Senate resolution seeks probe of Calida firm’s gov’t contracts

Published June 2, 2018, 3:50 PM

by Francine Ciasico

By Mario Casayuran

Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee, said on Saturday the Department of Justice (DOJ) should investigate Solicitor General Jose Calida if he used undue influence for his family-owned security agency to bag contracts with various government agencies.

Senator Richard Gordon (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)
Senator Richard Gordon (Czar Dancel / MANILA BULLETIN)

Gordon issued the statement during a radio interview following demands by administration critics that President Duterte fire Calida for alleged conflict of interest.

Calida’s family-owned firm, Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc. (VISAI), had bagged P261,090,000 worth of contracts to secure government departments such as the House of Representatives, DOJ and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA).

The Senate minority bloc, through a resolution, also formally sought a Senate probe into the VISAI questionable contracts..

Gordon, a lawyer, pointed out that Calida would be in a tight fix if he used his influence as the national government’s lawyer to get the security agency contracts.

Calida would also have to explain if the contract was bagged without the benefit of public bidding, he pointed out.

Gordon said these controversies should be checked or investigated by the Commission on Audit (COA) or the Office of the Ombudsman.

If these offices are pro-active, questionable acts of government officials, including past Philippine Presidents, should have been investigated immediately and not allowed to gather dust in government offices, he added.

The minority senators’ request for a probe on VISAI contracts was contained in Senate Resolution 760.

Signatories to the resolution were Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon and Senators Risa Hontiveros, Paolo Benigno Aquino III, Francis Pangilinan, Leila de Lima and Trillanes.

The Senate, along with the House of Representatives, however, is now on a seven-week sine die adjournment.

Aside from the conflict of interest provision of the Constitution, the six lawmakers cited Republic Act 6713 which states that ‘’a public official or employee shall avoid conflicts of interest at all times’’ (section 9), where a conflict of interest has been defined as one that ‘’arises when a public official or employee is a member of a board, an officer or a substantial stockholder of a private corporation or owner or has a substantial interest in a business, and interest of such corporation or business, or his rights or duties herein, may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty.’’

They explained that VISAI is owned entirely by the immediate family of Calida with the Solicitor General still owning 60 percent of shares as of Sept. 29, 2016 or two months after he assumed office, and his wife and three children owning the remaining 40 percent of the shares at 10 percent each.

They also said that a notification sent to the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on July 14, 2016, listed Milagros Calida, the Solicitor General’s wife, as the President and chairperson of ‘’Vigilante Inc.),’’ his son, Josef Calida, was listed as Corporate Secretary while the treasurer is his daughter, Michelle.

‘’From August 2016 to January 2018, VISAI won 14 government contracts, two of which were with the DOJ and amounted to P12.4 million, and nine of which were won after he assumed the position of Solicitor General,’’ the six senators said.

‘’So involved, was the Solicitor General that in nine of the Notices of Awards on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps) website, he was listed as the ‘contact’ for VISAI,’’ they added.

Considering that the Solicitor General acts and represents the Republic and its people before any court, tribunal, body or commission as the ends of justice may require, it is of highest importance that the person occupying the office remains beyond reproach, acts in a manner that inspires confidence in the civil service and in the rule of law, and conducts himself with utmost integrity and decency,’’ they stressed.