OCD's Jalad, Bacoor Mayor Lani Mercado in word war over quarantine funds

Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, administrator of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD) and executive director of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC), engaged in a verbal tussle with Bacoor, Cavite Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla over the supposed non-release of funds for the opening of additional two quarantine hotels in the city.

Undersecretary Ricardo Jalad, Office of Civil Defense (OCD) Administrator and National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) Executive Director (Manila Bulletin file photo)
Photo from Bacoor City Mayor Lani Mercado-Revilla’s Facebook page/ MANILA BULLETIN

Jalad, in a message to reporters Thursday, Sept. 2, denied Mercado's claims that the OCD was afraid to released additional funds to the local government unit (LGU) of Bacoor for the establishment of two "Oplan Kalinga" hotels, or government-facilitated quarantine hotels.

"Ang sabi niya hindi ko raw pinapayagan na magbukas ng Oplan Kalinga hotels, ako raw ang hindi nagbabayad. Unang-una ang pagbabayad kailangan sumusunod iyan sa proseso ng procurement system natin (She said I was the one who rejected the opening of Oplan Kalinga hotels, that I refuse to pay. First and foremost, the payment should follow a process under our procurement system)," Jalad said.

The OCD administrator explained that under the Republic Act 9184 or the Government Prcurement Reform Act, there should be an existing contract between the OCD and the engaging party, in this case the designated hotels, before they issue funds in availing their services. He said this is to ensure that there will be no corruption in the use of public funds.

"Kahit naman nasa pandemic tayo, ganoon pa rin ang patakaran. Ang pagkokontrata lang ang binabago natin medyo shortened but mayroon pa rin na proseso (Even if we are in a pandemic, the rules don't change. We only have to adjust to shorten of the contract but there's still a process)," Jalad stressed.

The sizzling exchange started when Mercado accused the OCD of refusing to issue additional funds to the LGU of Bacoor out of fear that the Commission on Audit (COA) would investigate them. The COA has recently been releasing its audit of government agencies where many were flagged for supposed inconsistencies in their budget spending.

"Dahil sa nangyayari pong mga pag-imbestiga, pagsusumite ng COA ng mga reports, tila natatakot ngayon ang Office of Civil Defense na maglaan ng pondo, kung may pondo nga, pero natatakot maaprubahan (Because of the audit being conducted by COA, it seems that the Office of Civil Defense is afraid to allot additional funds or if there are still some funds, they are afraid to approve and it," Mercado said in a radio interview over DZMM on Thursday.

Mercado said the opening of additional quarantine hotels to accommodate the increasing number of COVID-19 patients in the city has already been approved by National Task Force (NTF) Against COVID-19 chairman Delfin Lorenzana and chief implementer Carlito Galvez Jr. However, she noted that the planned opening of quarantine hotels has yet to start because Jalad "was preventing its approval."

In response, Jalad said: "Hindi naman ibig sabihin kapag pinirmahan ni SND iyon ay magbabayad na agad kami. May proseso (It does not mean that if approve it then we will already pay for it. There is a process)."

Jalad said he already instructed the OCD Calabarzon unit to fix the contract since they were not informed by the Bacoor LGU how much it will cost to open two additional quarantine hotels.

He said the OCD Calabarzon then suggested to Bacoor LGU to use the quarantine facilities in the communities for the meantime while they await the contract but Mercado suddenly appeared in a media interview to criticize them.

"Nag-offer ang OCD Calabarzon regional director namin, 'Mayor mayroon tayong mga quarantine facilities dito na pwedeng magamit. Pwede ba dito muna habang gagawin namin ang proseso? Ayaw niya eh, gusto niya buksan talaga ang hotels. Well kung ganoon, eh di siya ang magbayad kasi based sa RA 9184, kung sino ang nagnegotiate, siya ang procurement entity (The OCD Calabarzon regional director offered to her, 'Mayor we still have quarantine facilities that are available. Can we use them while we wait for the process?' She refused, she wanted to use the hotels. If that's the case, then she should pay for it because based in the RA 9184, the negotiator should be the procurement entity)," Jalad said.

The problem, according to Jalad, is that the Bacoor LGU has no funds to open the quarantine hotels.

"Then we will work out na mabigyan siya ng pondo (to give them the funds)," Jalad said, adding that they will have to request for additional funds from Malacanang since they have also run out of money.

The OCD administrator hit back at Bacoor LGU when it decided to close quarantine facilities in the communities due to the lack of funding but wants to open quarantine hotels that will be shouldered by the national government.

"Dapat din sila rin makipagtulungan sa amin, hindi 'yong ngawa lang sila ng ngawa sa media. Wala naman silang ginagawa (They should also work with us, not just blabber nonsense to the media. They don't do anything)," Jalad said.