Defensor, Belmonte trade charges over allegedly overpriced food packs

Published September 14, 2021, 12:11 PM

by Ben Rosario

The Quezon City government was accused anew of overpricing for purchasing at P1,149.98 each the food packs it distributed to poor city residents hit by the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic this year.

Mayor Joy Belmonte

Anakalusugan Partylist Rep. Michael Defensor made this claim as he chided city officials headed by Mayor Joy Belmonte for the alleged “overpriced procurement.”

Defensor disclosed that based on the documents given him by “city hall insiders”, Belmonte had signed a second purchase order (PO) for 250,000 food packs costing P1,149.98 each. The totaled amount disbursed by the city government P287,475,000.

The partylist lawmaker had previously exposed allegations of overpricing in the QC government’s purchase of various items for its COVID-19 pandemic response.

“This is recycled stuff. Answered na,” Belmonte said in reply to the allegations.

Previously, her office accused Defensor of engaging in smear campaign against Belmonte in preparation for his alleged bid for the mayoralty in next year’s local elections.

On Tuesday, Belmonte said Defensor’s accusations should be referred to the Commission on Audit (COA).

“How do they feel that they are being doubted?” Belmonte said, referring to COA.

The city mayor recalled that COA had given the city government a “clean opinion for the first time in history” of the city.

Defensor raised the overpricing issue during the budget presentation of the Commission on Audit before the Lower House two weeks ago.

COA Chairman Michael Aguinaldo said audit review of the city government’s finances and financial transaction is being conducted by the resident auditor for QC and results will be made available next year.

In his press statement, Defensor recalled that two weeks ago, he furnished the public with information about the overpricing of food and other COVID-19 necessities.

Like in the first procurement he revealed two weeks ago, the goods were worth only P636 per pack, or an overprice of P513.98, he said.

“Thus, the total overprice for this particular procurement amounted to P128, 495,000,” he said.

He added that the second PO was dated Nov. 23, 2020 and the supplier was LXS Trading, with address at 1210 Suntrust Capitol Plaza, Matalino St., Central, Quezon City.

Defensor pointed out that the purchase from LXS Trading is separate from the procurement of 350,000 food packs from Thyme General Merchandise of 32 Batay St., Cubao, worth P402.5 million and for an identical price of P1149.98 per pack.

He said the PO issued to Thyme and signed by Mayor Belmonte has no date.

The partylist solon said the items in the two batches of good pack purchases were the same, and they included five kilos of rice worth P200.

Based on the premium of P513.98 per pack, the total excess price in the Thyme purchase was almost P180 million, he said.

“The two procurements for a total of 600,000 food packs were worth P690 million, of which P308 million was the overprice. At P636 per pack, the city government could have bought and distributed an additional 484,000 food packages,” he stressed.