2006 SALN show that he owns P22,000,080 worth of residential and agricultural properties.

 

The properties include five residential houses and lots in the town of Barotac Viejo; Las Palmas Subdivision in Jaro, Iloilo City; and Purdue, Quezon City in Metro Manila. His agricultural lands are located in Barotac Viejo.

 

In terms of personal and other properties, Tupas owns P1.14 million worth of furniture and fixtures while his jewelry amounted to P1.39 million.

 

The governor also owns five vehicles of various makes with a total value of P1.047 million.

 

Tupas reported in his SALN P300,000 worth of agricultural produce and improvements, his growing crops valued at P351,175.

 

The governor’s cash-on-hand in 2006 amounted to P447,316.

 

In sum, Tupas is worth P25,662,771.01 after accumulated depreciation amounting to P2,134,720.

 

As regards his sprawling residence in Hechanova, Jaro, records from the Iloilo City Assessor’s Office show that Tupas bought the property for P6.5 million via bank auction in 2005.

 

Ownership of the Hechanova property was transferred to Niel and Myrna Tupas December 19, 2008.

 

The property has a total land area of 1,894 square meters with an assessed value of P2,462,200. The house is valued at P3,935,550.

 

The HRMDO is set to release the governor’s 2007 SALN not later today.

 

Tupas nephew, Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico has urged the Sangguniang Panlalawigan to ask the Office of the Ombudsman to conduct a lifestyle check on the governor.

 

Suplico said he cannot recall any prominent person who paid Tupas a handsome fee for his legal services before the latter entered politics, debunking Tupas’ claims that the money he used to purchase the Hechanova property came from his legal fees.

 

The vice governor also scoffed at Tupas’ failure to answer the checks the former issued from 1998 to 2001. The checks represented the financial assistance Suplico extended to his uncle at P70,000 a month.

 

Suplico said Tupas cannot own multimillion properties on his P29,000 monthly salary.

 

But Tupas corrected the vice governor saying his salary is P34,939 a month aside from his representation and travel allowance amounting to some P10,000 monthly.

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