Ombudsman finds ‘enough basis’ for graft case vs Malay officials, ECOS

Ombudsman finds ‘enough basis’ for graft case vs Malay officials, ECOS

BORACAY ISLAND–Day of reckoning?

The Ombudsman has ordered all the 26 respondents comprising former and current officials of Malay, including some heads of offices, along with officials of a private hauling company, to file their counter-affidavits after “finding enough basis to proceed with the criminal and administrative investigation” of the cases filed against them.

Docketed as case number OMB-V-C-200099/OMB-V-A-20-0114, the order stemmed from the cases of graft and corruption, plunder, and charges relative to environmental violations filed by Boracay-based investigative journalist Noel Cabobos, who conducted an investigative report on the “anomalous” Public-Private Partnership between the Municipality of Malay and ECOS, a private hauling company, on the hauling of solid waste as well as the management and operation of the Malay sanitary landfill.

Cabobos, the editor of Boracay Informer and national chairman of the anti-corruption advocacy group BawalAngKorap, filed the charges on Feb. 4, this year, naming as respondents former mayor Ceciron Cawaling and former vice mayor Abram Sualog along with former SB members Frolibar Bautista, Dante Pagsuguiron, Jupiter Aeldred Gallenero, Lloyd Maming, Maylynn Graf, Danilo Delos Santos, Julieta Aron, Natalie Paderes, and Dalidig Sumdad.

Among those additionally charged are incumbent officials acting vice mayor Niño Carlos Cawaling, SB members Nickie Cahilig, Junthir Flores, Ralf Tolosa, and Christine Hope Pagsuguiron.

Also charged are various heads of offices of the municipality, who, Cabobos claimed, took part in “machinating” the passage of the contract, including Executive Assistant IV Edgardo Sancho, Municipal Legal Officer Melanio Prado, Jr., Municipal Treasurer Dediosa Dioso, Municipal Accountant Herminigildo Javier, Jr., and Municipal Budget Officer Anneli Sespeñe.

ECOS incorporators who were named in the complaint are Oliver Zamora, Richard Chan Lek, Miguel Anthony Tiu, Corazon Zamora, and Christine Aldeguer.

THE COMPLAINT
The complaint stemmed from the passage of the Public-Private Partnership between the Municipality and ECOS, which, allegedly, is “peppered with defects and onerous provisions that go against the law and the interest of the government and the people of Malay.”

Cabobos cited the Commission on Audit (COA) findings as testimony that the very essence of a Public-Private Partnership had been twisted “to suit the respondents’ whims and caprices and with intent of personal gain”.

He was referring to the COA Audit Report released on Feb. 12, 2019, showing that for the months from November 2018 to January 2019 alone, the Municipality of Malay paid ECOS P51,713,780.72 for its services in the hauling of garbage mainly coming from Boracay Island as well as the maintenance of the town’s sanitary landfill in the hilly portion of Brgy. Kabulihan in mainland Malay.

“Disbursements on the hauling of Solid Waste and the Management and Operations of an Eco-tourism, Engineered Sanitary Landfill undertaken as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) activity should have been under R.A. 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Act, thus, casting doubt on the propriety, validity, and correctness of the transactions,” stated the COA report penned by State Auditor III Merle Maglunob and State Auditor IV Loda Ocheda.

The COA report also stressed that instead of the municipality paying ECOS, ECOS should have been responsible for financing the operation and maintenance of the particular undertaking normally without cost for the LGU.

“PPP is a tool to minimize government spending. It addresses the limited funding resources for local infrastructure or development projects for the LGU thereby allowing the allocation of public funds for other local priorities,” it said.

The COA further stated that disbursements made by the local government of Malay in favor of ECOS can be construed as “simple procurement of services and should follow the Revised Rules and Regulations of RA. 9184”, a provision that the complaint averred had been violated by the contracting parties.

