Calida asks SC to stop Senate probe on security firm’s gov’t deals

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MANILA — Solicitor General Jose Calida has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to stop the Senate inquiry in connection with his family’s security agency contracts with government agencies worth PHP150 million.

In a 39-page Petition for Certiorari and Prohibition with urgent application for Issuance of Temporary Restraining Order and/or Preliminary Injunction filed on August 14 but was obtained by the media on Thursday, Calida asked the High Court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the conduct of a legislative inquiry into the alleged conflict of interest in his stock ownership of Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc., which has multimillion-peso contracts with several government offices.

Calida also asked the SC to declare as “void and unconstitutional” Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV’s letters inviting him and his family to the Senate as they were “issued in respondent’s sole capacity only or without the authority of the Senate or any of its Committees”.

Calida said Trillanes sent a letter inviting him to an inquiry for the purpose of “’threshing out the various issues arising from Proposed Resolution No. 760.”

“The letters dated Aug. 1 were all issued from the ‘Office of Senator Antonio ‘Sonny’ F. Trillanes IV’,” read Calida’s petition.

The said resolution urges the Senate Committee on Civil Service and Government Reorganization to look into the “conflict of interest of Solicitor General Jose Calida, arising from security service contracts between national government agencies and Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc.”

According to the Senate Legislative Information System, the resolution has been referred to the Committee on the Accountability of Public Officers and Investigations (blue ribbon) and the Committee on Civil Service, Government Reorganization and Professional Regulation.

Meanwhile, the SC on Thursday ordered Trillanes to file a comment within 10 days.

Earlier, Calida reiterated that he did not violate Republic Act (RA) No. 6713 (Code of the Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials) with the contracts of his Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc. (VISAI) with at least 10 government agencies, among them the Department of Justice (DOJ), National Parks Development Committee (NPDC), the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (PAGCOR).

He explained that he has complied with the law after resigning from his post as president of VISAI before assuming his post in the government instead of divesting his 60-percent share in the firm.

“Under the law, I have a choice to either resign from my post or divest my shares,” he explained, citing Section 9 of RA 6713.

He said the law only prohibits a government official from owning or having shares in a private firm with any transaction that requires the approval of his government office or a company that is regulated or licensed by the same office.

Calida took his oath as chief of the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on June 30, 2016, along with other Cabinet members appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte.

Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, says in Section 9 that in the event of a conflict of interest, a government official or employee “shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within 30 days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within 60 days from such assumption.”

Calida’s office said the OSG was “not the approving authority” for the said deals, which it said were won through public bidding and in accordance with law.

Reiterating the “no conflict of interest” line, Calida slammed allegations of conflict of interest as “totally baseless and concocted.”

The top government counsel also said the allegation that VISAI earned PHP150 million from its contracts was “misleading,” since the “bulk” of the contract price, it claimed, went to salaries and benefits of guards deployed, mandatory contributions to the Social Security System, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG, and administration costs. –PNA

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