Iligan lawmaker, ex-mayor charged with graft for lease deals

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MANILA — State prosecutors have formally charged former Iligan City Mayor Lawrence Ll. Cruz and incumbent Rep. Frederick Siao for lease deals with two companies led by the mayor’s maternal relatives.

A total of 18 cases for violation of Section 3(e) of Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act were filed at the Sandiganbayan against Cruz and 11 former councilors, including Siao.

Cruz faces three counts of graft for skipping public bidding for the  lease of seven adjoining parcels of land totaling 20,000 square meters in Barangay Tubod.

Prosecutors said he directly negotiated an agreement with the Kiwalan Lumber Company on August 21, 2004, later followed by a December 30, 2008 “amended/supplimental (sic) agreement” and a March 13, 2013 “contract of lease [extension]” with successor-in-interest Salvatori Development Corp.

 

The officials and stockholders of both KLC and SDC, including company representative Amador Lluch, belong to the Lluch family, to whom Cruz was related.

While the nine-year contract in 2004 fixed the rent at P3 per square meter, the amended contract in 2008 increased it to P9 per sq m for half the land and P6.60/sq m for the other half. It also provides for the rates to increase annually through a 10% escalation clause.

In 2013, the lease was extended by another five years. By then, the rates have soared to P13.17/sq m and P8.78/sq m for the two 10,000-sq m portions.

Meanwhile, the Sangguniang Panlalawigan members were faulted for  concurring with the lease deals through three resolutions on Sept. 21, 2004, Dec. 23, 2008, and March 4, 2013.

Separate charges were each filed against former councilors Ruderic Marco, Moises Dalisay Jr., Ariel Anghay, and Bayani Areola, who each face two counts of graft.

Siao and fellow former councilors Providencio Abrangan Jr., Riza Jane Magaro, Jose Zalsos, Marlene Young, Michelle Sweet-Booc, and Roy Openiano were separately charged with one count of graft each.

All the aforementioned councilors voted to pass Resolution 13-191 that authorized Cruz to enter into the 2013 lease extension. In addition, Marco also voted to ratify the first deal in 2004 through Resolution 04-628, while Dalisay, Anghay, and Areola voted to pass Resolution 08-963 that authorized the contract amendment.

The absence of public bidding “effectively deprived the Iligan City Government of the chance to obtain the best, if not the most reasonable price,” according to the charge sheets signed by Graft Investigation and Prosecution Officer III Anna Francesca Limbo.

The charges accused Cruz and the councilors of extending preferential treatment to KLC and SDC by enabling them to reap “unduly obtained rentals earned from the aforesaid lease paid for by public funds” at the government’s expense.

The charge sheets carry a bail recommendation of P30,000 for each count of graft.

City Administrator Dexter Sumaoy, who initiated the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman, is set to testify as a prosecution witness.

Source: Inquirer