Malacañang on Tuesday clarified that the alleged midnight deal involving Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. and his brother-in-law has been terminated.
”It’s been cancelled,” Palace deputy spokesman Abigail Valte said, referring to the lease by the Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) of 2,000 hectares of forest land and beach-front property in Busuanga, Palawan province owned by Ochoa’s brother-in-law.
Reports said that former President Gloria Arroyo signed Presidential Proclamation No. 2057 that authorized Philforest to develop the Busuanga land, on May 7, 2010—three days before the national elections.
The Palace official, however said that the Economic Productivity Out of Idle Lands (EPIL) Agreement had long been cancelled when the developer abandoned the project.
”When the President assumed office, nakita na iyong kontratang ito at, it being a contract, government cannot unilaterally rescind without cause. So ‘nung nagkaroon po sila ng hindi mga pag-ayon doon sa mga terms ng agreement, their attention was called, and when they did not comply, the EPIL Agreement was terminated,” she explained.
”So I understand that the meat of the allegations was that undue benefit was given to someone who is related to the Executive Secretary,” she added.
The Palace official showed a letter dated December 9, 2011 signed by Philforest President Erwin Krishna Santos informing San Jose Builders President Felicisimo Isidoro that the EPIL agreement was being terminated.
Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, a former Philforest president, accused President Benigno Aquino 3rd of turning a “blind eye” to the “midnight deals” of his executive secretary.
Valte defended the President, stressing that Lozada may have a motive for making the accusation.
”Well, I think, at this juncture it’s obvious. Because when he (Lozada) met with the president, there was a pending case against him because, apparently, during his stint as PhilForest president, he had it in his power to grant a lease to certain individuals, and he is alleged to have granted one to his brother-in-law, that is why there are charges that are pressed against him,” she said
“So, it’s very simple, if he went to the President and he asked for help and help was not given, assistance, the way that he wanted was not given, then this is obvious where he is coming from,” she added.