BY PET MELLIZA/ THE BEEKEEPER
The saga of Pavia Housing Scandal suggests that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales must do more housecleaning.
Pavia proposes that the more accurate term is “Iloilo City housing scandal in Pavia” because the town, a mere venue, has nothing to do with the mess.
The project, implemented in 2001, targeted to build 413 units of low cost houses for city employees from the bond flotation. The indebtedness, originally P125 million ballooned to P137 million within the first term of Mayor Jerry Trenas.
The scandal broke to the open in 2002 after subcontractors announced they were abandoning the work because the contractor ABE Builders, Inc. failed to pay them.
The city council investigated and in 2003 rendered a report recommending among others, rescission of the contract and compelling the contractor to pay damages, and slap graft charges on certain city officials and the contractor. Among those mentioned by the committee headed by then Kgd. Raul Gonzalez, Jr., were former mayor Mansueto Malabor and his successor Jerry Trenas. That same year, graft charges were slapped on persons named in the recommendation.
What happened to the charges?
Then Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Primo Miro, resolved in May 2005 to suspend some city officials and indict them before the Sandiganbayan. The national office, however, sat on it.
Lawyer Roming Gerochi, one of the complainants, followed up the progress of his complaint at the national office and to his dismay, confirmed that Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez was sleeping on it prompting him to describe the Office of the Ombudsman, “Monalisa”, after the ditty that pines of the “many dreams that have been brought to your doorstep, they just lie there and they die there”.
Gutierrez later resigned in disgrace in April 2011, after Rep. Junjun Tupas (LP, 5th district, Iloilo), chair of the committee on justice, lodged an impeachment suit against her in the House.
August 20, 2010, Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, the OIC, approved the report of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, a lapse of more than five years since it reached the national office.
However, that same date, Casimiro flip-flopped by issuing a separate decision amending the report he approved on the same date, this time around, deleting Trenas and his cabal off the list of city officials to be indicted with the anti-graft court, and ordering the Visayas office to deepen its investigation to determine probable cause.
Related to that issue, columnist Peter Jimenea confirmed he met with the current Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Pelagio Apostol, Jr. who aired his misgivings to the opinion writer for crucifying the Ombudsman-Visayas for dragging its foot in resolving the housing scandal.
Peter assured him he was writing objectively and open to given Apostol chance to air his side. “I have to criticize public officials remiss in their job,” he told the latter.
Surprisingly, the man who appeared to be the least guilty, outgoing Mayor Mansueto Malabor, top the list for indictment.
Trenas continued paying the delinquent contractor despite its abandonment of the project, disregarding the recommendations of the fact finding committee. He also skirted his duty to minimize losses by seizing the surety bonds of the contractor to answer for delays and defects in the project where none of the planned 413 housing units was completed.
The Visayas Office in its May 5, 2010 decision recommended the suspension of Trenas et al, for three months without pay but the order remains unserved.
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro owes us an explanation for his snafu of signing a second order contradicting the first, all within a day. The grapevine says, he signed the first as the OIC-Ombudsman, to score pogi points before P-Noy then scouting for the replacement of the resigned Gutierrez.
Casimiro did so clumsily that, in his second order, he ordered for the reinvestigation, in effect, sparing from immediate indictment some respondents whose participation in the thievery was too apparent to ignore.
Casimiro acted like a criminal court which must follow the quantum of evidence of guilt beyond reasonable doubt when all that was being asked of him was determine “probable cause” which is defined as facts and circumstances that can lead a reasonable person to believe that a crime has been committed and the accuse is probably guilty thereof.
Apostol is yet to act on Casimiro’s June 2011 order to reinvestigate Trenas.