"The Justice Department can start with this."
President Duterte has tasked Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to investigate all forms of corruption in the government. To my mind, this is an impossible mission since corruption is embedded in and bred by the system.
I have been a journalist for over seven decades. I have covered 10 presidents. Corruption has been the bane of every administration, and no leader has succeeded in eradicating it.
I have said this many times before. For as long as there is human discretion and intervention in government transactions, then corruption becomes inevitable. The temptation is so great that only a saint or an angel would be able to say no.
I have been writing a lot about the Bases Conversion Development Authority and its deal with a Malaysian company called MTD Capital Berhad. This involves billions of pesos cornered during the 2019 Southeast Asian Games. This is in connection with the construction of government offices and a sports facility at the New Clark Center in Capas, Tarlac. The Commission on Audit has called this deal prejudicial to the interest of the government.
As a result, a citizen anti-corruption group, Citizens Crime Watch, has in fact sued BCDA president and CEO Vince Dizon, Senior Vice President Elvira Estanislao, Government Corporate Counsel Elpidio Vega and MTD Capital Berhad representative Isaac David before the Office of the Ombudsman. This is to get to the truth about whether there was corruption in the joint venture agreement. The group claims that the officials conspired to award MTD Capital Berhad the deal worth P8.51 billion.
This JVA was intended for the construction of the National Government Administrative Center that would serve as back-up government offices. The deal also includes the construction of sports facilities with a 20,000-seater athletic stadium, a 2,000-seater aquatic center and athletic village for the sports event.
My gulay, when Dizon submitted the draft JVA to then-Government Corporate Counsel Rudolf Philip Jurado, the latter found several anomalies in the contract.
First, Dizon bundled the construction of the NGAC with the sports facilities. He should not have done this because the sports facilities are under a Build-Operate-Transfer scheme. This should have undergone public bidding.
Jurado also opposed Section 8 of the contract, which required the BCDA to reimburse MTD Capital Berhad all its expenses aside from providing the Malaysian firm its share in the profits.
Jurado directed Dizon to revise Section 8 and comply with applicable laws. BCDA should not reimburse MTD for the latter’s expenses.
Not convinced of the legality of the proposed JVA, Jurado did not issue a Contract Review or a COunsel’s Opinion. This is a requirement before any Government-Owned or -Controlled Operation can enter into any contract.
On February 22, 2018, despite the absence of the necessary Counsel’s Opinion, BCDA entered into the agreement, anyway. Worse, Dizon insisted a provision granting MTD an additional P2.490 billon described as “reasonable costs and returns” for the construction of the sports facilities.
Santa Banana, this made the contract price balloon into P11 billion!
Why was the Malaysian firm favored? What was in it for the BCDA?
Jurado was replaced by Vega as government counsel. Why did Vega approve the contract and say it was above board?
I smell a rat!
I have raised several points about why I think this deal is riddled with anomalies.
First, why did the BCDA, as the COA said, the construction of the government center and of the sports facilities into one JVA? The sports facilities should have had the benefit of a public bidding. MTD Capital did not even use a single centavo. It borrowed P9.5 million from the Development Bank of the Philippines.
I know that when two parties enter into a JVA, each of them contributes its share. BCDA contributed a 60-hectare property and even added more than P2 billion to the construction cost.
Second, why was Dizon allowed to insert a provision that MTD was entitled to reasonable costs and returns? This was patently prejudicial to the interests of the government.
Third, and this must be looked into by the Ombudsman, why did Vega approve the deal and say it was above board?
I think the Justice Department should also look into the BCDA.
Dizon is now a key official of the Inter-Agency Task Force on Emerging Infectious Diseases. President Duterte must ask himself if he is truly serious about eradicating graft and corruption in government. Let the axe fall where it may.