FACEOFF

it’s something you don’t see every day—a Marcos being held accountable for alleged abuses in office.

It took an investigation called by another politicians—in this case provincial political rival House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas.

Farinas and Ilocos Norte Governor Imee Marcos finally faced off at the Lower House, ending weeks of speculation as to whether the eldest daughter of former President Ferdinand Marcos will face a congressional investigation on her province’s alleged misuse of tobacco excise tax funds worth 66.45M worth of cash advances to purchase vehicles for farmers.

Marcos came with sons Borgy and Senior Board Member Mathew Manotoc. She was assisted by no less than former Senate President, former Marcos Defense Minister Juan Ponce Enrile as legal counself. Former First Lady Imelda Marcos, now representative of Ilocos Norte’s 2nd district, sat beside her and Enrile during the hearing in what evoked images from the former dictatorship.

Early on, Enrile explained why he was there. “ i was requested by Gov Marcos to assist her in this proceeding and if there is any need, to advise her on her constitutional rights. im rendering this service to her probono. in obligation to her deceased father.”

while Farinas called the investigation, it was his Senior Deputy Majority Leader Rimpy Bondoc who threw the first questions at Marcos, citing the findings of COA employee Cornelio Viernes who red flagged the transactions in question in an audit observation memorandum.

in her opening statement, Marcos reiterated she showed up to respect the congressional subpoena for her testimony. she likewise appealed to the House to release the 6 provincial employees detained by the Lower House for failing to cooperate with the probe.

one of the first fireworks was when she referred to a reported statement by Good Government Committee Chairman Johnny Pimentel that supposedly called for Farinas to inhibit from the probe. Marcos said she supported this, only for Pimentel to disavow the report Marcos referred to.

Later on Marcos would wave the 1987 Constitution at her accusers, the same constitution brought into force by those who ousted their family. “

i brought a copy of the constitution. the House resolution accuses  me of wrongdoing…i do not waive any of these constitutional rights.”

Reprising what she said in a press conference some weeks back, Marcos maintained that there was no corruption in the transactions.

“walang coorruption…katiwalaan na naganap…walang kickback o ghost purchase…nabili sa mababang presyo, walang overprice walang adverse findings sa annual audit report (ng COA) walang disallowance”

Bondoc however pointed out that a check for the transaction in question was made available just days after it was posted on the government procurement portal on the internet.

Marcos maintained that the transactions observed all processes, but that she left details to her subordinates. “di ko maalala paraan ng pagbayad

minsan napipilitan tayo sa local na magbayad ng cash advance.”

Marcos added that the COA had no adversarial fundings and did not order the return of any funds. “akoy umaasa recommendation ng BAC (bids and awards committee)di ko maalala lahat ng datos, umaasa ako sa aking tao”

Marcos admitted that there was indeed no bidding for 2 of the 3 transactions since they had to resort to direct contracting since there was only one supplier for Foton minitrucks. ““thats correct. yung 3 transaction ito 2 transaction walang bidding we had to resort to dirct contracting upon the recommendation of my BAC. di ko siansabi lahat dumaan ng biding 2 transaction direct contracting yung ikatlo buses yun talaga binid talaga…ako umaasa lang ako sa kagalingan ng staffwork kung may detalye na nagkamali di ako naguungkat”

Confronted with documents on the mini trucks, Marcos pointed out that these were just photocopies but it does remind her of a transction she authorized.

Confronted with documents on the buses, Marcos likewise pointed out that these were just photocopies but it does remind her of the transaction she authorized.

Pimentel claimed Foton never delivered mini trucks, since what was delivered were Forland.

Marcos explained Forland is a brand of Foton.

Marcos also responded to questions on why the purchase request for the trucks specified a brand, explaining that since it was a direct contracting procurement, specifiying a brand was allowed.

Marcos also belied reports that a check was issued even before a public bidding. Marcos reiterated that cash advances are not signs of corruption since it it a recognized mode of procurement, Marcos added that they resoirted to cash advance since they wanted to haggle a lower price and haggling usually entails cash on delivery.

Bondoc cited a January 8m 2013 audit observation memo which cited that the provincial government’s use of cash advances worth 73M instead of regular check disbursement was not in accordance with COA rules.

Marcos then responded that COA never gave them that AOM and that she never received it or else they would have complied. Marcos also said she was not present during the exit conference. “wala ako doon at higit sa lahat fully liquidated napakinabangan po ng magsasaka di ko talaga natanggap yun, tignan mo yung pahina walang lagda”

Marcos said she didnt see anything wrong but she did concede that she might have overlooked somethings in their haste to tap the tax funds. “nung panahon na yun wala akong naapansin baka nakaligtaan at nagmamadali marelease 7171. nagmamadali talaga kami sa gabundok na pinirpmahan, mga detalye di ko na napansin”

Committee Vice Chair Doy Leachon however cried gross negligence.

Marcos also explained that since these vehicles were used for agriculture, they need not be registered with the LTO.

Pimentel countered that only heavy equipment are exempted from registration.

Finally, about 3 hours into the hearing, Farinas started asking questions of Marcos.

Farinas pointed out that while the BAC recommended direct contracting, it was already indicated in the purchase request that the vehicles should be foton mini trucks with specific prices.

Marcos explained that normally, department heads make purchase requests, but in this case, the governor’s office compiled the requests . she also stressed that the order for 70 mini trucks was a repeat order for 40 previously ordered trucks.

Farinas then said,”parang luto po ang nangyari..purchase request kailangan nilalagay specifications… para po lahat ng interested parties pwede magsubmit ng bid …pero sa umpisa lang po you excluded everybody alreday in the process you alreday identified na gusto niyo 70 foton mini trucks….wala hong natawad yung etsimate yun din ho binayad”

Farinas then said that corruption is possible when transactions are done in cash.  “sila na nagtatawaran mismo nagkakaroon ng under the table dahil walang papeles.”

Farinas then asked Marcos why Geraldine Jambaro was given a 32M cash advance. Marcos however did not have an opportunity to answer, but Marcos said they had to resort to cash advance since they haggled the price which meant they had to pay cash on delivery. the trucks were just re-orders which meant that there were already specifications from a previous transaction.

Farinas then zeroed in on Marcos’ claims in the media that some P100M were circulated among congressmen to ensure her detention, with the money allegedly coming from the “yellow” Liberal Party and Former President Noynoy Aquino.

Marcos claims she has a congressional source who fed her the information but she refused to name the source.

Farinas then threatened have Marcos cited in contempt.

House Deputy Speaker Miro Quimbo was also present to deplore the criticism of his party. “ayaw na sana ho naming makisali napakarami na magagaling magtanong as the highest official coming from the LP medyo mabigat po akusasyon gusto ko tanungin kung totoo ba”

Marcos then apologized, “on my mere suspicion i withdraw the accusation that 100m circulated di po totoo yun akoy nagpapaumanhin”

Quimbo put on record that they have not released P100M and that they have no power and influence nor desire to help Farinas.

Marcos likewise apologized to former President Aquino for dragging his name into this.

Quimbo emphasized that this has no connection with Vice-President Leni Robredo, also of the LP, who is the subject of an electoral protest by Marcos’ brother Bongbong.

(sots)