P2.07B LOAN STOPPED: Garbo, councilors attend Ombudsman preliminary hearing

The P2.07 billion loan of the Mabalacat LGU for the construction of the new Mabalacat Government Center in Barangay Camachile hit a snag after the Landbank apparently shelved the loan pending the outcome of the case lodged at the Ombudsman and the possible congressional hearing to be conducted by the Committee on Public Accounts.

This, as Mabalacat Mayor Crisostomo Garbo and the councilors trooped to the Ombudsman on January 31, 2024 for the Preliminary Hearing on the case filed by Councilor Jun Castro stemming from the acquisition of the P527-million land in Barangay Camachile, Mabalacat City.

The 21,115-square meter land in Barangay Camachile was acquired through another P610 million loan from Landbank.

A Deed of Sale acquired by iOrbitNews indicated the land cost P527,875,000 plus 12 percent VAT, which is around P63,000,000. The lot is covered by TCT No. 045-2015008751.
In the Deed of Absolute Sale, the Mabalacat LGU was represented by Mayor Garbo while lot owner PLDT Inc., was represented by its President and CEO Alfredo S. Panlilio. Mayor Garbo was given authority to purchase the land by the Sangguniang Panlungsod through Resolution No. 266, Series of 2021, dated January 28, 2021; and Resolution No. 155, Series of 2023, dated March 8, 2023.
A former Mabalacat official, who asked not to be named, said that a local government unit collecting taxes from itself “is highly unusual.”

In withholding the P2.070 billion loan, Landbank Vice President Rolando G. Santos said, “the Bank reserves the right to withhold loan release should there be:

 A case filed against the LGU or its officials involving the project to be financed;
 An adverse finding on the project or object of financing; or
 A withdrawal by the Sangguniang Panlungsod on the authority given to the Local Chief Executive to contract this loan.

Santos made it clear the conditions set by the Landbank with the Mabalacat Local Finance Committee members regarding the P2.07 billion loan facilities.

“Please submit to the Bank proof of termination/disposal/dismissal of the case/s filed relative to such loan in order to avail of the said loan,” Santos told Mayor Garbo in a letter dated October 12, 2023. It was only now that iOrbitNews had obtained a copy of the Landbank letter.

Earlier, the camp of Garbo said “they will neither engage in unsubstantiated speculation by the councilor nor dignify these unfounded accusations with a response.” iOrbitNews is willing to present the side of Garbo and his co-respondents in the case in the spirit of fairness.

THE MAB’T GOVERNMENT CENTER

The proposed new Mabalacat Government Center in Barangay Camachile will reportedly house the City Hall and other essential government agencies in a bid to further improve public services.

The Mabalacat LGU currently holds offices at the Xevera Mabalacat, where businessman Delfin Lee donated the current Mabalacat City Hall. The old Mabalacat City Hall is located in Barangay Poblacion.

In September 12, 2008, the Mabalacat LGU broke ground for the P30 million Mabalacat City Hall in Xevera Mabalacat. Lee has also donated a Municipal Hall to the Bacolor LGU in Barangay Calibutbut, but several Bacolor administrations had preferred to hold office at the old Bacolor Municipal Hall.

Former Mabalacat Mayor Marino “Boking” Morales was the first local chief executive to hold office in Xevera Mabalacat, where once deadly lahar flows submerged houses and took the lives of several people.

Westchester Realty Corp., a subsidiary of the RGV Group of Companies, has already taken control of both Xevera Mabalacat and Xevera Bacolor. Each unit which sells for P750,000 during the first few years of developments in both Xevera real estate properties, now reportedly sells for nearly P2 million each.

On July 21, 2023, Garbo led groundbreaking rites for the proposed Mabalacat Government Center which coincided with the 11th cityhood celebration of the city. Also present during the groundbreaking ceremonies were House Speaker Martin Romualdez and other Pampanga officials.

Garbo had been reportedly trying to streamline delivery of public services and make it more accessible to the public.

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