“We are being sued for doing our job. We respect our institutions and at some future time we are going to be able to prove that we are not guilty.” said Gov. Edgar Chatto on the Joint Venture Agreement issue during the weekly Kita ug ang Gobernador Chatto however, is confident that they have a very strong case in the Sandiganbayan, regarding the alleged violation of the anti graft and corrupt practices act committed by him, Cong. Rene Relampagos, and members of the 2001 Sangguniang Panlalawigan on the Joint Venture Agreement with Salcon Industries in the operation of the water and power utilities of the Province.
He said after the hearing of their Motion to Dismiss on November 5,2015, just like in the case of Congressman Relampagos, the Sandiganbayan has given due course to it, in fact, the prosecution was given fifteen days to submit its comment, then, the Sangguniang Panglalawigan led by him was also given ten days to reply.
Chatto said their motion was anchored on two grounds, first, the inordinate delay has violated the due process and equal protection of the law clauses of the Bill of Rights under the Constitution.
The case also has transgressed the rights of the accused to a speedy disposition of cases, still under the Bill of Rights.
Chatto said he is happy that the case has reached in the graft court so that once and for all, the case could be settled on the merits and would end the issue thereby obviating its resurrection every time there is an election.
If the case is finally dismissed on procedural grounds, Chatto said it will be good and if there will be trial on the merits, then, it can be proven whose data will speak the truth.
He said the Sangguniang Bayan, had no other way then to go except to evaluate the proposed Joint Venture Agreement, whether it was in favor or against it.
Incidentally at that point, the 2001 Sangguniang Panlalawigan members, except for one abstention, were unanimous and in favor saying it was a good project for the people.
As to the issue of under valuation, the Governor said, it can not be hidden and altered because figures are fixed and hard facts which any body can look into in our official records, such as those in Provincial Accountantâ€™s office and all other offices holding the related records.
Chatto said, as to the figures presented by the complainants, the P782 million value of the two public utilities, the power and water is way too high compared to the certified total Assets of the Provincial Government of Bohol which was only P628,751,509 reported by the Provincial Accountant’s Office. The amount which aside from the water and power utilities, also included the ten devolved hospitals, capitol complex, annexes buildings and all other assets.
The governor said if the provincial government is being led by laissez faire leaders, we cannot witness innovations, introduction of new ideas, risk taking, and willingness to take on challenges.
The Governor asked, how far are we going? We are like a kite that remains on the ground because it does not fly against the wind. He said the challenge now of the leadership in local government is to blaze new trails because how can your government improve if you are only good for signing vouchers, payrolls and other documents.
Chatto added, plans must be implemented to solve many problems which beset local governments, and we have ample avenues for innovating new trends and heights to address any problem.
Until now, the Governor said they continue to study and prepare the ground works for the implementation of the so-called bulk water supply.
He said, they are nearing completion and realization for its implementation which could benefit additional municipalities of the Province.
Because of the risk taken in implementing the Joint Venture Agreement with Salcon Industries, the people are now enjoying good and ample water and power services in Tagbilaran and neighboring municipalities.
Before, the Province Bohol was subsidizing the operation of the water and power utilities by using funds including the 20% development funds.
But now, the provincial budget is now freed a little bit and the amount intended top subsidize the two utilities can now be used to build, maintain and repairs provincial roads.
Meanwhile, in an interview with Atty. Joe Samonte, who was with the USAID then and tasked to prepare the technical documents for the joint venture agreement, strongly believed that the said project is grossly advantageous to the Provincial Government, contrary to what was claimed by the other party.
According to Samonte, both Relampagos and Chatto exercised the proper process and bidding in the agreement in fact, he added, became a model to other provinces as well as the object of study and research from the Ateneo Graduate School.
The SP with Chatto as then vice governor conducted public hearings and fora as required and performed his function, added Samonte.
He also went to say that the said joint venture agreement was the first in the country and for him was a “success” for government.
The JV was also timely and the best “solution” at the time, and because of it, many investors came to Bohol. “I could say, that if we look at Bohol now, its growth in the economy and tourism developments,Â is perhaps because of the result of the joint venture agreement”, Samonte stressed.