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Guevarra changes tune, will now review Calida firm’s DOJ contracts

Lian Buan
Guevarra changes tune, will now review Calida firm’s DOJ contracts
The issue is brought up by Senator Francis Pangilinan during Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra's confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra made a slight change of tune on Wednesday, May 30, saying he will now review the Department of Justice (DOJ) contracts awarded in 2017 to the family-owned security firm of Solicitor General Jose Calida.

“Nobody has come up with such an allegation, but nonetheless, the DOJ will take a look now that it’s brought to the floor already. To satisfy everyone, we’ll just take a look,” Guevarra said after his confirmation hearing was suspended on Wednesday noon.

Calida’s family-owned security firm Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Incorporated or Vigilant won two contracts worth 12.4 million in 2017. This was during the time of former justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

Guevarra was at the Senate on Wednesday for his confirmation hearing before the Commission on Appointments (CA). Senator Francis Pangilinan raised the issue of Vigilant’s contracts before suspending the hearing so the CA can hold an executive session.

Before going off to the session, Pangilinan approached Guevarra and clarified what the latter had meant by his earlier statement that he does not see the need to investigate Vigilant’s DOJ contracts.

Kailangan lang may mag-challenge noong validity (Someone just has to challenge the validity),” Guevarra told Pangilinan.

When reporters asked Guevarra afterwards if they could proceed with the review without a complaint, the secretary said, “Well, it was already mentioned during the hearing by Senator Pangilinan. Now that it has been brought up, we’ll take a look.”

Presumption of regularity

Guevarra said there is a presumption of regularity on the contracts because Vigilant is a legitimate company which won the awards through public bidding. (READ: Calida: No conflict of interest in gov’t contracts even if I did not divest)

“Now, if there are ethical considerations, well, that’s for SolGen Calida to deal with. From our point of view, we are dealing with a legitimate corporation,” he said.

When asked what his views were on questions on conflict of interest, Guevarra said he doesn’t see anything wrong with public officials having shares in private companies.

“If you want to invest some money in some corporation, you are not prohibited from doing that. Ang bawal, ‘yung ikaw mismo ‘yung nagpapatakbo ng kumpanya na ‘yun, actively involved ka, in the operations, in the management of a certain corporation, kasi public official ka na,” Guevarra said.

(What’s prohibited is that you still run the company, you are actively involved in the operations, in the management of a certain corporation, because you’re already a public official.)

Calida resigned as president and chairman of the company in June 2016, right before he took office as Solicitor General, but he still holds 60% of company shares.

His wife Milagros is now the chairman of the company, with their 3 children as officers. No other person aside from the Calida family has a share or is an officer of the company.

A complaint has been filed before the Office of the Omnbudsman over Vigilant’s government contracts since Calida took office in July 2016. As of our latest count, Vigilant has had 14 government contracts worth P261.39 million since 2016. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.