• Ombudsman gears up for trial of ex-governor

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    The Office of the Ombudsman is gearing up for the trial of former Gov. Niel Tupas Sr. of Iloilo who is facing graft charges before the Sandiganbayan over alleged granting of undue favor to his in-laws in carrying out a quarrying project.

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    In a six-page pre-trial brief, Assistant Special Prosecutor Edwin Gomez stipulated facts that it asked the anti-graft court and the defense to consider.

    The father of Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. of Iloilo is facing two counts of graft because of allegations of granting a quarry permit to Melvin Requinto, who allegedly served as a dummy of M. Monteclaros Enterprises Inc. (MMEI).

    The Ombudsman said that Requinto sought for a permit before the provincial mining and regulatory board which Tupas led as the vice president. Later on, Requinto entered into a contract of lease with MMEI for the use of the latter’s construction and crushing equipment.

    However, when the permit was released to Requinto in September 2004, his business was not yet registered with the Department of Trade and Industry.

    On December 21, 2004, Requinto and MMEI terminated its previous lease contract. Instead, both entered into a memorandum of agreement that gave MMEI authority to “operate and maintain the rock crushing plant of Requinto” in Maasin, Iloilo which was covered by the permit.

    Requinto admitted in the memorandum that he is technically inadequate to operate the crushing plant.

    The Ombudsman said that MMEI, now using Requinto’s crushing plant, entered into a P63-million subcontract agreement with Taisei-Shimizu Joint Venture, the winning contractor of the New Iloilo Airport.

    Taisei paid MMEI more than P24 million because of the subcontract agreement.

    Along this line, the Ombudsman traced that MMEI was allegedly owned by Marianito Montesclaros, who in turn is the father of Binky April Montesclaros-Tupas, wife of Raul Tupas, who is the elder Tupas’ son.

    The brief underscored the relationship by affinity of Tupas with the Montesclaroses which the Ombudsman said constituted graft.

    “Accused Tupas being the vice-chairman of the [mining board]and the approving authority of the industrial sand and gravel permit knows that accused Requinto will transact business with MMEI,” the brief noted.

    Eventually, the Mines and Geosciences Bureau issued a cease and desist order (CDO) and another order of finality on the CDO against Requinto for operating his crushing plant in Maasin.

    “Despite the said finality of the CDO and violations of accused Requinto, his permit was not cancelled by accused Tupas,” the Ombudsman said.

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