CA urged to recall appointment of DA chief

Leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) announced on Tuesday that they would ask the powerful Commission on Appointment  (CA) chaired by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to recall the appointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala over the failure of latter to investigate the controversial
P 455-million ice making project under former secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap.

In a joint press statement, Pamalakaya national chairperson Fernando Hicap and Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said Secretary Alcala refused to conduct probe on the overpriced ice-making machines which they said were not actually delivered to fisherfolk beneficiaries.

“Secretary Alcala made a big disservice to the Filipino fisherfolk and other victims of first-rate crimes of corruption under the previous administration,” they said.

Both leaders said they will appeal the decision of CA confirming Secretary Alcala as chief of the agriculture department once Congress resumes session on January 17.

Last December 15,  before the Christmas break, the commission approved the appointment of Secretary Alcala along with three other Cabinet officials- Albert Lim as head of the Department of Tourism (DoT), Armin Luistro as secretary of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Rogelio Singson as Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary.

The Pamalakaya leaders said on July 2010, they appealed to Secretary Alcala to investigate the controversial “ice-making machine scam” project involving Rep. Yap and other agriculture officials.

“For a clean start, we ask Secretary Alcala to initiate the investigation on the P455-million ice-making machine scam. The first thing to do Honorable Secretary is get at the bottom of the controversy that includes highly irregular bidding process, overpricing, price manipulation, and anomalous contract concerning the purchase of 98 ice-making machines during the time of Secretary Yap. But our demand fell on deaf ears,” they said.

Pamalakaya had also urged Alcala to direct all regional units of the Department of Agriculture to locate 97 of the 98 ice making machines. According to the group, its local chapters in 43 provinces failed to locate the quick freezing machines, except for one piece of the equipment delivered last January 2010 to the Sentrong Pamilihan ng Produktong Agrikultura ng Quezon (SPPAQ), an agricultural buying station on Maharlika Highway in the village of Sampaloc II in Sariaya, Quezon, where Alcala was the district’s former representative.

But for Pamalakaya, the project reeks with anomalies and the group appealed to Alcala to investigate the transaction between officials and members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) of the DA and the National Agribusiness Council (Nabcor).

Pamalakaya claimed that the 98 freezer machines were overpriced by P2.3 million per unit, thereby costing Filipino taxpayers P455 million.

The alleged irregularity prompted the fisherfolk group to file plunder and other criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman against former president and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Yap.

The complaint was filed on January 6 last year.

Pamalakaya had described the project as a “grand slam money-making activity” authored by Arroyo, Yap and corrupt DA personnel. The group said the agriculture department through Nabcor awarded the government contract to a lone bidder—the Integrated Refrigeration System and Services (IRSS) on September 2, 2009.

The group said Nabcor conducted a preliminary bidding last August 26, 2009 which IRSS won. However, Pamalakaya claimed that the company was incorporated on August 25, 2009, a day before the preliminary bidding was conducted.

Pamalakaya said that under Republic Act 9184 (Procuring Law), Section 37.1, the bidder must submit a copy of its single largest completed contract over the past three years. “Such condition is impossible for IRSS, which was only incorporated on August 25, this year, a day before the preliminary bidding. The contract was finally awarded last September 2 last year,” the group said. D’Jay Lazaro

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