Imee admits no bidding in vehicle purchase but insists ‘no corruption’

July 25, 2017 - 10:16 AM
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos (second from left) at the House hearing into the allegedly anomalous purchase of vehicles using the tobacco tax. Flanking her are former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile (back to camera) and her mother, (partly hidden) Ilocos Norte Rep. Imelda Marcos. (photo by Lira Dalangin-Fernandez, InterAksyon)

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE – 1:45 p.m.) Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos admitted on Tuesday that the purchase of P66.45 million worth of vehicles by the provincial government did not go through public bidding but maintained that the deal had been cleared by the Commission on Audit and was thus aboveboard.

Marcos appeared at the inquiry of the House of Representatives’ committee on good government and public accountability — after skipping four earlier hearings — into the allegedly anomalous purchase of vehicles using the province’s share of the tobacco excise tax, insisting “no corruption” and “no ghost purchases” accompanied the deal.

Her earlier snubs earned her a subpoena and a threat of arrest if she did not show up. Six Ilocos Norte employees have been detained at the Batasan complex since May after being found it contempt for supposedly refusing to cooperate with the probe.

Walang corruption kailanman na naganap, walang ghost purchases (No corruption ever happened, no ghost purchases),” Marcos, who once was a member of the House, told her former colleagues in a statement she read at the start of Tuesday’s hearing of the committee on good government and public accountability.

The P66.45 million was used for the following:

  • 6 million on December 1, 2011 for 40 mini-cabs to be given to barangays
  • 3 million on May 25, 2012 for 5 secondhand buses
  • 5 million on September 12, 2012 for 70 Foton mini trucks for municipalities

But citing COA’s Audit Observation Findings, Representatives Juan Pablo Bondoc of Pampanga and Salvador Leachon of Oriental Mindoro questioned why there had been no bidding for the first and second transactions, and why the checks for the payment of the vehicles were prepared ahead of the scheduled bidding.

Grilling Marcos, Leachon noted the vehicles were not registered with the Land Transportation Office.  Other lawmakers also refuted Marcos’ claim that vehicles intended for agricultural use, such as tractors and payloaders, do not require registration.

Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali asked the COA why it did not issue notices of disallowance to the transactions despite raising red flags on the deals.

State auditor Cornelio Viernes said that the decision to give the green light to the transaction rests on the audit team leader.

Erstwhile Marcos ally Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo Fariñas, who sought the probe of the vehicle purchases, asked the governor why she had specified that the purchases be limited to a specific model of Foton mini-trucks.

“Are you familiar (with the) brands of vehicles?” he asked.

Marcos replied that such purchases are usually requested by the department head concerned, adding that the purchase of 70 units was a “repeat” of the earlier purchase of 40 vehicles.

But Fariñas pressed her, noting that “from the start you excluded everybody from the bidding because you specified that you wanted 70 Foton mini-trucks. This was your justification for not going into bidding.”

Fariñas maintained the deal was fishy and said the Ilocos Norte governor “must be in real deep s**t to have (former Solicitor General Estelito) ‘Titong’ Mendoza and (former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile) JPE in her corner.”

“And I thought everything was legal,” he said.

The governor showed up with Enrile, an acknowledged legal expert who was defense minister of her father Ferdinand until he led an attempted coup against the dictator, and her mother, Ilocos Norte Representative Imelda Marcos.

Mendoza is the counsel of the so-called “Ilocos 6,” provincial employees detained at the Batasan Complex since May after they were cited in contempt for supposedly refusing to cooperate with the probe.

Marcos asked the committee to release the Ilocos 6.

Palayain n’yo silaKung ako ang target nito at politika lamang ang ugat nito ‘wag na silang idamay (Free them … If I am the target of this and the root of this is politics do not involve them),” she said.

In his resolution seeking the probe, Fariñas said the vehicle purchases were made through cash advances from the province’s share of excise taxes from locally produced cigarettes or the special support fund under Republic Act No.7171, the Act to Promote the Development of the Farmer in the Virgina Tobacco-Producing Provinces.

He said this violated the law, which mandates that provinces producing Virginia tobacco use 15 percent of their share of excise taxes from locally-produced cigarettes for projects that will help advance tobacco farmers’ self-reliance through the establishment of cooperatives and livelihood, agro-industrial, and infrastructure projects.

He added that the lack of bidding violated Republic Act 9814 or the Government Procurement Reform Act.