The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered former Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Eduardo Gongona and four others to respond to the graft complaint filed against them, in connection with the P2.09-billion contract awarded to a British company to supply technology and equipment for the Integrated Marine Environment Monitoring System (IMEMS) project of the BFAR.
In an order signed by Acting Director Ruth Laura A. Mella of the Preliminary Investigation and Administrative Adjudication Bureau-F, the Ombudsman required Gongona and his co-respondents to submit within 10 days from receipt of the order their counter-affidavits in response to the complaint filed by lawyer James Mier Victoriano.
Besides Gongona, also named as respondents were former BFAR-Bids and Awards Committee chairpersons Demosthenes Escoto and Hansel Didulo. Escoto is currently BFAR’s national director.
Included as private respondents were Simon Tucker and Richard Hurd, both of SRT Marine Systems Solutions Ltd., the firm that won the IMEMS contract.
IMEMS require all commercial fishing vessels to install a monitoring system that would show their location along with support vessels while at sea.
In his complaint filed on March 1, 2022, Victoriano alleged that there were irregularities in the awarding of three-year IMEMS contract to SRT.
It appears in the records that the contract is no longer effective since the notice to proceed was December 4, 2018 with an expiry date set on December 4, 2021.
Victoriano said the IMEMS was supposed to be funded by a loan from the French government and had a P1.6 billion approved budget for the contract, but with a rider that the bidders must be French or a joint venture involving a French firm.
According to the complainant, the BFAR eventually declared SRT the winning bidder only for the French government to eventually declare it ineligible as a British company.
In another bidding in 2018, SRT again won but the project’s approved budget has increased to P2.09 billion with local funding.
Victoriano sought indictments against the respondents for violations of Sections 3(e), 3(g), and 3(j) of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; Sections 30, 34, 65(c), and 65(d) of RA 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act; and Section 23.6 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 9184.
In its directive, the Ombudsman required each respondent to attach the affidavits of their witnesses and other supporting evidence in their counter-affidavits.
They were also instructed to furnish the complainant a copy of their submissions with proof of service.
Non-compliance with the timetable will be deemed a waiver of their right to submit controverting evidence while investigation will proceed until submitted for resolution.
The anti-graft body reminded the parties that it will not entertain any motion to dismiss, motion for bill of particulars, or any other motion that can delay the investigation.