Loboc Mayor Helen Alaba asserted before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas that the Municipality of Loboc is “not covered” by Executive Order (EO) No. 2, series of 2016 issued by President Rodrigo Duterte and that the Local Government Unit (LGU) of Loboc is “not a government office under the executive branch and is separate from the executive branch.”
Engineer Petronilo Sarigumba, owner of Ronnyl Construction,, accused Alaba before the Ombudsman for allegedly refusing to provide copies of the abstract of bids and awards in connection with the bidding for the Php7 million completion of the Heritage Shop and its balcony extension in the Loboc Tourism Complex located in Barangay Villaflor, Loboc.
Abstract of bids and awards is a document that shows the summary of the bid prices, bid security amounts, a ranking of bidders and other pertinent data of the bidding process.
A separate criminal complaint was also filed against the members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and Alaba before the Ombudsman for their refusal to allow Sarigumba to purchase bid documents for the Heritage Shop completion project and issuance of a ban by Alaba against Ronnyl Construction
The request for the abstract of bids and awards came after Sarigumba learned that his construction company was ordered banned by Alaba to purchase bid documents for the completion of the heritage shop and “any transaction with the Local Government Unit of Loboc (LGU-Loboc).
According to Sarigumba, the refusal of Alaba to furnish him copies of the bids and awards documents is a “blatant violation” of section 2 of Duterte’s EO which constitutes “grave misconduct.”
The criminal complaint against Alaba and members of the BAC was for violation of section 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” docketed under OMB-V-C-18-0076 and a separate administrative complaint (OMB-V-A-18-0076) for grave misconduct against Alaba.
Duterte signed EO No.2 on July 23, 2017, implementing a policy of full public disclosure of all its transactions involving public interest to enhance transparency and accountability in government official acts, transactions, or decisions.
Under section 2 of the EO, “local government units (LGU’s) are encouraged to observe and be guided by this order.”
Sarigumba expressed dismay over Alaba’s “defiance” of Duterte”s campaign to rid government of corruption especially in government’s procurement process and protection of the right of the people to information on matters of public concern.
However, in a 17-page consolidated counter-affidavit to the Ombudsman, the Loboc mayor slammed Sarigumba’s allegations as “baseless, unfounded and highly misplaced.” and pushed for the outright dismissal of the administrative and criminal complaints against her.
Alaba noted that the last sentence of section 2 of Duterte’s EO “merely encouraged to observe and be guided” by the EO which “put simply is not compulsory or mandatory.”
Alaba also claimed that LGU-Loboc “does not have its own Freedom of Information Manual such that I cannot be held to have violated any law, regulation or order when I denied” Sarigumba’s request.
FOR OBSERVERS ONLY
Alaba explained to the Ombudsman that Sarigumba is not the “proper party” to request for the of bids and awards since only “observers” are allowed access to the abstract of bids, among other documents set out in section 13.5 of the 2016 Revised Implementing Rules and Procedure of Republic Act (RA) 9184 known as the “Government Procurement Reform Act.”
Alaba also stressed that her refusal to grant Sarigumba’s request for the abstract of bids and awards does not constitute grave misconduct “for the reason that he is not entitled to said documents.”
On the ban order against Ronnyl Construction issued on May 24, 2017, Alaba cited two projects – the repair of the multi-purpose building located at the tourism complex in Barangay Villaflor, Loboc (Php3.5M) and the rehabilitation of the rural health unit (Php2,360,794).
Both projects, according to Alaba incurred negative findings, very poor quality of work and lack of skilled workers and technical personnel to monitor the quality and progress of work.
To bolster her claim of negative findings of Ronnyl Construction, a request by the National Irrigation Authority (NIA) signed by Modesto Membreve, Regional Manager of Region VII addressed to the Philippine Contractors Association Board (PCAB) to blacklist and suspend Sarigumba’s company to participate in the procurement of government projects was included by Alaba in her answer to the Ombudsman.
Alaba also pointed out that the ban was issued in good faith and is not personal but merely to protect the interest of the LGU and was only temporary meant to resolve the construction company’s issue on workmanship, delay, and compliance before allowing its participation in municipal projects.
ABSOLUTE BAD FAITH
But Sarigumba, in his reply-affidavit blamed the LGU-Loboc for its blatant lack of urgency and efficiency to address a critical concern involving the design of the tiles which were already phased-out which eventually was approved for a new set of design two months after their request.
According to Sarigumba, the certificate of completion and acceptance was checked, evaluated and approved by the LGU-Loboc belies the allegations of Alaba as stated in her ban order.
Sarigumba told the Ombudsman that Alaba’s issuance of the ban order is a direct intervention of the bidding process prohibited under the law while lambasting Acting Mayor Pablio Sumampong for conniving with Membreve to furnish the LGU-Loboc with a copy of a blacklisting order from the NIA of Ronnyl Construction.
Sarigumba and Membreve have been on each other’s throat over allegations of wrongdoings and project implementation at the NIA.
In an unusual show of speed, the Ombudsman, in 23 days from the filing of the complaint against Alaba on February 1, 2018, ordered the Loboc mayor to file their counter-affidavits within ten days upon receipt of the order. (Chito M. Visarra)