Hasty approval, unregistered vehicles: Marcos on the hot seat over truck deal

Kat Domingo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 25 2017 01:55 PM

A lawmaker on Monday criticized Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos for the hasty approval of a procurement deal for 70 mini trucks worth P50 million.

During Tuesday's congressional inquiry on the province's tobacco excise taxes, Marcos confirmed signing 2 checks worth P18 million and P32 million respectively for the procurement of mini trucks even before a bidding was held in 2011.

Marcos initially said she signed checks only amounting to P15 million, but later on yielded to clarifications that the checks were worth P50 million.

"Hindi ako nag-uungkat ng bawat isang detalye dahil (kapag inisa-isa ko) hindi na matatapos ang trabaho kailanman," Marcos told lawmakers who attended the House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability's hearing on the alleged misuse of tobacco excise taxes.

"Hindi ako ang naglalagay ng petsa. Hindi ako ang naglalagay ng amount... Nagmamadali talaga kami kaya yung mga detalye tulad ng date, hindi na napansin," she added.

Marcos also admitted before the congressional inquiry that the purchase of 70 mini trucks by the provincial government did not undergo the bidding process.

"Yung 2 transactions, direct contracting. Direct contracting is something that the BAC (Bids and Awards Committee) recommended that we had to resort to because there was only a single supplier that can comply with the requirements," she said. 

Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon said implementing projects as soon as possible should not be an excuse for procedural lapses.

"Bibili ka ng 70 mini trucks at 5 buses? Hindi maliit ang pera. P50 million hindi mo papansinin dahil sa pagmamadali? These transactions are gargantuan in amount and actually very huge. As local chief executive, we should be reminded that hindi pwedeng nagmamadali at nakakalimutan," Leachon said.

"It was done in due haste, definitely in violation of the law," the lawmaker added. 

House Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability chair Johnny Pimentel noted records should prove that there was a failed bidding before the government can resort to direct contracting.

"The abstract of bid, BAC resolution, notice of award, notice to proceed, 'yung mga requirements to make it appear na dumaan ng bidding is lacking. Wala ngang bidding na nangyari," Pimentel said.

Marcos said she neither received nor signed the Commission on Audit's audit observation memorandum that underscored the supposed lapses in the transactions.

Marcos was also reprimanded for not registering the mini trucks to the Land Transportation Office. "Hindi na nirehistro kasi hindi naman nirerehistro ang mga farm equipment sa amin," she said.

Pimentel said only heavy farming and construction equipment are exempted from registration.

"Ang mga hindi nirerehistro ay mga backhoe, payloader, mga heavy equipment. Violation po ito," he said.

He added that the mini trucks were distributed to barangay chairmen and not actual farmer-beneficiaries who were supposed to use the trucks for transporting their goods from farms to markets.

Leachon and Pimentel said Marcos should be held liable for not complying with simple government rules such as the registration of vehicles.

Marcos was summoned to the House due to the alleged misuse of her province's shares from the excise taxes on locally manufactured Virginia-type cigarettes.

The probe, initiated by Ilocos Norte representative and House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, alleged that the funds were used in "highly irregular purchase of motor vehicles made through cash advances without the benefit of public bidding for the total amount of P66.45 million."

The governor has said the underlying motive behind the inquiry is Fariñas' desire to dominate local politics.

In 2019, Imee Marcos and Fariñas will be constitutionally barred from seeking reelection in their current offices, leaving them to pursue other positions or members of their families to pursue their current positions. Fariñas' daughter Ria and Marcos’ son Matthew are incumbent provincial board members and rumored to be possible gubernatorial candidates.