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Monday, March 4, 2024

Anti-crime group says resignation of PCSO bidding committee to undermine process

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Cause-oriented Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption said over the weekend the members of the special bids and awards committee of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office who resigned should remember their solemn oath to faithfully discharge their duties to the best of their ability.

VACC president Arsenio Evangelista made the remark in reaction to an attempt by several SBAC members of the PCSO to resign in protest over a decision by the agency’s board of directors to entertain the protest of a bidder, contesting its disqualification from the initial evaluation of bids for a multi-billion-peso service contract involving the state-sponsored lotto gaming operations.

The SBAC led by chairperson Julieta Aseo, vice-chairperson Larry Cedro and members Josefina Sarsonas Aguas, Raymond Samarita, Ariel de Ocampo, Omar Bagul and Leah Christine Jimenez filed a notice of irrevocable resignation on June 25, saying they would not do anything that runs counter to Procurement Law and its rules and regulations.

The issue stemmed from the decision of the PCSO board of directors to grant the protest filed by the joint venture of Philippine United Technic Corp., Digi-Spects IT Corp. and Genlot Game Technology Co. Ltd. and reversed the decision dated June 9, 2021 of the SBAC.

The SBC’s June 9 decision denied the request for reconsideration in relation to JV Genlot’s disqualification in the bid opening last May 31 for expired mayor’s permit by Philippine United Technic Corp. and the failure to include English translation of supporting eligibility documents in the single largest completed contract.

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The SBAC earlier ruled as “passed” a component of the eligibility document of said bidder. However, the SBAC reversed its decision and eventually ruled the bidder as “disqualified.” This was brought on protest to the PCSO board of directors upon payment of a non refundable protest fee of P6.5 million.

Upon resumption of the bid proceedings, the SBAC again disqualified the bidder on another ground. The matter was again elevated to the PCSO board of directors, upon payment of another non-refundable protest fee of P6.5 million. The board of directors, voting 3 to 1, ruled to overturn the SBAC decision, prompting the resignation of the SBAC members.

The VACC said in a statement it strongly deplored the resignation plot, saying it was tantamount to “betrayal of the trust and confidence bestowed on them” as supposedly government frontline guardians of morality, fairness and ethics in the bidding process under Republic Act 9184, or the Procurement Reform Act.

Evangelista warned the SBAC members that they might be administratively held liable for neglect of duty if they unceremoniously dropped out of the bidding process.

“The BAC members have taken a sacred vow to diligently perform their duty within the bounds of law, statutes, and whatever other pertinent fiats we have in our country. They are therefore duty-bound to keep their oath of office and discharge their task without fear or favor within the limits of the law,” Evangelista said.

“As BAC members, they have a mission to oversee the fair and seamless conduct of business transactions by the PCSO, and to ensure that results of the biddings are achieved with the best interest of the country and the public at large,” Evangelista said.

“If ever they [BAC members] should take a position on a particular bidding, their stance should be for the people of the Republic of the Philippines. And it is in the best interest of the Filipino people to open the bidding to as many bidders as possible,” he said.

The alleged disqualified bidder, reputedly one of the biggest gaming companies in China, was allegedly forced to pay non refundable protest fees of P6.5 million on every instance of disqualification imposed by the PCSO BAC.

“The PCSO BAC must interpret the bidding rules in a manner that foster transparency and competition. Such practice restricts and nullifies competition in public bidding. The repeated imposition of the prohibitive protest fee is opposed to the principles of competitiveness and equal opportunity that RA 9184 and subsequent GPBB Resolutions seek to foster. This practice would make them suspect of lawyering for the other bidders. Lawyer for the Filipino people, not a particular bidder,” Evangelista said.

He warned of the wide-ranging ramifications if the SBAC members were allowed to jump ship while the bidding process has yet to be completed.

“It [resignations] would potentially undermine the integrity and credibility of entire bidding structure of the government, not to mention the likelihood of allowing them to evade administrative culpability for serious misbehavior and neglect of duty,” he said.

Evangelista reminded the SBAC members of their solemn oath to faithfully discharge their duties to the best of their ability, and impose upon themselves this obligation “voluntarily and without mental reservation or purpose of evasion.”

Evangelista said the PCSO board of directors should immediately order the opening of all financial bids. “If any bidder is disqualified, then the post qualification process as mandated in Republic Act 9184 or the Reform Procurement Act will lay bare the real facts,” Evangelista said.

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