Alvarez readies statement on graft case
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.