Ombudsman wants Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno, 20 others probed on sale of Century Parkr

April 2, 2010

Ombudsman wants Lim, Moreno, 20 others probed on sale of Century Park

By Charlie V. Manalo
The Daily Tribune

The Office of the Ombudsman has ordered a probe of Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Vice Mayor Isko Moreno along with 20 city councilors and several officials for the alleged rigged sale of a five-star hotel in Manila.

According to Assistant Ombudsman Jose de Jesus, Ombudsman spokesman, they will now evaluate the case against Lim and the other officials of Manila and proceed accordingly with the rules of their office.

The Ombudsman official said after evaluating the case, if warranted, they will proceed with the preliminary investigation of the case to determine if there is probable cause to indict them criminally before the Sandiganbayan or they could be found administratively liable.

“We will evaluate and proceed accordingly (with the investigation) and if warranted we will proceed with the official investigation of the case,” De Jesus said.

He added Lim and the other officials could still be subjected to preventive suspension despite the existing election ban in imposing penalties on government officials because the case filed against Lim and the Manila officials is graft.

It was pointed out that as a general rule, the Office of the Ombudsman could no longer impose sanctions during the election period but the only exception is when the crime committed involves graft and corruption.

“As a general rule bawal ng mag-suspend. But in this case covered yan ng suspension if evidence warrant after the conduct of a proper investigation since the crime involved is graft,” De Jesus said.

The case was already docketed by the Office of the Ombudsman.

In a 24-page Complaint-Affidavit earlier filed by lawyer Reynaldo Bagatsing, Lim and the Manila officials were charged for violating section 3e and g of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for causing undue injury to the government and to private bidders after the sale of the land where Century Park Hotel stands.

Aside from Lim and Moreno or Francisco Dumagoso in real life, also included in the charge sheet were Bids and Awards Committee chairman and secretary to the mayor Rafaelito Garayblas, along with BAC members Lourdes Manlulu, Thelma Perez, Alicia Moscaya, Roberto Amores, Racquel Acosta and Ronald Siojo.

Councilors charged with graft were Moises Lim, Erick Ian Nieva, Arlene Koa, Ernesto Dionisio Jr., Carlo Lopez, Rolando Valeriano, Ernesto Isip Jr., Yul Servo, Maira Sheila Lacuna-Pangan, Luisito Chua, Edward Maceda, Victoriano Melendez, Roderick Valbuena, Raymundo Yupangco, Josefina Siscar, Ernesto Rivera, Danilo Victor Lacuna and Russel Ibay.

The officials were also charged for violating the Local Government Code for giving undue preference to a private party and entering into a contract without the benefit of public bidding.

It was alleged in the complaint that on Sept. 16, 2008 a public bidding was conducted but they announced that it is a failed bidding. The property covered is the real property of Century Park Hotel owned by the City of Manila which is 45,680 square meters.

Bidding was repeated on Sept. 30, 2008 after publication and two bidders participated, namely, Maranaw Hotels and Restaurant Corp. which submitted a bid of P1 billion and AM Oreta and Co. Inc. which tendered a bid of P997,300,000.

Bagatsing argued that Lim, Moreno and the other officials committed criminal acts when they disposed the two parcels of land through a rigged bidding after passing City Council Resolution 176 Series of 2008 which “authorized City Mayor Alfredo Lim to enter into a negotiated sale of the property of the City of Manila.”

This was followed by a malicious notice and defective Notice of Public Auction questionable proceedings of the Committee on Awards of the City of Manila. The three-day notice given in the newspapers of the sale is not fair and equal chance to participate in the public auction.

It was also stated that supplementary contract entered into by and between the City of Manila and Tourist Trade and Travel Corporation on Aug. 1, 2003 clearly shows that the market value of the improvements (Century Park Hotel) is already valued at P1 billion.

It was stated in the final appraisal report the entire property will command an aggregate value of P1,705,339,637, resulting in a deficit of at least P705,339,537.


Graft raps filed vs Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim and Vice-Mayor Isko Moreno for P1B sale of Century Park Hotel

March 2, 2010

Graft raps filed vs Lim, Isko for P1B sale of Century Park Hotel
by People’s Tonight
Monday, 01 March 2010 20:13

GRAFT charges were filed yesterday before the Office of the Ombudsman against Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Vice Mayor Francisco “Isko Moreno” Domagoso, 20 councilors, four other city officials and four John Does for the allegedly fraudulent bidding and sale of the Century Park Hotel at a bargain price of P 1billion.

Atty. Reynaldo L. Bagatsing, erstwhile legal adviser of Lim and former close friend, pointed out in a 26-page complaint that the transaction should be nullified and the perpetrators penalized as it is “manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the City of Manila. The Century Park Hotel is a five-star crown jewel of the city government and sits on a 4.5 hectare prime property that could easily fetch a P 3 billion price tag.”

