Palace clears Ochoa, refutes Jun Lozada
MANILA - Malacañang refuted an allegation of Jun Lozada against Executive Seceretary Jojo Ochoa that he has been benefitting from a deal between the Philippine Forest Corporation (Philforest) and New San Jose Builders Inc., a real estate company owned by Ochoa’s brother-in-law.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said that while the government is obliged to honor the contract signed during the previous administration, the deal had long been cancelled when the developer seemed to have abandoned the project.
“When the President assumed office, nakita na ‘yung kontratang ito at, it being a contract, government cannot unilaterally rescind without cause. So ‘nung nagkaroon po sila ng hindi mga pag-ayon doon sa mga terms ng agreement, their attention was called, and when they did not comply, the EPIL Agreement was terminated,” Valte said.
Valte showed a letter dated December 9, 2011 and signed by Philforest president Erwin Krishna Santos informing San Jose Builders president Felicisimo P. Isidoro that the Economic Productivity Out of Idle Lands (EPIL) agreement was being terminated.
The 2009 agreement involved the lease of forest land of 1,999.9 hectares in Busuanga, Palawan.
The letter said that “no activities and improvements are found in your leased area from… Novermber 17, 2009 to the present constituting abandonment of the project.”
It cited Section E (2) (g) of the agreement saying that Philforest “shall terminate the Agreement in case of abandonment or failure to exercise the privilege granted within the prescribed period of six (6) months from the effectivity of the Agreement without justifiable cause.”
“The facts will bear it out that the EPIL was given in 2009, in November of 2009. When they did not comply, the EPIL Agreement was terminated. And if I understand it correctly, not just to this particular firm, but to nine other firms that were involved in the same situation. So I invite you to look at the document, look at the date, and when this had taken place,” Valte said.
The Palace turned the tables on Lozada, indicating that the NBN-ZTE whistleblower may have a motive for turning up with the latest accusation against Ochoa.
“At this juncture it’s obvious. Because when he met with the President, there was a pending case against him because, apparently, during his stint as PhilForest president, he had it in his power to grant a lease to certain individuals, and he is alleged to have granted one to his brother-in-law, that is why… there are charges that are pressed against him,” Valte said.
“So, it’s very simple, if he went to the President and he asked for help and help was not given, assistance the way that he wanted was not given, then this is obvious where he is coming from.”
Valte said Aquino did not call Ochoa’s attention regarding Lozada’s statement, saying that Aquino had long known that the contract has been terminated.