Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s exhortations to Local Government Units (LGUs) to “observe and be guided” by Executive Order (EO) No. 2 setting the administration’s full disclosure and transparency policy in public service, Loboc Mayor Helen Alaba believes that the order “is limited only to the executive branch.”
Alaba’s position was in response to the Association of Bohol’s Construction Companies, Inc. (ABCCI) resolution warning municipal mayors and their respective Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to reform and stop bidding irregularities and practice transparency in the conduct of public biddings.
Ignoring possible backlash over their uncompromising stance against wrongdoings in the implementation of the provisions of RA 9184 otherwise known as the Government Procurement Act, the ABCCI threw its full support behind their beleaguered association president, Engr. Petronilo Sarigumba.
The ABCCI has sought the assistance of the Office of the Ombudsman – Visayas after Alaba denied the request of Sarigumba for copies of the abstract of bids and awards in connection with the bidding for the completion of the Heritage Shop in the Loboc Tourism Complex.
The completion of the Heritage Shop consisting of two projects amounted to PhP7 million, according to Sarigumba.
Sarigumba, owner/proprietor of Ronnyl Construction was also allegedly 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).
The ABCCI adopted a resolution during its regular meeting on December 8, 2017 authorizing Sarigumba to file a complaint before the Ombudsman against Alaba and the BAC for the “outright denial of one of its members to participate in the public bidding.”
The resolution also slammed Alaba for her “blatant and unfounded refusal to issue/provide copies of public documents” to Sarigumba in violation of President Duterte’s executive order.
Sarigumba invoked Executive Order (EO) No. 2, series of 2016 signed by President Rodrigo Duterte 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.
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.
But according to Alaba, in a strongly worded letter-response to Sarigumba’s complaint said “To date, there is neither law passed nor local ordinances that is adopted in our local sanggunian that would force the Local Government Unit of Loboc, Bohol to release information especially of material and public interest.”
Alaba also claimed that Duterte’s EO No. 2 series of 2017 “is limited only to the executive branch,” citing an admission by Presidential Communications Assistant Secretary Atty. Kristian Ablan on June 4, 2017 in Laoag City.
Alaba further stressed that executive issuances by the President cover only all government offices under the executive branch citing a Supreme Court (SC) case in Mondana vs Silvosa that under the constitution, the President has supervision, not control, among the LGUs.
But Sarigumba told the Chronicle that Alaba conveniently stopped short of stating Duterte’s encouragement as stated in section 2 of EO no. 2 to the LGUs “to observe and be guided by this order.”
According to Sarigumba’s complaint filed before the Ombudsman-Visayas on February 1, 2018, the actions of Alaba and the BAC in withholding public documents from the ABCCI is “discriminatory and caused it pain and damage, and violative of the law enacted to promote transparency in the public service.”
The maverick contractor told the Ombudsman that “there is no adequate remedy or administrative appeal for such denial of request to access information since there is no next higher in the authority after the Municipal Mayor, she being the chief local executive.”
NO PRIOR NOTICE
Sarigumba learned about his blacklist on May 24, 2017 when his staff called BAC Secretary Aya Varquez to purchase bid documents for the project but was told to “talk first to the Honorable Mayor, otherwise, we will not be allowed to purchase bid documents.”
Despite the assurance of BAC Chairman Antonio Acuña, Jr. that they can purchase the bid documents and his denial of the alleged ban from the mayor, Varquez insisted that they should talk first to the mayor to verify the existence of a written directive banning Ronnyl Construction to participate in all transactions with the municipality, according to Sarigumba’s complaint before the Ombudsman.
To date, Sarigumba has not received or seen the alleged “written directive” from Alaba as claimed by Varquez forbidding Ronnyl Construction from any participation from bidding activities in the LGU-Loboc.
According to Sarigumba, Ronnyl Construction is duly licensed by the Philippine Construction Accreditation Board (PCAB) and is duly registered under the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGeps).
Sarigumba lamented that the acts of Alaba and the BAC against Ronnyl Construction is “discriminatory” causing “pain and damage and prejudice” to the long-established objectives of the ABCCI to “have a fair competition albeit support of each other’s growth and success.”
Violation of section 3 of RA 3019 known as “The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act”, paragraphs (a), (e), (f) and (i) has been filed against Alaba and the BAC while a separate complaint against Alaba was also filed for “blatant violation” of section 2 of EO No. 2 series of 2016. (Chito M. Visarra)