By Sunday Post
The Ombudsman recently released an affirmation to the 2001 resolution dismissing the graft case that the once popular â€œSix Lawyersâ€ filed against the set of provincial officials during the stint of former governor Rene Relampagos and the president of Salcon Phils. Inc. following the joint venture entered into for the privatization of the water and power utilities of the province.
Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro affixed his signature on July 2 on the last page of the February 22, 2001 resolution to signify his approval on the recommendation of Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Primo Miro to approve the 2001 resolution penned by Graft Investigator Officer Sarah Jo Vergara of the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas based in Cebu City.
For lack of merit, Vergara dismissed the criminal case anchored on alleged violations of Republic Act (RA) 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 7080 or the act penalizing plunder, that the â€œSix Lawyersâ€ led by Lawyer Zotico Ochavillo filed against Relampagos as the governor then; now First District Rep. Edgar Chatto as the vice-governor then; the Provincial Board members then- -now Provincial Administrator Tomas Abapo, Arnold Lungay, Lawyer Felix Uy, Chattoâ€™s chief of staff Isabelito Tongco, Eufrasio MascariÃ±as, Exequiel MadriÃ±an, Francisco Alesna Sr., Severino Caberte, PB Member Concepcion Lim, Renato Lim and Lemuel Digal (then Sangguniang Kabataan Federated president); then provincial legal officer Inocentes Lopez; the late Juanito Cambangay as the provincial planning and development officer; and Dennis Villareal as president of Salcon.
Ochavillo, former governor Victor dela Serna, the late Nerio Zamora, and three other lawyers were dubbed as the Six Lawyers who were most vocal in the protest against the joint venture of the provincial government and Salcon in the operation of the Provincial Public Utilities Department (PPUD) that distributed power and water in Tagbilaran City which is now the Bohol Light Company, Inc. (BLCI) and the Bohol
Water Utilities, Inc. (BWUI).
Through a Joint Venture Agreement (JVA), the sale of only P155 million gave the Salcon Group of Companies 70 percent ownership of PPUD's power and water distribution assets and franchises.
Ochavilloâ€™s group alleged that the provincial officials and Villareal conspired for the sale of the electric and water systems owned by the Province of Bohol â€œin favor of Salcon Power Corporation for only about ten percent of their appraised value.
They alleged the officials and Salcon top honchos hatched the conspiracy â€œas early as April 1997 when Salcon was allowed to conduct a study for the improvement of the province.â€
The Six Lawyers smelled something on Relampagosâ€™ decision to privatize PPUD then wherein Salcon, who offered P150 million was declared winner in the public bidding when Asian Appraisal Co., Inc. appraised the facilities to be worth P1.48 billion in total amount.
However, Ochavilloâ€™s group â€œfailed to mention that under the present state of conditions, the appraised value of both utilities was in the negativeâ€
The Ombudsman further cited that the six lawyers â€œeither erred or deliberately misrepresented in assuming that the potential valuations under the proposed joint business were the absolute and immutable valuations of the two utilitiesâ€.
It was also found to be untrue that Salcon was â€œpre-ordainedâ€ to win in the public bidding, considering the companyâ€™s evident determination taking into account the tariff proposal, Bid Price and Funding Program, and the Rehabilitation Program in the technical proposals.
Moreover, the Ombudsman cited that actually, the valuation report and the Income Statement â€œyield the perception that the ultimate amount of P1.48 billion, or whatever value augmentationâ€ that Ochavilloâ€™s group saw was supposedly â€œto be realized within a period of 20 yearsâ€.
â€œThese were never meant to be conveyed or interpreted as the actual worth of the subject utilities, and as such, should be the monetary consideration for an outright purchase. The disputed figures are declared amidst financial statements covering the years from 1999 to 2018 and were based on client projections or estimates or forecasts,â€ Vergara explained in the resolution.