Fighting Capitol

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014


AFTER six months of studying the issue, the Capitol has decided not to pay the contractors whose services were engaged by the previous provincial administration to undertake public works projects, including at least two hospitals, for the province.

His political opponents will laugh at him if he does that, Gov. Junjun Davide explained.

And why would they be laughing at him? Because he would be paying for their faults, he said.

“Fault,” according to Davide, was the failure of then governor Gwendolyn Garcia to secure the approval of the Provincial Board before she hired the contractors in violation of the Local Government Code. But can the approval not come later? Davide did not say.

Earlier, he had announced that it was up to the Provincial Board to decide whether to ratify Gwen’s infrastructure contracts or not. The implication was that if the contracts were ratified, the lack of authority would be cured.

But that was last week. This time, he seems to have denied that option from the contractors. They can go to the court, he said. He didn’t say they can go to the Provincial Board.

This latest development once again illustrates the perils of doing business with government. The contractors can claim dealing with the governor in good faith but whether that’s enough to entitle them to payment remains to be seen.

So what happens to the projects? The governor said that he will not abandon them, especially the hospitals. He will find a way to finish them.

That should raise another legal issue. If the contractors prosecuted these projects in good faith, spending their own money for the purpose, can the government just take over without at least reimbursing them for their expenses?

The law says that no one should unjustly enrich himself at the expense of another. The law also says that anyone who exercises a right or performs a duty must, among others, give everyone his due.

The contractors are not blameless because they consented to an arrangement that was not normal. They knew or ought to have known that when a governor enters into a contract in behalf of the province, he or she should normally be armed with an authority from the Provincial Board.

Why didn’t these contractors insist that Garcia present the appropriate Board resolution before signing their contract with her? Or was there any contract at all?

Now, they are being dared to sue the Province. That move would be neither wise nor prudent for the businessmen. You don’t fight Capitol. But under the circumstances they don’t seem to have much of a choice.

***

Get your act together. That was the message that Cebu City Vice Mayor Edgar Labella sent the office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas and the regional director of
the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Deputy Ombudsman Pelagio Apostol said he has spoken with Labella and that he has advised the latter to secure a permit from the DSWD for its “Piso Mo, Hospital Ko” fund campaign. Labella was, however, told by the DSWD that they will not issue such a permit because it is unnecessary under the provisions of the Local Government Code.

So what should the Deputy Ombudsman do now? Direct the DSWD to accept the city’s application for a solicitation permit? Is Apostol’s office clothed with that power? In the meantime that the city has not secured a permit, will Apostol stop the city’s campaign to raise funds to help build a new medical center?

Or should the deputy ombudsman just respect the DSWD’s interpretation of the law and focus his attention on the many cases now pending before his office? It would not be such a bad idea, is it?

(frank.otherside@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on January 16, 2014.

Opinion

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