Calida unsure if security firm won as many gov’t contracts before 2016

Lian Buan
Solicitor General Jose Calida maintains he will not give up his shares in Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Incorporated

SCRUTINY. Solicitor General Jose Calida faces scrutiny over a family-owned security firm that has won at least P261.39 million worth of government contracts after he assumed his post. File photo by Ben Nabong/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida was unable to compare the number of government contracts that his family’s security firm won before and after he joined the administration in 2016.

“I forgot already how many. Let me tell you, we don’t always win when we join government procurement biddings,” Calida told CNN Philippines’ The Source on Thursday, May 31.

“In fact, since I assumed my office, we [have] lost 3 biddings. One is the Philippine Sports Commission, the Pagcor-Malate, and another bidding for the Philippine Sports Commission. That’s the reality, you don’t win always,” he added.

The query aimed to address perception that Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Incorporated won the contracts owing to Calida’s stature as solicitor general.

Based on a public database, Rappler has listed 14 government contracts won by Vigilant from August 2016 to January 2018. Calida became solicitor general in July 2016.

The 14 contracts won over a span of 18 months were worth P261.39 million.

Pressed by The Source anchor Pinky Webb if Vigilant won more government contracts after Calida assumed office, the Solicitor General said: “No, we had many biddings before that we won also.”

Webb again asked Calida to make a rough comparison, telling him: “Because you know you will be asked this.”

Calida answered: “It depends. There are cases where, in this particular – there are many biddings, as far as I was informed, for this year, there was one bidding that we won in 2018. In 2017, maybe two? I don’t really know the exact figures because I’m no longer part of the Vigilant management.” (READ: Calida: I’ll file charges against those maligning, libeling me)

How many contracts?

Rappler was first able to gather details of 9 of the 14 contracts by launching a search for awards given to Vigilant on database Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (Philgeps).

The contract with the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) was not included in the 9, and we were already aware of NAPC because it was mentioned in the complaint filed against Calida before the Office of the Ombudsman. We found the NAPC contract on the agency’s website.

When the news broke, opposition lawmakers Tom Villarin and Gary Alejano revealed Vigilant was also awarded contracts for the House of Representatives.

That’s when we proceeded to go to the individual pages of institutions such as the House to scour through all of the awards posted. There, we found two House contracts and two more Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) contracts, bringing the number up to 14.

The question is: are there more contracts awarded to Vigilant after Calida became solicitor general, or are the 14 all of it?

Calida said: “I don’t know the exact number. Because remember, aside from public bidding, we also have a few private companies [as our clients].”

‘I will not divest’

Calida said he will not divest from Vigilant despite the controversies hounding the company.

“There is no need to divest if there is no conflict of interest. Because under the law, I have the choice to either resign or divest,” he said.

Calida said it is enough that he resigned as company president and chairman, and that he declared Vigilant in his Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs). His SALNs have not been made public yet.

“I disclosed in my SALN that I had financial interest in Vigilant. There is a provision in the SALN asking you if you have financial interest in companies, so I said yes. I put there Vigilant,” said the Solicitor General.

Calida resigned as president and chairman of Vigilant in June 2016, a month before he became solicitor general. His wife Milagros replaced him as president and chairperson, while son Josef became vice president and corporate secretary, and daughter Michelle was treasurer.

To date, Calida still owns 60% of Vigilant shares, while the remaining 40% are evenly distributed among Milagros and their children Josef, Michelle, and Mark Jorel.

Government deals

Calida defended Vigilant’s move to enter into government contracts by saying only a few private companies “satisfy the amount of legal wage for guards.”

“Vigilant considered to join public bidding. Why? Because government agencies, government instrumentalities, they have an approved budget for the contract, and therefore there is an assurance that the security guards will be given what is due to them,” he said.

Calida added: “One of our advocacies is to provide jobs for those who don’t have, and give benefits to our security guards. If we close shop, many of our guards will lose jobs. We cannot afford that, nakaka-konsensya na ‘yun (that will bother my conscience).” (READ: Duterte not firing SolGen Calida)

Calida did not agree that his being solicitor general had an effect on Vigilant securing contracts.

“This is government procurement. There’s a law and there are procedures. There are many safeguards there,” he said.

Earlier, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said Vigilant’s contracts with the Department of Justice (DOJ) are presumed to be regular because these underwent public bidding. The ethical considerations, Guevarra said, are left for Calida to answer.

“As far as I am concerned, I have not done anything wrong. Therefore, there is no issue of morality here,” the Solicitor General said. “This is really a vicious attack because I represent the government, and the government always wins cases.”

Calida maintained he will not resign. – Rappler.com

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 lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.