"The current administration better clarify these allegations."
The other day, lawyer and KBL senatorial bet Larry Gadon, invoking his right to information, personally went to the Quezon City Hall to submit his letter requesting copies of the documents pertaining to the alleged overpriced food packs and grocery items the Quezon City government procured as part of its COVID-19 response.
This was to follow up on the revelation made by Anakalusugan Rep. Michael Defensor some weeks ago when he presented to the media copies of purchase orders supposedly signed by Mayor Joy Belmonte for the procurement of a total of 600,000 food packs. These were intended for poor city residents reeling from the COVID-19 pandemic, which the lawmaker said, were grossly overpriced.
One PO, dated Nov. 23, 2020, was issued to LXS Trading, with address at 1210 Suntrust Capital Plaza, Matalino St., Central, Quezon City for the supply of 250,000 food packages at P1,149.98 each, for a total price of P287,475,000.
The other PO, which does not indicate a date, was issued to Thyme General Merchandise of 32 Batay St., Cubao, for 350,000 packs also at P1,149.98 each, for a total of P402.5 million.
But based on a price canvass made by his staff, Defensor said he found out that each food bag cost only P636, or an excess of P513.98. He estimated that the total overprice for the two procurements amounted to P308 million.
He said the priciest item in the package in the two separate procurements was rice, consisting of five kilos worth P200.
He said the other items included small cans of meat products, spaghetti noodles and sauce, cheese, and milk.
According to Gadon, there seems to be some irregularity in the manner of the procurement as the PO, as presented by Defensor, indicated a “lump sum price” for every food pack instead of clearly stating the value of each grocery item, effectively diminishing transparency and accountability.
“Even a cursory review of the included grocery items, however, would expose the truth that the same would not amount to the per-unit cost paid by the Quezon City government even if the same will be bought from the most expensive supermarkets in high end malls,” Gadon stated in his letter as he noted since those were bought in bulk and not retail, they should have been acquired at much cheaper prices.
If the allegations are proven accurate, this could be at par with the alleged irregular transaction the government conducted with Pharmally. While the cost of the deal may pale in comparison with Pharmally, the act and the intention are so much the same – taking advantage of the pandemic to fatten someone else’s pockets – just like kicking an already suffering people. This, Gadon says, is a grossly inappropriate and anomalous act at this point in time. This is taking advantage of the situation, short of robbing the sick and the hungry.
“This is the reason the undersigned now need to examine relevant documents to ensure that this did not happen in Quezon City while people are sick and dying because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Gadon stressed.
Belmonte better clear this up, otherwise this issue may spell doom for her reelection bid. She may have noble intentions in helping her constituents but somewhere along the way, someone betrayed someone. And unless she begins clarifying this matter, she cannot escape owning up to the responsibility.
Anyway, the showdown between her and Defensor is now officially on.
The other day, Defensor filed his certificate of candidacy with his vice-mayoralty running mate, incumbent Councilor and former Quezon City Rep. Winnie Castelo.
A day after, Belmonte filed her own, together with her running mate, Vice Mayor Gian Sotto.
In throwing his hat to the Quezon city mayoralty race, Defensor vowed to transform the Quezon City General Hospital, a referral facility for COVID-19 cases, into “a true center of excellence in delivering the best and most efficient healthcare services.”
He also said he intends to grant new local tax incentives to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 crisis so that they can start hiring workers again, build up Quezon City’s life-saving emergency rescue capabilities (considering that the city has the highest number of road crashes in Metro Manila), put up a new public drug abuse treatment and rehabilitation center in Quezon City with two dormitories – one for female patients and the other for males, establish a new Quezon City Sports Academy and to embark on new community-based sports programs to fully develop our children, and make Quezon City “the most bicycle-friendly city” in Metro Manila, and to put up more open spaces where people can freely recreate, jog, and walk their dogs.
Sounds doable. Just wondering why the current city administration failed to see the wisdom in all these.