THIS is a continuation of my column last Saturday titled “Transparency and accountability,” referring to the donations and construction of the various quarantine facilities initiated by the Cebu City Government. In that column, I asked for the list of donors and expenses from lawyer and former city councilor Jocelyn Pesquera, who is the overseer of Project Noah, a quarantine facility constructed at the South Road Properties (SRP).
Prior to writing it, I discussed the issue in my radio dySS program where I got a somewhat “unpleasant” response from Pesquera, telling me to ask the documents I needed from their donors, and not from her, adding that some of their sponsors would not want to divulge their identities in public. She invited me to a tour of the Project Noah complex so she could provide me with the documents.
Pesquera said the project, which now houses Covid-19 positives, is a public-private partnership (PPP). She said Noah’s complex is a PPP project spearheaded by the City Government. A Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with Bigfoot passed through the City Council and was duly signed by Mayor Edgardo Labella.
Before the facility started accepting patients, it made sure that it secured Department of Health (DOH) accreditation. “We have Noah operating procedures and all are expected to comply, including the patients who will stay at the facility. We have house rules,” Pesquera said.
Still, there are questions. Who appointed her to oversee the construction of the project? What is her status? Is she considered a government employee or a private individual? Although, I learned that she had been appointed to another position at City Hall, such as in the tourism office. Or is she just a volunteer? If she is a volunteer, then she is not entitled to solicit and accept donations. She would have no legal personality and public accountability. Any donation should be officially received by the City Government considering that the project is a government-initiated one.
She also said she had been using in advance her personal funds for the project through her credit card. Pesquera said, “We even have almost P1 million in expenses (materials and supplies purchased), charged to my credit card, but still no sponsor yet. By Monday, (This text messages were received last week-BN) I will have a problem on how to pay the credit card due.
“I have used up all my savings to pay all the materials and supplies when needed by our workers and hoping I can receive the reimbursements. I spent not only my services but also money. And I am not receiving any salary from the government. I volunteered to help so as to alleviate the sufferings of our people and it’s no joke.
“When you criticize Noah, you are directly hitting me because I am the one who oversees the project from scratch. It really pains me. With the threat of Covid-19, we don’t know when will be our time. By taking care of our Covid patients, I increase my risk of being infected. Everyday my prayer is to ask God to let me finish my mission and after that I will be happy to be with Him.”
I can sympathize with her predicament. But, for the information of Ms. Pesquera, I did not criticize the project. In fact, I admired it as it is a noble thing to help Covid patients. But I can only surmise why Pesquera is doing this great sacrifice, to the extent of her using her own resources. What are her reasons? And, is she expecting a refund? From whom? From the City Government or the sponsors? In statements to the media, officials have said that all donations are accounted for. If that’s the case, who received the donations? Just asking.