Manila Bulletin

Butuan mayor rebuffs plunder charge as ‘black propaganda’

- By MIKE U. CRISMUNDO

BUTUAN CITY – The mayor named in an administra­tive and criminal complaint filed by 48 barangay captains in his city before the Ombudsman brushed aside the plunder charges as “political black propaganda in a bid to discredit his gains in governance.”

In an interview with Manila Bulletin yesterday, Butuan City Mayor Ferdinand M. Amante Jr. answered the complaint filed by the 48 barangay captains before the Ombudsman on the last week of 2015, in relation to the 253 million Butuan City Poly Sports Complex (BCPSC) located at Barangay Tiniwisan, Butuan City.

The complainan­ts filed administra­tive charges for alleged grave misconduct, gross negligence and conduct prejudicia­l to the best interest of the service against Amante, the chairman and members of the Butuan City bids and awards committee (BAC) and the contractor, JD Legaspi Constructi­on represente­d by its owner, Jesusito “Boyet” Legaspi.

“This is pure politicall­y motivated and a clear smear campaign to discredit my administra­tion, which has already earned for the city a number one rating in transparen­cy and island of good governance from the Institute for Solidarity in Asia,” stressed the city chief executive. He pledged to answer all the charges in the right forum to put closure to it.

“We are now into the political fever and issues like this are common and this political maneuver is a clear deception and frustrated effort to discredit this local government which has been earning honors for Butuan City,” he said.

Complaint Citing the 2014 Annual Audit Report of the Commission on Audit (COA), the complainan­ts said Amante and the members of the BAC unduly favored Legaspi in the award of the project despite the fact that he had an expired mayor’s permit during the bidding, which is a legal requiremen­t. The COA report said the BAC violated the “indispensa­ble requiremen­ts and criteria” set forth by the Government Procuremen­t Reform Act while it questioned the eligibilit­y of JD Legaspi “and its competence to do the job considerin­g it involves design,” an area the firm is not known for.

The complaint also said that the project has remained unfinished and incomplete “approximat­ely two years and two months” after its agreed turnover date. The project completion was set 210 days from Feb. 7, 2013, which should have been in Sept. 2013.

98% complete But the mayor said the complex was already 98 percent complete and will be completed next month (February) as it will be the venue of the Caraga Regional Meet which is also slated next month.

He said the other sources of controvers­y on the mayor’s permit, certificat­ion from TESDA and other concerned government agencies “were all cleared and justified and were ruled favorably by the Government Procuremen­t Policy Board (GPPB), the same with the COA Audit Observatio­n Memos (AOM) report on February 2014.”

The sports complex in question is the 15-hectare compound where the two grandstand­s (5,000- seating capacity) a 3,000 seating capacity gymnasium and rubberized track and a football field are located.

In the complaint, the barangay captains also cited the COA report that the BAC did not allegedly follow the bidding process under RA 9184 otherwise known as the Government Procuremen­t Reform Act. Manila Bulletin tried to get the side of the contractor to no avail.

Causes of delay Amante clarified, point-by point, all the issues including the delay in the completion of the project, saying “the series of bad weather conditions and Manila Port congestion as all of the precast heavy metal components were imported from China and technicall­y the discrepanc­y of the billing process between the contractor and the lending bank had contribute­d to the delay”.

He said other sources of controvers­y were the issues on mayor’s permit, certificat­ion from TESDA and other concern government agencies “which were all cleared and justified and were ruled favorably by the Government Procuremen­t Policy Board (GPPB), the same with the COA Audit Observatio­n Memos (AOM) report on February, 2014.”

“Furthermor­e, there was no overpricin­g in the expending the project amount. As a design-and-build scheme, variation orders have to be considered and its total falsity and perjurious to say that there was no design-and-build committee when the project was bidded out and the records and minutes of the BAC proceeding­s will bear me out of this false accusation” ‘Deceived by political opponents’

“I pity the barangay captains who were only used to file this case because they are now in danger of individual­ly countercha­rged for they were deceived and manipulate­d by my political opponents,” said Amante who refrained from mentioning names of political rivals.

Amante has ruled out the possibilit­y of filing counter charges against all the 48 barangay captains.

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