BORACAY ISLAND—Cases of graft and corruption, plunder, and charges relative to environment violations were filed against 16 officials of Malay along with 10 others before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas on Tuesday.
The complaint stemmed from the passage of the Public-Private Partnership between the Municipality of Malay and ECOS Sanitary Landfill and Waste Management Corporation (ECOS) on the hauling of solid waste and the management and operation of Malay sanitary landfill.
Filed by Noel Cabobos, a boracay-based journalist, the complaint alleged that the PPP contract “is null and void at its inception and therefore has no force and effect or is equivalent to nothing.”
“First and foremost, said contract is peppered with defects and onerous provisions that go against the law and the interest of the government and the people of Malay. The Commission on Audit (COA) findings, for one, is a testimony that the very essence of a Public-Private Partnership has been twisted to suit their whims and caprices and with intent to gain,” the complaint stated.
Cabobos was referring to the COA Audit Report released on Feb. 12, 2019 showing that for the months of November 2018 to January 2019 alone, the Municipality of Malay paid ECOS a whooping P51,713,780.72 for its services in the hauling of the garbage, mainly coming from Boracay Iisland, as well as the maintenance of the town’s Sanitary Landfill in the hilly portion of Brgy. Kabulihan in the mainland Malay.
“Disbursements on hauling of Solid Waste and the Management and Operations of an Eco-tourism, Engineered Sanitary Landfill undertaken as a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) activity should have been under R.A. 9184, otherwise known as the Government Procurement Act, thus, casting doubt on the propriety, validity and correctness of the transactions,” stated the COA report penned by State Auditor III Merle Maglunob and State Auditor IV Loda Ocheda.
The COA report also stressed that instead of the municipality paying ECOS, it should have been responsible in financing for operation and maintenance of the particular undertaking normally without cost for the LGU.
“PPP should have been a tool to minimize the government spending. It should address the limited funding resources for local infrastructure or development projects for the LGU thereby allowing the allocation of public funds for other local priorities,” it said.
The COA further stated that disbursements made by the local government of Malay in favor of ECOS can be construed as “simple procurement of services and should follow the Revised Rules and Regulations of RA. 9184”, a provision that the complaint averred to have been violated by the contracting parties.
The cases being complained of in the charge sheet include Plunder and violations of the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act, Clean Water Act, the Toxic and Hazardous Wastes Law, Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Code of Conduct of Public Officials and Employees.
Also included in the charge is the alleged violation of the Public-Private Partnership Guidelines and Procedures or the Malay Municipal Ordinance No. 295 otherwise known as “An Ordinance Adopting Guidelines and Procedures for Entering into Public-Private Partnership Agreements with the Municipality of Malay”.
Principally accused in the charge sheet are former officials of the Municipality of Malay including former mayor Ceciron Cawaling, former vice mayor Abram Sualog along with former SB members Frolibar Bautista, Dante Pagsuguiron, Jupiter Aeldred Gallenero, Lloyd Maming, Maylynn Graf, Danilo Delos Santos, Julieta Aron, Natalie Paderes, and Dalidig Sumdad.
Among those additionally charged are the incumbent officials which include acting vice mayor Niño Carlos Cawaling, SB members Nickie Cahilig, Junthir Flores, Ralf Tolosa, and Christine Hope Pagsuguiron.
ECOS incorporators who were also named in the complaint are Oliver Zamora, Richard Chan Lek, Miguel Anthony Tiu, Corazon Zamora, and Christine Aldeguer.
Also charged are various heads of offices of the town, who, according to Cabobos, are also part in “machinating” the passage of the contract which include Executive Assistant IV Edgardo Sancho, Municipal Legal Officer Melanio Prado, Jr., Municipal Treasurer Dediosa Dioso, Municipal Accountant Herminigildo Javier, Jr., and Municipal Budget Officer Anneli Sespeñe.
In filing the complaint, Cabobos said the former officials of Malay and some of its employees connived with each other and took advantage of their official position and influence to unjustly enrich themselves at the expense and prejudice of the government, people of Malay, and the tourists.
He alleged that the said officials and employees received kickbacks or percentage in connection with the passage of the “anomalous contract” which, to date, has rolled off an aggregated amount of at least P100 million and “therefore an act liable for the crime of Plunder.”
