Ombudsman indicts execs in SBMA deal with Harbour Centre

Posted at 04/14/14 8:50 PM

MANILA - Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the filing of graft charges against former and some current senior officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) in connection with the allegedly anomalous joint venture agreement signed with Harbour Centre Port Terminal Inc.

In a resolution dated April 7, Morales found basis to file graft cases against

(1) Former Chairman Feliciano Salonga;
(2) Former Administrator and CEO Armand Arreza;
(3) Senior Deputy Administrator Ramon Agregado;
(4) Former Senior Deputy Administrator Ferdinand Hernandez;
(5) Former Deputy Administrator Ma. Cristina Millan;

(6) Deputy Administrator Marcelino Sanqui;
(7) Former Board Member Edralino Cajudo;
(8) Former Board Member Antonio Rex Chan;
(9) Former Board Member Ricardo Coscolluela;
(10) Former Board Member Angelita DJ Cruz;

(11) Former Board Member Teodoro Del Rosario;
(12) Former Board Member Jorge Estanislao;
(13) Former Board Member Ma. Angela Garcia;
(14) Former Board Member James Lorenzana;
(15) Former Board Member Ma. Victoria Pineda;

(16) Former Board Member Stefani Saño;
(17) Former Board Member Jennifer Khonghun-Ting; and
(18) Former Board Member Eddie Tamondong.

Also included in the charge sheet are Reghis Romero II and Michael Romero, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, respectively, of Harbour Centre.

“[The Romeros’ actions] readily show that they acted in conspiracy, that is, they came to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony and decided to commit it,” her resolution read.

Morales also ordered dismissed from service Salonga, Agregado, and Sanqui. They were also meted the penalties of absolute disqualification from holding any public office, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and cancellation of civil service eligibility. They are also barred from taking any Civil Service Examination.

The same principal penalty would have been imposed on Arreza, Millan, Cajudo, Coscolluela, Cruz, Del Rosario, Estanislao, Lorenzana, Pineda, Saño, Ting and Tamondong had they not been separated from the service during the pendency of the case.

They were, however, each ordered to pay a fine equivalent to their salary for one (1) year deductible from their retirement benefits, accrued leave credits and other receivables, aside from facing the same accessory penalties.

Meanwhile, the administrative case against Hernandez, Chan and Garcia was dismissed in view of their separation from the service prior to the filing of the case.

The case

The SBMA entered into a joint venture with Harbour Centre on February 24, 2010 for the development, operation, and management of the Naval Supply Depot and the ports in Boton, Alava, Rivera, and Bravo.

Carpio Morales said the SBMA officials “displayed manifest partiality and evident bad faith in the performance of their functions.”

She said the JVA was executed even before the competitive challenge process started on March 5, 2010.

This was against the guidelines set by the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA). NEDA would later withdraw its endorsement of the JVA.

The Ombudsman also noted the SBMA resorted to shortcuts and deviations to change the eligibility requirements. For example, SBMA supposedly pegged the project cost at only P763 million to allow Harbour Centre to post a lower bid security of P15.26 million.

The original cost of the concession agreement was set at P5.537 billion, which should have required a bid security of P100 million.

“By changing the project cost after the publication of the Invitation to Submit Comparative Proposals and imposing additional eligibility requirements, it appears that respondents manipulated the process by enabling HCPTI to post a significantly lower bid security and, at the same time, discouraging prospective JV partners from participating in the competitive challenge by imposing conditions for participation based on the higher project cost,” she said.