The Office of Quezon City Mayor Joy Belmonte on 18 September released, through lawyer Orlando Casimiro of the Quezon City Legal Department, a statement following the filing of plunder and graft charges against Belmonte, in connection with the local government’s procurement of ayuda food packs that were allegedly overpriced by P108 million.
“After several weeks of milking media mileage out of completely baseless allegations, the political rivals of Mayor Joy Belmonte have finally filed a complaint in the proper venue, and before the rightful authorities,” said the statement.
“Since they followed every step of their 2010 election playbook, we knew that it was only a matter of time before some obscure group with no involvement at all in Quezon City would file plunder charges for dramatic effect. Recall that 11 years ago, this political camp did exactly the same thing against then-Mayor Herbert Bautista: first, they presented alleged evidence of wrongdoing to the media, then they created noise to prolong the story, and finally they ended with a plunder charge. Indeed, a snake can shed its skin, but its pattern remains the same.
“This time, however, they have made some serious miscalculations. First, QCitizens are smarter and more discerning than our political rivals give them credit for. Ang mga dating diskarte at trapo-style ng pamumulitika ay hindi na bumebenta ngayon. In fact, sawa na ang tao sa ganyan. Hindi na nadadala ang mga QCitizen ngayon sa puro ingay, kasi alam nila na ang pinakamaingay na lata ay yung walang laman.
“Second, we are confident that in a proper court of law, these cases will be exposed for exactly what they are: tools for distraction and black propaganda. The QC Government strictly adheres to all the provisions of RA 9184 or the Procurement Act, and in fact received the highest COA rating for the year 2020. We are positive that this complaint will be dismissed, and our names vindicated.”
The complaint was filed in the Office of the Ombudsman by John Chiong, president of the anti-corruption civil society group Task Force Kasanag (TFK).
Aside from Belmonte, named co-respondents in the complaint were Ruby Manangu, the city’s accounting chief, and Angelica Solis, representative of the single proprietorship LXS Trading, supplier of the food packs.
Based on the complaint, the local government purchased 250,000 food packs at a price of P1,149.90 each, or a total of P287,475,000.
However, the food packs could have been easily obtained at no more than P715 each, or a total of no more than P178,750,000 based on a detailed examination of the groceries and their market prices at the time of the transaction, according to the complaint.
Even if the “tote bag” that was used to carry the groceries would cost P100 each, the complaint argued that the price of each food pack would still be nowhere near the amount paid by the local government.