Bel-Air Scam – barangay level corruption at Barangay Bel-Air Makati, yes Makati!
Graft Bel-Air style
August 28, 2013 11:00 pm
by Joel M. Sy Egco Assignments EditorTHERE is an old notion that rich people do not steal but recent studies have exploded this myth.
In January 2012, researchers from the universities of California and Toronto who conducted seven studies that used experimental and naturalistic methods found out that rich people “are more apt to behave unethically than those who had less money.”
Experts noted that the “relative independence” and “increased privacy” of the affluent make them more likely to cheat, break the law or behave badly toward others.
“. . . unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed,” the study, published in the Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences, said.
Wealthy Filipinos are no exception, if reports about the massive misuse of public money by the rich and powerful are to be believed.
The names of the powerful and the wealthy have been dragged into the controversy involving the abuse and misuse of billions of pesos granted to lawmakers as their Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or “pork barrel.”
At least five senators, several congressmen, local executives and traders have been embroiled in the controversy which, on Monday, led to the biggest protest rally so far during the time of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
But corruption is not confined to the hallowed halls of Congress. It persists even in the most basic or smallest unit of government—the barangay—which operates using funds from tax collections and the internal revenue allotment (IRA) share of a certain town or city.
Corruption occurs in rich and poor barangays, and it manifests in various forms—a garbage contract that runs in the millions or simply in the award of a food supply contract to a favored bidder, who may turn out to be a relative or even the husband or a daughter-in-law of a local elective official.
The Bel-Air experience
Take for instance the string of criminal and administrative charges that have been filed against officials of Barangay Bel-Air, a wealthy enclave in the heart of Makati City’s upscale district.
Bel-Air officials were charged for allegedly favoring a private food supplier whose registered owners are close relatives of the incumbent village chief, Constancia “Nene” Lichauco.
Based on documents obtained by The Manila Times, incumbent and former officials of Bel-Air had been the subject of an investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman.
Besides Lichauco, councilor Conchita Caluag and Leonila Querijero, budget chief of the University of Makati City, were even recommended for a six-month suspension “without pay” by the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office (FIO) in February.
Likewise named respondents in the case were Zoilo Lindo, former barangay treasurer; Karen Mendoza, former councilor; Ignacio Macrohon, Jr., former chairman of the committee on canvass; and Rosario Dimayuga, also a former a councilor and member of the canvass committee.
The case stemmed from a P116,900 service contract allegedly signed by Lichauco with Two Chefs Corporation, a local food provider, for the supply of food and drinks during a supposed Sangguniang Barangay meeting in March 2007; Pasinaya Parade in April 2007; and Flores de Mayo in May 2007.
On March 12, 2007 a purchase request was prepared by Lindo Jr., then the barangay treasurer. Lichauco approved the request.
The next day, the committee on canvass submitted an Abstract of Canvass and Award, naming Two Chefs Corporation as the choice supplier, having offered “the lowest and most reasonable price obtainable in the market at the time of the canvass.”
It was later established that Two Chefs was represented by Patricia Warren-Lichauco, the barangay captain’s daughter-in-law.
It gets more interesting. Based on another set of documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) obtained by the Times, the incorporators of the catering firm are Lichauco’s own husband, Francisco; her son, German Lichauco 2nd; and other daughters-in-law, Ma. Liza Jabson Lichauco and Maria Teresa Roxas Lichauco.
The Lichaucos were also named as private respondents in the recommended criminal case.
Investigators found out that the canvass done on March 13, where two other food suppliers—Kusinerong Pinoy Catering Services and Marj Food and Catering Services—appeared to be a moro-moro or sham because the service contract with Two Chefs had been signed and notarized as early as March 2, 2007, or 11 days prior to the actual canvass.
Even the Commission on Audit (COA) branch in Makati City claimed that the service contract dated March 2, 2007 of Two Chefs Corp “does not include a Sanggunian Resolution or ordinance authorizing the Punong Barangay of Barangay Bel-Air to enter into said contract.”
During an investigation by Associate Graft Investigative Officer 3 Janice O. Baltazar, who recommended the filing of charges against the respondents on Valentine’s Day this year, it was gathered that Fernando Zuñiga, who was the barangay secretary in 2007, said he “cannot recall if there was a Barangay Resolution passed.”
The present barangay secretary, on the other hand, reasoned out that the resolution was “either misplaced or lost” due to the transfer of offices of the barangay hall.
Baltazar immediately sensed something was wrong. “The act of issuing said documents including the Certificate of Purchase and delivery of Supplies is merely a scheme to make it appear that the transaction with respondent Two Chefs Corporation is not tainted with any irregularity by showing that the service contract was executed in accordance [with] the result of a personal canvass, when in fact, no such personal canvass was made by [Lichauco] for purposes of availing a catering service from a dealer with the lowest offer,” she said.
“The series of events, conditions and circumstances lead to the fact that there is conspiracy among the abovementioned public officials/employees and private individuals. Taken altogether, each and everyone of them contributed and participated in the realization of the illicit purpose of favoring or preferring [Two Chefs]…” the graft investigator said.
Baltazar said that Lichauco, “in conspiracy” with the other officials and the favored bidder, “violated Section 3 (e) of RA [Republic Act] 3019 otherwise known as the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act” by giving undue advantage to Two Chefs “through evident bad faith, manifest partiality or, at the very least, through gross inexcusable negligence.”
Likewise, the respondents violated Article 171 paragraph 4 (falsification by public officer/employee by making untruthful statements in a narration of facts) of the Revised Penal Code when they issued the Price Canvass reports, Abstract of Canvass and Award, Purchase request “which showed that a personal canvass was conducted for the purpose of securing a service contract when in fact there was none.”
Lichauco “further violated the same law when she signed the service contract stating that she is authorized to act in behalf of the barangay when in fact there is no showing from the records that she is indeed authorized,” Baltazar said.
The investigator noted that the respondents violated Section 3 (h) of RA 3019, which prohibits officials from “directly or indirectly having financial or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
Baltazar said the respondents could be liable for serious dishonesty, grave misconduct, falsification of official document and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service under the rules of the Civil Service Commission.
However, Macrohon Jr., Mendoza, Lindo, Jr., and Dimayuga can no longer be charged administratively because they are no longer connected with the government.
(To be continued)