Atienza cries harassment over COA notice
But COA asks, why is property still in the name of Basa-Guidote?
MANILA, Philippines - Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza on Tuesday lashed out at the Commission on Audit (COA) for issuing a notice of disallowance on the city government’s purchase of a property of Basa-Guidote Enterprises Inc. in 2001.
Speaking to ANC, Atienza said COA’s notice of disallowance came 11 years late since the sale was already consummated in 2001.
He added that the notice smacks of harassment by the Aquino administration after he testified in the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
“Do they want the property to be returned to the Coronas? Do they want the money to be returned to the city coffers, the P34.7 million? Lugi naman ang Maynila diyan. Ako naman ang magdedemanda kapag ginawa nila yan. Paano naman ang mga vendors sa property. Daan-daang vendors ang nakikinabang sa property na yan,” he said.
Atienza approved the 2001 purchase of the Legarda property owned by BGEI. He said the city government paid Corona’s wife, Cristina, P34.7 million for the property, which is now the site of the new public market in Sampaloc.
COA issued a notice of suspension on March 5, 2002 with respect to the purchase of the property, which Atienza said was already answered by the city government. Among the deficiencies noted in the 2002 COA notice were:
the city government’s failure to submit the original copy of the Deed of Absolute Sale approved and duly registered in the Registry of Deeds;
lack of Transfer Certificate of Title duly entered in favor of the city government; and
recommendation of the appraisal committee as to reasonabless of the price.
Atienza, meanwhile, said the city government got a good deal for the 1,207-square-meter property since it was bought below the prevailing market price.
“Our transaction was aboveboard and the price we paid was way below the market price. To insinuate any irregularity to me is very, very unfair and unjust. We paid P34,000 per square-meter but sold the old public market of the City of Manila for P50,000 per square meter. The price we paid was definitely advantageous to the government,” he said.
The former mayor said he was informed about the COA notice in 2002, which the city government promptly answered. He said COA no longer mentioned the notice of suspension in the yearly exit conferences with local government units.
“Kung yan may irregularity, dapat lumabas yan taon-taon at kung kami ay hindi gumagalaw inspite of their notice, then maybe we can be liable,” he said.
Atienza said the timing of the COA notice is suspect since it came after he testified for Corona in the latter’s impeachment trial. He said the COA notice “smacks of harassment and displeasure on the part of the administration.”
Atienza told the Senate impeachment court that he authorized the payment of P34.7 million for the BGEI property in Sampaloc, Manila. He said the payment was made to Cristina Corona, wife of Renato Corona, as the exclusive agent of BGEI.
Property still not transferred to Manila gov’t
COA Chairwoman Gracia Pulido-Tan, meanwhile, denied that the notice of disallowance is meant to harass the Corona couple.
Tan said they only discovered the notice of suspension after Corona’s defense team issued subpoenas for COA documents and officials to testify in the impeachment trial.
She said the COA issued the notice after discovering the Bustillos property was still under the name of BGEI instead of the City of Manila.
“Nagbayad ka, bumili ka ng lupa 10 years ago or something pero hanggang ngayon wala sa iyo ang titulo. Paki-explain naman yan. That is really the effect of the notice of suspension that ripened into a disallowance,” she told ANC.
“Hindi na na-comply ng City of Manila o nung mga kaukulang opisyales nila yung amng pong rine-require na ipakita sa amin. Nagkalimutan na, if I may use the word.”
She also noted that the City of Manila had yet to explain this issue.
Tan said the respondents could still appeal the COA notice within 6 months and comply with the requirements. She said part of the requirements is a justification for the P34,000/square meter purchase price of the property.
She said the COA will decide on the appeal, which the respondents can then bring to the courts.
“If they are not contented with the decision, they can go all the way to the Supreme Court,” she said.
She also said the COA is now investigating the local auditor that failed to follow-up the requirements from the City of Manila.
Tan denied that the audit body is being used by the administration to harass the Coronas.
“There is all this innuendo that we are persecuting the honorable Chief Justice. Hindi. I just want to emphasize that this is the work of COA at hindi kami kinakasangkapan ng mga may interes. Kami ay kasangkapan lamang ng taumbayan kumbaga. We issued the notice of disallowance because it is our duty. Hindi namin iniisip o pinaplanuhan ng masama ang sinuman,” she said.