WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY
I planned to continue yesterday’s column about the SM Prime Holdings Inc. tactics in trying to browbeat the Provincial Government to award to them the Capitol lots that they insist they won when the COA report came in.
Anyway that matter is now in court but the political pressures are also increasing although the latest development shows that Governor Alfredo Marañon is hanging tough and the intrigues are starting to lose steam.
Anyway I will revisit this subject later as I am still checking on new information about SMPHI tactics including hints to silence me. For the moment let us deal with the Report of the Technical Team.
Some days back I checked with the Provincial government whether they had received the copy of the report of the Technical Team that was sent here by the Commission on Audit last March and the Legal Office told me they have not.
Last Friday I got a copy of this Report from a source outside of Negros.
COA did not publish or give a copy to the province, although I have not checked yesterday. Since the Report is out, maybe the province has already received a copy because someone from somewhere called me that he/she got a copy and will send it to me pronto.
Since COA has kept or sat on it since it was submitted, the people of this province must know what the conclusions of the Report are and after this expose we will know what the provincial government or COA will do.
The Report was dated April 11, 2012 which means that it has been hibernating inside the COA cooler since that date – almost three months to the day I received a copy and a year after SMPHI submitted a proposal.
Why did COA not inform the governor of the findings of this Report? I’ll answer that later
The Report was prepared by Mariebelle S. Palma, Senior Technical Audit Specialist as Team Member; Maria Cecilia G. Alonzo, State Auditor IV as Team Leader; and Encarnacion V. Esmino, State Auditor V as Team Supervisor.
The team’s mandate is to “conduct re-inspection/re-appraisal for the price reasonableness of the subject property.” This is intended to insure that the province is selling its property at a price that is above-board. If the price is found to be disadvantageous to the government, then COA has the duty to stop this contract.
Contrariwise, if the sale price is beyond question then COA has also the duty to approve the sale. I do not think that COA can stop this transaction without basis as prescribed by law or rules.
To put our readers in the right perspective considering that this issue has already dragged on for a year now, almost to the day of this column, let us retrace the facts as narrated by the Technical Team. Some of the historical facts cited by the Team are unknown to the public.
On April 11, 2011, Jeffrey C. Lim, Vice President and Chief Finance Officer of SM Prime Holdings, Inc. “submitted an Unsolicited Proposal to the Office of the Governor, Province of Negros Occidental (as the Province) to lease Property in Bacolod City and develop it into a world-class business and technology park with an estimated development cost of not less than Two Billion Pesos (P2,000,000,000.00).”
On April 13, 2011 the Occidental Negros Sanggunian approved Resolution No. 0364 and 0365 series of 2011 granting Governor Marañon authority “to offer for lease, sale or through any other arrangement such as but not limited to joint venture or other agreements most advantageous to the Province by way of public auction in accordance with the guidelines and procedure in the property supply management system, the various provincial properties in Bacolod City, which proceeds will be used to finance the different development projects and properties of the Province.”
Clearly the authority of the Governor is circumscribed by this Resolution. He cannot dispose of these properties by negotiation but by “public auction” or bidding and what is most advantageous to the province.
What SMPHI keeps on insisting is that the properties by given to them through negotiation simply because they submitted a proposal and even if this is disadvantageous to the province.
Does SMPHI want the Governor to violate the law and the SP resolution to favor them?
In fact, those who are trying to exert political and legal pressure on the Governor are actually asking that he violate the law, aside from the contract with Ayala Land, Inc. This pressure is also the same as that being exerted by COA, supposedly the guardian of public properties.
For what purpose are these pressures but to enrich the already overly wealthy corporation? Is there no satiation that SMPHI want others to commit a crime for them? Let’s continue tomorrow.*
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