Anti-graft looms versus: City solon

Rules Chair Councilor Kasrissa Tolentino-Maxino (right) presides at City Council on possible anti-graft case vs. colleague Kag. Edgar Lentorio Jr. Seen are Kagawads Lelani Ramon,Rosel Erames, Chakko Sagarbarria, Joe Kenneth Arbas,Diony Amores, and Mike Bandal. A resolution to file a verified complaint before the Visayas Obudsman was taken up Wednesday for concurrence by the City Mayor Felipe Remollo

For the first time in the City Council’s 72-year history, Dumaguete city lawmakers  were unanimous in deciding to file a verified complaint of graft before the Visayas Ombudsman,  against their own col-league for what they called “documented pecuniary and financial interest in the business of mass-feeding among thousand of frontliners” at the height  of the start of Covid19 pandemic community quarantine months.

This after the  Council passed a Resolution to such effect last Wednesday, and  sought the mayor’s concurerence as part of the regular process.

Mayor Felipe Remollo was said to be ready to support the resolution as a matter of course , and in interest of trasnsparency.

Mayor Remollo also was reported to have spent his own money to initially fund the feeding of frontliners at its initial stage.

Lentorio has repeatedly denied allegations of involvement with Aladdin Restaurant & Café that supplied P12-million worth of packed meals for frontliners in the city and 143 Housewear, who reportedly supplied thru  Aladdin with food packs and utensils upon the councilor’s instance.  Checks paid were also that of the city legislator. Cooking area was also that of the legislator , and so were the food delivery boys.

The CHRONICLE spoke personally to Lentorio for his side . He promised to give both the written and audio file of his side and privilege speech which never came, until deadline time…Lentorio’s side  is still welcome anytime in the spirit of fair play in both print and radio.

Rules committee chair  Councilor Kasrissa Tolentino –Maxino  told the CHRONICLE the following facts:

  1. That City Councilor Edgar Lentorio Jr., showed documented pecuniary and financial interest in “helping” a winning bidder in the supply of food materials for a certain supplier called “Aladin “ restaurant and its owner a certain Patrick;
  2. That Lentorio rented o ut the backyard of his law office as kitchen for the cooking of the food for frontliners;
  3. That the kitchenware used food packs  and supplied by l43 Houseware store, was paid by a Lentorio-issued check;
  4. That Lentorio’s people were used to help distribute the food to frontliners at the check points, barangays, SAP beneficiaries, and city hall officials, employees and  staff
  5. And that because these documented facts cropped up, the supplier’s payment to the tune of almost P10-million was not yet paid until the beneficiaries and amount are accounted for;
  6. That there is a question now of who are the actual names of these thousands of frontliners who ate  breakfast and lunch at a cheap P75 per cover  for several months  during the height of the ECQ period  in Dumaguete.

TheCity Council  once it has passed the resolution will have the concurrence of the City Mayor; then a verified complaint will be filed with the  Visayas Ombudsman who will take  jurisdiction of the matter and if evidence warrants, will file  a case of grafte before the Sandiganbayan which is the actual graft court. The OMB  acts as prosecutor of graft cases.

MAIN ISSUE

The main issue is that  the person in interest is a public elected official. Had it been a private person, there would be no ombudsman case.

Issues were raised  where  was   the role of the COA in determining  its regularity?  Why pre-empt the COA when it is its job to audit all government financial transaction.

Another point is why did not any government  official  or even his co-legislators   stop Lentorio from engaging in such venture when it is so prohibited under the eithics of public servants?  Was he acting lone?  –or with others?   Why only react now after the fact?

MAYOR’S CONCURRENCE

As part of the regular process theIn City Mayor will have to concur with the resolution in order to  complete its documentation.

Then after the mayor approves the resolution,  the SP will draft the verified complaint, which will be filed with the Ombudsman-Visayas in Cebu.

PANDEMIC

With the lockdown on pandemic, the documets will be sent by cargo which  will now taske almost a week to reach a Cebu which is only 3hours away from Dumaguete.

TAKE A LEAVE

Nobody knows if City Councilor Lentorio  who is also a young lawywer,  will take a leave while the graft case  is pending at the OMB.

–o0o–

REPORT BY Senior Reporter  RYAN SOROTE,

An ad hoc committee has been tasked by the Dumaguete City Council to draft a verified  complaint against Councilor Edgar Lentorio Jr. and other parties allegedly involved in the “COVID meals issue.”

During the council’s regular session Wednesday, August 26, 2020, councilor Joe Kenneth Arbas was chosen to  lead the ad hoc committee with fellow lawyer Michael Bandal, Karissa Faye Tolention-Maxino, among others.

Vice-Mayor Alan Gel Cordova initially presented a draft letter “recommending for formal inquiry by the Office of the Ombudsman regarding this issue (on COVID meals).

“It’s up to the councilors if they sign this particular letter before the public to show that they are acting on the issue by having a letter to the ombudsman,” Cordova said.

The letter was later decided to be in the form of a City Council Resolution, prior to the filing of a verified compliant once concurred by the City Mayor.

A Resolution merely expresses the SP sentiment and does not have enough force, unlike a verified complaint.

Bandal, however, suggested that instead of letter, the council should draft a verified complaint and file it to the ombudsman for graft charges and to the Office of the President for an administrative complaint.

He said the council has given Lentorio enough time to explain himself and he made a privilege speech instead. “Bandal said Dumaguete City Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo has also “manifested his desire to join in filling the appropriate case,” following a meeting with members of the council at the mayor’s residence last week.

Arbas volunteered to draft the complaint, stressing that there are already “”strong grounds to show that councilor Lentorio is really involved in these transaction.”

As of writing, only councilor Maxino has publicly agreed to sign the complaint. The draft complaint is set to be finished in a week’s time so that councilors can review and sign.

Lentorio has repeatedly denied allegations of involvement with Aladdin Restaurant & Café that supplied P12-million worth of packed meals for frontliners in the city and 143 Housewear, who reportedly supplied Aladdin with food packs and utensils upon the councilor’s supposed help. (By Ryan Christopher J. Sorote)