By Czarina Nicole Ong Ki
The mayor of Olongapo, Zambales, Rolen Calixto Paulino, has been charged with graft before the Sandiganbayan in a case involving the lease and development of the Olongapo City Civic Center.
Charged with Paulino were Vice Mayor Aquilino Cortez Jr. Councilors Elena Calma Dabu, Benjamin Cajudo II, Eduardo Guerrero, Noel Atienza, Alruela Bundang-Ortiz, Edna Elane, Emerito Bacay, Randy Sionzon, and Egmidio Gonzales Jr.
Also included in the charge sheet were members of the Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC)Tony-Kar Balde III of the City Planning and Development Office, Cristiflor Buduhan from the Office of the City Accountant, Anna Sison of the Office of the City Legal Officer, Mamerto Malabute of the Office of the City Administrator, Department Head II Joy Cahilig from the Office of the City Budget Officer.
In the charge sheet, Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Jane S. Ong alleged that from October 2014 up to the first quarter of 2015, the local officials took advantage of their positions and acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith when they fast-tracked the award for the lease and development of the Olongapo City Civic Center Contract to SM Prime Holdings Inc. (SMPHI).
They did so without complying with the provisions of Republic Act 6957, or An Act Authorizing the Financing, Construction, Operation and Maintenance of Infrastructure Projects by the Private Sector, as amended by R.A. 7718 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), Ong alleged.
Sections 10.8 and 10.9 of the IRR require that any proposed unsolicited project must be endorsed to the Investment Coordination Committee and the National Economic and Development Administration (NEDA) and the draft lease agreement submitted for review to the Office of the Government Corporate Council (OGCC).
Paulino was accused of prematurely issuing a Notice of Award on Oct. 31, 2014 to SMPHI without waiting for the lapse of the 60-day period from the date of the requisite last invitation by publication in a newspaper of general circulation.
The SBAC made the invitation on Oct. 20, 2014 for other prospective investors to manifest their comparative or competitive proposals to expire, so Paulino should have awarded the contract on Dec. 16, 2014.
The councilors, meanwhile, issued Resolution No. 158, Series of 2014 on Nov. 12, 2014 confirming Paulino’s Notice of Award.
Ong alleged that because of their “common intention to fast track the project and deny other prospective bidders to make a better offer,” the officials caused damage and prejudice to the government.
Bail bond for each of the accused was set at P30,000.