11 TVIs at TESDA: Sister firms, linked to pols, not SEC-registered

Sixth of a Series

THEY ARE supposed to be top-rate technical vocational institutions (TVIs), which is why they bagged millions of pesos from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA.

Or actually, from the pork-barrel funds of some legislators that had been loaded up in TESDA’s agency budget.

But the Commission on Audit (COA), in its report on TESDA for 2013, had found them “non-compliant” with TESDA’s training rules, and their project implementation, marked with “discrepancies.” Generally, for a lot more money per seminar, they trained fewer students across shorter training periods, COA said.

Data from the e-Fund portal of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) show that at least 19 legislators had allocated between P12.5 million and P90.95 million of their pork shares from 2010 to 2013 to the 11 TVIs named in COA’s report.

At least two of the 11 TVIs – Ilaw ng Bayan and I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc. – were even described by state auditors as having not one of the livelihood programs that “could be associated with any of the programs per training regulations or competency-based curricula.”

In an effort to understand why, despite these COA findings, these TVIs remain in the good graces of some legislators, PCIJ checked out the files of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), mined DBM’s database on PDAF releases, and visited with some of them at their offices.

PCIJ’s research, however, yielded more questions than answers. Here’s what we found:

BSC Technological Institute, Inc, or (Bruno’s Services Corp.) Technological Institute, Inc. registered with the SEC on October 17, 2010. Its office is listed at Unit 1501 West Tower, Philippine Stock Exchange Centre, Exchange Road, Ortigas Center, Pasig City.

PCIJ research shows that it shares the same office with First Union Direct Corporation, a subsidiary of Union Bank. First Union Direct is engaged in marketing and retail of credit cards.

BSC was created to “engage in the business of a private technical and vocational school.” Its incorporators are Jose Marco M. Pascual, Karina M. Manapat, Myra Joyce M. Magpale, Ma. Paz D. Manas, and Amelia D. Manas.

PCIJ’s further research shows that Pascual is the son of Amelia. Meanwhile, Karina, Myra Joyce, and Ma. Paz are sisters of Amelia. Pascual is the business development manager of Bruno’s Services Corp. (BSC), which runs Bruno’s Barbers, one of the leading barber shop chain in the country. It also runs Fab Salons. Bruno’s Barbers started in 1990 and now has 30 branches across the country.

No corporation under the name of Bruno’s Services Corp. (BSC), however, is listed to have registered with SEC.

DBM’s data on lawmakers’ pork releases from July 2010 to June 2013 show that BSC Technological Institute received P3 million from the PDAF of Pangasinan 3rd District Representative Ma. Rachel J. Arenas in 2013 for the implementation of specialty training program in Hairdressing NCII for approximately 150 students of the 3rd District of Pangasinan.

COA’s 2013 Annual Audit Report (AAR) on TESDA said “(t)here was an excess payment of training cost and assessment fee in the total amount of P2,025,000.00 made to the  BSC Technological Institute for 150 scholars on Haircutting.”

COA explained that “(a)s compared with the TESDA’s regular rate on the training course in Haircutting,   the training cost being claimed by the BSC is higher by P13,000.00 per scholar.  Likewise, the assessment fee which is inclusive on the claim made by the said TVI is in excess of P500 per trainee or a total of P75,000.00.”

I-Connect Solutions Tek Bok Inc. listed the residential address of its board members Mark Rainier T. Luz (board chairman), Danilo Lingad, and Carla Bumagat as its office address, too. But that same address belongs to two more entities:  Margin Multi-Ventures and Construction Corporation, a private company, and the Party-list group 1-ABAA (1-Ako Babaeng Astig Aasenso), which ran but lost in the 2010 elections. 1-ABAA became controversial in 2010 when it proposed a law putting a 10-year cap on the validity of a marriage contract.

Margie Tajon was at that time named as the 1-ABAA president. A certain Margie Tajon Luz also appears as the president and board chair of another TESDA TVI, Gabaymasa Foundation. Inc. In December 2014, the Ombudsman filed graft and malversation charges against Luz and Gabaymasa for their involvement in the so-called “fertilizer fund scam.”

I-Connect registered with the SEC on July 23, 2009 to “establish and operate an Education Institution or Learning Center, which shall provide technical, vocational training programs, and courses in the study of technical-vocational and such other short term courses.” DBM’s data on PDAF releases show that former Aangat Tayo Party-list Rep. Daryl Grace Abayon allocated P2 million to I-Connect in 2011 as “(f)inancial assistance to the TESDA Central Office for the implementation of scholarship program.”

