‘Another set of lies’


Baguio City Mayor Benjamin B. Magalong is facing yet another graft case before the Office of the Ombudsman, this
time in connection with alleged irregularities in the implementation of the construction, improvement and rehabilitation of a P50million worth of multi-purpose building at the Irisan barangay complex. Magalong’s accuser —
Baguio City Councilor Mylen Yaranon – claimed before the anti-graft body that the mayor violated Section 3 of the
Republic Act 3019 or the Graft and Corruption Act and Malversation of Public Funds and Administrative offenses.

Yaranon said the questioned project was implemented through a Memorandum of Agreement between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Cordillera and the City Government represented by Magalong. The city government of Baguio, in charge of the bidding as stated in the MOA, awarded the project to Khatib Construction on December 18, 2021. It should have been completed within 350 days or until December 8, 2022. In a exclusive telephone interview with Amianan Balita Ngayon, Mayor Magalong denied those allegations.

‘Another set of lies. The bidding was transparent…walang kalokuhan na nangyari dyan, at walang pera involve sa naganap na bidding, ‘Magalong said. Magalong added ‘In due time we will also file a case against them. ‘ On March 20, 2022, a meeting was held between the DPWH and the Baguio City Building and Architects Office (CBAO) where the DPWH project engineer cited many discrepancies in the elevation in the footings as well as the sizes of the columns of the building that are totally different from what are indicated in the plan.

The Baguio City District Engineering Office (BCDEO) of the DPWH stressed any change in the project should be in
accordance with the MOA including a Variation Order that must be submitted. The BCDEO also stressed that the only allowed action on a variance is limited to 10% of the contract amount, and if higher, must be referred to the
DPWH central office. The DPWH also wrote the CBAO on August 22, 2022 on its observation on the materials used in the construction which are different from the plan. The DPWH noted it did not receive nor approve any Variation
Order, Technical Justification or As-Stake Plan.

The DPWH also warned against CBAO not submitting the required documents and flaunted its firmness in implementing the MOA. Despite the observations and requirements of the DPWH as instituted by the MOA, the
Baguio City Government allowed the payment of P43,528,048.00 to Khatib Construction, Yaranon claimed before the Ombudsman. The DPWH said it found out that on December 8, 2022 supposed completion date, only 60% of the project was completed, thus noting a 40% slippage, prompting it to recommend for the termination of the project.

The Baguio City government though continued with the project. From the P43.5 million that was paid to the contractor, P32,477,899.00 came from the DPWH while the P11,050,149.00 was sourced from the trust fund of the City Government. Yaranon’s complaint claimed that the signing of the voucher for the payment “is clearly a grave misconduct and malversation”. She said that aside from the high slippage in the project, the payment that was given to the contractor is very high compared to what was released by the funding agency.

The lady councilor also stressed there was also no approved authorization for the chief executive of the city or any appropriation ordinance for the release of P11,050,149.07 as payment to the contractor. Yaranon, thus, is seeking the Ombudsman to place Magalong under preventive suspension in accordance with Section 9 of the Rules of Procedure of the Office of the Ombudsman. This is the second graft case Yaranon lodged against Magalong, the first one was on
the alleged irregular purchase of land in Topinao, Tuba, Benguet intended for a social housing program, she claimed was overpriced and approved without the Baguio City council’s concurrence.

Artemio A. Dumlao/ABN

Amianan Balita Ngayon