PALAWAN Gov. Jose ‘‘Pepito’’ Alvarez and officials of his private water supply company together with officials of the Cagayan de Oro Water District (COWD) are facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for graft and other irregularities. Complainant Michelle D. Fox, a businesswoman and resident of San Vicente, Palawan, filed the complaint on Thursday at the Ombudsman main office in Quezon City.
Charged along with Alvarez for violation of the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA), RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) and, RA 9184 (Government Procurement Law) are all the present officers of the COWD namely:
Francisco Mendez, chairman; Federico M. Gapuz, vice chairman; Raymundo J. Java, secretary; Sarah P. Borja, treasurer; and, Sandy R. Bass, Jr., assistant secretary/treasurer.
Also hauled for investigation are the officers of Rio Verde Water District Consortium (RVWDC) majority owned by the Palawan governor, namely: Fiorella E. Azura, Bienvenido S. Santos, Roberto P. Lozada and Chona Alvarez.
Based on the 37-page complaint, Rio Verde was consistently awarded by the COWD with contracts and favors, with the first contract given to the firm on December 9, 2004.
This, despite an earlier ruling by the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) disqualifying Rio Verde for being a “non-responsive” bidder.
Worse, the award was given 11 days before the formal incorporation of Rio Verde at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) which was released only on December 21, 2004.
Despite these, the COWD Board of Directors overruled the BAC report and the non-registration of Rio Verde with the SEC and proceeded to award the contract to the company.
These questionable revelations were sustained by government auditors as contained the audit made by the COA contained under COA Report No. 2013-002.
Aside from recommending that the contract with RVWDC be rescinded, the COA auditor also called for the filing of appropriate charges against the officials involved for violation of RA 9184 and the return of millions of pesos already received by Alvarez’s company.
It was also noted that in 2008, the dealings between COWD and RVWDC was already the subject of a complaint to then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez submitted thru Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao, Antonio Valenzuela.
Back then, the Ombudsman was also asked to investigate Alvarez, his company and COWD officials for plunder.
In addition, a separate investigation by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) established that “fraud” attended the transaction for the bulk water supply contract between the parties.
The complainant also called on the Ombudsman for all respondents occupying government positions to be immediately preventively suspended so that evidence can be kept secure, the issuance of an HDO (hold departure order) against them and, their being subjected to a lifestyle check.