Bagatsing also noted that on paper, as reflected by documents obtained from the City Assessor’s Office, the land alone occupied by the hotel at the “mysteriously reduced area of 22, 967 square meters is already worth P 965,261,850 or almost P1 billion. This is not the actual market value because the zonal valuation of the land made by the Bureau of Internal Revenue was conducted in 2005 in addition to the fact that present selling price of prime properties in the Malate-Ermita district ranges from P 50,000 to P 80,000 per square meter.”

The hotel building, Bagatsing pointed out, underwent an upgrading or renovation works few years ago undertaken by the Tourist Trade and Travel Corporation, the original lease holder, at a cost of P 1 billion as reflected in a supplementary contract it entered into with the city government. “This clearly shows that the hotel building alone and the improvements thereat is worth more than P 1 billion.”

Records show that the winning bidder, which now owns Century Park Hotel, and the 4.5 hectare land it occupies is Maranaw Hotels and Resort Corporation which submitted a P1 billion bid. The firm is publicly known to be owned by business tycoon Lucio Tan. Tan’s firm actually obtained the rights to operate the hotel in 2003 from Tourist Trade and Travel Corporation of the Martel family.

Tan is not yet named in the graft complaint pending verification of documents, instead four “John Does” were listed, Bagatsing said. Only lawyer Melissa Saez Co, who represented Maranaw Hotels & Resort Corporation in the bidding, was included in the charge sheet. Aside from Lim and Vice Mayor Domagoso, also named as respondents were Secretary to the Mayor Rafaelito Garayblas, chairman of the bid and awards committee; Maria Lourdes Manlulu, Alicia T. Moscaya and Thelma Perez, members.

Twenty councilors were also included in the complaint for their role in granting Mayor Lim the authority to negotiate the sale of the hotel through City Council Resolution No. 176 adopted on August 5, 2008 and for affirming or ratifying the award and sale to the Tan firm through Resolution No. 278 approved on December 23, 2008. The councilors include Moises Lim, Erick Ian Nieva, Arlene Koa, Ernesto Dionesio,Jr., Carlo Lopez, Rolando Valeriano, Ernesto isip,Jr., John Martin Nieto (the actor known as Yul Servo), Maria Shiela Lacuna-Pangan, Luisito Chua, Edward Maceda, Victoriano Melendez, Roderick Valbuena, Raymundo Yupangco, Josefina Siscar, Ernesto Rivera, Danilo Victor Lacuna, Luciano Veloso, Philip Lacuna and Russel Ibay.

Bagatsing stressed that while it pains him to sue Lim because the mayor was formerly a close friend but find it necessary and an obligation as a taxpayer and Manila resident to bring him and his cohorts before the bar justice. “It is certainly the duty of every citizen to protect their rights. Public interest dictates that Lim should be made to answer for a wrongful act.”

At the same time Bagatsing also challenged the political opponents of Lim to issue a public commitment and assurance that should they win in the forthcoming 2010 elections, they will nullify the sale of the Century Park Hotel. “After recovery, the city government should proceed in disposing the property in a transparent and open public bidding,” he added.

The anti-graft crusader and lawyer also lamented the undue haste the sale of Century Park Hotel was undertaken. “There was evident rush in having it disposed in a period of only five months since August 5, 2008 when the City Council granted Lim the authority to negotiate the sale. It must be noted that the Committee on Bid and Awards immediately caused the publication on September 8 and 12, 2008 a notice of auction in the Philippine Star. The bidding was held September 16 with Garayblas presiding. He declared a failure of bidding because only Maranaw Hotel and Resort Corporation made an offer.

“On September 18 & 23, the Garayblas Committee again caused the publication of a second notice of public auction, also in the Philippine Star. But it contained factual errors so it also caused the publication of an erratum on September 27 clarifying that the sale involved two parcels of land occupied by the hotel and not 20 parcels as contained in the second notice of auction.

“The second auction was held September 30, 2008 with Maranaw Hotels and Resort Corporation offering a P 1billion bid and A. M. Oreta & Co., Inc. that presented the miraculously close bid of P997,300,000.00 or a hairline difference of only P 2,700,000.00. This was obviously a companion bid submitted few days before the September 30 second bidding,” Bagatsing pointed out.

He said the Ombudsman should also look into the mysterious reduction of the lot area actually occupied by hotel which is 45,689 square meters to only 22,967 square meters in the contract or a difference of 22, 722 square meters. “This could actually be a case of a clever attempt to reduce the price tag for the said property which clearly makes this transaction a sweetheart deal,” he added.