EXPLAINER: Why the fuss over cancellation of bids on Cebu City hospital’s Phase 4. Who’re fussing: BOPK ex-councilor de los Santos, contractors and VM Rama.

·5 min read

At a glance, what happened

[1] Interior construction of the upper levels of the new building of Cebu City Medical Center (CCMC) was canceled in a notice dated May 4, 2021 and issued by City Administrator Floro Casas Jr. by authority of Mayor Edgardo Labella.

[2] Reasons given for the cancellation: a) the amount budgeted for Phase 4 was not enough to complete construction of the hospital and b) the Local Finance Committee was still deliberating on Casas’s request for an additional one billion pesos, to be covered by a supplemental budget. In sum, Casas said the delay would speed up the completion of the hospital and its being operational “as soon as possible.”

[3] Last May 27, Mayor Labella in a press-con cited “post-qualification requirements,” which were “still being analyzed.” The city’s building office, engineering and public works department, CCMC admin and other concerned departments were supposed to be evaluating the remaining construction work.

Mary Ann’s gripe

LAST DECEMBER YET. De los Santos, former member of the City Council, in a Facebook post of June 30 asked for transparency from the city administration, saying “Cebuanos deserve the truth.” She didn’t buy the reasons for the cancellation. (The word “cancellation” may mislead, as only the bidding for phase 4 was canceled; the project would still push through, with another bidding.)

City Hall is still to explain why the mayor didn’t mention the May 4 cancellation of the bidding when he talked to media on May 27. He talked only about the delay, not the scrapping.

De los Santos said bidding for Phase 4 was conducted on December 28, 2020 and the bids and awards committee was bound by law (Republic Act 9184) to complete the evaluation within seven calendar days from the deadline for proposals. Post-qualification must be completed in not more than 12 days after determining the lowest bid. The process may be extended by the mayor (for the procuring entity) but in no case for more than 45 days. By de los Santos’s count, it was already six months, or 180 days, since the bids were opened.

MAYOR ‘LIED.’ Aside from having been a multiple-term barangay captain of Lahug and a city councilor, de los Santos had ran for mayor and congresswoman under Barug and vice mayor under BOPK but lost. Now speaking as a BOPK stalwart, she said Mayor Labella “lied” in his May 27 press-con as, she charged, at the time there was no ongoing post-qualification and the bidding had been canceled.

De los Santos’s accusations, for which she offered no evidence (citing only “the grapevine” as source), included :

[1] the presence of “an invisible hand” that caused the cancellation; and

[2] Mayor Labella having no more “control of his own people.”

Contractors’ and VM’s beef

The contractors obviously were displeased by their half-a-year wait, only to be told the bidding was canceled and they could get a refund for the purchase of bidding documents and bid security deposit. They just weren’t as noisy as de los Santos.

Vice Mayor Michael Rama said he received information from two contractors who must have complained about the delay, then cancellation of the bidding award. Rama inspected the site Wednesday, June 39, the last day of his 21-day stint as acting mayor.

His staff, he said, noted the “concerns” for him to act on later as vice mayor and presiding officer of the Sanggunian. Rama said he was not informed about the scrapping of the bidding until he took over during Mayor Labella’s medical leave. Labella reported back to work July 1.

Delayed? No and yes

City Administrator Casas says the mayor’s move will speed up completion and operation of the city hospital. De los Santos says it has delayed the project. The ex-councilor harped repeatedly in her FB comment on the mayor’s alleged lack of “a sense of urgency” over the city’s “acute health-care needs” just to serve the official’s “personal interests.”

Apparently to justify her interest in the project, she recalled she initiated the program “Piso Mo, Hospital Ko” to rally public support for the rebuilding of CCMC. The program, she claimed, “triggered the idea” of building a new CCMC.

Construction began in 2015, a year after the old CCMC building was ordered demolished by then-mayor Rama after the 7.2- magnitude earthquake that hit the region in 2013.

Mayor Labella, news archives say, told the public during the December 28, 2020 inauguration of the still-unfinished hospital that the 10-story building would be completed in 18 months and P1.3 billion was needed to finish the construction. The pandemic upset the schedule, worsened by the cancellation of bidding.

COST MAY REACH P2.5B. How much has been spent already? P566 million for phase 1, P300 million for phase 2, P100 million for phase 3. And for the phase 4, for the next bidding, de los Santos charged, will be one billion pesos to P1.5 billion, which is close to the sum mentioned in Casas’s notice: the P499.992 million in the canceled bidding plus the coming one billion pesos, “requested” by the mayor through Casas and “planed” by the Local Finance Committee, according to Labella. Or a total of about P2.5 billion when phase 4 will have been completed.

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