Olongapo SubicBay BatangGapo Newscenter

Saturday, December 06, 2008

SBMA execs threaten to sue Palafox

At least 17 members of previous and current bids and awards committees of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority have asked architect Felino Palafox Jr. to name the SBMA official who allegedly tried to extort an 18-percent commission from his company.

They also threatened to sue Palafox if their demand were not acted upon in 10 days.

"In the interest of fair play, and appealing to the 'honesty and transparency' you tout, we please demand that you name and identify 'the SBMA executive who was a member of the bids and awards committee' who supposedly asked 'for an 18 percent commission,'" they said in a letter to Palafox.

They said Palafox should name the SBMA official so "innocent members of the BAC and the technical working group may be spared from the unfair imputations on [their] character and integrity, and that we may commence the process of taking the appropriate disciplinary proceedings to cleanse our ranks."

Sought for comment, Palafox said the letter was "part of a strategy to scare me off." He said he would not be cowed.

He mentioned the alleged extortion incident to the Inquirer last week as he expressed fear that this might get in the way of his campaign to save 366 trees on a two-hectare site leased to a Korean firm.

He said he did not know the BAC member because the extortion attempt was first relayed to his company's engineering consultant who, in turn, referred the matter to Palafox's senior associate, architect Chona Ponce. Ponce could not be reached since November 30.

In their letter, the SBMA officials detailed the developments in the bidding for the Subic Bay Freeport Comprehensive Master Plan Project, including results of the detailed evaluation.

The evaluation of the proposals showed Palafox and Associates ranked second after Design Science.

Contradicting what Palafox claimed to the Inquirer that his firm was disqualified, the SBMA officials said: "Your firm lost, placing second to the eventual winning bidder, after all the respective proposals of all qualified bidders were ranked in accordance with the set of criteria formulated under the terms of reference governing the bidding for the project."

"Should you fail to name this alleged person, we shall have no other recourse but to institute the appropriate legal action to vindicate the integrity and name we worked hard to build and which you have recklessly and willfully placed in disrepute," they said.

Edgardo Pamintuan, chairman of the Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council, said SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza had sacked a BAC chair upon learning of the extortion attempt.

Arreza on Friday confirmed sacking a BAC chair but said this was not related to Palafox's allegation.

SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga said Palafox's claim of the extortion attempt was the second he learned this year.

The first incident, he said, was that on Win's Way, a Chinese company that planned to put up a $2-billion facility for processing and handling imported oil.

Salonga said an SBMA official asked for P8 million.

He said in the incidents involving Palafox and Win's Way, a "common denominator" was an SBMA official but he declined to give details.

Salonga began his own investigation into the alleged extortion attempt on December 3. By Tonette Orejas - Inquirer Central Luzon Desk

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