ENVIRONMENT Secretary Regina Lopez is facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly covering up past wrongdoings of her trusted lieutenants who favored a supplier involving a questionable project worth P1 billion.
The charges were among the grounds used to oppose Lopez’s confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, which meets Wednesday to decide if Congress will approve her say in President Rodrigo Duterte’s Cabinet.
Rodolfo Javellana Jr., president of the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters, and Manuel Galvez, managing partner of Airboard Co., accused Lopez, her consultant Leo Jasareno, Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Environmental Management Bureau officials Jean Rosete and Teresita Peralta of protecting the interests of Electrobyte, a supplier of what they called a “substandard, overpriced, nonworking air monitor” to the detriment of the government.
“It is not only on the issue of mining that Secretary Lopez had erred in her judgment. She has also forgotten to take care of the air we breathe when she knew and was fully made aware that anomalous contracts worth close to P1 billion had been entered into by the government for nothing,” Galvez said. “Her inaction on our complaint has made her unfit to become the DENR secretary.”
In their complaint, Javellana and Galvez said the EMB officials had allegedly “tailor-fit” all the requirements for bidding to ensure that Electrobyte Environmental Concerns Corp. would bag the contract.
“The air monitor was supposed to provide real time data on the quality of air in Metro Manila and other provinces but the Electrobyte supplies continuously failed to provide such data, yet the DENR-EMB continued to source the equipment from the Electrobyte,” Galvez said.
“These acquisitions failed to deliver consistent and reliable air quality data. These machines would not function or could not be utilized for the purposes they were acquired. The data were always inaccurate, not real time and could not be relied upon,” the complainants said.
Despite the voluminous evidence that pointed to the anomalous contracts, the EMB continued to procure the same product from Electrobyte in 2006, 2010 and 2013, Galvez said.
Based on documents, Galvez said, Electrobyte was always paid before installation and acceptance of deliveries.
As early as Aug. 2, 2016, Galvez said, they made representations with Lopez and brought up the alleged anomalous procurement. Lopez vowed to take action, but did not.
“Everything boiled down to mere words,” the complainants said.
On Sept. 22, 2016, the complainants sent a letter to the Ombudsman to complain about Lopez’s inaction. The letter alleged a “coverup of past wrongdoings continuously being perpetrated by the officers and staff of the EMB-Air Quality Monitoring Section.”
The Ombudsman forwarded the complaint to Lopez, who, instead of acting on their complaint, referred it to the persons being complained of, they said.
“No such investigation had ever been opened up or set up, a whitewash had succeeded, and respondent Honorable Secretary Lopez had been overheard commending the very persons not only for what they are doing, but also for their competence,” they said.
In the CA complaint, the UFCC and AC urged that “no confirmation be given” to Lopez.
“We are seeking only the truth and by so doing we will unmask who this person really is. Is she really qualified to properly manage the DENR to finally benefit our people or is she just a fairy tale that we all badly need to have or create because of our infinite disgust and disappointment against corruption at the DENR?” Javellana said.
“The trimedia heiress Gina Lopez with her public relations group may engage in what we can call deflection strategy on the real issue that we brought against her at the Ombudsman and the CA. Their squid tactics may confuse our people and temporarily divert public attention away from the real issue that we accused her of and that is on her inaction on our legitimate complaints on the anomalous purchases of the past,” Galvez said.
“We trust the Ombudsman and the CA that they will always champion the truth,” Galvez added.
As complainants, Galvez and Javellana will face Lopez during the CA hearing on Wednesday.