Loboc mayor faces graft complaint before Ombudsman

Michael Ortega Ligalig
Loboc mayor faces graft complaint before Ombudsman
Loboc Mayor Helen Calipusan Alaba is also accused of violating the executive order on freedom of information (FOI) issued by President Rodrigo Duterte

BOHOL, Philippines – The Office of the Ombudsman has found enough basis to proceed with the criminal investigation of a case filed against Loboc, Bohol Mayor Helen Calipusan Alaba.

The town’s chief executive was ordered to answer the complaint lodged by engineer Nilo Sarigumba.

“Failure to comply as herein directed within the period prescribed by the rules shall be deemed a waiver of the right to present the party’s counter-affidavit or reply-affidavit and the investigation shall proceed according to existing rules,” according to an order signed by Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Paul Elmer Clemente and graft investigation and prosecution officer Euphemia B. Bacalso.

Rappler over the weekend obtained a copy of this order dated February 23.

If guilt is proven after trial, Alaba may be dismissed from public service, and be disqualified to hold public office again.

The case stemmed from Sarigumba’s allegations that his company was ignored by Alaba when it tried to participate in the bidding of a construction project.

Sarigumba accused Alaba of violating a provision of Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

Early this year, Sarigumba – proprietor of Ronnyl Construction and president of the Association of Bohol’s Construction Companies, Inc – lodged his complaint with the Ombudsman. The complaint accused Alaba of denying his company’s request to purchase bidding documents in relation to two government projects involving a heritage shop in Loboc.

According to Sarigumba, the “act of (Alaba) as well as the Bids and Awards Committee of the Municipality of Loboc in denying Ronnyl Construction, singling it out from all other bidders, if there is any, is discriminatory and caused it pain and damage, and prejudice to the long established objective of the Association of Bohol’s Construction Companies Inc to have a fair competition.”

FOI violation, too? 

Sarigumba also alleged that Alaba violated the executive order on freedom of information (FOI) issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.

In a request letter signed by lawyer Gregorio Refugio last year and addressed to Alaba, Sarigumba’s counsel inquired from the mayor why his client’s request for bidding documents “were turned down by your office.”

“We wish to emphasize that under Executive Order Implementing the Freedom of Information in the Executive Department, ‘Every Filipino shall have access to information, official records, public records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as government research data used as basis for public development,'” Refugio told Alaba in the letter.

The lawyer reminded the mayor that a failure to respond to the request “shall be a ground for administrative liability.”

But Alaba, in her reply letter, said: “Unfortunately, I regret to inform you that I cannot provide you the requested documents.”

“To date, there is neither law passed nor local ordinance that is adopted in our local sanggunian that would force the Local Government Unit of Loboc, Bohol to release information especially of material and public interest,” Alaba, an engineer by profession, said in her letter. – Rappler.com