More trouble brewing at the Iloilo Capitol (2nd of a series)

On the first working day of 2011, Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor Sr. was fuming mad. “He was literally spewing fire,” a Capitol employee who witnessed the eruption of guvernatorial temper said. Defensor’s voice, weak as it is, roared with expletives. He got angry because no janitorial personnel was operating the elevator. The ROMAC Manpower Services Inc. which had faithfully and diligently provided janitorial services for the Capitol for six years decided to pull out its people.

It wasn’t an act of sabotage. It was the result of the Capitol’s new procurement system in which officials close to Defensor tried to outdo each other in pushing for their own business interests in awarding contracts for services and supplies. The corrupt system exploded right on their faces, and Defensor didn’t know he had stepped on his own landmine. Sources said ROMAC had participated in the bidding for janitorial services for 2011 last December. However, a member of the Bids and Awards Committee known to be an ass-kisser of Defensor told the management ROMAC “was certain to lose” because it was identified with the previous administration.

The BAC deliberately disqualified ROMAC on account of a minor technicality to enable a favored supplier to win the contract. ROMAC isn’t a patsy janitorial company. It has a number of satisified customers in Iloilo City that includes big malls and government agencies. It took pride in excellence in its services, and wasn’t about to beg for the contract from a corrupt administration. So on Jan. 3, 2011, it pulled out its people from the Capitol. This is what made Defensor very, very, very angry.

Sources said the provincial administrator has his own supplier. A town mayor from the 4th district also wants to push her own pet supplier. An executive assistant with “exclusive jurisdiction” over suppliers was not about to be outdone. The governor’s own people were jockeying to corner this juicy contract, and they ignored the fact that ROMAC’s services were due to expire on Dec. 31, 2010.

Defensor ordered ROMAC to bring its people back. “Our contract provides that we need to extend our services for one month should the provincial government fail to pick a new provider,” an executive of the company told me. The company relented, and the Capitol was swankingly clean and orderly again when its personnel went back to work. But the company is determined to stand on its principles. By Feb. 1, it will leave the Capitol for good. “We can’t stomach the corruption of the new dispensation,” said another executive. “We don’t want to appear as if we are being replaced because we are not doing a good job,” she added.

Defensor will have to rush the selection of a new janitorial services firm. He has only until Monday to do that. On Tuesday, Feb. 1, ROMAC will get out for good. It has fulfilled its obligation to extend for one month. It’s not going to stay a minute longer, said the first company official I spoke with.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

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