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May pinaghuhugutan? Sereno testified against Alvarez for rigging airport bidding to favor wife’s firm

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Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno hinted that Speaker Bebot Alvarez was pushing for her impeachment as payback for her testimony in which she accused the former Arroyo Transportation Secretary of rigging the bidding for an airport project to favor a construction firm owned by his wife.

In an interview with ANC’s Karen Davila, Sereno said she and her lawyers have yet to decide whether to raise and when to raise Alvarez’s real motive in anting her out from the Supreme Court.

“I testified against the onerous terms of the contract that was signed between the government and the Paircargo (People’s Air Cargo) team. Speaker Alvarez was part of committee that approved the TOR (terms of reference) for the contract,” said Sereno.

“Speaker Alvarez had a lot to do with the result of the bidding. One of the cases for conflict of interest that he found himself in was when a company (Wintrack) that his wife owned became the subcontractor for construction (site development and excavation work) of the contract,” she added.

Paircargo, which used to be the biggest customs bonded warehouse operator in the airport, is owned by Victor Cheng Yong who formed Philippine Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) in partnership with Fraport of Germany which bagged the project to construct the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in 1997.

The government, however, seized the project in 2004 due to the proponets’ failure to conform to safety standards and breach of contract. In 2015, the SC ordered the government to pay Piatco and Fraport $510 million in compensation.

Sereno revealed that in the course of the Sandiganbayan trial over the Piatco corruption case, she was asked to give her testimony. “While the testimony I gave in Sandiganbayan assails that contract, the overall participation I had also touched on Speaker Alvarez. Maybe not in particular testimony but in parts of the defense of the Republic as well,” she said.

Although Alvarez would be absolved, the scandal cost him his appointment as then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s Transportation Secretary.

When Davila asked if she believed Alvarez had an axe to grind against her, Sereno said: “One can only read from his statements and I hope everybody involved rises to the requirement of the Constitution that this should not be done for personal vengeance. Or for personal agenda. That this is only a mechanism for accountability to preserve democratic institutions, not to destroy.”

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