By Chito Chavez
A congressman and 10 others were charged with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly favoring a supplier in securing multi-million contracts at the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) field office in Region 12.
In a meeting in Quezon City, lawyer Bertini Causing, in his 12-page complaint presented before media men said that Rep. Ledesma Hernandez of the second district of South Cotabato facilitated the awarding of the contract to Tacurong Fitmart Inc. through the intercession of DSWD Region 12 Director Bai Zorahayda Taha.
Aside from Hernandez and Taha, also included in the complaint are Rohaifa Calandaba DSWD Region 12 accountant; Jackie Llao who was the chairman of the bids and awards committee (BAC); Emerita Dizon BAC vice-chairman; Mohamad Fayez Sarip BAC provincial member.
Also charged were the stockholders of Tacurong Fitmart Inc. namely Maria Virginia Villaruel; Derrick Villaruel; Deangelo Villaruel; Dexter Villaruel, and Ramona Ong.
The complaint also noted that Hernandez is the brother of Maria Virginia H. Villaruel.
In the said complaint, Causing said the respondents connived to allow Tacurong Fitmart Inc. to get the huge contract of the alleged excessively overpriced food packs.
Causing’s complaint pointed out that Hernandez, through his secretary, allegedly paid the salaries of the persons hired to repack the food packs at P3 per pack.
The repacking of the food packs, Causing claimed, was done at the congressional office of Hernandez in Barangay Sta. Cruz Koronadal City.
Being the Deputy House Speaker for Mindanao, Causing alleged that Hernandez exercises authority over Taha claiming they were the main plunderers in his complaint.
Causing justified his complaint of plunder as the respondents violated section 2 of Republic Act number 7080 as amended by section 12 of Republic Act 7659.
The complaint was based on the investigation report of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) where Tacurong Fitmart Inc. was found to have gotten seven supply contracts worth P860 million from the DSWD field office Region 12.
Tacurong Fitmart Inc. won the said contract when its office in Marawi City is 252 kilometers away from the DSWD field office Region 12 which is some six hours drive.
The complaint also noted that Tacurong Fitmart Inc. has been a perennial winner of contracts from the DSWD Region 12 office for years even before the fateful Marawi siege.
In the same complaint, it was noted that even before the Marawi siege, the PCIJ report disclosed that Tacurong Fitmart Inc has become the top contractor of the DSWD in region 12 after securing P120, 839, 227.58 worth of relief items for disasters from 2015 to 2017.
After the Marawi siege, the PCIJ report revealed that Tacurong Fitmart Inc.’s contracts for supplies in DSWD Region 12 shot up to P927 million thus maintaining its top dog status.