Bukidnon gov blinks on “blanket” power to buy

The provincial government, in a letter to the Provincial Board signed by Gov. Jose Ma. R. Zubiri, Jr. requested a “blanket authority to enter into contracts for drugs and medicine, medical, laboratory supplies and reagents without seeking the authorization of the legislators."

Zubiri withdrew the request when he showed up at the session as board members summoned his deputies to shed light on the request.

The governor denied he intended to send the letter, as he crumpled the document when he handed it back to Provincial Accountant Romeo Hernandez. He told the session he was not able to read the letter when he signed it.

Earlier, Hernandez took the floor to defend Zubiri’s request, claiming that the  
process of seeking authorization from the board for the governor to enter into contracts has delayed the procurement process.

"With no offense to this august body, one of the delays is to get the authority for the governor to award the project," he said.

He reminded the legislators that they have granted similar power to the governor in 2006 and 2007.

Hernandez justified the current request as only true for "items of emergency" in nature citing the board approved the same measures in 2006 and 2007.

Majority Floorleader Camilo Pepito, who presided over the session, countered that the provincial board couldn't be the cause of the delay as they immediately act on measures certified by the Capitol as urgent.

"The problem must be somewhere else," Pepito, also chair of the committee on
appropriations told Hernandez. He added that it was between the hospital administration and the Capitol to sit down and to detail the program of procurement to expedite the process.

He stressed that it was the duty of the SP to review the process before granting the governor authority to sign contracts, and warned that granting the request might mean it has abandoned its duty as a reviewing body.

He said the power granted the governor for the last two years was exclusively for purchase of medicines.

Pepito said they had become cautious over this matter for fear that a Bukidnon version of Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr. might emerge and fault them for the move.

Lozada came out last week as the star witness in the Senate probe on the controversial multi million dollar ZTE-NBN broadband deal.

Pepito said they only meant to protect the governor and themselves from such
possible problem.

"The country now has problems with (some allegations against) the administration (national government). We could not give avenue for some political foes to discredit the (Zubiri) administration. We are fully behind the governor. (That is why) everything should be in proper order. The process has to be followed," he said.

Zubiri agreed with Pepito's explanation, prompting a session recess for some off-the-record discussions.

"We should not go beyond what the law has allowed," Zubiri stressed citing he was clueless over the request.

The letter stated that the request was due to the "urgency in the execution and implementation on procurement contracts for goods."

Hernandez explained to board members that the move was part of the effort of the provincial government to shorten the procurement process by "facilitating the earliest delivery of the most needed medicines and medical supplies".

He said contractors of the goods still could not deliver because the governor has not been given authority to enter into contracts with the firms. He noted that about 20 contracts had not been signed despite an effort to initiate bidding procedure as early as December

Pepito said he was happy over the withdrawal of the request. He told MindaNews he planned to skip the deliberation if Capitol pressed on pushing the request. (Walter I. Balane / MindaNews)