The MRF site in Brgy. Manoc-Manoc turned into a virtual gravel dump as ECOS ventured into the business of selling and supplying aggregates than focusing on its mandated role to collect the garbage generated on the island./INews

THE CHARGES
Aside from the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019), the respondents were also charged with Plunder (RA 7080) and violations of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act such as the Clean Water Act (RA 9275) and the Toxic and Hazardous Wastes Law (RA 6969).

Cabobos said the respondent officials and employees also violated the Code of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713), including their own Ordinance: Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 295, otherwise known as “An Ordinance Adopting Guidelines and Procedures for Entering into Public-Private Partnership Agreements with the Municipality of Malay”.

CONNIVANCE
In filing the complaint, Cabobos said the respondents connived with each other and took advantage of their official positions and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and prejudice of the government, the people of Malay, and the tourists.

He alleged that the said officials and employees received kickbacks or a percentage in connection with the passage of the “anomalous contract” which, to date, has rolled off an aggregated amount of more than P100 million and “therefore, an act liable for the crime of Plunder.”

HONORING A VOID CONTRACT
In including the incumbent officials of Malay in the charge, the complaint said that since the current officials headed by Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista continued to honor the contract with ECOS “they must be equally liable in the violation of various environmental laws resulting from the execution of the contract.”

Cabobos cited the complaint of Punong Barangay Antonio Benignos of Brgy. Dumlog, who called the attention of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay on January 4, 2019, following various complaints of the “foul odor” being emitted by the ECOS trucks as well as the alleged contamination of the Malay river due to the operation at the town’s sanitary landfill under the management of ECOS.

He also said various related complaints were reported to the local government but fell on deaf ears.

Another case in point was the complaint filed by a certain Susan Briones of Brgy. Dumlog, who claimed of the spread of skin diseases among locals who came in contact with the Malay river as well as the disappearance of shrimps, snails, and other river species that used to inhabit the river.

TOXIC STENCH
On January 28, this year, the Manoc-manoc Elementary school suspended its classes following a “toxic stench” leaking from the MRF site being managed by ECOS that had left students and teachers vomiting and fainting.

The phenomenon had forced Malay MENRO officer-in-charge Mariane Salvacion to order ECOS to immediately address the issue, citing the hazards it posed to the residents and the environment.

“This emission of a foul odor, according to our SWM personnel, was due to the stockpiled (sic) of wastes that are being mixed during the hauling operation. Based on the verbal report of our ground team, the ECOS truck collection process was ‘halo-halo sa isang truck’ even though it was segregated at the source and at the collection point. It was dumped at the Manoc-manoc Staging area in the same way. If this will be our ways every time, it will impose (sic) problem especially from the biodegradable waste (food waste) not just to the people on the island but also to the people in the mainland since the garbage is being hauled to our sanitary landfill in Kabulihan, Malay,” she stated in a letter to Miguel Anthony Tiu, general manager of ECOS.

The stack of documentary evidence when the case was filed at the Ombudsman-Visayas Satellite Office in Iloilo City./INews

VIOLATING OWN ORDINANCE
In the complaint, it was stressed that both the former and incumbent officials of the municipality had violated their own Ordinance, referring to Municipal Ordinance No. 295, which, Cabobos said, was not followed when the PPP contract was approved in 2018.

He claimed that various provisions such as the technical requirement and the financial capability clause of the Ordinance had not been met, but the contract was still approved.

“It is surprising to note that despite the absence of the required documents as specified in the Ordinance, the contract with ECOS pushed through and without any hitches whatsoever,” he stated.

“For a contract of this magnitude, the law is keen on track record as a threshold for the capacity of contracting parties to enter into a valid agreement, which, in this case, the respondent ECOS was not able to demonstrate,” he said.

