GUINOBATAN, Albay: A former mayor of this town has confirmed his involvement in projects worth P4 million, admitting he was a contractor of millions of pesos worth of projects in his town.
A first-class municipality in the third district of Albay, Guinobatan is known as the hometown of the last Filipino general who surrendered to the Americans during its occupation in 1900 to 1916.
Gen Simeon Ola is the current name of the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Legazpi City.
It was formerly known as Camp Ibalon and was renamed Camp Simeon Ola over a decade ago.
Former Mayor Juan M. Garcia, his municipal engineer Felix de la Cruz, municipal agriculturist Florante Siapno and Grace de Leon and Luisito Derustas of Philworks Constructions based in Naga City stand accused before the office of the Ombudsman on several violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act filed by the vice mayor and five members of the municipal council.
Filed on Nov 21, 2012, the complaint was prompted by a Commission on Audit findings of alleged falsified claim of P4 million over the abandoned P63-million farm-to-market road project in 2009.
Complainants said they decided to abandon the mayor because of tuwid na daan, adding that Garcia who has been mayor for 18 years was in fact not only the mayor but also the contractor of municipal projects.
Signatories in the complaint-affidavit were Vice Mayor Wilfredo Arevalo, Councilors Sofia Orpiada, Robert Banaga, Reynaldo M. Namia, Rolando Palabrica and Juris Villareal.
Documents showed the project was funded by the Asian Development Bank and implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) Infrastructure for Rural Productivity Enhancement Sector (Infres).
Two DA regional engineers based in Pili, CamSur, identified as Teodoro C Eleda and Sozimo Ordas issued separate affidavits on Nov 8, 2012, saying their signatures in the Statement of Work Accomplishment (SWA) were forged.
They added there was no extra work performed to justify the claim. Documents showed the DA and Infress top officials often reminded town officials in letters about the alleged falsified claim, however, without remedial measures done.
In an exclusive interview, the retiring municipal mayor boldly “admitted” allegations he was a contractor but said he was doing it to “protect the interest of the town.”
Asked if he is a license contractor, Garcia said “no” but “I simply negotiate with a winning bidder that I am personally interested to undertake his particular project under conditions the contractor standard allowed profit would be settled once the contract is fully paid.”
“In this regard I am certain the projects are completed according to the program of works. He lamented that most projects implemented by contractors in his town were discouraging in result which are noticed usually after these are officially turned-over to the municipal office,” he said.
He added that “I am not afraid to reveal facts and confirmed the accusation of my critics because they knew it was done for the good of the town.
“Many local executives may be doing the same that they simply don’t want to admit. And I don’t want to be a hypocrite adding I implemented only selected projects.”
Garcia said he approved payment of the P4-million additional claims from the P63 million DA project on the basis of the complete and validated documents.
“Otherwise, I would be accused by the contractor of delaying tactics to extort money,” he said, adding that he and his co-respondents in the case had already “given our answers to the Ombudsman”.
He said the contractor was even willing to return the money if only to settle the issue without admitting guilt.
Garcia scored his former allies in the ruling Liberal Party, saying these people bolted to join other political parties “because of my refusal to come up with their financial demand for re-election campaign in the amount of P500,000 for the vice-mayor and P300,000 for the councilors”.
He admitted that his 23-year-old son was his candidate for mayor.
Speaking on condition his name be withheld, a retired municipal mayor said Garcia was just trying to be honest.
He said an Albay congressman has been notoriously known for contracting government projects that people dubbed him as “kongresista in Manila, kontratista sa probinsiya [A congressman in Manila, a contractor in his province].” – Bicol Mail