By Ellson A. Quismorio
House Deputy Speaker Sharon Garin highlighted on Monday the “questionable sourcing” of the 70 mini-trucks that were part of Ilocos Norte government’s controversial procurement of some 115 land vehicles from 2011 to 2012 using its tobacco excise tax funds.
Garin, AAMBIS-OWA Party-List representative, said this was yet another reason that should compel Ilocos Governor Imee Marcos to appear and testify before the Committee on Good Government and Public Accountability’s ongoing probe on the alleged anomalous procurement amounting to P66.45 million.
“Only Governor Marcos can answer the numerous questions behind the irregularities involving the acquisition of the 70 mini-trucks, among other suspected anomalies in these transactions, given that the provincial employees privy to these dealings have refused to cooperate with the committee and have all suddenly forgotten about them when these happened barely five years ago.
“Considering that the governor’s hand was in every stage of the procurement process—from the purchase request up to the signing of the checks, who else can best enlighten the public about these suspicious deals?” underscored Garin,
Citing findings of the Committee, the Deputy Speaker finds it “highly suspicious” that the 70 mini-trucks were all unregistered with the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
There were also no such records to prove that the particular vehicles were bought from any authorized dealer in the Philippines.
Even more suspicious, Garin said, was that the panel learned that the mini-trucks, which were supposedly of the China-based Foton brand, was not manufactured by the company and even bore another name — Forland.
“She should explain how the vehicles were acquired and reached Ilocos Norte in the first place, and why they remained unregistered. Governor Marcos can also tell us why the exclusive dealer and distributor of Foton vehicles in the Philippines has no record of these vehicles bought by the Ilocos Norte provincial government,” Garin said.
Aside from the 70 mini-trucks, the Ilocos Norte provincial government also bought five secondhand buses and 40 multi-cabs.
All these vehicles were purchased using three huge cash advances from the province’s share in the proceeds from excise taxes on Virginia cigarettes. The Committee said this violates government procurement rules.
Moreover, House Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas, the one who initiated the probe via House Resolution (HR) no.882, and Surigao del Sur 2nd district Rep. Johnny Pimentel, Committee chairman, both said during the hearings that the use of cash advances from Ilocos Norte’s share in tobacco excise taxes violated provisions of Republic Act (RA) 7171.
This law states that a portion of the share from excise taxes on locally produced Virginia-type cigarettes allotted for Virginia tobacco-producing provinces should be used to promote the welfare of farmers through the implementation of cooperative, livelihood and agro-industrial projects and infrastructure projects such as farm-to-market roads.
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