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Almost 2B Tabuk City loan questioned at the court

The court is being petitioned by taxpayers to block the release of an almost 2B loan application by the Tabuk City government in Kalinga.

Petitioners last January 13, 2022 asked for a temporary restraining order at the Regional Trial Court Branch 25 to prevent Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) from releasing the proceeds of the P1,925,000,000 loan of Tabuk City while raising serious issues surrounding the loan.

Jerome B. Tabanganay, Jamillah S. Dalilis, Casan M. Calil, Sunshine S. Busaing, and Engr. Daniel C. Peckley Jr. petitioned for TRO on behalf of taxpayers against government-run DBP, Tabuk CLGU represented by Mayor Darwin C. Estrañero, Acting Vice Mayor, Atty. Zorayda Mia M. Wacnang, and members of Sangguniang Panlungsod.

Tabanganay, a local broadcaster in Tabuk City said over his personal social media account, “Maawa po kayo sa mga Tabukenyo, huwag po kayo mangutang ng dalawang bilyong piso sa Development Bank of the Philippines. Mag-eleksion na po sa May 9, 2022 at hindi po kayo sigurado na mananalo uli, bakit kayo mangutang ng napakalaking pera sa DPB. Tabukenyo GISING na po tayong lahat. NO TO DBP LOAN, NO TO CORRUPTION!”

Tabanganay and his group claim that the Tabuk City Sangguniang Panlungsod approved on September 7, 2020 the request of Mayor Estrañero to negotiate and sign agreements with DBP for a standby letter of credit, in effect, allowing the mayor to enter into Omnibus Term Loan Agreement.

On February 15, 2021, SP Tabuk passed Resolution No. 021 ‘for the acquisition of a loan to finance the implementation of the enumerated development programs and projects of the city.’ Such stated projects; Purchase of COVID-19 Vaccines with allotted fund of P50 million; Construction of 100-Bed Level 2 Tabuk City Hospital inclusive of hospital equipment with P950 million; Construction of Legislative Building with P110 million; Improvement of City Hall Building and Compound with P90 million; Construction of Training Center-Balong Agro-Food with P30 million; Improvement of Various Roads from Unpaved to Paved with P715 million; Purchase of relocation site in Agbannawag with P20 million; and Purchase of relocation site in Lacnog with P10 million.

The ordinance, after the lapse of 90 days unacted by the Kalinga provincial board was deemed approved.

But Tabanganay and his group argue before the court that the even before the appropriation ordinance lapsed into law on December 28, 2021, Mayor Estrañero has reportedly started the bidding of process of the identified projects. The petition states that as early as December 8, 2021, Tabuk CLGU through its Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) has published Invitations to Bid (ITB) in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) for some projects identified in the loan agreement.

Pre-Bid conferences were held on December 15, 2021 and bid documents opened on December 28, 2021.

Tabanganay claimed the Notices of Awards were already given to winning bidders, worrying them that portions of loan might be released anytime soon.

“If DBP will be allowed to release any amount of the loan, the damage to be suffered by the petitioners and all taxpayers of Tabuk City will certainly be irreparable and grave considering that it involves the use or misuse of taxpayers’ money,” the petitioners pose before the court.

Dalilis, before a Tabuk City-based online newspaper, points out that road pavement projects amountinf to P745M were not identified.

The projects identified in the Resolution No. 021 which granted authority to Estrañero to negotiate and enter into agreement with DBP reportedly sum up to P1,975,000,000, though the projects under Omnibus Term Loan Agreement amounts to P1,925,000,000.

They also raised why the P50 million fund for purchase of COVID-19 indicated in the resolution approved was not included in the loan agreement. The purchase of relocation sites in Agbannawag and Lacnog were also cut and the fund for improvement of various roads from unpaved to paved increased from P715 million fund to P745 million.

Petitioners claimed before the court, “Clearly, Mayor Estrañero committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excesss of jurisdiction when he executed the Omnibus Term Loan Agreement.”

Petitioners also claim that the resolution granting authority to Estrañero, the ordinance ratifying the loan agreement, and appropriation ordinance were not published as required to render it legally binding citing Section 59 of the Local Government Code.

Petitioners also claimed that the use of the proceeds of the loan for the projects in the loan agreement “will constitute illegal disbursement fund considering that the ordinances, resolutions and the loan agreement are illegal, unconstitutional, and ineffective.”

Petitioners also dream the court orders a permanent injunction to DBP and Mayor Estrañero to permanently cease and desist from conducting any acts and deeds to implement the realization of the loan agreement.

Estrañero has been indisposed after contracting COVID-19 over the weekend.

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