By Chocolate Moose Fernandez and Billy Javier Reyes
Manila, Philippines-Some 50 activists belonging to the fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) and Anakpawis party list blocked the main gate of the office of the Department of Agriculture (DA) with 30 blocks of huge ice cubes to protest the agency’s procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines for P 4.65 million per unit for a total of P 455 million, which the groups said were overpriced by more the P 2.3 million per unit for a total of P 225 million.
“This holiday on ice protest is not meant to please nor promote Walt Disney and Mickey Mouse holiday on ice adventure. This is a highly agitating protest denouncing the money making scheme perpetually perpetrated by Malacanang and the agriculture department. Imagine, the Filipino taxpaying public will pay for P 455 million scandal ridden ice-making machine project, and worse, Secretary Arthur Yap and his gang mates are using our fisherfolk’s name to justify this multi-hundred million crime of corruption,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap.
Hicap, also the fisherfolk representative in Anakpawis party list national council, said the agriculture department through the National Agribusiness Corporation (NABCOR) awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009, which will provide the ice-making unit at P 4,650,000 per unit, or about P 2.3 million higher compared to prevailing industry price for the ice-making machine.
“In the name of national interest and public trust, Secretary Yap should immediate revoke the contract because it is highly disadvantageous to the national government and to the taxpaying public. Imagine taxpayers will pay more than P 225 million of hard-earned taxpayers’ money to pave way this high crime of corruption. This highly inflammatory, mind-boggling and totally unacceptable,” the Pamalakaya leader added.
The Pamalakaya official said the government will pay IRSS the sum of P 455,700,000 for 98 units of ice-making machines with liquid freeze capability which will be supplied to selected municipal fish ports nationwide. But the group said the government can obtain 98 units of ice-making machines for P 225 million to P 230 million, or half of the quoted and agreed price with IRSS.
“P 225 million is P 225 million. That sum of money can be used to finance any kind of sinister agenda or cruel intention by the present power holders in and out of Malacanang. The money might also be used to finance the electoral campaign of Mrs. Arroyo’s national and local bets in 2010 elections. This is money making in aid of electoral campaign for 2010 polls,” added Hicap.
Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list asserted that Secretary Yap is lawfully and morally bound to revoke the contract. “Secretary Yap can revoke the contract and send NABCOR officials to the firing line for subscribing to this highly irregular and grossly scandalous agreement with IRRS. The secretary can do it at any given time of the day,” the group said.
According to information gathered by Pamalakaya and Anakpawis party list, NABCOR conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, and IRSS which won the bidding, was only incorporated on August 25, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.
The groups said under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past 3 years, and such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last Sept.2.
Pamalakaya threatened to file a plunder case against Secretary Yap and other officials of NABCOR if they will not cancel the contract with IRSS on or before the end of 2009.
“Secretary Yap has 9 days to correct this multi-hundred million peso mistake. If he will not do his job, then we will file a plunder case against him before the Office of the Ombudsman and we will charge him and his conspirators of plunder and violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act along with their private clients,” Pamalakaya said.
Aside from Secretary Yap, Pamalakaya said it will include in the plunder charge sheet the top officials of NABCOR namely Alan A. Javellana, President; Romulo A. Relevo, Chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee; Dennis Lozada, Winston Azucena, Melody de Guzman and Encarnita Cristina Munsod, all members of Bids and Awards Committee, and owners and operators of IRSS.
Earlier, Allan V. Ragasa, a complainant had filed charges against Sec. Yap and officials of NABCOR and officers of IRSS headed by its chairman Alexander Leung before the Office of the Ombudsman in relation to the questionable awarding of contract to IRSS. The complaint in violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 9184 was filed on Nov.18, 2009. #