Graft raps readied vs ERC, ad execs

Ghio Ong - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines -  The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has recommended the filing of charges against officials of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and an advertising executive over an infomercial project they implemented without proper bidding. 

The charges stemmed from the revelations made by the late ERC director Francisco Jose Villa Jr. in the letters he wrote before committing suicide in November of last year.

Charged for violation of Section 65 of the Government Procurement Reform Act and Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were ERC chairman Jose Vicente Salazar, legal service staff  Prescia Vanessa Reynante-Reynoso, planning and information service officer-in-charge Teofilo Arbalate and Luis Morelos, owner of Fat Free Inc., an advertising company.

The NBI filed the complaints against them before the Office of the Ombudsman last Monday.

Villa, in one of his handwritten letters dated August last year, said his “greatest fear” in the bids and awards committee (BAC) that he used to chair was that the audio-visual presentation (AVP) of Morelos was chosen by Salazar through a rigged selection system. “This will be a criminal act,” Villa wrote.

In its findings, the NBI said “there is no question that prior and during the required bidding for the AVP project, Fat Free Inc. was already pre-selected to undertake the said infomercial project.”

The NBI claimed this was “evident from the series of meetings between the said ERC officials and the personnel of Fat Free Inc. even before the start of the procurement process.”

“Worse, Fat Free Inc. is not even qualified to participate since the requirement as per the Terms of Reference (TOR) prepared for the AVP project is at least 10 years relevant professional experience, whereas Fat Free Inc. was just incorporated sometime in 2014,” the NBI added.

The NBI also found from the email threads of members of the ERC’s BAC that they were trying to justify the impending award of the contract for the AVP project to Fat Free Inc. and “had to find a way to disqualify (other) bidders.”

Also, according to the NBI, the contract for the AVP project to be awarded to Fat Free Inc. was split, as shown by the four TORs prepared for such.

“Subjects prepared separate terms of reference for… conceptualization, script development; production and filming; and post-production/film editing,” which cost around P375,000 each. 

“The AVP project was not even included in the Annual Procurement Plan for 2015 and 2016, thus the funds to be used in procuring the AVP project will definitely come from other funds earmarked for other purposes,” the NBI noted.

The bureau also revealed from their findings that the ERC officials “disregarded the requirement of bidding and alternative mode of procurement” in two other instances, thus violating the Government Procurement Reform Act.

Certain members of the ERC’s BAC disclosed that “construction of the boardroom amounting to P384,849.75 was not subjected to either bidding or alternative mode of procurement before the implementation of the project or procurement.”

“Also, there were requests for reimbursement for the pest control services rendered by another company other than the company whom the pest control contract of ERC was awarded,” the findings added.

Salazar, in his affidavit, denied that he pressured Villa to approve the procurement of the AVP project in favor of Fat Free. – With Danessa Rivera




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