Solon welcomes graft case on joint venture

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Solon welcomes graft case on joint venture

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Relampagos
Relampagos

Election season is definitely on! After the period for the filing of candidacy for national and local positions last October 16-20, there is no stopping political maneuvering, mudslinging and harassment to win at all cost. And Bohol is no exception.

In the recent days, the filing of the case for violation of Republic Act No. 3019 at Sandiganbayan against Governor Edgar Chatto, Rep. Rene L. Relampagos of the first district, and various local officials of the province hugged the headlines of local media. In a matter of days, it is expected that national media will take notice.

“Curiously, however,” Rep. Relampagos noted, “and I honestly do not know if I am the only who notices this, that this single case filed against me and the others only manages to resurrect itself every election time. Coincidence? I think not.”

Indeed, last October 23, 2015, the case was filed in relation to the 2000 Joint Venture Agreement to Rehabilitate-Operate-Own (JVA-ROO) with the Salcon Group of companies to improve the electricity and water systems in Tagbilaran City entered into by then Gov. Relampagos, Vice Gov. Chatto and majority of the members of the provincial board. In sum, the information filed by the Ombudsman alleged that said contract ‘was prejudicial to the best interest of the province’ as it was ‘sold’ for much lesser amount that its appraised value. Bail recommended was Php 30,000.00 per respondent.

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This finding is completely opposite to the findings of the Ombudsman for Visayas  (Omb-Vis) which conducted investigation over the case in 2001. As pointed out in the Resolution of the Omb-Vis, the actual value of both service providers at the time of the execution of the contracts was in the negative. And to keep it going, the Omb-Vis stated that Salcon has to give substantial investment “to pay off the companies’ debts and acquire additional assets.”

The Resolution further said, “In addition, a closer look into the valuation report and Income Statement attached hereto, yield the perception that, as pointed out by Respondents, the ultimate amount of Php 1.48 Billion, or whatever value augmentation Complainants saw, is supposed to be realized within a period of twenty (20) years. While these amounts were succinctly indicated as the value of the electric and waterworks systems, these were never meant to be conveyed or interpreted as the actual worth of the subject utilities and as such should be the monetary consideration for an outright purchase. The disputed figures are declared amidst financial statements covering the years from 1999 to 2018 and were based on client projections or otherwise put, estimates or forecasts. To quote what the Asian Appraisal Co., Inc.  wrote to herein Respondent Gov. Relampagos on Fair Economic Value of Bohol Electric and Bohol Waterworks, ‘These valued can be interpreted to mean that the Net Present Value of FUTURE NET CASH flows of both Bohol Electric and Bohol Waterworks under the present state of conditions are both in the NEGATIVE unless certain measures are taken to improve their operational and financial performance.’”

Last August 20, 2015, Rep. Relampagos filed a petition for certiorari with the Supreme Court against the Ombudsman, for grave abuse of discretion amount to lack or excess of jurisdiction, for its unilateral reversal in 2014 of the earlier decision of the Ombudsman for Visayas in 2001 and as approved by then acting ombudsman in 2008, without basis in law and in violation of his constitutional right to due process considering the case is now celebrating its fifteenth birthday.

Rep. Relampagos lamented, “It is just so sad how the Office of the Ombudsman – Central failed to take into full account the findings on the investigations made by the Ombudsman Visayas. How can actual value compete against potential value? That is precisely the reason why we hired, at that time, an independent appraiser – to give objective information and guide in decision-making.”

He had always been consistent in saying that the contract entered in 2000 did not, in any way, prejudiced the government, specifically the province of Bohol. “Everything was made with complete transparency and accountability – from the consultations to the bidding to the execution of contracts and to the implementation of the joint venture. We could not have done it any other way.”

“On the positive side,” he continued, “I would like to look at the filing of the case as an opportunity to, once and for all, put an end to this issue which has dragged on as a never-ending soap opera.” “It is now with the proper forum, and for that I am happy. Let the courts of justice decide the merits of the case. It is now only a matter of time.”

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While everybody is talking about the possible negative effects of this issue in the coming election, Rep. Relampagos confidently said, “Let the opposition quack like ducks, I will rise above this like an eagle on wings of support from the people of Bohol who know better and continue to do what I do best – honest and efficient public service.”

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