TAGBILARAN CITY – Bohol Vice-governor Dionisio Balite and several other former and incumbent officials of the province have been ordered suspended for nine months without pay by the Office of the Ombudsman after they were found liable for “conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service” in relation to the several heavy equipment units worth around P160 million procured by the late Bohol governor Erico B. Aumentado in 2006 and in 2009.
Although the former provincial board members were not directly involved in the purchase of the heavy equipment and they were only acting upon the request of ex-Gov. Aumentado through then Vice-Gov. Julius Caesar F. Herrera to pass a resolution authorizing the late governor to open a letter of credit with Philippine National Bank and Land Bank of the Philippines, the Ombudsman found them liable for their failure to scrutinize the legality of Aumentado’s action.
Vice-Gov. Balite, who was a member of the provincial board at that time, is the highest ranking official who is facing the suspension order. Also ordered suspended are former board members Concepcion O. Lim, Jose E. Veloso, Felix R. Uy, Godofreda O. Tirol, Brigido Z. Imboy, Cesar Tomas M. Lopez, and Alfonso R. Damalerio II, according to the 23-page decision approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on January 16, 2017.
The Ombudsman also suspended from service for nine months without pay three former bids and awards committee (BAC) officials of the provincial government including Laura Saramosing-Boloyos, Felix M. Mejorada and Abraham D. Clarin.
Absolved from liability were Erico B. Aumentado “in view of his death on December 25, 2012” and former general service officer engineer Edwin Vallejos. Charges against former provincial health officer Greg Julius Sodusta V and former provincial legal officer IV Reynard D. Namocatcat were also dropped.
In the event that the penalty of suspension can no longer be enforced due to respondents’ separation from government service, the Ombudsman said, the “penalty shall be converted into a fine in an amount equivalent to respondents’ salary for six months, payable to the Office of the Ombudsman, and may be deductible from respondents’ retirement benefits, accrued leave credits or any receivables from their offices.”
The suspension remains applicable to Imboy, now the vice-mayor of Loay, Bohol; Cesar Tomas “Yul” Lopez, who heads the province’s drug rehab program; and A. Damalerio, now the provincial administrator.
The suspension of Balite, Lim, Veloso, Uy, Tirol, Imboy, Boloyos, Mejorada, and Clarin was in relation to the procurement of one unit of backhoe/hydraulic excavator with breaker worth P9,410,560 in 2006 which was arranged by the late governor Aumentado.
On the other hand, the suspension of Lopez, Damalerio, and Imboy was in connection to the purchase of heavy equipment worth P147.5 million in 2009 which was facilitated by Aumentado.
INSTANT FACTS OF THE 2006 PURCHASE
On July 10, 2006, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) of Bohol passed Resolution No. 2006-387 authorizing then Gov. Aumentado “to open a letter of credit (LC) with the PNB-Cebu Branch in the amount of P9,410,560 for the purchase through importation of a backhoe with breaker for the road development of the province and to sign all documents pertaining to the purchase and further authorizing the PNP to debit all charges incidental to the opening and negotiation of the LC against the account of the province with the said bank.”
The resolution was approved by respondent board members Balite, Veloso, Uy, Lim, Amalia Tirol, Ester Corazon J. Galbreath, Godofreda Tirol, Fe Camacho-Lejos, Imboy, and Frances Bobbith Cajes-Auza (Bohol SK president and ex-officio member of the SP).
Court documents revealed that the resolution stemmed from the letter request of then Gov. Aumentado dated May 23, 2006 addressed to then Vice-Gov. Julius Caesar F. Herrera.
Also made respondents in relation to the 2006 purchase of backhoe were former legal officer Handel Lagunay, former GSO head engineer Edwin Vallejos, Mende, Mejorada, Boloyos, and Clarin “for accepting the bid of CMI despite the fact that its payment term and delivery schedule are violative of Section 42.5 of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 9184, otherwise known as Government Procurement Act); Section 338 of RA 7160 (Local Government Code of 1991) and Section 88 of Presidential Decree No. 1445 (Government Auditing Code of the Philippines.)
Also charged with the Ombudsman were SP members Balite, Veloso, Uy, C. Lim, A. Tirol, Galbreath, G. Tirol, Camacho-Lejos, Imboy, and Cajes-Auza for passing Resolution No. 2006-387 authorizing Gov. Aumentado to open an LC with the PNB “despite the fact that the delivery of the backhoe has not been made by CMI (supplier) and for authorizing PNB to debit the LC opening and negotiation charges in the amount of P74,498.15 from the account of the province of Bohol.”
