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Senate minority mulls probe on Calida’s security firm to expose ‘plunder’ – Hontiveros

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By Xave Gregorio

The Senate minority bloc is mulling to initiate a probe into Solicitor General Jose Calida and his wife’s security agency to expose the “plunder” committed when it bagged multi-million contracts with several government agencies, opposition Senator Risa Hontiveros said.

“Gusto po naming malaman ‘yung extent, ‘yung nature ng mga kontratang na-capture ng kanyang family security agency sa mga kapwa government agencies […] upang ipakita ‘yung plunder, hindi lang simpleng korupsyon, which is bad enough, pero mas masahol pa, plunder ang isinagawa niya,” Hontiveros said Monday (May 28) in a chance interview.

Under Republic Act No. 7080, plunder is defined as the amassing, accumulation and acquisition of ill-gotten wealth amounting to at least P50 million through misappropriation, conversion, misuse, or malversation of public funds or raids on the public treasury.

Reports from several news outlets, including Politiko, say that Calida’s wife’s security firm, Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc. (VISAI), got multi-million contracts with several government agencies amounting to around P150 million after the Solicitor General’s appointment

Among these government agencies are the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), the House of Representatives and the Department of Justice, where the Office of the Solicitor General is an attached agency.

Some of the documents cited in reports were also referenced in a complaint by a supporter of Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was ousted as chief justice due to a quo warranto petition filed by Calida, filed with the Office of the Ombudsman against the government’s top lawyer.

In her complaint, private citizen Jocelyn Nisperos-Acosta alleged that Calida violated the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees due to VISAI’s contracts with the NPDC, NAPC, the National Economic Development Authority and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Section 9 of that law states that public officials must “avoid conflict of interest at all times” and mandates them to resign from any position in private businesses in 30 days after assuming office or divest shareholdings or interest in 60 days after assuming office.

While Calida says there is no conflict of interest as he has divested his shares from the company, a document from the Securities and Exchange Commission submitted by Acosta with her complaint showed that the Solicitor General owns 60 percent of capital stocks in VISAI as of September 29, 2016.

“I should say na posibleng course of action sa buong minority ‘yan (conducting of probe). Pero ngayon pa lamang ay nanawagan na ako na i-fire po siya at kasuhan ng karampatang kaso ni Presidente,” Hontiveros said.

Meanwhile, opposition Senator Kiko Pangilinan has called for Calida to resign and follow the steps of former Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo, who resigned after the Commission on Audit flagged a P60 million deal with PTV-4, requiring it to run tourism advertisements on “Kilos Pronto,” owned and operated by her brothers, Ben and Erwin Tulfo.

At the height of the issue, opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV said Tulfo-Teo could be charged for plunder over the contract between the Department of Tourism and PTV-4.

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