The Office of the Ombudsman wants this question answered in sending a team to the free port last week. It wants to know if the demolition of the structures, which were used as warehouses and stockrooms of the US military from the 1970s to the 1980s in the former Clark Air Base, was tainted with anomalies.
Guided by directives from Malacañang, the 17 buildings were donated by Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) to three Aeta groups, which requested them for their livelihood and other needs from June 2009 to May this year.
But while the project looked good on paper, the actual demolition and sale of scrap materials involving millions of pesos in proceeds have divided beneficiaries and sowed suspicion of misdeeds.
A fact-finding committee headed by CIAC Chair Nestor Mangio estimated the proceeds from the sale of the scrap materials at P33.5 million. The figure was based on the 16,000-square-meter floor area and materials retrieved from the buildings.
Josie Gomez, the agent who facilitated the demolition and sale of 11 of the buildings, said the proceeds were much lower. In a recent interview, she said only P9.5 million was raised from the sale of the buildings to scrap traders.
Who got what?
CIAC records showed that the Bamban Aeta Tribal Association (Bata) received four structures, the Association of Tribal Chieftains (ATC) got 11, and the Aeta Tribal Community Vendor Group (ATCVG) received two.
But Oscar Rivera, Bata chair, said only two buildings were donated to his group. ATC president Oscar Dizon said his group received only nine.
ATCVG president Catalino Saplala was even surprised to learn that the two buildings he had requested to serve as his group’s office and vending facilities were already being demolished for scrap materials.
Gomez said some P3.5 million had been given to Bata since June last year. But Rivera said his group had received only 100 sacks of rice and P15,000 in cash from Gomez, through scrap trader Noli de Guia.
Gomez also said the ATC got a total of P6 million from the sale of scrap materials from the nine buildings donated to the group.
Dizon acknowledged receiving the P6 million, on staggered basis, since June last year. He said the money was used to build a day care center and water wells, and buy diesel-powered water pumps and tires for the 13 service vehicles of Aeta chieftains.
He said the money was also used for school allowances of some 300 students in 12 sitio (subvillages) and for buying relief goods.
Saplala, according to CIAC documents, has acknowledged receiving only P50,000 from a scrap materials contractor for the demolition of the two buildings donated to his group.
It remains unclear, however, who benefited from the demolition of the four other buildings that should have been received by Bata and ATC.
CIAC documents showed that while the estimated value of the scrap materials from the 17 buildings was P33.5 million, the items covered by receipts given to the Aeta people were valued at only P344,750 and 300 sacks of rice.
CIAC president Victor Jose Luciano earlier said he had donated the structures to the tribe in compliance with Malacañang’s directive and in “good faith.” As CIAC president, he said he has the power to donate unused property for livelihood and related purposes.
Luciano said he no longer intervened in the demolition of the structure and the sale of the scrap.
On June 22, the CIAC board reprimanded Luciano for donating the buildings without complying with the Department of Budget and Management’s rules on disposal of government property and the Commission on Audit’s Circular No. 96-003 that both require bidding or negotiated sales to ensure getting the highest value for the scrap materials.
The board asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, with the assistance of the National Bureau of Investigation, to head a committee to look into the issue. On July 6, a team from the Ombudsman went to the CIAC office at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at the free port to start a preliminary investigation.
Alexander Cauguiran, CIAC executive vice president, said the disposal of government property worth millions of pesos should have followed existing DBM and COA guidelines.