THE executive investigation on the Capitol’s purchase of the Balili resort has been terminated, but the members want a consensus in making recommendations.
This is why even after three drafts, the panel has yet to release the results.
Capitol consultant on information and revenue generation Rory Jon Sepulveda, a lawyer and member of the panel, explained each of the seven members was assigned to critique the drafts. He would not say who prepared the drafts.
When the panel members arrive at a consensus, a formal report will be presented to Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia. It will come out before the elections, assured Sepulveda.
Just like the legislative inquiry, the executive panel is also being careful with the results of its fact-finding investigation.
Sepulveda said the panel also considered if its findings would contradict those of the other investigations and if they have jurisdiction over issues presented in the report.
The Capitol’s purchase of the P98.9-million Balili property in Tinaan, Naga became controversial when it was found that part of the property was submerged in water or covered with mangroves, although the Province received clean titles for it.
A separate inquiry by the Provincial Board (PB) has also been terminated. But the findings in a draft report are also being kept under wraps.
Vice Gov. Gregorio Sanchez, one of only two opposition members in the PB, wanted a special session to tackle the Balili controversy, so that it will be open to the public as well.
But PB Members Peter John Calderon and Victor Maambong agreed it is not necessary. Each member only needs to get a copy of a draft and sign to indicate whether he concurs or objects, said Maambong.
Sepulveda also said a special session is not necessary because the board has a regular session every Monday.
“He’s over-acting,” said Sepulveda of the vice governor.
The executive panel has members from three departments: the executive department with Capitol consultants and lawyers Sepulveda and Manolette Dinsay and Provincial Planning and Development Office Chief Adolfo Quiroga; the legislative department with PB Members Calderon, Maambong and Agnes Magpale; and the justice department, represented by Atty. Medardo de Lemos, director of the National Bureau of Investigation 7. De Lemos serves as the panel’s chairman.
Sepulveda said one of the concerns of the panel is that the findings might contradict that of the other investigations. But three members of the executive panel are also members of the PB ad hoc committee investigating the controversy.
The panel also has to contend with possible insinuations of whitewash, if no administrative liability is raised.
And if there are certain employees or officials implicated to be responsible for the transaction’s flaws, Sepulveda said the panel also questioned if it has jurisdiction over them.
On the part of the PB, the procedure, as explained by Maambong, is that all members will be given a copy of the draft of the findings and recommendations as prepared by PB Member Joven Mondigo Jr., co-chairman of the committee of the whole.
Last Monday, the board received letters from Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas Virginia Palanca-Santiago, asking for updates on the Balili inquiry as well as the status of the coal ash dump site project.
Sanchez urged that the Balili investigative report be hastened so that the board can answer the Office of the Ombudsman.
As for the letter referring to the coal ash, the board forwarded it to the Office of the Governor.
It stemmed from the complaint of lawyers Gloria Estenzo-Ramos and Benjamin Cabrido on the purchase of the property and the execution of the memorandum of agreement with the Korean Electric Power Corp. (Kepco).
The lawyers are dismayed by the planned dumping of coal ash in the property, part of which the Capitol wants to reclaim.
But Sepulveda said there is no dumping yet and if the environmental agency prohibits the dumping of coal ash and the sale of fly ash to cement manufacturers as an additive, then the Province will not pursue the plan.
The Capitol, he added, will return the US$500,000 that Kepco gave Capitol as advance payment for the deal under the MOA, if the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) 7 bars the MOA’s enforcement.
Under the agreement, Kepco agreed to pay the Province $1 per ton as ash disposal service fee, with escalating rates over 25 years.
Kepco and Doosan Heavy Industries passed a toxicity level testing by a private company.
Last year, the Capitol released a certificate of analysis from Ostrea Mineral Laboratories Inc., which showed that seven chemicals were analyzed and all passed the DENR Administrative Order (DAO) 29 standard.
The MOA, though, was amended by the board that no dumping will be done until an environmental compliance certificate is acquired. (JGA)