De Lima refers case of missing P455-M ice-making machines to Ombudsman

October 26, 2011 10:15 pm 

By Perfecto T. Raymundo Jr.

MANILA, Oct. 26 – Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Leila De Lima has referred to the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) the request of a militant fisherfolk group seeking an investigation into the missing P455-million worth of ice-making machines.

De Lima also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to conduct its own investigation into the allegation of the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) that 97 of the 98 ice-making machines were still unaccounted for.

The NBI, the Philippines' premier investigating body, is an attached agency of the DOJ.

The case of the missing ice-making machines was the subject of the plunder case that Pamalakaya had filed before the Ombudsman against former President and now Pampanga (2nd District) Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Arthur Yap and 13 others on Jan. 6, 2010.

According to De Lima, the Ombudsman was the appropriate government agency to act on Pamalakaya's request "considering that the case has already been filed" with the anti-graft body.

"We refer to you for whatever action you may deem appropriate, the attached … letter of Pamalakaya … specifically requesting the urgent action to push the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the case and act with correctness and dispatch on the plunder case," De Lima said in her letter to Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

De Lima also told Morales that she had already ordered NBI Director Magtanggol Gatdula to "determine if there is truth" to the group's suspicion that the multimillion-peso project was "a case of ghost delivery."

"The undersigned has already given instructions (Gatdula) to verify the information and conduct discreet investigation into the matter and to submit their findings and recommendation thereon as soon as practicable," De Lima said.

In a July 13, 2011 letter to De Lima, Pamalakaya chair Fernando Hicap asked the DOJ to look into the supposed anomalous purchase of the ice-making machines, which Arroyo approved a few months before she stepped down from Malacanang.

Hicap said that the transaction was "extremely disadvantageous to the government" since the DA bought the machines at P4.6 million each, or 100 percent higher than its usual market price of P2.3 million per unit.

He added that the winning bidder, the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS), was incorporated only on Aug. 25, 2009, or a day before the National Agribusiness Corp. conducted a preliminary bidding conference for the project.

While the supply contract stated that IRSS should deliver all the units by June 2010, Hicap said that only one of the purchased ice-making machines had been delivered since then.

"There were no reports or confirmation that the rest of the 97 machines were delivered and distributed to target beneficiaries — the small fisherfolk and other rural producers across the country," Hicap said.

He also assailed DA Secretary Proceso Alcala for his supposed failure to act on their complaint, saying that, he did not even bother to order the DA regional offices to check on the veracity of their allegation.

"Nothing has been done to investigate and get to the bottom of the controversy that includes highly irregular bidding process, overpricing and price manipulation," Hicap said. (PNA) RMA/PTR/utb

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