Ilaw ng Bayan, which has Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte as an incorporator (as well as its president, according to its Facebook page), has two SEC registration records. It first registered in 1993 but that is now listed to have been revoked. It registered again in 2015 for this purpose: “to establish an educational scholarship/dormitory shelter, and/or other assistance for deserving disadvantageous students.”

Also referred to in its documents as the Quezon City Skills and Livelihood Training Center, Ilaw ng Bayan’s course offerings include “bartending, hilot, food and beverages, barista, housekeeping,” according to its Facebook page.

Informatics Computer Institute Valenzuela closed shop on June 30, 2014, according to its website. This was within six months after it was able to get pork-funded projects with TESDA.

Informatics Valenzuela was a franchise of Informatics Computer Institute, Inc. PCIJ could not find records on Informatics Valenzuela at the SEC, but its parent company is shown to have registered.

According to Eloisa Edano, manager of Informatics in Megamall and Makati, the franchisees of Informatics are required to register their own companies with the SEC. All that the parent company provides its franchisees, she says, are course curricula and training for their management staff.

Matuwid na Landas Foundation Inc., which listed its office address at 83 Times St., West Triangle, Quezon City, registered with the SEC on March 22, 2012. Records show that DBM released pork funds to the foundation in September and October of the same year. This means it registered in the same year that it landed pork contracts with TESDA.

Two Quezon City legislators – Winston Castelo and former 1st District Rep. Vincent Crisologo – allocated P10 million each to Matuwid na Landas Foundation in 2012 as financial assistance for the implementation of scholarship programs. In its 2014 GIS, the foundation said that its primary purpose is “to provide hope to people by giving them positive outlook in life that with the Matuwid ng Landas advocacy, we can improve lives for the common good of the Philippine Society.”

Mechatronics Technologies Inc. has no registration records with the SEC, but there is a Mechatronics Technologies Corporation that registered on March 19, 2004. Its stated primary purpose: “To manufacture and/or aid in the manufacturing of mechatronic technologies and systems that will “aid in the improvement of industrial production operating costs of systems and machineries.”

It also engages in “acquiring, constructing, erecting, leasing, and operating “plants, mills, factory sites, and the machineries and equipment required for the conduct of such manufacturing operations.”

It filed on July 19, 2013 its amended articles of incorporation and enrolled this new primary purpose: offering “technical vocational educational training (TVET)” and conducting “assessment on Mechatronics Technologies.”

Mechatronics listed its office address at Mega Plaza Building in Ortigas, Pasig City, and said it has a branch office at the UP Campus in Diliman, Quezon City. Gamaliel F. Itao is listed as board chairman and president; Virginia C. Itao, corporate secretary; and Eduardo S. Guinto, Loreto D. Caluya Jr., and Philip Marvin D. Joven, board members.

PCIJ research shows that Gamaliel F. Itao is also the president and general manager of Industrial Controls Corporation (ICC) and an incorporator of ICC Global Technical Manpower Services, Inc.

ICC has five business lines: Project Engineering, Systems Troubleshooting, Product Distribution and Selling, Maintenance Contracting, and Training. In 2013, ICC bagged a P4.019-million contract with the Department of Finance (DOF) for the “operation and maintenance service for the power and utility system of the DOF for the period February 2013 to December 2013.” No corporation under the name of Industrial Controls Corporation (ICC), however, is listed in SEC.

In 2005, Mechatronics was established to be the “training arm of ICC.” Mechatronics is listed to be a “TESDA (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) accredited Training and Assessment center.” Meantime, ICC Global Technical Manpower Services was registered with the SEC in 2011 to “offer and engage in management and maintenance contracting services.”

The three corporations have the same set of board members and officers. Gamaliel F. Itao is also the chairman of Mechatronics and Robotics Society of the Philippines (MRSP), “a group of people who are committed to the advancement of mechatronics and robotics technology in the Philippines.”

In its 2013 report on TESDA, COA said that in its “audit of 37 disbursement vouchers paid by the Districts of MuntiParLasTaPat and Manila” to Mechatronics Technologies, Inc. and Honorio Lopez Technology Institute, “77 percent of the total scholars or 481 out of 623 did not undergo the mandatory assessment which is not in accordance with TESDA Circular No. 4, series of 2013.”

COA added, “(There) were cases where the number of days required to finish the two courses undertaken by Mechatronics Technologies, Inc. was shortened by 12 to 26 days.”  It said that the attendance sheet submitted by Mechatronics showed that the scholars completely attended the program. But when state auditors interviewed 28 scholars by phone, they found out that the students “took the training less than the required number of training days.”

