Cuña others sued for graft

TEN Quezon City officials headed by city administrator, Aldrin C. Cuña, and a private contractor, were sued before the Ombudsman for graft, falsification of official documents and violation of the country’s procurement law involving the city’s ‘school signages project’ totalling more than P30 million.

In a 14-page complaint lodged before the Ombudsman last April 8, 2019, lawyers Mark Brian R. Celestino and Charlie DC Pascual, in their capacity as “concerned citizens” and “taxpayers,” averred the accused entered into a “conspiracy” for the three-stage project that was consummated between September 2016 to May 2017, when Mayor Herbert Bautista issued the ‘Notice to Proceed’ to the lone bidder, Rockford Development Corporation.

A copy of the complaint, together with its annexes, has been furnished this paper.

Charged along with Cuña were members of the city’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), namely Garry Domingo, chairman; Isagani Verzosa, vice chairman; and, BAC members, Virgilio S. Regala, Regina A. Samson; and, Pedro P. Rodriguez;

City engineer, Joselito B. Cabungcal; city budget officer, Marian C. Orayani; former city accountant, Pamfilo P. Cruz; and, acting city accountant, Ruby G. Manangu;

The private contractor involved was identified as, Rockford Development Corp. president, John A. Bautista, and other unidentified company officials “who consented, assented, participated, in the patently illegal act” cited in the complaint.

Pascual told this writer they did not include Mayor Bautista as they “cannot find” any “direct evidence” linking him to the anomaly.

The complaint disclosed that on August 4, 2016, the city’s BAC, headed by Domingo, published an “invitation to bid” that includes the “fabrication and installation of school signages” worth P9,480,782.90, with the fund to be sourced from the ‘Special Education Fund’ (SEF).

On November 16, 2016, another bids invitation was issued by Quezon City that again allocated P10,492,858.06 for the “second phase” of the school signages project, the amount also coming from the SEF.

Finally, on March 15, 2017, another bid bulletin was issued where P10,740,033.99 was allocated for “phase 3” of the project.

In all, the approved budget reached P30,713,674.95, which were all won by Rockford in the total amount of P30,678,006.37, with a difference of only P35,668.58 or less than 10 percent.

According to the complainants, “irregularities” were apparent in the transactions even during the pre-bid conferences by the BAC for the project as only two members, Domingo and Rodriguez, were present and that the signature of Versoza were allegedly forged.

Pascual and Celestino also questioned why only Rockford won all the bids for the project.
Cuña was also assailed for presenting himself as the “authorised representative” of the Division of City Schools of the  Local School Board (DCS-LSB), which allegedly requested for the project; under oath, DCS-LSB superintendent, Dr. Elizabeth Quesada, denied that she made any request for the project.

On questioning by the city council probing the scandal, Cabungcal then pointed to LSB board secretary, Jesusa Baetiong, who allegedly made the request.

The latter, however, asserted that the request only amounted to P1 million and that she made the request last April 24, 2017–  about a month after the third and final phase of the project was already being implemented.

“The series of events, conditions and circumstances leading to the commissions of the crimes will show that there is a conspiracy (by the accused)… Pascual and Celestino told the Ombudsman.

“Taken altogether, each and every one of them contributed and participated in the realisation of their illicit purpose,” they added.