To Bid Or Not To Bid

    I am once again thrilled by the powered responses to this blog by TagaBulans who are really concern about our town and its leaders. At least, for one, this is a positive sign that we will no longer treat elections lightly. Nor are we just going to turn a blind eye on corruption no matter how petty.

     Rudy Bellen and our latest expat reader, Letty, drove the point clearly and quite poignantly: We must do something about our town and it should start with a positive mindset. (I hope Jun Asuncion could write something about this, from the point of view of psychology, changing the mindset of our kabungtos that the issue of corruption is just for politicians to settle. Or worse, for them to take advantage of during elections.)

     I would also like to welcome Rai and Angel who shared their “disappointments” about our “chosen” town leaders. They both, however, shared their optimism of a brighter future for Bulan and the rest of the country.

     Rudy Bellen, though, expressed a very valid concern of this blogging “exercise” that we are all engaged in, that, according to him, we should not allow ourselves to be reduced to mere “tsimosos and tsimosas” by hurling accusations without a solid backing of evidence. In the early evening news tonight, former Solicitor General Marcelo, was also talking about “evidence” to build a really tight case against corrupt officials. Reason why we, the petitioners in the Mandamus case against Bulan Mayor Rosa de Castro, are very careful in gathering evidence in Bulan’s most expensive bus terminal.

     The petition for mandamus, if I may explain again, is resorted to by the petitioners precisely to give the conjugal leadership of Geming and Rosa de Castro a chance to dispel all doubts on the real cost of the bus terminal project and certain collateral issues, like the violation of the Agrarian Reform Law, where a tenant of the De Castro’s was illegally removed and that there was no proper conversion of the land from agricultural to commercial use. Or the violation of the government Procurement Act which is very similar to the controversial ZTE broadband project of the Arroyo administration.

     The Bulan Central Bus Terminal suffers the same criticism that the project (bus terminal) did not go through the process of a transparent competitive bidding as required by the Government Procurement Act of 2003 and why did the De Castro’s not opt for a less controversial Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) scheme which is more beneficial to the government. A BOT scheme would not involve substantial capital outlay on the part of the local government.

     Moreover, there are allegations too, that the feasibility study supposedly prepared to determine the viability of the bus terminal, was rigged to favor the approval of the P40 million loan from the Land Bank. According to the petitioners, Land Bank was duped into believing that the Bulan-Masbate trade was so vibrant and that the bus terminal would draw most of its income from Masbate commuters precisely because of this supposed strong trade ties between Masbate and Bulan. What the De Castros did not reveal to Landbank is that half, if not all of Masbate traders now do business with Pilar, Sorsogon rather than with Bulan due to the unresolved problems in porterage and some administrative lapses in the port.

     These allegations of corruption are even aggravated by the fact that no bidding was conducted on who should do the feasibility study considering that the cost of the study itself is about P2 million. Diri yuon karawkaraw, feasibility study pa lang, dos milyones na!

     When I asked Geming (during our face-off over Imbing Asuncion’s Radyo Patrol program) whether a study was conducted to determine the viability and rationale of a bus terminal outside Bulan’s poblacion, he quickly retorted, there is. He said it was Junio M. Ragragio who did the study. He then taunted me to jot down Ragragio’s address if I would care to verify.

     What probably slipped Geming’s beautiful mind was that I knew Jun Ragragio from way back. He was Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Chief of Staff in the Senate who moved to the Batasan to work for then Cong. Tessie Aquino-Oreta.

     But that’s not what intrigues me. Jun Ragragio is from Magallanes, Sorsogon who had confided to me his close blood ties with Geming de Castro. He and Geming both descended from the de Castro clan of Magallanes, Sorsogon. Without putting to question Jun Ragragio’s capability as a consulting service provider, the de Castros’ choice of a blood relative, however, may involve a question of propriety.

     Again, to give the conjugal administration of Geming and Rosa a chance to show to all TagaBulans that everything about the Bulan Bus Terminal Project is above-board is to make public all its records, documents and papers, which includes whether the choice of Ragragio as a consulting service provider was a result of “competitive bidding” required by law. If so, who were the bidders who were outbidded by Ragragio, their eligibility as well as the “specific requirements and mechanics” required of them by the local government.

      The same is true with the process the De Castros adopted in the contractor of the bus terminal. Mayor De Castro claims that the contract to build the bus terminal was awarded to Baldon Construction Supply of Shirley Baldon of Pampang, Sorsogon City.

     A check with the profile of this “construction company” showed that it is a single proprietorship with no known qualifications to undertake projects of this nature.

     But what the De Castros cannot show is whether or not a competitive bidding was conducted before they awarded the bus terminal project to Baldon Construction. What they showed only was a notice or invitation to bid as published in Philippine Star newspaper. Perhaps Rosa thought, the TagaBulans are that stupid, that we would be easily duped into believing that an “invitation to bid” is the same as the bidding itself.

     The De Castros may be “smart”, but we are not stupid!

     Amidst the clamor for the production of all official records, documents and papers pertaining the bus terminal, Rosa et. al., circulated a malicious rumor that the Petition for Mandamus was dismissed by the court a quo and warned petitioners to “better prepare themselves” for a multi-million damage suit that they (the De Castros) intend to file against the petitioners.

     Does that sound familiar?

     Grafters and corrupt officials trapped by the truth, always threaten truth advocates with libel and/or damage suit.

     Ironically, however, when the case was called for hearing last February 11 at the sala of the Regional Trial Court in Sorsogon City, neither Rosa De Castro nor her lawyer was present which prompted the presiding judge to issue a stern warning to them. The De Castro camp’s silence is deafening. Those who received “xeroxed” copies of the petition’s supposed “Order of Dimissal” (sent by Bulan’s Public Information Office) are now wondering why they were not sent copies of the petitioners’ Motion for Reconsideration considering that taxpapeyers’ money was used by Bulan’s PIO in circulating the “Order of Dismissal”. Does the PIO believe that only news or information favorable to Rosa deserved to be circulated?

         Well, as they themselves proclaim, pulitika lang ‘yan!