TWO private contractors will face trial for allegedly pressuring the chairman of Toledo City Government’s Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to conduct a bidding for a project involving the city hospital’s water system, even though it had already been completed.
Assistant City Prosecutor Ingrid Sagmon, in her resolution dated Jan. 18, 2024, found enough evidence to charge respondents construction company owner Novo Dalapo and Cerenia Apurado with grave coercion, a violation of Article 286 of the Revised Penal Code, before the Municipal Trial Court in Cities.
City Legal Officer Hazan Bargamento, who chairs the BAC, filed the complaint against the respondents on Dec. 19, 2023. He accused Dalapo and Apurado of urging him to proceed with the bidding, despite the discrepancies, for the additional works related to the proposed improvement of Toledo City Hospital’s water system in Barangay Poblacion that has an approved budget of P920,611.69.
Bargamento, in his complaint, said there was no need to conduct a bidding for additional works because these had already been completed by Dalapo’s construction firm.
The specifics of the additional works were not discussed in the resolution.
The Toledo City Prosecutor’s Office set the bail at P18,000 each for Dalapo and Apurado. The respondents denied the allegations in their joint counter-affidavit.
In his complaint, Bargamento said Dalapo and Apurado, accompanied by Dalapo’s employee Wenceslao Martinez, visited the City Legal Office in Barangay Sangi in June 2023.
The respondents asked Bargamento about the documents concerning the additional works for the hospital’s water system improvement project.
Dalapo and Apurado then allegedly demanded that Bargamento must conduct bidding for the “additional works,” telling the BAC chairman that they had a go-signal from a certain individual in the government.
Dalapo’s construction company won the government contracts for the city hospital’s water system improvement. His company received the notice to proceed with the project on Aug. 11, 2021.
In March 2023, Bargamento noticed a request for posting and bidding for Dalapo’s representative for the additional works worth P212,231.25. It was accompanied by a bid envelope that contained the project’s details.
Bargamento checked the request, and he observed that there was already an existing program for the additional works that cover the same project and the same amount.
He also found out that there was no posting of the bidding details on the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System or Philgeps, which is the centralized e-portal that serves as the primary source of information on government procurement. Bargamento also discovered that there was no schedule set for dropping and opening of bids.
He observed Dalapo’s construction company had already performed and completed the project without going through the necessary procurement process. With his findings, Bargamento asked the BAC secretariat to stop any action on the bid envelope from Dalapo’s company as it would be illegal to proceed with the project that had already been executed.
In a meeting with Dalapo and Apurado, Bargamento alleged that he was threatened by the respondents, telling him they have “friends in high places.” This was after Bargamento refused their demands to proceed with the bidding for the additional works.
The respondents also told Bargamento, “Bantay lang ka (You better watch out).”
Later on, Bargamento was informed by Martinez, who stands as his witness, that the respondents were planning to fabricate a case against him as retaliation for his refusal.
Martinez, an engineer and employee of Novo Dalapo Construction from 2020 to 2023, said in his affidavit that he had witnessed the whole June 2023 incident.
As the engineer-in-charge of the city hospital project, Martinez said he knew the project was already completed by Novo Dalapo Construction, in September 2021.
He testified that the respondents tried to fabricate a story that Bargamento had asked for money from them. Martinez refused to execute an affidavit and side with the respondents.
In their joint counter-affidavit, Dalapo and Apurado denied the accusation against them, saying they never visited the complainant’s office in June 2023.
Dalapo and Apurado said that Bargamento’s accusation was a product of his “wild imagination,” and the elements of grave coercion crime were not met in this case.
They argued that both of them are “ordinary contractors” and Bargamento filed the case against them as retaliation after they filed a complaint against him for Republic Act 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. The respondents further said that no police report would corroborate Bargamento’s accusations against them.
They also assailed the credibility of Martinez, saying he went absent without official leave with Dalapo’s company for another construction firm.
They further accused Martinez of presenting a bidding document of another construction firm, even though he was still connected with Dalapo Construction.
This was corroborated by Edna Ano-os, accounting clerk of the Dalapo Construction, with documents citing Martinez as representative of another construction despite being employed by Dalapo’s company.
Bargamento filed a motion on Dec. 19, 2023, asking the entire Toledo City Prosecutor’s Office to voluntarily inhibit in resolving the case as the respondents were allegedly friends with members of the office.
However, Sagmon denied the motion, saying she was not a friend of the respondents.
Sagmon resolved the complaint, and found enough evidence that the respondents had committed grave coercion for threatening Bargamento.
“Such threat caused him to experience severe stress. Moreover, as highlighted by the complainant, it appears that the respondents committed the acts complained of without authority of the law and not in the exercise of any lawful right,” reads a portion of Sagmon’s resolution.