Cebu News

Final report did not show, but: Committee knew of Balili lot flaws

- Fred Languido -

CEBU, Philippines - Some Capitol officials were aware that portions of the controversial Balili property are underwater and mangroves.

This is based on a report of the Cebu Provincial Appraisal Committee, which was asked to check the property when the province expressed interest in making the purchase.

The technical working staff that the appraisal committee sent to conduct the ocular inspection and gather opinion values to determine the fair market value of the 25-hectare Balili property in Tinaan, Naga reported on July 6, 2007 that the property is situated at the seaside and has fishponds.

The report included the vicinity map of the property, which shows the mangrove plantation, fishpond and the sea.

The report further described the property to be located 50 meters more or less from the national road and is more or less 24 hectares situated on the seaside adjacent to the port of the Apo Cement Corporation.

According to the report, the topography of the lot is flat and has a developed resort but no longer operational.

“Portion of lot is fishpond and part also is agricultural with not less than 150 coconut trees planted,” the report states.

 The information on the fishpond and the seaside however were not mentioned in the final resolution of the appraisal committee chaired by provincial assessor Anthony Sususco with provincial treasurer Roy Salubre and provincial engineer Eulogio Pelayre as members.

The committee’s report contained in its resolution No. 23 series of 2007 only mentioned that the “parcels of land subject of appraisal are contiguous and it is accessible from the national highway, passing thru a 3-meter wide mixed cemented and all-weather road.”

“The topography of the land is generally plain. Basic facilities are available in the area,” the appraisal committee report added.

It also listed a concrete fence, swimming pool and four buildings as improvements in the area. In its report, the appraisal committee claimed to have personally conducted an ocular inspection of the property to determine the different kinds of improvements therein.

“The Provincial Appraisal Committee went to the Municipality of Naga, Cebu to conduct an actual ocular inspection on the above-mentioned lots,” a portion of the committee resolution read.

This raised a very serious question on why the committee failed to see the mangroves, fishponds and the seawaters if indeed they conducted the ocular inspection.

It is likewise suspicious why the appraisal committee failed to include in their resolution the complete description of the property as described in the report of its technical staff.

The committee appraised the property at P610 per square meter as the fair market value based on their computation. The appraisal of the property stemmed from the request of board member Juan Bolo on June 26, 2007.

Bolo, who claimed to be the chairman of the committee on provincial and municipal properties then, requested for the appraisal of the lot because the province was interested to buy it.

Bolo’s authority however was also questioned because he was not yet officially designated as chairman of the committee when he made the request.

The records in the provincial board showed that Bolo was only given the committee chairmanship after the July 9, 2007 inaugural session of the provincial board because they had just passed the May 2007 elections.

According to board member Victor Maambong, all their committee chairmanships are deemed vacated after the election because hold-over capacity is not allowed.

Maambong even described Bolo’s action as “usurpation” of the authority of the provincial board.

Bolo who facilitated the controversial Balili land purchase also stands to face investigation by the board’s ethics committee for alleged conflict of interest and grave misconduct.

The Balili fiasco is now being looked into by the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas.

On top of it a fact-finding committee headed by the National Bureau of Investigation was likewise created by Governor Gwendolyn Garcia to find out if somebody from the Capitol is guilty of withholding information about the property.

The Capitol purchased the lot in 2008 for P98.9 million without conducting the survey. It later found out that 9.4 hectares is submerged in seawaters and planted with mangroves.

The Capitol is already demanding the return of the P37 million from the Balili estate, which part of the total amount they paid equivalent to the submerged area. —/NLQ     (FREEMAN NEWS)

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