Former Cabinet secretary Leoncio Evasco led the launching of Bohol province’s Office of Governance Accountability and Reform (OGAR) on Monday, September 5, presenting six consultants who will help dig up and file cases involving anomalous deals under previous and current administrations.
In a briefing with the media, Evasco stressed his office’s mandate also includes whatever corruption cases crop up during the term of incumbent Governor Aris Aumentado.
Aumentado created the new body through Executive Order 2, which he signed on July 1, his first day in office.
While some members of the body, including former Tagbilaran City mayor Dan Lim have filed complaints against Arthur Yap, Aumentado’s predecessor, Evasco stressed that the OGAR would take time to ensure the complaints filed can go all the way to trial.
“We will give people due process,’ said Evasco who narrowly lost to Yap in the 2019 gubernatorial race.
“We want cases to prosper during trial so people don’t criticize us for half-baked efforts,” the OGAR chief added in Binol-anon, the language of the province.
The office will not touch cases filed against local government units and officials, said Evasco.
“We will just focus on provincial government cases, including transactions approved by the Sangguniang Panlalawigan,” said the OGAR head.
As Cabinet secretary of then-president Rodrigo Duterte, Evasco oversaw 12 government agencies. A former priest and former rebel, he served as Duterte’s campaign manager when the latter ran for mayor of Davao City and stayed on as his chief of staff before becoming mayor of Maribojoc town from 2007 to 2016.
Aside from Lim, the other consultants are former provincial prosecutor Macario Delusa, retired judge Suceso Arcamo, retired Justice Gabriel Ingles, and lawyers Jordan Pizarras and Emmanuel Ramasola.
The ex-Tagbiliaran mayor filed with the Office of the Ombudsman in July 2022 a complaint alleging corruption in implementation of the National Philippine Tourism Expo 2020 (Phitex 2020), which the province co-hosted with the Department of Tourism.
He accused Yap, provincial administrator Kathryn Pioquinto, members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), and other officials of the Bohol administration of using the services of a live telecast and broadcast service provider without the benefit of bidding.
Lim’s complaint also claimed the provincial government negotiated, instead of bidding out, the contract with Active Events Equipment Rentals (AEER).
The award, his complaint added, was completed on November 6, months after the event was held.
Another complaint involved expenses for the January 2021 Ube Festival and the contract granted to a firm represented by the daughter-in-law of a Bidding and Awards Committee (BAC) member.
The province, the complaint said, also purchased P5.5 million worth of fuel, both gasoline and diesel, at costs higher by P15.48 and P14.49, respectively, than prevailing market prices.
Sixteen mayors launched on March 24, 2022 a “Crusade for Good Governance for the Boholanos,” aimed primarily at airing allegations of corruption against Yap.
These included his allegedly favoring a Chinese firm that displaced residents in a cacao plantation to shutting down local government projects, like a river quarry, only to let friends take over.
Rappler tried to get in touch with Yap, but did not get a reply.
Many of the complaints against him were raised during the 2022 election campaign period and Yap told reporters then that these formed part of a strategy to destroy his re-election chances. – Inday Espina-Varona/Rappler.com