“In my opinion, PPP is good, with its main purpose of promoting the general welfare and provide for a better quality of life for the people. This was even underscored by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) as part of the government’s thrust for sustainable development,” he said, but noting, “The failure of ECOS to provide eligibility requirements at the very start should have been grounds for the contract’s revocation. On the contrary, it was continued by the current administration, which had only recently paid ECOS millions of pesos.”

He also said that aside from the COA’s findings, the fact that the local government of Malay failed to coordinate with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) pertaining to the passage of the said contract made it bereft of the requisites that would make it legally binding.

NEDA, he said, serves as a repository of information on the status of PPP projects, copies of unsolicited proposals, and other related documents received by the implementing Agencies or Local Government Units, and it is the agency that assists Local Government Units in the preparation and development of projects.

PRAYER
In his prayer, Cabobos asked the Ombudsman to declare the PPP contract null and void and to immediately suspend the respondents upon the commencement of the investigation of the case and eventually dismiss and perpetually disqualify them from public office.

Also, he asked the Ombudsman to require all Punong Barangays of the Municipality of Malay to establish an appropriate Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) as provided for by R.A 9003 and to order the DENR to spearhead the clean-up and restoration of the Malay River and its tributaries along with the establishment of an appropriate sanitary landfill and/or adequate solid waste and liquid disposal as well as other alternative garbage disposal systems, including the employment of the reduce, re-use, and recycle waste campaign and the conversion of waste into energy or productive materials.

Moreover, he also asked the Ombudsman to order ECOS to refund the millions of pesos it received from the Municipality of Malay based on the account of the PPP contract being void ab initio and for the latter’s total disregard for the environment of the Municipality of Malay.

After requiring the respondents to file their counter-affidavits and controverting evidence to the complaint, the Ombudsman in its order stated that “motion to dismiss or bill of particulars, and dilatory motions including, but not limited to, motions for extension of time, second motions for reconsideration and/or re-investigation are prohibited pleadings and shall be stricken off the records of the cases.”/INews

P700 billion lost yearly due to corruption, says official

P700 billion lost yearly due to corruption, says official

The Philippines is losing around P700 billion, or around 20 percent of the country’s total budget appropriation, yearly, due to corruption, an official said. Deputy Ombudsman Cyril Ramos said the Philippines ranked the 6th most corrupt among Asia Pacific countries.

“We need to keep reminding ourselves how destructive corruption is, especially for developing countries like ours,” he said during the National Police Commission’s summit on crime prevention Thursday.

The figure is equivalent to some 1.4 million housing for the poor, medical assistance for around 7 million Filipinos, or a rice buffer stock that can last for more than a year, he added.

“With that amount, no Filipino would get hungry.” he said.

The summit, attended by officials of government agencies and various community sectors, seeks to improve crime situation through effective strategies on how to combat criminality including crimes of corruption.

Napolcom vice chairman and executive officer Rogelio Casurao said the results of the summit will help rationalize the framework for crime prevention for the next three years of the Duterte administration.

“The ultimate goal is peace and order thru intensifying anti-crime initiatives,” he said.

Casurao said illegal drugs, robbery, and theft are still the top crimes in the country, while lack of cooperation and coordination among state agencies, limited resources and funds, and lack of prosecutors to handle cases remain to be top problems of the country’s judicial system.

Atty. Raul Villanueva, deputy court administrator of the Supreme Court, said around 85 percent of cases in the country are criminal in nature, and the judiciary’s “continuous trial guidelines” and “plea bargaining framework” have helped in reducing the number of cases.

The continuous trial guidelines are adjustments to the timeline of judicial process, such as: plea bargaining is now held prior to arraignment, pre-trial and arraignment takes place on the same day, and mediation takes place only after pre-trial has been terminated.

Courts are also mandated to conduct trial hearings both in the morning and afternoon.

In the plea bargaining framework, such as in drug cases, offenders may plead guilty in exchange for a lesser offense or a lighter penalty.

But Villanueva clarified that the courts are strict in allowing plea bargaining in drug cases especially if the offender has a relapse of drug abuse, has been charged many times, and if evidence of guilt is strong.

