Vote for resource center project: PB Members offered P1 million?
CEBU, Philippines — Members of the Cebu Provincial Board were allegedly offered P1 million each to approve the construction of the P1.3 billion Capitol Resource Center, a highly placed source told The Freeman.
The source said each Board Member who will vote to authorize Governor Hilario Davide III to enter into a contract with the winning contractor will be given P1 million.
The same amount will reportedly be given to opposition legislators who will not show up in today’s regular session during which the resolution giving the project the go signal is expected to be approved.
High ranking officials of the executive department, as well as a Board Member, allegedly helped convince legislators to take the deal.
At least four Board Members denied receiving such offer and said they will refuse the same if it reaches them.
“If being offered to me, I would certainly decline. My vote for or against said measure is NOT FOR SALE. I will vote according to my conscience,” Board Member Raul Bacaltos told The Freeman.
“Kon unsay akong vote, it does not mean naay nadawat nako kay pobre ko pero, at least, naay respeto sa tawo ba,” he added.
Board Member Sun Shimura echoed Bacaltos’ sentiment.
“I was not offered that… sorry. If naa man sad, I AM NOT FOR SALE,” he said.
Board Member Horacio Franco also denied receiving an offer. “Personally, I was not offered anything… maybe because they know I won’t accept,” he said.
Board Member Miguel Antonio Magpale admitted hearing a bribe rumor but on a different perspective – that Board Members are being offered P1 million to junk the project.
“Rumors will remain as rumors. As with what I have heard – an offer of P1M was made to ‘disapprove’ the resolution to give the governor the authority to enter into contract with the winning bidder of the project,” reads Magpale’s text message to The Freeman.
Board Member Celestino Martinez III described the information as fake news.
Commenting on the source, he said, “I guess we have our answer… a person who makes up a story is scared to have his name mentioned because he just made up the story.”
The Freeman is continuing to get the statement of other Board Members.
Lawyer Ramil Abing, executive assistant to the governor, who allegedly helped convince the Board Members denied the allegation vehemently.
“I don’t know about that. I’m not a member of BAC (Bids and Awards Committee),” Abing said.
The Board is expected to pass a resolution today authorizing the governor to sign a contract with WT Construction, the lone contractor qualified to undertake the 20-story Capitol Resource Center project, which will be built beside the existing Capitol building.
Third District Rep. Gwendolyn Garcia warned the Board earlier that it should not authorize the project without approval from the National Historical Commission of the Philippines.
In a letter to Vice Governor Agnes Magpale, the Board’s presiding officer, Garcia cited a November 19, 2018 letter from NHCP to Provincial Administrator Mark Tolentino, which required the province to submit a new development plan on the proposed project.
NHCP Chairman Rene Escalante reminded Tolentino last month that the construction should have the approval of the agency as it will violate the Cultural Heritage Act of 2009. Section 48 B of the Heritage Act states as among the prohibited acts: “Modifies, alters, or destroys the original features of or undertakes construction or real estate development in any national shrine, monument, landmark and other historic edifices and structures, declared, classified, and marked by the National Historical Institute as such, without the prior written permission from the Commission. This includes the designated security or buffer zone, extending five (5) meters from the visible perimeter of the monument or site.”
“Your desistance from being made a participant in this illegal scheme would not only protect you from prosecution under heritage and graft laws, but would preserve the independence and dignity of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” Garcia advised. — JMO (FREEMAN)