By JO ERLINDA G. NEBRES
MUNTINLUPA CITY – A former head of the procurement office of the Muntinlupa City government has filed five cases of plunder against Mayor Aldrin San Pedro, Vice Mayor Artemio Simundac and 12 city councilors before the Office of the Ombudsman for his alleged involvement in five contracts that were allegedly overpriced and tainted with irregularities.
Abel L. Sumabat, former head of City Hall’s Bids and Award Committee Secretariat and reportedly a bag man of San Pedro, also implicated other city officials and private contractors in the plunder charges.
Sumabat sought protection under the Witness Protection Program of the Department of Justice, saying his fear for his safety prompted him to file the complaints last Wednesday.
San Pedro dismissed the graft cases filed against him and 15 city councilors as nothing more than a “squid tactic” purportedly to conceal alleged illegal acts Sumabat committed while working as head of the city’s bids and awards secretariat.
City hall spokesman Omar Acosta said Sumabat himself is facing various charges like falsification of public documents, swindling and malversation of public funds in local courts, he said.
The rift between the two came out after Sumabat filed graft charges against San Pedro and 15 city councilors before the Office of the Ombudsman for alleged rigged bidding procedures and supposedly anomalous transactions for projects worth a total of P1.2 billion since 2007.
Sumabat, a former head of the bids and award committee secretariat and self-confessed “bagman,” filed a supplemental affidavit before the Ombudsman Wednesday to clarify his allegations and including the 15 councilors as respondents.
Sumabat is currently under the protection of the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice (DOJ).
He named in his supplemental affidavit District 1 Councilors Raul Corro, Patricio Boncayao Jr., Margarita Amythyst Labios, Baldomaro Niefes, Alexander Diaz, Ringo Teves, and Dan Hubert Barlis; and District 2 Councilors Luvi Constantino, Robert Abas, Neptali Santiago, Joselito Arevalo, Robert Baes, Elmer Espeleta, Rafael Sevilla, and Vergel Ulanday.
Sumabat, who held the position of Internal Auditor IV, said he believes his life is in danger because of what he exposed.
Records show he first filed a complaint on Feb. 20, accusing San Pedro of involvement in various allegedly anomalous transactions like the P889-million garbage hauling and disposal contracts were awarded to different firms without the conduct of public biddings over the past five years.
In his new charges, Sumabat accused San Pedro and the others of violating Republic Act No. 9284 or the “Government Procurement Reform Act,” in entering into the following contracts:
• The P103-million purchase of an aerial ladder and three firetrucks in April 30, 2008;
• The P22-million purchase of 40,000 pieces trolley bags in April 30, 2009;
• The P143-million asphalting of Alabang to Tunasan National Road;
• The P21-million asphalting of Susana Heights Road; and
• The P55-million construction of 3rd and 4th floors of a four-storey schoolbuilding.
Sumabat claimed that the bidding process for these contracts were rigged and were approved with the concurrence of the public officials he named.
Leonard De Vera, the city hall’s lawyer, has asked the Department of Justice to expel Sumabat from the Witness Protection Program (WPP) due to the criminal cases lodged against him.
In a May 4 letter to Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, De Vera said the charges against Sumabat “speaks volumes about his lack of credibility to assist the State in its campaign against corruption.”
This is the second time San Pedro has been accused of plunder. The first time was in March 2010 when former city government department head Ariel Dolleton accused the mayor, councilors and bidding officials of complicity in 11 purportedly-irregular infrastructure projects worth P238.07 million in 2007.
But the Ombudsman acquitted the 31 Muntinlupa city officials, including San Pedro, in the plunder and graft case because of insufficient evidence.