By: Modesto Sa-onoy
YESTERDAY I mentioned that SM Prime Holdings Inc. did not submit its bid during the negotiation of July 15 thus stalling began right after the province and ALI came to an agreement. Let’s revisit this sequence of events.
On July 20, five days after the negotiation that awarded the contract to ALI, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan approved the Deed of Conditional Sale and on that same date, Governor Alfredo Marañon officially informed ALI of this approval.
Since this is a sale the province submitted the contract to the Commission on Audit for review and approval. This contract was received by the Commission Secretary on the July 22. There it slept to await the pleasure and convenience of the gods of COA until on September 27, the Regional Director of COA Region VI forwarded to the Commission Secretary his comments and “favorable recommendations on the Deed of Conditional Sale and of Lease.”
It took over two months for the documents to travel from Manila to Iloilo and back.
I am reminded of the information that was directed by Washington to be sent to Hawaii informing the US forces in that island that there is a highest possibility the Japanese would launch an attack though not necessarily against Hawaii.
Since the clerk thought this was just an ordinary communication and he could not send it by telegraph, he sent it through a commercial company, Western Union. As history shows the telegram arrived after the Japanese had already devastated and destroyed the US naval force there.
Whether the documents of the province were carried through the turtle courier or it slept in COA Manila or in COA Iloilo is no longer of import. What is clear is that COA acted slower than the turtle.
Well, perhaps this was just the usual COA bureaucratic procedure.
Anyway, the delay became longer and the governor had expressed his dismay publicly that COA is already violating the Constitution. He had also sent several follow-up letters to COA but did not receive even the basic courtesy of a reply and as required under the law.
This column picked up the issue and exposed what I believe was the cause – the financial and professional link between the COA chairperson Pulido-Tan and SM and after several documents from within COA reached me.
In between Governor Marañon had also been sending emissaries to follow-up but they ended nowhere. Not the fault of the COA personnel but of the top officials who now I believe consciously sat on the contract to prevent its being acted upon. In a war of attrition SMPHI or COA probably waited for ALI and the province to give up with the thought that the province will accede to the demand of SMPHI and award the contract to them. But COA tested and misjudged the governor, but that is a subject for another column.
After my first two columns out in March this year urging for the impeachment of COA officials for the overly and unreasonably long delay considering the provision of the Constitution that COA should act within 60 days after submission and that Pulido-Tan has links with SM, we got news that COA would take action. On March 19, 2012 the Commission Proper convened in Regular Meeting.
The Technical Team’s report said that on March 21 the Commission “deferred its action on the request for approval of the Deed of Conditional Sale, and instructed the conduct of another Technical Evaluation on the subject properties, and the creation of a Technical Audit Team to conduct a re-appraisal and re-inspection of the price reasonableness of the lots…”
Why would a third review and re-inspection and re-appraisal be made? We recall that the valuation was checked by COA before the bidding then the contract was reviewed by the COA Iloilo on instruction of the Commission and now again another inspection and review. Why this repeated process?
The message being sent by the Commission is that it does not trust its own people and yet it has not shown or indicated that the inspection and review were faulty or that there is something wrong with the contract.
In fact, COA directed that the contract should be signed and promptly it was signed by the governor and ALI. Then once more silence.
The order for another review and inspection was issued on March 20.
This series is based on the team’s report and the report made a conclusion: “the appraised value of the property is P19,500 per square meter for the total of P713,446,500… as of March 30, 2012 which is just, fair and reasonable.” This means that since July 2011 the appraisal had remained the same. There was nothing anomalous as COA probably expected.
That was March and it is now July. So what is COA waiting for? Aha!