Al­varez read­ies state­ment on graft case

Palawan News - - FRONT PAGE - By Aira Ge­nesa Mag­dayao Re­porter

Palawan Gov­er­nor Jose Al­varez is ready­ing his official state­ment fol­low­ing the Of­fice of the Om­buds­man’s de­nial of his ap­peal to dis­miss the graft charges filed against him in­volv­ing al­leged anoma­lous bulk wa­ter sup­ply project (BWSP) in 2004 in Ca­gayan de Oro City.

“As of now, nagha­handa pa ang mga lawyers ni gov­er­nor ng official state­ment re­gard­ing the case,” pro­vin­cial in­for­ma­tion of­fi­cer Cae­sar Sammy Mag­banua told Palawan News in a text mes­sage Fri­day. On Oc­to­ber 23, Al­varez and six oth­ers were charged by the Om­buds­man at the Sandi­gan­bayan for vi­o­la­tion of Sec­tion 3 (e) of Re­pub­lic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Cor­rupt Prac­tices Act. Charged with the gov­er­nor were Ca­gayan de Oro Wa­ter District’ (CDOWD) board chair­man Fran­cisco Men­dez; trea­surer Sarah Borja; sec­re­tary Ray­mund Java; as­sis­tant sec­re­tary Sandy Bass Sr.; and gen­eral man­ager Gas­par Gon­za­les Jr.; and Lo­cal Wa­ter Util­i­ties Ad­min­is­tra­tion chair­man Lorenzo Jamora. The graft charges stemmed from the bulk wa­ter sup­ply project that Al­varez’ Rio Verde Wa­ter Con­sor­tium, Inc. (RVWCI) en­tered in 2004 with the CDO city govern­ment. Ac­cord­ing to the charge sheet filed by as­sis­tant spe­cial pros­e­cu­tor Jorge Espinal the RVWCI was awarded the wa­ter con­tract even be­fore the sub­mis­sion and open­ing of bids, and that some of its pro­vi­sions were not in ac­cor­dance with what was agreed upon pre­vi­ously. The pros­e­cu­tors in the case have also ques­tioned the con­tract’s award to RVWCI based sim­ply on the rec­om­men­da­tion of the CDOWD-BWSP com­mit­tee and not its bids and awards com­mit­tee (BAC). The CDOWD of­fi­cials were also charged for al­legedly sign­ing the agree­ment by re­fus­ing to pay at­ten­tion to the fact that it did not ad­here to the model con­tract, and spurn­ing a le­gal ad­vice of the Of­fice of the Govern­ment Cor­po­rate Coun­sel to seek court pro­ceed­ings to re­vise the terms. In Al­varez’ ap­peal for re­con- sider­a­tion ear­lier this year, he said there was no is­sue in the con­tract be­tween RVWCI and CDOWD since the pub­lic bid­ding in 2004 un­til the fi­nal im­ple­men­ta­tion of the project in 2007. He said he should not be charged since there was no proof that he acted in con­spir­acy with the other re­spon­dents. In his ap­peal, Al­varez said, “Re­spon­dent had all the rea­sons to be­lieve, as any­one un­der the same cir­cum­stances would have been made to be­lieve, that CDOWD un­der­took the bid­ding and the award­ing process of the BWSP reg­u­larly and there was no rea­son for herein re­spon­dent, or for any­one else un­der the same sit­u­a­tion, to have cast doubt on CDOWD’s rep­re­sen­ta­tions.” A bail of P30,000 each has been rec­om­mended for Al­varez and the other re­spon­dents. In ad­di­tion, CDOWD of­fi­cials Java, Bas, Gon­za­les, board trea­surer Bib­iana Sarmiento, and board sec­re­tary Joel Balde­lo­var, were also sued for graft in re­la­tion to a December 2005 dead with Geo-Trans­port and Con­struc­tion, Inc. (GTCI). The pros­e­cu­tors al­leged that GTCI headed by Edward Chona was awarded the Phase III im­prove­ment and ex­pan­sion project-lat­eral im­prove­ment project through a ne­go­ti­ated pro­cure­ment and not a pub­lic bid­ding. The govern­ment was said to have lost P14.72 mil­lion, which is the dif­fer­ence of the con­tract cost and the true cost of the project as eval­u­ated by the Com­mis­sion on Au­dit (COA). Balde­lo­var, Bass, Java, and Sarmiento were also charged with one count of vi­o­lat­ing sec­tion 7 (d) of the Code of Con­duct and Eth­i­cal Stan­dards for Pub­lic Of­fi­cials and Em­ploy­ees for re­ceiv­ing two wa­ter trucks and one brand-new Toy­ota Revo car 2006, a year af­ter Chona won a CDOWD project.

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