Vice Mayor Alan Gel Cordova has chided the members of the Sangguniang Panlunsod for seeking to meet with Mayor Felipe Antonio Remollo at his home on Saturday, Aug. 22, to discuss the findings of the ongoing investigation about the P12 million CoViD meals contract with Aladdin Restaurant.
Taking the floor in a privilege speech, Vice Mayor Cordova reminded the Councilors that the members of the Sangguniang Panlunsod have to be keenly-sensitive of their words and actions. “At this time when issues abound concerning public money, people are very quick to judge us,” he said.
The Aug. 22 meeting was widely-criticized over the radio airwaves and on social media, with apprehensions from the public that the Council was prevailed upon by the Mayor to stop the investigation.
“This issue has been going on for some time. If there were some concerns from the Mayor’s part, he could have asked me for updates, considering that I am the chair of the Inquiry committee,” Cordova said.
He recalled the criticism the public heaped on the Council when it agreed to listen to the statement of Aladdin Restaurant owner Patrick Henri George in a closed-door executive session. “We had to defend ourselves, and assure the public that it was [going to be] fair and transparent.
“How would it look if the members of the Council would go to the house of the Chief Executive?
“No matter how clean our intentions, the people will surely misinterpret us. Now, even the Mayor is dragged into the mess,” the Vice Mayor lamented.
Most of the Councilors attended the meeting at the Mayor’s house in barangay Cantil-e. Vice Mayor Cordova and Councilor Chaco Sagarbarria did not attend.
As it turned out, the meeting with the Mayor was an idea broached by Councilor Agustin Miguel Perdices after last week’s regular session, with the goal to inform him of what the Council had discovered regarding the transactions of Councilor Edgar Lentorio.
Councilor Michael Bandal said he was happy that the Mayor understood their stance, and that the Mayor even said he will join in the filing of the case, in case the Council decides to do so.
Cordova again defended himself from accusations made by Lentorio in the previous week’s privilege speech, as he slammed the apology issued by Lentorio as insincere.
The Vice Mayor said the speech was maliciously- planned.
“When he [Lentorio] said he is clean, in spite of the documents and statements against him — even Aladdin said he has a P1,000-a-day [kitchen rental] contract with Lentorio — despite all the mounting evidence against his interest, he claims he has no fault.
“Yet, there is no single document about me, and he accuses me of graft. It was intended to put me to shame infront of you. Using his malicious standard of accusation and judgement, why single out only me and Atty. Rosel [Erames]?
“Why doesn’t he [Lentorio] accuse all of us who have business ventures? Why not accuse the Mayor that Aladdin was able to get a contract because the Mayor’s cousin is an investor [of the restaurant]?” Cordova asked.
The cousin referred to is Dr. Rosana Habaña whom Patrick George had clarified is his girlfriend and not a business partner. In the Blue Ribbon committee hearing, Dr. Habaña had signed her presence as “representative of Aladdin Restaurant”.
The Vice Mayor said that Lentorio excluded the fact that on April 5, he was the one who approached Aladdin. He added that Lentorio said in his apology that it was Aladdin who approached him offering to rent his kitchen.
“Lentorio omitted the fact that he had pecuniary and financial interest [in the deal] because Aladdin was using his space for P1,000 per day. There was no sanitary permit.
“From April 5 up to June 23, Aladdin Restaurant did not have a Mayor’s Permit. Lentorio introduced Aladdin Restaurant to the City so it could get the transaction. Yet, he [claims he] did not have any fault.”
Cordova advised Lentorio that he should instead apologize to the accredited suppliers in the City because they were not informed of the business opportunity.
He also suggested to Lentorio to apologize to the Department heads of the City government, and to the Bids and Awards Committee members.
“You apologize to the members of the Council. We are [now] all suspected of being involved in the issue,” Vice Mayor told Lentorio.
“Apologize to the Mayor; he is being dragged into a corruption issue. By 2022, it would not be surprising that this will be an election issue,” Vice Mayor Cordova warned Councilor Lentorio.
Cordova recalled at that time during the Enhanced Community Quarantine, the Dumaguete barangays only had a budget of P26 million from the Quick Release Fund to help the hundreds of thousands of households in the City.
“On the record, you [Lentorio] recommended to double the [number of] suppliers so that the budget will be increased to P730 a day, while the barangays were waiting for the [release of the] barangay SAP [social amelioration program].”