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Court stops almost 2B Tabuk City loan

The Regional Trial Court branch 25 in Tabuk City, Kalinga on Friday stopped the release of an almost 2B loan application by the Tabuk City government.

Favoring petitioners who on January 13, 2022 asked for a temporary restraining order to prevent Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) from releasing the proceeds of the P1,925,000,000 loan, RTC Judge Jerson Angog believed the petitioners would “suffer inreparable injury” if the TRO is not granted because this early, he said, “the injury is considered irreparable as the pecuniary value od the injury that petitioners may suffer cannot be fairly estimated for possible just compensation.” Although, appearing the petitioners may not suffer direct injury, “there is the imminent presence of paramount public interest, or far reaching implications, as taxpayers will be the ones to bear the brunt of the burden.”

Jerome Tabanganay, Jamillah Dalilis, Casan Calil, Sunshine Busaing, and Engr. Daniel Peckley Jr. earlier on January 21, 2022 petitioned the court on behalf of taxpayers against government-run DBP, Tabuk CLGU represented by Mayor Darwin Estrañero, Acting Vice Mayor, Atty. Zorayda Mia M. Wacnang, and members of Sangguniang Panlungsod.

The Court further said, “in cases where serious legal issues were raise or public expenditures of millions of pesos were involved, the court (did not) hesitate to give standing to taxpayers”, citing Mamba vs Lara.

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.

Tabanganay and his group claimed before Judge Angog that 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 further claimed the Notices of Awards were already given to winning bidders, worrying them that portions of loan might be released anytime soon.

Dalilis, before a Tabuk City-based online newspaper, points out that road pavement projects amounting 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.

Petitioners 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.

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

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,” the petitioners stressed.

Estranero has remained mum on the issues and the TRO issued by the court.

Angog has scheduled another hearing for the Preliminary Injunction on February 9, 2022.

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