Mejia, 9 others charged with graft over seaman's book

Posted at 05/18/14 5:59 PM

MANILA -- Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) administrator Maximo Mejia Jr., and nine others were slapped with graft and corruption charges over an alleged overpriced contract for the printing, supply and delivery of the controversial seaman's book.

A seaman's book is a passport-type document that seafarers use to record their sea service. It is a requirement by the International Maritime Organization.

This is the second graft case in a span of two weeks for Mejia and deputy administrator Gloria Banas.

Aside from Mejia and Banas, also charged were Atty. Bashiruddin U. Adil, Ma. Concepcion C. Arbolario, Arnie F. Santiago, Sonia B. Malaluan and Atty. Rowena B. Hubilla, who are members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) for the procurement of the seaman's book; as well as Nenita Atienza, Fe M. Calaoagan and Christine D. San Luis, who are members of the BAC-Technical Working Group.

In his 17-page complaint he filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Nelson Ramirez, president of the United Filipino Seafarers, said the project cost P59 million.

The contract for the printing, supply and delivery of the seaman's book for 2014 was awarded to APO Production Unit, Inc.

Ramirez said the respondents should be held liable for dishonesty, grave misconduct, conduct grossly prejudicial to the best interest of service, and gross neglect of duty, when they awarded the P59-million contract to APO, which resulted in the delay in the issuance of the seaman's book.

It has been almost three months since APO committed to deliver the seaman's book last February 26, but it has yet to complete the delivery.

Ramirez said the respondents violated Republic Act No. 9435, or the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007 for failing to implement "policy of the state to promote integrity, accountability, proper management of public affairs and public property as well as to establish effective practices aimed at the prevention of graft and corruption in government."

He added that the contract is grossly disadvantageous to the government.

"It deprived MARINA of its ability to service the needs of the seafarers for the seaman's book. It likewise deprived MARINA of revenue that could have otherwise accrued to the National Treasury out of the fees paid by seafarers for processing the seaman's book. It exposed MARINA to additional expenses and costs attendant to the processing and issuance of the temporary SIRS," Ramirez said.

"The awarding of the seaman's book contract to APO caused damaged and injury to seafarers. There are a lot of horrible stories circulating in the seafaring industry as to the extent of damage and prejudice to the seafarers and their family owing to the unavailability of seaman's book," he added.

Ramirez also said there were seafarers who were fined, subjected to scrutiny by foreign immigration officials and port state control, and those who lost employment opportunities because of the delay in delivery of the seaman's book.

He urged the Ombudsman to suspend Mejia, Banas and the others while the case is being heard.