By NITZ ARANCON, Correspondent .
MAYOR Oscar Moreno yesterday said he ordered city hall’s legal department to look into the contracts his predecessor’s administration had with three companies that control sections of the city’s three major public-owned markets in 2013.
But six years later, councilors are still calling for a review of the contracts between city hall and 858 Market Complex Inc., Unitop General Merchandising Inc., and the See-owned Mega Integrated Agro-Livestocks Farm Corp..
“Nothing has been done about it” during Moreno’s two office terms, said Councilor Teodulfo Lao Jr. who welcomed a fresh move in the city council to examine the contracts made when the now late Vicente Emamo was mayor of the city.
“Oyon ko ana nga imbistigahan kay aron masusi kon na-a bay anomaliya o wala ang maong mga kontrata,” said Lao, one of the politicians who filed a complaint against officials of the Emano administration years ago.
Lao said the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed the complaint because they failed to secure copies of the contracts.
“That discouraged us,” he said.
Councilor Edgar Cabanlas brought what he described as contracts “disadvantageous” to the city government to the city council’s attention, a move that resulted in the legislature’s decision to scrutinize the contracts as a committee of the whole.
Moreno welcome the city council’s move, saying he has long wanted to look into the contracts that allowed the Chinese-owned 858 Market Complex and Unitop to lease Cogon and Carmen markets, respectively, and that gave the See family’s Mega Farm control over the market in Lapasan and the Agora terminal through a build-operate-transfer scheme.
Aside from the Agora in Lapasan that has been turned into what is known today as “Market City,” city hall also awarded Mega Farm a contract to run the city slaughterhouse in Cugman.
“Actually, I have long wanted to do that. In fact, I gave instructions to the (city hall’s) legal department to do that during my first term. Ang importante diha nga ma-examine kana nga kontrata aron masuta kon alkansi ba ang city hall,” Moreno said in an earlier interview.
Yesterday, Moreno said he wanted the contracts reviewed and assessed so city hall could take appropriate actions.
He said the result of the review and assessment would influence the degree of the remedies city hall would avail.
“I wanted to undertake these processes (review and assessment)… right after I assumed office in 2013. Unfortunately, these processes never really took off the ground for a variety of reasons,” he said.
One reason, according to Moreno, was the “obstructionist attitude of the majority of the members of the city council, plus the vice mayor,” during his first three years in office.
“There was no support at all. Worse, they obstructed every move we wanted to take,” he said.
Moreno said another factor was the string of lawsuits thrown his way by his “political adversaries.” He said the cases rendered city hall’s legal team virtually consumed by those hurdles.
Moreno added: “When I assumed office, I told the operators of these markets that I will respect the contracts that I inherited, but I also warned them that I will have these contracts reviewed, will not block any move towards that, and will act accordingly thereafter.”
A neophyte city councilor, Jocelyn Rodriguez, said city hall should see to it that Filipinos are given priority in the use of the public markets, reacting to information from Councilor Cabanlas that major sections of Cogon and Carmen markets have been leased out to Chinese-owned companies.
A document shows that the firm 858, which operates in Cogon market, is represented by a Chinese named Shi Xu Bo, and Edu Go whose nationality remains unclear to this paper. Cabanlas said the firm leasing at Carmen market is also Chinese-owned.
A news dispatch from the city council quoted Rodriguez as asking: “We have Filipinos who also aim to rent Cogon and Carmen markets. Why not give them the priority? “Ang ako lang unta i-prioridad gyudang mga Pinoy. Give them the chance especially kani atong mga pobre nga mamaligyaay.”
Meanwhile, Cabanlas said there was a need to rationalize the lease rates of the spaces being used by 858 and Unitop.
The firm 858 alone, he said, rents every square meter at Cogon market for P15 a month vis-à-vis the average daily P18 per square meter rent being paid by market vendors.