Random Thoughts

Audit reveals more irregular land deals

By Leonardo Micua

SOME perhaps would simply quickly dismiss the civil case for breach of warranty/rescission and damages filed by the Dagupan City government under Mayor Belen Fernandez against former Mayor Benjamin Lim and Jose Mariano Cuña, in connection with the purchase of a 30-hectare land in Awai, San Jacinto for P16.12 million, as another political move since Lim’s son Brian is running for mayor against Belen (see story in this issue).

But the Awai deal may be just the tip of the iceberg as records showed there were 13 more questionable land deals entered into by the previous administration whose documents could not be found, or if there were any, these were incomplete and of no legal value.

It was Atty. Robert O. Ocampo, Sr , audit team leader, whose group audited the books of Dagupan, who recommended the filing of civil cases against the officials of the previous city administration (Lim’s administration) for possible violation of the Anti-Graft Law (Republic Act No. 3019) for the procurement of questionable parcels land (repeat questionable parcels of land) for lack of proper documents, “thus cannot be transferred in the name of the City Government of Dagupan.”

In fact, there were 18 parcels of land found by the audit team that were not supported by Transfer of Certificates of Titles (TCTs). Out of these, 13 lots were still unregistered as records are not available. Shades of the Awai deal? Lands were paid for but city has no title of ownership to show. Who benefited from these transactions?

Based on the recommendation of  Atty. Ocampo, we can expect more cases, civil and criminal, that will be filed soon against officials of the Lim administration who were responsible for the 13 transactions that similarly defrauded the city government.

Note that the Assistant City Legal Officer at that time claimed to have turned over  custody of the documents relative to the purchase of these parcels of land to the General Service Officer but the latter denied this. So the city government today is in quandary as to the regularity of the procurement of the parcels land in question. The auditor, we were informed, already ordered the city government to direct the Assistant City Legal Officer to identify the person who acknowledged receipt of custody of the documents.

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I received a letter dated January 2, 2019 from one Juanito Gonzales of Bonuan Binloc who obviously read our previous item calling on Vice Mayor Brian Lim to bare his accomplishments if any and fill in the blanks that fellow Punch Columnist Atty. Gonzalo T. Duque left open.

He wrote that as far as he can recall, Lim had a yearly project during his term–the annual blood-letting with the Dagupan Bangus Jaycees and the Philippine Red Cross. And he went on to say that being the spare tire of the mayor, he cannot initiate any unless the mayor gives him responsibility. In other words, there was no other project to speak of.

Nonetheless, is blood-letting implemented by other groups commensurate with his monthly salary as vice mayor of Dagupan? As world Jaycee president, he could have at least brought foreign investments and projects to the city of Dagupan, but nothing of that happened. 

In his letter, the reader likened Brian to then Vice Governor Gonzalo Duque who as second in command of Pangasinan “has not done anything to the Province of Pangasinan.” Excuse me, but Atty. Duque can lay claim as the forerunner of the now Pangasinan Reformation Center built by Gov. Amado Espino III in Barangay San Vicente, Burgos. It was he who launched a drug rehabilitation center under then Gov. Rafael Colet with then Burgos Mayor Demetrio Cabiles at a time when drug use and trading was still not considered a serious problem.

Unfortunately, the project was not continued by  Gov. Aguedo F. Agbayani whose vice governor was Ranjit Ramos Shahani.  It was Vice Governor Oscar Lambino who wanted to resurrect the project during the administration of Victor Agbayani after we visited the place.

And for the information of Mr. Gonzales, Atty. Duque also authored the anti-epal ordinance that prohibits local government officials in Pangasinan from posting their names on infrastructure projects being constructed.

Also, as a journalist who regularly covered SP sessions, I can vouch for his 100% attendance as presiding officer throughout his term which cannot be said of Brian who neglected his duties as presiding officer because he chose to be the world president of the Jaycees than serve the mandate for which he was elected by the city.

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