A WINNING vice-mayor of a city in Negros Oriental province was slapped with graft charges after the Office of the Ombudsman discovered P104-million transactions that allegedly bypassed public bidding.
The Ombudsman slapped former mayor and now vice mayor-elect Ernesto Reyes of Guihulngan City in Negros Oriental with four counts of graft after state investigators uncovered shady purchase of vehicles, road construction programs, and loan take-out.
In the last elections, the Liberal Party candidate edged out Mil Rodriguez of the United Nationalist Alliance to take the second highest seat in the city that suffered the worst blow of a 6.9-magnitude earthquake in February 2012.
According to the Ombudsman, the city through Reyes in June 2008 purchased a P1.35-million Nissan Navarra Frontier pick-up and a brand new urban paramedic ambulance, the price of which was undisclosed.
The city also bought a P1.6-million Toyota Hi-Ace Super Grandia “without conducting public bidding.”
Reyes also tapped private firm Uy Construction and Development (Uy Condev) to undertake a P19.9-million construction, repair, and asphalting of city streets even before issuance of the execution of the contract, notice to proceed, and posting of performance security.
Along with Reyes, also stand charged in the three-count graft are Remegio Sitones, Harlan Senas, Jesus Deposa, Pacifico Bulado Jr., Harold Indab, Selfa Cardona, and Jason Santos, all of the bids and awards committee.
Reyes stood as lone defendant in the P80-million loan that had interest of P1.6 million from the LandBank for infrastructure project, waterworks repair, and service vehicles “despite the absence of an appropriation or budget ordinance.”
The Ombudsman found that the vehicles were purchased through direct contracting from Nissan and Toyota.
Also, the cementing project of Guihulngan streets was belatedly changed to asphalting days after Uy Condev already started its asphalt overlay to avail of good weather in May 2008.
Lastly, the P80-million loan application was found illegal because the multimillion-loan could have been avoided since the city has enough IRA, which only needed an appropriation ordinance before its release.
The accused rebuffed the allegations, saying that the cars “are not luxury vehicles” in spite of the multimillion cost.
The appropriation ordinance were also complied with and “the proceeds of the loan were disbursed for the projects for which it was appropriated.”
In connection to not conducting a bidding process, Reyes said that it was done “to fast track the development and progress, and meet the expectations of his constituents.”
Ruling on the matter, the Ombudsman said that the collective transactions hinted irregularity.
“[The city’s] IRA amounting to P80 million could have been utilized for these questioned transactions . . . With this loan, the city was made to pay an additional amount of P1.6 aside from the principal of P80 million,” the Ombudsman resolved.