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Ochoa’s protege makes a stand: Guevarra doesn’t see any conflict of interest in Calida’s security agency deal with DOJ

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Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra on Thursday said there was nothing irregular over the contracts entered into by his department and the security services company owned by the family of Solicitor General Jose Calida since these underwent the required procurement process.

Two of the 10 government contracts bagged by the Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc.’s (VISAI), worth P12.4 million, were with the Department of Justice (DOJ).

The DOJ entered the contract with VISAI under former Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II.

“I examined all the records pertaining to the procurement and all of this were regular on its face,” Guevarra said in a TV interview.

Guevarra used to be the deputy of former Eexecutive Secretary Paquito Ochoa. He stayed in the Duterte administration despite being a “dilawan” due to his connection to his former law partner, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea.

He said while he issued an earlier statement that he does not see any need to review the DOJ contract with Vigilant, he decided to look further.

“”I talked to the people in charge of procurement, examined the records. This is a public bidding and all we need to comply with are the pertinent regulations under the Government Procurement Reform Act,” Guevarra said adding that “these were followed—from the start of the bidding up to the end.”

Guevarra said at the public bidding, it happened that Vigilant was the lowest and responsive bidder.

He said there was only conflict of interest as far as the DOJ was concerned if the winning bidder would have any relation to the head of the agency, to the head of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), to the head of the BAC Secretariat, to the agency implementing the procurement within the third degree of affinity or consanguinity.

“From our point of view, that is our only concern It’s above board. The matter of conflict of interest, we have to explain that from the point of view of the Department of Justice. There would be conflict of interest if the winning bidder would have any relation to the head of the agency, to the head of the bids and awards committee, to the head of the box secretariat, to the agency implementing the procurement within the third degree of affinity or consanguinity and none was found,” the DoJ Secretary explained.

Asked if the DOJ has problems with the security firm, Guevarra said it will all be resolved by just terminating the contract.

Calida has earlier denied any wrongdoing in the charges filed against him before the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the multi-million peso contracts bagged by his security agency with several government agencies since 2016.

The top government counsel said he did not violate the law, specifically Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees cited by complainant Jocelyn Nisperos, in filing the complaint due to the contracts of VISAI.

Calida said he already resigned as VISAI chairman and president on May 30, 2016, or before assuming as Solicitor General in July of the same year.

According to a general information sheet on VISAI, as of September 2016, Calida owned 60 percent of the firm, while his wife and three children owned 10 percent each.

Calida took his oath as chief of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on June 30, 2016, along with other Cabinet members appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, says in Section 9 that in the event of a conflict of interest, a government official or employee “shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within 30 days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within 60 days from such assumption.”

Calida’s office said the OSG was “not the approving authority” for the said deals, which it said were won through public bidding and in accordance with law.

Reiterating the “no conflict of interest” line, Calida slammed allegations of conflict of interest as “totally baseless and concocted.”

The top government counsel also said the allegation that VISAI earned PHP150 million from its contracts was “misleading,” since the “bulk” of the contract price, it claimed, went to salaries and benefits of guards deployed, mandatory contributions to the Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG, and administration costs. (PNA)

 

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