City official ‘debunks’ claim of private security agency

Cebu City Hall (File photo)
Cebu City Hall (File photo)

A CEBU City official has refuted the claim of the owner of its private security agency that it did not provide the latter a 30-day notice before the termination of a contract that was supposed to end in 2025.

In a phone interview on Thursday, Nov. 2, 2023, Cebu City Administrator Collin Rosell said the GDS knew about the pre-termination as early as August this year.

He also cited various reasons for contract termination, including a violent July incident when a security guard allegedly assaulted one of Mayor Michael Rama’s staff.

Marjorie Sun-Ng, the owner of the GDS security agency, the city hall’s security provider, accused the city government (when she visited Cebu City Hall on Tuesday, Oct. 31.) of not providing them due process, with the alleged lack of 30-day notice for termination.

The GDS security agency’s contract with the city ended on Nov. 1, according to acting city mayor Raymond Alvin Garcia.

Rosell, however, said the GDS was able to file a lawsuit against the city government and requested for a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) to stop the contract’s pre-termination, but it was denied by the court.

He said the case filed against the city government is enough support that the city informed the agency beforehand.

“They have the documents, so let the paperwork speak for itself,” he said in a mix of English and Cebuano.

He said the case was filed sometime in August this year.

SunStar Cebu has yet to get the side of the GDS on this matter.

Reasons for termination

When asked about the reason behind the termination of the contract, Rosell cited multiple reasons, including poor performance, a violent incident involving a security guard, and the illegal storage of guns by the agency’s personnel during the Comelec gun ban.

Rosell recalled a violent incident that happened in July that involved a GDS security agency employee allegedly punching one of Mayor Rama’s staff.

As to illegal storage of guns, Rosell said the local police had already inspected the firearms stored in city hall, confirming the presence of at least 20 firearms, including shotguns. When discussing this with the security agency owner, they claimed having difficulty in turning over these firearms, he said.

Storing guns within the city hall during a gun ban, from Aug. 28 until Nov. 29, is against the law and carries legal consequences, Rosell said.

“Maglibog ko nganong ni jump nasad og laing istorya. Nganong maglisod man ka’g transport sa armas nga supposed to be magkuha man ta kag certificate of authority June 5 pa, naay circular, and that has been done by the Comelec every election, nya karon gi store diha,” Rosell said.

(I’m puzzled why they’re bringing up another issue. Why is it so challenging to transport firearms when we were supposed to obtain a certificate of authority on June 5, as per the circular issued by the Comelec for every election, and it has been done, but now they are stored there.)

Fate of security guards

When asked if the security guards would lose their jobs after the termination of the contract, Rosell said that the usual trend is there will only be a change of agency. He said most of the security personnel in the city hall have been there for almost nine years, while the GDS security agency existed in the city just three years ago.

“Kanang mga gwardya diha are (Those guards are) not really from them (GDS). Pagsulod ana nila, way back pila pa ka administration, lainlain man gud og agency (When they started, several administrations ago, they came from different agencies). Pagsulod sa agency, (When the GDS came in) gitawag na nila’g ilis sinina ra (it was, for them, a change of uniform only),” he said.

Contract

The GDS agency secured a three-year contract to supply security guards for the city hall, effective from Sept. 1, 2022, to Aug. 31, 2025, with the option for annual renewal.

In a circulating Facebook video, Sun-Ng claimed that the city’s early termination of their contract was unlawful. She also alleged that they were not afforded due process and that political motivations were behind this action.

She said GDS received a letter in September this year notifying them that the contract would not be renewed. However, on Sept. 11, the city government extended the contract for another 15 days while the bidding process for a new security service to replace GDS was ongoing.

She said another security agency is ready to assume her agency’s post, but doing this is illegal since the Technical Working Group (TWG) is not done yet with the post-qualification process.

She said without post qualification, the TWG cannot yet recommend the participating bidder to the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) and that if there are still no recommendations, it means there is still no notice of award, contract, performance bond, and notice to proceed.

She said this is giving an undue advantage to the bidder, which is punishable by law.

City Hall ‘still guarded’

Garcia, in a phone interview, on Wednesday, Nov. 1, said under standard operating procedure, it is the Civil Security Unit (CSU) that will temporarily fill in the posts of the 214 security guards at city hall once the contract with the latter is not granted an extension.

The CSU is the main security force of the Cebu City Government, which is not hired by any security agency

He said he already settled the issue with Sun-Ng, instructing the latter that if CSU is not capable of taking over the posts of the 214 guards in the city hall, the City will extend their contract and Sun-Ng agreed.

About the allegations made by GDS, Garcia said he talked with BAC secretariat Henry Tumalabcab who said that the committee has already chosen a bidder, but they are not done yet with the post qualification.

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