Plunder raps filed vs. Isabela vice governor, others; complainant prods OMB action

A complaint for plunder, graft, malversation, and falsification has been filed against several officials of Isabela City due to the allegedly “irregular and overpriced” Iligan City Divilacan Rehabilitation Road Project (IDRRIP) back in 2016.

Included in the complaint are former Isabela Governor and current Vice Governor Faustino G. Dy, Provincial Treasurer Maria Theresa Araneta, Flores, Provincial Accountant Pete Gerald Lapuebla Javier, and Assistant Provincial accountant Rosana E. Marquez.

The complainant Manuel Siquian wrote a letter to Ombudsman Samuel Martires on August 25 stating that the formal complaint affidavit was filed on July 24. He also submitted a report over the same issue back in July 12, 2019. However, he lamented that the complaint has remained stagnant.

"It is more than a year ago since our complaint was filed, but every time we made a follow-up of the status of our complaint, the answer we received is, 'It is under evaluation.' How long do we have to wait for the evaluation process of your office?" he questioned.

Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members, namely --- Budget Officer Elsa M. Pastrana, OIC Provincial Legal Officer and BAC Vice Chairman Atty. James Francis E. Meer, Provincial Auditor Marilyn G. Lopez, BAC Chairman Rodrigo T. Sawit, and Provincial Engineer Virgilio Lorenzo. Technical Working Group (TWG) members Eduardo R. Cabantac, Angelo C. Naui, and Cherry Bagay Gregorio ---  together with several members of the Provincial Inspection Committee, are also facing the complaint.

CM Pancho Construction Inc. Engineer Clemente Pancho and private individuals Faustino Sanchez Dy and Erika Caitlin Dy were also included.

Siquian said that the province secured a P1.5 billion loan from the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for the project. However, the project was attended by several irregularities.

There was no Invitation to Bid issued by the BAC of the province of Isabela, nor was there any announcement bearing a date of issue and place of posting in a newspaper of general circulation.

The first release of funds by the province to the contractor CM Pancho was made on March 2, 2016 in the amount of P103,683,510.80. The second release was made on April 1 worth the same amount. The third release, amounting to P1,163,949.59, was made on September 16, while the fourth release amounting to P17,365,347.88 was made on March 6, 2018.

But when the complainant checked with the Commission on Audit on February 17 this year, it was discovered that the project was still not completed.

Siquian explained that he filed a complaint for three counts of plunder because of the three payments made to the Pancho construction firm. "The crime of plunder started when the Invitation to Bid was not publicly announced through posting, date of publication of bid by conspiracy of the members of the BAC who intentionally prevented the publication of the bid so only their chosen bidder will be able to participate in the bidding," he said.

Siquian added that the early and advanced payments made to CM Pancho showed "flagrant disregard" to correct auditing procedures.

Meanwhile, he filed a graft complaint because Stagno/Honeymoon Island will be directly benefiting from and enjoying the results of the road project. Stagno/Honeymoon Island is owned by Faustino Dy Jr., the half-brother of Vice Governor Dy.

The complaint for technical malversation, on the other hand, is for the officials' misappropriation of public funds. Lastly, he wants them charged with falsification due to the submission of the TWG and Isabela Provincial Inspection Team of three separate Certificates of Accomplishment of the Ilagan Divilacan Road Rehabilitation and Improvement Project. They attested that so much was already accomplished, even though it was not true.