The 2009 PURCHASE
Court records revealed that on January 5, 2009, BAC official Clarin and Engineer Edwin Vallejos, ex-GSO head, issued Purchase Request No. 001 for the purchase of several heavy equipment amounting to P147.5 million.
The winning bidders for the said equipment were CMI, RDAK Transport, Pasajero Motors Corp, and JVF, Isuzu Cebu Inc, according to court documents obtained by The Bohol Tribune.
On April 3, 2009, purchase orders were issued by the Province of Bohol for the procurement of a total of 26 units of heavy equipment indicating that the delivery of the units should be made within 90 days upon receipt of the purchase order.
On April 28, 2009, then SP members Lopez, A. Tirol, Galbreath, Damalerio, Camacho-Lejos, Josil Trabajo, Aster Cleofe Apalisok-Piollo, Imboy and then SK-Bohol President Jane Cajes-Yap, with Vice-Gov. Herrera, passed Resolution No. 2009-226 authorizing then Gov. Aumentado to open an LC with the Land Bank of the Philippines in the amount of P147,500,000 for the purchase of heavy equipment for the road improvement and development program of the province.
But the Commission on Audit (COA), in a memorandum dated January 7, 2010, observed that the opening of letters of credit for the purchase of heavy equipment was contrary to Section 42.5 of the IRR of RA 9184 and “had placed the government at a disadvantage.”
On February 11, 2011, COA issued another memorandum indicating that that there was a failure of the province to “impose liquidated damages in the total amount of P23,400,750 against the suppliers of the heavy equipment who failed to deliver the items within the period of 90 days as indicated in the Purchase Orders.”
As shown in the summary of payments and deliveries, the Ombudsman noted, “all of the heavy equipment supplied by CMI, RDAK and JVF are paid even prior to the delivery of the equipment.”
SP MEMBERS SAID THEY WERE INNOCENT OF THE TRANSACTION OF AUMENTADO AND VALLEJOS
In their reply to the complaint, respondents Lim, Lopez, Damalerio, Uy, Veloso, Balite, G. Tiro, Imboy, and Apalisok-Piollo said that the opening of letter of credit in 2006 was only upon the request of Gov. Aumentado.
“The letter of May 23, 2009 of then Gov. Aumentado stated that the procurement underwent a judicious and careful verification and validation by the BAC in 2006 including the ascertainment of all statements made and documents submitted,” court records showed.
The former board members said they were only acting upon the letter of Vice-Gov. Herrera (who was then acting as OIC-Governor) requesting for the opening of letters of credit for the purchase of 26 units of heavy equipment.
The former solons said they were not privy to the transaction arranged by Aumentado and Vallejos.
The respondent SP members reasoned that they were only acting within the scope of their power in the passage of the subject resolutions.
But the Ombudsman, through graft investigator Eleanor R. Tayad-De Mira, rejected the defense of the respondents and ruled that “there (was) conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service where the efficiency, integrity, and credibility of the civil service or of the administration of justice are adversely affected.”
The Ombudsman’s decision, reviewed by acting director and graft investigator Euphemia B. Bacalso and was recommended for approval by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer M. Clemente, pointed out that the act of disregarding the prohibition of the use of letters of credit in favor of a Philippine enitity or its foreign supplier has “tarnished the efficiency, integrity and credibility of their (SP) offices.”
Section 42.5 of the IRR of RA 9184 states that “Procuring entities may issue a letter of credit in favor of a local or foreign supplier; provided, that, no payment on the letter of credit shall be made until delivery and acceptance of the goods as certified to by the procuring entity in accordance with the delivery schedule provided for in the contract; Provided further, that, the cost for the opening letter of credit shall be for the account of the local or foreign supplier and shall be so stated in the bidding documents.”
“Respondent 2009 SP Members’ collective act of passing Resolution No. 2009-226 appears to be made in gross inexcusable negligence amounting to bad faith,” the Office of the Ombudsman wrote in its decision.
“It is the responsibility of respondents before passing the resolution to ascertain if doing so does not contravene any provision of the law, more so that the government had to bear the incidental charges or the cost in the opening of the LC,” the Ombudsman said in the decision which was penned on November 24, 2015, recommended for approval on August 09, 2016, and was finally approved by Ombudsman Carpio-Morales on January 16, 2017.
In the decision, the Ombudsman has directed the incumbent governor of Bohol, in this case Gov. Edgar M. Chatto, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to implement the suspension order.