Town mayor, councilor face graft charges

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Thursday, January 5, 2012


LA TRINIDAD, Benguet -- Mayor Greg Abalos is facing charges filed in the Office of the Ombudsman over the controversial Black Hole project, also known the Zero Waste Management System technology.
  
The Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon received the affidavit complaint of Enrique Lando and Norman Simsim on December 31 for dishonesty, grave misconduct as well as violations of anti-graft and corrupt practices.

The entire council is also included in the complaint.
  
Lando and Simsim alleged in their complaint, “The municipal mayor was not authorized to enter into a MOA (memorandum of agreement) and the transaction of the machine was shrouded with anomalies.”
  
To recall, the municipality of La Trinidad, represented by Abalos, and the NGO Support System Inc., the Japanese corporation supplying the Black Hole project, entered into a MOA on May 13. The foreign technology, aimed to solve the growing garbage woes of the developing municipality, is valued at P58 million.
  
Abalos launched the Black Hole Project November 4.
  
However, Abalos said there is no basis in the complaint. "These people have an axe to grind," he said, claiming that Lando and Simsim were employees of the municipality before they faced individual suspension notices.
  
Last year, Simsim of the Municipal Planning and Development Office was suspended for three years, while Lando served a 90-day suspension.
  
Both were found liable of dishonesty, grave misconduct, receiving for personal use of a free gift or other valuable things in the course of official duties or in connection therewith, soliciting or accepting directly or indirectly any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment loan of anything of monetary value and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of service.
  
In their complaint, Simsim and Lando said the procurement process of getting the said Super Black Hole, such as bidding as provided with the law, "were not complied with."
  
The complaint said an advance payment in the amount of P7 million was immediately paid to the supplier of the machine sourced out from the Cooperative Bank of Benguet in the guise of financial assistance but is actually a loan secured by a promissory note signed by the municipal mayor, the terms of which were not divulged to all concerned and the proceeds of which were collected by the municipal mayor through his office personnel Teofilo Langato Jr. by way of an authorization signed by the municipal mayor without the participation of the municipal treasurer and other agencies concerned.
  
"There was no official receipt, only an acknowledgement receipt under the letterhead office of the mayor that was issued by the supplier, Mr. Wisdom Amanah, for the amount received," the complaint read.
  
The complainants added that the effectiveness of the machine and its pricing did not undergo proper validation as only executive and legislative officials of the Municipal Government who were presumably wined and dined in Japan and who did not posses any technical qualifications to evaluate the machine made the inspection at the expense of the supplier, as clearly stated in the MOA. The mayor and the councilors did not release any report on their inspection, the complainants said.
    
If the technology is adopted by the municipality, Japanese partners will highlight the town as a showcase of their invention and even give a two percent royalty for every unit purchased by other municipalities in the country.
  
Simsim and Lando said the amount of P58 million to buy the super Black Hole is too much for a machine that is not yet tested, not even by wealthier local government units or advanced countries. Moreover, there is no available fund for it allotted by the Municipal Government of La Trinidad. "It is only now that the municipal officials are frantically railroading the application for a loan with the Land bank of the Philippines," the complaints said.
  
Recently, a petition floated in the Valley in protest to the Black Hole project.

But Abalos is confident there is nothing anomalous in the Black Hole project adding, “The Ombudsman will require us to answer the complaint and we will do that in due time.”

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Published in the Sun.Star Baguio newspaper on January 06, 2012.

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