TAGBILARAN CITY, Bohol . The Ombudsman has reversed the earlier dismissal of the case and instead has approved a Resolution to charge incumbent and
former Bohol officials led by then Gov., now Congressman Rene L. Relampagos (1st dist) for violation of section 3, paragraph (g) of Republic Act No. 3019, as amended, known as Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in connection with the privatization of then Provincial Public Utilities Department (PPUD) owned by the province. Section 3, par. (g) provides, Entering, on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby.
Named respondents in the Ombudsman Resolution, aside from Relampagos, are then Vice-Gov. Edgar M. Chatto now an incumbent governor; provincial board
members Tomas D. Abapo, Jr.; Arnold R. Lungay, Felix R. Uy, Isabelito B. Tongco, Eufrasio M. Mascariñas, Exequiel A. Madriñan, Francisco Alesna, Sr., Severino S. Caberte (deceased), Concepcion O. Lim who is now vice-governor, Renato D. Lim (deceased), Lemuel C. Digal, former provincial legal officer Inocentes C. Lopez, former planning officer Juanito Cambangay (deceased) and Salcon owner Dennis Villareal.
Not included in the chages are then provincial board members Godofreda O. Tirol and Roberto Cajes since they abstained from voting of the endorsement of the joint venture with Salcon company. Tirol is now the incumbent board member of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan. Cajes once served as congressman of the second district of Bohol. The complainants include Atty. Victor de la Serna, Atty. Zotico Ochavillo, Atty. Nerio Zamora (deceased), Atty. Paulino Clarin, Andres Sarmiento, Atty. Alexander H. Lim, Sofronio Corloncito, Wilfrido Gatal, Zenaido Rama, Atty. Aster Apalisok-Piollo, Atty. Myrna Trabajo Pagsuberon, and Zenaida Darunday. They filed the said case sometime in 1999 before the office of the Ombudsman regional office. The said case is docketed as OMB-VIS-CRIM-2000-1040 based on the said Resolution, Dela Serna said in an interview.
Dela Serna, who once served as officer-in-charge as governor of Bohol, said he did not expect it to be reversed since the case they filed sometime in 1999 or 15 years ago was dismissed by former Ombudsman due to lack of merit. The complainants charged the said officials of under-valuation of the assets — power and water systems — of the provincial government when it was privatized, which they claimed as disadvantageous to the government.
Deputy Special Prosecutor John I. C. Turalba, who recommended the filing of charges against the above-named respondents, signed the said Resolution on August 5, 2013 but Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales signed it (Resolution) only on August 5, 2014. The said Resolution was only received by Dela Serna on September 16, 2014, more than a year it was promulgated. For his part, Relampagos said in an interview with the FREEMAN yesterday that he was surprised that the case was resurrected years after it was dismissed by the Ombudsman.
He said that the criminal case was dismissed by then Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro on February 22, 2001 for no ground to justify their indictment in court. How come it’s resurrected, he asked. In a Resolution signed by CAsimiro, the Ombudnsman has this to say in dismissing the said case. All in all, the respondents have shown that if only against the impressive value the subject utilities have the potential to achieve, which unfortunately for the present time is a mere projection, there can be no undervaluation to speak of as in fact it would be quite propitious for the province to be able to dispose of the utilities at the
cost of the Salcon consortia offered to pay despite their negative worth.
Relampagos said there might be some sort of blatant disregard of circumstances on the part of Ombudsman in reversing its earlier decision. He is surprised because he knew that there was no motion for reconsideration from the petitioners when Ombdsman dismissed the case in 2001. Relampagos said that during his stewardship as governor, Bohol entered into the venture with Salcon company to solve the perennial problem of water and electric services used to be run by the provincial government. He said the power rates now being served by the Bohol Light company, who now managed the utility, is the lowest in town.
Both the power and water utilities, being run by Bohol Water Utilities, Inc., serve the city area only for now. The former governor (Relampagos) said that since their privatization, the province has already earned some PhP45 million as share from both the utilities, representing 30% of the total share retain by the provincial government under the joint venture agreement (JVA). This writer tried but failed to contact other respondents like Gov. Edgar Chatto, who still in Cambodia for tourism affair. Some board members, who are still incumbents but included in the charges were out of town to attend a convention in Mindanao, Capitol sources said. (RVO)