Last month, it was brought up the public’s attention that a 10 Million Food Contract for front liners in Dumaguete was questioned. Aladdin Restaurant & Café was granted the contract in providing lunch, breakfast, and dinner to the front liners of the city. Later on, however, restaurant owner George Patrick Henry demanded his payment after two other food suppliers got their payment on time. An investigation was made to know why he was not given his promised award.
A Quick Recap
The Aladdin Restaurant & Café is owned by a foreigner named Patrick George and business partner Dr. Rosana Remollo Habaña. Through Councilor Edgar Lentorio, Mr. George learned about the food contract and agreed to the deal with the promise of being paid within 15-30 days. He was asked around April 6, 2020, however, until today he was not paid yet. Councilor Edgar Lentorio, who is Mr. George’s lawyer, also happens to be the owner of Keith’s Lechon in Bagacay. Aladdin Restaurant then rented Lentorio’s lechon space behind his law office to set up their kitchen.
Upon further investigation, the Dumaguete City Councilors found out that Aladdin Restaurant & Café did not have a mayor or business permit at the time of the contract. When asked for proof of orders, Mr. George presented an ordinary paper and not official receipts. Front liners who have received the food, however, vouched that they received the meals.
1,040 Front Liner Meal Clutter – 12 Million Payment
The big question that was persistently asked by Councilor Joe Kenneth Arbas and Rules Committee chairperson Councilor Karissa Tolentino-Maxino who upon the instance of Vice Mayor Alan Cordova in the case of Councilor Edgar Lentorio and his client George Patrick Henry is…“We will pay P12Million —but to whom?”.
Aladdin Restaurant was supposed to be the awarded supplier of packed food in the height of the escalation COVID pandemic from April to June 2020. The food contract is on record and in paper at the City Hall. However, only the other suppliers (Rice Box and Boy Kanin restos) were paid. After the investigation, Councilor Arbas reported that Boy Kanin and Rice Box had mayor’s permit except for Aladdin at the award and start of the job order. By September, City hall already paid Boy Kanin and Rice Box because they had complete papers. Aladdin until now could not be paid its whooping bills of P12Million. Mr. George’s lawyer Atty Nerio Bulado has written the city a demand letter for payment.
Metro Columnist Efren Padilla, the city urban planner wrote:
And so I did a rough computation regarding food packs that the City distributed to take care of our frontliners, workers, volunteers, and quarantined people: At a fixed contract price of Php65 for breakfast, Php150 for lunch, and Php150 for dinner or Php365 per person per day, I gathered that during the early days of the pandemic, about 1,040 people were fed in one month for about Php379,600 per day for that one month). The total expense just for a month is about Php11 million” from May to June.
This is to explain why the City Government will be paying Aladdin Restaurant & Café 12 Million Pesos.
The City government under the principle of Quantum Meruit, (service already rendered) will pay the billings. —-but to whom? Was the question of both Councilors Arbas and Maixino and the rest of the city Council presided by Vice Mayor Alan Cordova who was strongly resolved against prompt payment without first scrutinizing the following circumstances:
- When Aladdin started the job, it had no mayor’s permit, thus should have been disqualified; who invited Aladdin to do business under this handicap? Only later in the race, by June, Aladdin got a mayor’s and business permit; Question: will the City pay a supplier who, at the start, had no business doing business in the City due to the lack of mayor’s permit? Who allowed Aladdin to operate? And why of all food suppliers, why Aladdin? Who chose Aladdin and why?—Councilors asked in unison during one session.
- Councilor Arbas who volunteered to be the lead lawyer in the forthcoming Ombudsman case reported that: Aladdin’s poker buddy Councilor Edgar Lentorio accommodated Aladdin to be the supplier. Yet, nobody admits at whose instance.
- Lentorio who is a supplier and owner of a Lechon business, according to Councilor Arbas before the city council probe, virtually did the job for Aladdin from the purchase of kitchen wares, meat supply, water supply, cooking at the backdoor of Lentorio’s law office, rental of P1000 a day in the cooking area at Lentorio’s yard; buying of collateral supplies at 143 receipted to Lentorio, and credit lines from other suppliers, and to top it all, delivery of packed meals by Lentorio’s people, thrice daily to frontliners all over the city in May and June — according to Councilor Arbas who did the sleuthing and info-gathering from the documented witness, as he presented all these before the city council session.
Lest the issue is politicized, Maxino, rules chairperson, and Arbas, a committee member with Kags. Mike Bandal and Lentorio himself, zeroed on two major points of the issue:
- The City will pay the supplier or anyone whom the Court will adjudge as rightful and legitimate payee, considering all disqualifying circumstances especially at the start of the job; and
- Focus on the role of Councilor Lentorio, as an elected public officer and legislator, whether or not he is liable administratively or criminally for his role in this multi-million front liners’ COVID meal controversy.