By MANLY M UGALDE
GUINOBATAN, Albay: For the first time perhaps among public servants, an accused municipal mayor involving an alleged falsified P4 million claim boldly confirmed separate allegations that 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 identified as General Simeon Ola for whose name and honor the regional headquarters of the Philippine National Police in Legazpi City formerly known as Camp Ibalon was renamed over a decade ago.
Municipal Mayor Juan M Garcia, his municipal engineer Felix Dela 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 in violation 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 controversial P63 million farm-to-market road project started in 2009.
Complainants said they decided to abandon the mayor because of the issue on “tuwid na daan,” adding that Garcia as mayor was 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.
The project, the documents show, 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 stating that their signatures in the Statement of Work Accomplishment (SWA) were forged. They added there was no extra work performed to justify the claim.
Documents added that DA and Infress’ top officials have often reminded in writing the town officials concerned about the alleged falsified claim but which were left unheeded.
In an exclusive interview, the retiring municipal mayor ‘boldly admitted’ allegations that he was a contractor but said he was doing it to “protect the interest of the town.”
Asked if he is a licensed contractor, Garcia said “no” but “I simply negotiate with a winning bidder that I am personally interested to undertake his particular project which ensures that the projects are completed according to the program of works.”
He lamented that most projects implemented by private contractors in his town were below par but which were only discovered as such “after these are officially turned-over to the municipal office.”
“I am not afraid to reveal facts and confirm the accusation of my critics because they knew it was done for good of the town. Many local executives may be doing the same but they simply don’t want to admit it. And I don’t want to be a hypocrite to admit that I implemented only selected projects,” the outgoing mayor who has served his town for 18 years said.
Mayor Garcia said that he approved payment of the P4 million as additional claims from the P63M DA project on the basis of the complete and validated documents, otherwise he would be accused by the contractor of delaying tactics to extort money from them.
He said he and co-respondents in the case had already given their answers to the Ombudsman where the contractor even stated to be willing to return the money (additional payment) if necessary but without admitting any wrongdoing.
Garcia lambasted his former allies in the ruling Liberal Party by saying that these people bolted him to join other political party because of his refusal to come up with their financial demand for reelection campaign in the amount of P500,000 for the vice mayor and P300,000 for the councilors.
He disclosed his 23-year-old son was his candidate for mayor.
Vice Mayor Arevalo in a text message said Garcia was merely hallucinating [about the alleged demand for campaign money], adding that the mayor [Garcia] never expected that they would abandon him and file graft charges before the Ombudsman.
Speaking on condition his name be withheld, a retired municipal mayor said Garcia was just trying to be honest, never mind if his intention was good or not.
What is worse, he added, is that an Albay congressman is notoriously known among his people who tagged him as “kongresista in Manila, kontratista sa probinsiya (A congressman in Manila, a contractor in his province). - Bicol Mail