By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has assured that the staff of ousted Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes will be treated fairly in the ongoing preliminary investigation over the criminal complaints filed against them.
Guevarra reacted to allegations that the subpoenas issued by the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Sereno’s staff is part of the administration’s harassment against her.
“Our investigating prosecutors routinely issue subpoenas to any and all persons named as respondents in complaints filed before the DOJ,” he explained.
“That’s part of procedural due process and should not be viewed as an act of harassment,” the Secretary assured.
Despite this, Guevarra gave his word that “the DOJ under my watch will not be used to advance any political purpose.”
Assistant State Prosecutor Gil Marie-Fe Pacamara has already begun a preliminary investigation over the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against former SC IT consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet and two of Sereno’s staff, namely, staff head Ma. Lourdes Oliveros and Attorney IV Michael Ocampo.
Pacamara had already issued subpoenas against the three respondents which required them to appear during the preliminary investigation hearings.
In the complaint, Gadon, who filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno, accused the three of violating Republic Act (RA) 3019 and RA 9184 (the Government Procurement Reform Act) in the alleged anomalous hiring of Macasaet whom he said was overpaid.
The lawyer said the House of Representatives impeachment proceedings revealed Oliveros and Ocampo recommended that Macasaet be an IT consultant of the SC.
Macasaet was subsequently hired through direct procurement or direct negotiation from October 1, 2013 up to November 23, 2017 under eight contracts with each covering a period of six months. Gadon noted before Macasaet got the contracts she knew Oliveros who is a friend of her daughter.
Gadon said Macasaet got paid P100,000 per month in her first contract but received in her succeeding contracts P250,000 per month following recommendations from Oliveros and Ocampo.
However, Gadon pointed out that under Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Circular Letter No. 2000-11 “these individual professional consultants shall be paid remuneration of not more than 120 percent of the minimum basic salary of his equivalent position in the agency.”
“The compensation received by Respondent Perez-Macasaet, as recommended by Respondents Oliveros and Ocampo, is way beyond this compensation ceiling, since the basic monthly salary of the equivalent position in the Supreme Court, the Chief of the Management Information System Office with Salary Grade 29, is only P73,099.00,” he said.
Gadon also pointed out that the three respondents knew very well that the SC’s Updated EISP Plan where Macasaet was hired for will take five years to implement based on their Work Plan and, yet, the IT consultant’s contracts were split into six.
“By splitting the Contracts of Service to evade competitive bidding, excluding the BAC-CS (Bids and Awards Committee for Consultancy Services) in the procurement process in violation of R..A. 9184 and its 2009 and 2016 IRR (implementing rules and regulations) to guarantee the selection and hiring of Respondent Perez-Macasaet, and recommending compensation that exceeds the legal limit for individual professional consultants, Respondents Oliveros and Ocampo gave Respondent Perez-Macasaet unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference in the discharge of their administrative functions through manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” Gadon stated.