A CATERER for the Correctional Institute for Women yesterday accused suspended Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) legal division chief Fredric Anthony Santos of asking for a whopping P50,000 from her in exchange for notarial services.
During the justice and Blue Ribbon committees’ eighth hearing on anomalies in the BuCor, Angelina Bautista said she agreed to avail of Santos’ services because of his perceived influence in the BuCor bids and awards committee (BAC).
“Hindi po niya kami pinipilit, Sir. Kasi po siya ang may hawak ng contract namin (He did not force us, Sir. Because he was the one holding the contract),” Bautista said. “Katabi po siya pag nagpe-present sa public bidding (He is present during presentations for public bidding).”
Bautista’s business V&J Trading was awarded a six-month catering contract for the CIW from July to December 2018 worth P21 million.
The Commission on Audit flagged that business after finding it was not compliant with food safety requirements. It also questioned the BuCor extension of the contracts without approval from the Department of Justice, which supervises the prisons authority.
Santos admitted to receiving the amount but denied any impropriety. He claimed he advised the bidders they could avail of notarization services outside.
“There was no force for them to avail of my services,” Santos said. He also denied being a member of the BAC when Bautista availed of his services.
But the committees’ chairman, Sen. Richard Gordon, described it as “undue influence.”
Minority leader Franklin Drilon added: “Why can’t the notarial services be performed outside? Why do you have to notarize it? That raises questions of propriety. You could not avoid the perception that you are receiving a gift at the very least.”
Sen. Panfilo Lacson said, “Ito na naman tayo. Hindi mo ba naisip na parang mahalay?
(Here we go again. Don’t you think it looks indecent?)”
On top of this, Bautista claimed she won the contract for this year, only to be told later that she got disqualified from the bidding.
“Sabi sa akin ng mga inmate, dapat daw magbigay ako, kasi nung panahon daw ng ibang mga caterers nagbibigay sila (The inmates tell me, I should have given bribes, because the others give bribes before),” she said.
Aside from the apparent impropriety, senators also asked why BuCor was only setting aside P39 a day for the food of each of its 3,200 inmates — P21 less than the budget granted by Congress.
It was also Bautista who revealed the meager budget for “the whole day: breakfast, lunch and dinner.”
Lacson said Congress actually allotted a “daily subsistence allowance” of P60 for every “person deprived of liberty” under the 2018 General Appropriations Act. The amount was increased to P70 in the 2019 budget.
“Bakit papakainin mo ang preso ng P39 kung ang budget na binibigay is P60, at least nung 2018? Saan napunta ang balanse? (Why would you feed a prisoner for P39, when the budget given is P60, at least in 2018? Where did the balance go?)” he said.
Bautista said prospective bidders were forced to cut their prices so they could win with the lowest bids.
BuCor officer-in-charge Melvin Ramon Buenafe said he was informed that some of the meal funds were being used for events and activities for prisoners.
Lacson said this could be considered technical malversation in violation of Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code.