“In these cases, Supreme Court said courts should not allow plea bargaining,” he said.

Villanueva added that the Supreme Court is also about to pilot test in the next two years a video conference mechanism between the courts and high risk inmates.

It is set to be tested between Davao City Hall of Justice and Davao City Jail, New Bilibid Prisons in Muntinlupa, and Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig City.

The policy recommendations that will be formulated in the summit will be given to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.

Ron Gagalac, ABS-CBN News
Posted at Aug 15 2019 05:24 PM | Updated as of Aug 15 2019 10:45 PM

Developing a Corruption-intolerant Society

Developing a Corruption-intolerant Society

Despite being a signatory to the United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), the Philippines is perceived as one of the most corrupt nations in the Asia Pacific. Even while it strives to fight corruption in the public and private sectors, its consistently poor ranking in the Corruption Perceptions Index—it ranked 101 out of 168 countries in 2016—reveals how trust in the government is undermined by graft and corruption. In fact, the country’s public finance management and its public service delivery remain vulnerable to corrupt practices and red tape. A 2014 report by the Global Financial Integrity revealed that billions of dollars in tax revenue are lost to corrupt transactions in the Philippines every year; on some years, government earnings lost to corruption was equivalent to 10-20 percent of the national budget.

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Preparations underway for convergence vs corruption

Preparations underway for convergence vs corruption

Preparations are underway for the holding of the convergence against corruption, the biggest gathering of anti-corruption advocates set to be held in Boracay Island on December this year.

This was announced by Noel Cabobos, founding chairman of Bawal ang Korap, a non-profit anti-corruption advocacy organization committed to highlighting practical actions that can be taken to combat corruption and rise to the challenge of placing God’s justice at the heart of our societies.

The advocacy group, Cabobos said, is composed of a new generation of change-makers advocating good governance and sustainable development.

Cabobos, who also acts as chair of the event which aims to gather 400 to 500 advocates all over the country, said that the convergence is in line with the group’s mission to provide a forum of information, support, and sharing among prime movers of anti-corruption campaigns as well as to further galvanize the movement of anti-corruption advocates to embrace integrity, dignity, honesty, and perseverance in their family work, professional enterprise and social involvement by making themselves the model and principled conduits of spiritual, social, moral and material transformation.

The gathering, he said, is very significant because it will also feature the first round of the association-led regional convergences which will be seen in action every quarter thereafter.

The international community has recognized that tackling corruption is vital for sustaining economic stability and growth, maintaining the security of society, protecting human rights, reducing poverty, protecting the environment for future generations and addressing serious and organized crime.

The United Nations Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) said that corruption poses a significant threat to countries around the world as it undermines democratic institutions, contributes to governmental instability and erodes trust. Corruption threatens the economy by undermining fair competition and discouraging investment and trade, and it disproportionately affects disadvantaged groups by preventing social inclusion, promoting inequality and inhibiting prosperity.

UNCAC has also underlined the importance of the active participation of individuals and groups outside the public sector, such as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and community-based organizations, in the prevention of and the fight against corruption and in raising public awareness.

“Corruption acts as a brake on development, denying millions of people around the world the prosperity, rights, services and employment which they desperately need–and deserve. When corruption prevails, development is threatened. Fighting corruption is therefore not only an aim in itself, but also the most effective way to ensure sustainable development and a better future,” UNCAC further noted.

“We have to rise to the challenge of our time since we all have a stake in fighting corruption in our respective communities especially during these trying times wherein some local officials are taking advantage of the cvid-19 pandemic to corner funds that are supposed to be for the people. Therefore we all have to work hard and help in raising awareness, channel information from citizens to the State and exert pressure for political commitment against corruption. And most importantly, we have to demand accountability from our leaders. Bawal ang Korap came into being for this very purpose,” Cabobos underscored.