FORMER Mayor Alfredo Lim and other former officials of the City of Manila government and a building contractor may find themselves behind bars if they are found guilty of constructing a sub-standard public school building that wasted public funds.
Mayor Joseph “Erap” Estrada said his administration is strongly supporting the graft charges filed against Lim, 13 other former officials, and a private contractor at the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the P68.5 million worth of four-story school building of the Rosauro Elementary School in Tondo.
The Ombudsman has reportedly started to gather pieces of evidence to find out if there is probable cause that will warrant the elevation of the graft charges to the Sandiganbayan.
The defective building was nicknamed as “Lim Building” since it was a project of Lim in 2012. Lim has kept his silence on the issue.
It was only last year when the building was abandoned after defects were discovered by city engineers. Their findings were corroborated by engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and a private engineering firm.
Estrada said he has ordered an investigation on the controversy about the Lim Building in order to ascertain the liability and accountability of former city officials, including Lim, in the anomalous construction of the four-story school building.
Estrada also accused Lim and former Manila mayor and now Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza of engaging in a selling spree of city-owned properties when they were still mayors of Manila, such as the Century Park Hotel and two public schools in Binondo.
Estrada cited Lim’s anomalous “negotiated sale” in 2008 of the land where the five-star Century Park Hotel in Malate stands.
Government records showed that the 45,680-square meter land was owned by the city government and was sold for P1 billion without the benefit of public bidding.
The highly irregular transactions had convinced Lawyer Reynaldo Bagatsing to slap Lim and other former city government officials with graft charges at the Office of the Ombudsman for violating section 3e and g of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act that “caused undue injury to the government and to private bidders.”
Bagatsing, brother of Manila 5th District Rep. Amado Bagatsing, strongly argued that the property could have fetched P3 billion that could have benefited the city government.
In the case of Atienza, Estrada emphasized that he deliberately “privatized” the city government-owned lots in Tondo where Jose Abad Santos High School (JASH) and Raja Sulayman High School (RSHS) were located.
Estrada said Atienza, whose son Councilor Ali Atienza is running as vice mayor of Lim, had “entered into a contract with Megaworld Corp. that transferred ownership of the land occupied by the two schools to the private company.
The city government had acquired a piece of land where the schools were subsequently transferred but whose ownership was retained by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) after Atienza sold the publicly-owned lots, Estrada said.
He said the lot which Atienza sold is now the location of Lucky Chinatown mall. Atienza is facing a plunder case before the Office of the Ombudsman for this deal.
“Nagsama sila ngayon, ‘di ba? Magsama nga sila, pare-pareho silang corrupt [They have now bonded together, correct? Might as well, since they are all corrupt],” Estrada remarked in reaction to the report that Lim and Atienza recently forged a tactical alliance.
The alliance was purportedly reached to defeat Estrada and Honey Lacuna, who is running for vice-mayor.
“Ako po ay naging mayor, vice president… lahat ng posisyon, inabot ko, pangulo, niisang pag-aari ng pamahalaan, wala po akong naibenta, [I became mayor, vice president, all these positions, but I never sold government-owned properties,]” Estrada said.