HONORING A VOID CONTRACT
Meanwhile, the complainant said that since the current officials headed by Acting Mayor Frolibar Bautista continued to honor the contract with ECOS it must also be equally liable in the violation of various environment laws under ECOS management.
He cited the complaint of Punong Barangay Antonio Benignos of Brgy. Dumlog who called the attention of the Sangguniang Bayan of Malay on January 4, 2019, following various complaints of the “foul odor” being emitted by the ECOS trucks as well as the alleged contamination of the Malay river due to the operation at the town’s sanitary landfill under the management of ECOS.
He said various related complaints were also reported but fell on deaf ears. The other complaints, filed by a certain Susan Briones of Brgy. Dumlog even claimed of the rash of skin diseases among the locals in contact with the Malay river as well as the disappearance of shrimps, snails, and other river species which used to inhabit the river.
On January 28, this year, the Manoc-manoc Elementary school suspended its class following a “toxic stench” leaking from the MRF site being managed by ECOS had left both students and teachers vomiting and fainting.
The phenomenon had forced Malay MENRO officer in charge, Mariane Salvacion, to call the attention of ECOS to immediately address the issue citing the hazards it poses to the residents and the environment as well.
“This emission of foul odor, according to our SWM personnel, was due to the stockpiled (sic) of wastes that are being mixed during the hauling operation. Based on the verbal report of our ground team, ECOS truck collection process was “halo-halo sa isang truck” even though it was segregated at the source and at the collection point and it was dumped at Manoc-manoc Staging area in the same way. If this will be our ways every time, it will impose (sic) problem especially from the biodegradable waste (food waste) not just to the people on the island but also to the people in the mainland since the garbage are being hauled to our Sanitary Landfill at Kabulihan, Malay,” she stated in the letter to Miguel Anthony Tiu, general manager of ECOS.
VIOLATING OWN ORDINANCE
In the complaint, Cabobos stressed that both the former and incumbent officials of the municipality had violated their own Ordinance referring to Municipal Ordinance No. 295 which he said was not followed when the PPP contract was approved in 2018.
He claimed that various provisions such as the technical requirement and the financial capability clause of the Ordinance has not been met but the contract was still approved.
“It is surprising to note that despite the absence of the required documents as specified in the Ordinance, the contract with ECOS pushed through and without any hitch whatsoever,” he hinted.
“For a contract of this magnitude, the law is keen on track record as a threshold for capacity of contracting parties in entering into a valid agreement. Which, in this case, the respondent ECOS was not able to demonstrate,” he said.
“Personally, PPP is good. I have to emphasize that the main purpose of Public-Private Partnership is to promote the general welfare and provide for better quality of life of the people. This was even underscored, in fact, by President Rodrigo Roa Duterte in his first State of the Nation Address (SONA) highlighting the importance Public-Private Partnership as part of the government’s thrust for sustainable development,” he said.
“But the failure of ECOS to provide eligibility requirements at the very start should have been a ground for the contract’s revocation. But on the contrary it was continued by the current administration and has even paid ECOS millions of pesos recently,” he said.
He also said that aside from the COA’s finding, the local government of Malay failed to coordinate with the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) pertaining to the passage of said contract which makes it bereft of the requisites that would make it legally binding.
NEDA, he said, serves as a repository of information on the status of PPP projects, copies of unsolicited proposals and other related documents received by the implementing Agencies or Local Government Units, and it is the agency that assist Local Government Units in the preparation and development of projects.
In his prayer, Cabobos had asked the Ombudsman to declare the PPP contract null and void and for the immediate suspension of the respondents upon the commencement of the investigation of the case and eventually their dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public office.
Also, he asked the Ombudsman to require all Punong Barangay of the Municipality of Malay for the establishment of an appropriate Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) as provided for by R.A 9003 and order the DENR to spearhead the clean-up and restoration of the Malay River and its tributaries along with the establishment of an appropriate Sanitary Landfill and/or adequate solid waste and liquid disposal as well as other alternative garbage disposal system such as reduce, re-use, recycling of waste, or conversion of waste into energy or into productive materials. Moreover, he also asked the Ombudsman to order ECOS the refund of millions of pesos it received from the Municipality of Malay based on the account of the PPP contract being void ab initio and for the latter’s total disregard of the environment of the Municipality of Malay.