SBMA, top execs, security face charges over power plant junk

ZAMBALES, Philippines – Three senior officials of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), 12 SBMA security officers, and a private contractor are facing criminal and administrative charges before the Office of the Ombudsman. This is after they allegedly conspired against a locator over ownership of scrap materials in an old power plant building inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone (SBFZ).

In a complaint affidavit dated May 6 filed before the Office of the Ombudsman, Fahrenheit Company Limited (FCL), represented by its president and chief executive officer (CEO) Isagani Cabrera, charged SBMA chairman and administrator Roberto Garcia, SBMA law enforcement department manager (Ret.) General Orlando Maddela, and the SBMA legal department manager Von Rodriguez.

Charged also were 12 SBMA security officers and Filipino businessman Bonifacio Aporo, owner of Bonapor Metal Contractor Services and General Merchandise, based in Caloocan City.

The respondents in the case were facing criminal charges for violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act [RA] 3019); the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713); the Anti-Carnapping Act of 1972; arbitrary detention; grave coercion; and libel. The respondents also face administrative cases like gross misconduct; grave abuse of authority; and oppression.

Based on the affidavit, on November 2012, SBMA sold to Bonapor the machineries, equipment, and all recyclable materials worth P36.5 million ($819,707.07) in the former SBMA power plant or Building 1800.

Bonapor proceeded to dismantle, disassemble, and withdraw at least 38 truckloads of machineries, furniture, equipment, and other recyclable materials from the building.

In March 2015, Bonapor, through its attorney-in-fact Annabel Magno with special power of attorney, sold the remaining machineries and equipment to FCL for P6.5 million ($146,003.61).

On April 17, 2015, however, with a back-up of 3-vehicle loads of heavily armed SBMA security officers, Aporo barged into Building 1800 and shouted to FCL workers, “Kayo pala ang nagnanakaw ng scrap ko ha! Damputin ang mga iyan! (You’re the ones stealing my scrap! Arrest them [the FCL workers]!)

As if all under Aporo’s command, the SBMA security officers immediately disarmed the security guard, arrested the workers, and physically brought them to the SBMA law enforcement department. The FCL truck found inside the building was also impounded.

Immediately, FCL representative Melandro Balajonda informed the SBMA law enforcement department desk officer that it has all the documents to prove ownership of the remaining scrap materials in Building 1800.

However, the desk officer refused to receive the documents, saying only that Maddela can receive them. The officer then showed Balajonda a copy of the alleged revocation of Magno’s special power of attorney from Aporo, but refused to give Balajonda a copy.

After 3 hours of detention, the FCL workers were released, but the truck remained impounded.

On April 20, the FCL legal counsel sent a letter to formally inform Garcia, Rodriguez, and Maddela about the incident to settle the “unfortunate events.”

The following day, Jesus Katigbak of FCL visited the SBMA officials to follow up what actions the SBMA had taken regarding the April 20 letter, but went home empty-handed, except for Maddela who showed him, but who refused to provide, a copy of the alleged revocation of Magno’s special power of attorney.

On April 24, FCL filed a petition for injunction with damages with the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Olongapo City against Aporo, Magno, Garcia, Maddela, and SBMA.

The court merited FCL’s arguments and declared that the materials found in Building 1800 were already sold to FCL by virtue of a deed of sale. The court also said the existence of a clear and unmistakable right of the petitioner was violated.

The RTC on April 29 issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) causing the respondents for a period of 20 days to refrain from preventing FCL to exercise its rights as legal owner of the properties found inside Building 1800.

The TRO was extended when the RTC issued a writ of preliminary injunction in favor of FCL on May 18.

Thus, FCL is now asking the Ombudsman to immediately put the SBMA officials under preventive suspension while the case is being heard, and if found guilty, to criminally indict and remove from service with the imposition of all corresponding accessory penalties. – Rappler.com

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