Fishers believe Palace had a hand in P 455 million ice-making machines scam

By Billy Javier Reyes

Manila, Philippines-The leftwing fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Saturday said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had a hand in the procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines by the Department of Agriculture, which the group said was overpriced by P 2.3 million per unit.

“This anomalous transaction has the seal of approval of Malacanang. It is impossible President Arroyo is not informed about this money making racket at the Department of Agriculture. This is part of the fund generation campaign for 2010 elections,” Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap said in a press statement.

The Pamalakaya leader said Secretary Arthur Yap, who is at the center of this high crime of corruption is one of the protégés of President Arroyo. Hicap said Yap was probably tasked to clinch the highly questionable project to produce funds for the 2010 elections.

“The P 455 million ice making machine scam is chiefly authored by Mrs. Arroyo and members of the syndicate operating in and out of Malacanang and in and out of the agriculture department. Secretary Yap acted the lead actor in this newest high crime of corruption in DA,” added Hicap.

Pamalakaya today gave Agriculture Secretary Yap 9 working days to revoke the scandalous
P 455 million ice-making machines contract, as the group threatened to charge him with plunder before the Office of the Ombudsman on January 4 next year. The group said President Arroyo might be included in the charge sheet under the principle of command responsibility.

“Mrs. Arroyo and her no.1 operator at DA–Secretary Yap have 9 nine working days to revoke this anomalous and highly questionable contract. If they will not subscribe to this call for truth, justice and accountability, then we have no other recourse but to file plunder raps against them before the Office of the Ombudsman, nothing more, nothing less,” said Pamalakaya national chair Fernando Hicap in a press statement.

Pamalakaya said Secretary Yap allowed the procurement of 98 units of ice-making machines at P 4.65 million per unit, while its actual price according to industry standard is pegged at P 2.3 million per unit.

“This ice-making machine project is nothing but a grand slam money making activity authored by Malacanang, Secretary Yap and their cash-making personnel at the department of agriculture. The crime constitutes plunder and grave violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices act, the law of government procurement and on the conduct and ethics governing public officials,” he stressed.

Before the Christmas break, some 50 activists belonging to Pamalakaya staged a holiday on ice protest by blocking the main gate of DA with 30 blocks of huge ice cubes to demand the immediate revocation of the contract.

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 immediately 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.

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.

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. #

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