Meridian International College of Business, Arts and Technology does not seem to be listed at the SEC as such. There is a Meridian International College of Business and Arts, Inc., which is more popularly known as MINT College. It registered with the SEC on June 9, 2010 and listed its office address at 2/F Commerce and Industry Plaza, Campus Ave cor. Park Ave., McKinley Hill, Fort Bonifacio, Taguig City.

DBM data show that from 2011 to 2012, five legislators allocated a combined total of P12.5 million from their pork to Meridian International College to fund TESDA’s scholarship programs. They included then Taguig City/Pateros 2nd District Rep. Sigfrido Tinga, who allocated P1.5 million in 2011 and P5 million in 2012, and Navotas City Rep. Tobias Tiangco, who allocated P2.4 million. Three other legislators each allocated P1.2 million to Meridian in 2012.

The programs being offered at MINT College include Theater Arts, Music Business Management, Information Technology, Computer Science, Marketing, Entrepreneurial Management, New Media Arts and Film.

Serbisyong Pagmamahal registered with the SEC on August 13, 2002 and stated these primary purposes: to promote the welfare of barangay officials and service workers, and to engage “in programs that would promote the general welfare of the poor in the 1st, 2nd, 3rd & 4th districts of Quezon City and all brgys., municipalities, cities and provinces comprising the islands of Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao in the Philippines.”

Serbisyong Pagmamahal listed its office address as 149 Matatag St., Diliman, Quezon City. Its papers with the SEC show two incorporators and seven board members. Two, Tez Renalyn D. Maddela and Elisa V. Calapre, seem to share the same address: 26-E V. Luna Avenue, Brgy. Pinyahan, Quezon City.

A resolution unanimously approved by its board on December 29, 2014, however, stated that “the corporation intends to cease operation effective December 31, 2014.”

DBM data on the PDAF releases of legislators show that Serbisyong Pagmamahal along with Bagong Henerasyon Foundation Inc. received from the PDAF of Quezon City 2nd District Rep. Winston Castelo through TESDA-National Capital Region P13 million in 2010, another P4.2 million in 2011, and P10 million more in 2012.

Asian Spirit Career Foundation, Inc., Asian Touch International Training Institute, Inc., and Phil-Best Entrepreneurs are sister companies. They were incorporated by same persons.

Last week, PCIJ interviewed Ma. Joycelynn L. Rodriguez and Princebini M. Cacnio who said they are both incorporators and board members of the three TVIs. Rodriguez and Cacnio said all three were created to establish and operate training centers that would provide technical vocational education.

COA’s 2013 annual audit report shows that the three TVIs were the highest recipient of the pork-funded training programs of TESDA. Of the P125.95 million from PDAF that TESDA received in 2013 from several legislators, Asian Spirit, Asian Touch and Phil-Best received P33,682,000, P9,449,000 and P9,043,500, respectively, that same year.

DBM data on PDAF releases show that eight legislators had allocated a total of P90.95 million of pork to Asian Touch International Training Institute, Inc. from 2010 to 2012.

Asian Touch’s biggest pork donors were two lady legislators from Makati City: Representatives Monique Yazmin Lagdameo and Mar-Len Abigail Binay. Lagdameo allocated P17 million in 2011 and another P4.5 million in 2012 to Asian Touch. Binay allocated P13 million in 2011 and another P6 million in 2012 to Asian Touch.

Two other legislators gave Asian Touch more pork funds from 2010 to 2012: Marikina City 2nd District Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo, P8.5 million; and Buhay Hayaan Yumabong (BUHAY) Party-list Representative William Irwin Tieng, P16.95 million.

Asian Spirit registered with the SEC on Nov. 7, 2006. Its declared purpose: “To provide humanitarian care services for the physical, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being of our marginalized brothers and sisters.”

TESDA’s website shows that the main training center Asian Spirit is located at 3/F Anciro Bldg. Madlang Sakay St., Silang, Cavite. According to Rodriguez, Asian Spirit engaged in a partnership with Japan-based agencies to send their graduates to Japan for work, and operates mobile technology-based community training and other similar short-term activities.

Phil-Best meanwhile registered with the SEC on Nov. 11, 2005, and listed its office address as 15 Ignacio Cruz St. Brgy. San Roque, Marikina. But according to TESDA’s website, Phil-Best is located at Unit 11 2nd Floor Citiplace Bldg., Jose Abad Santos Str., Greenhills, San Juan City. It offers training seminars on body massage, beauty care, make up, foot spa and hand spa.

Rodriguez said that Phil-Best trains students interested in “marketing and food and beverages” and that it has partnered with Singapore-based recruitment agencies to send their student in Singapore for training.  She said that Phil-Best students get to stay in Singapore for six months, all expenses paid, and receive a monthly allowance of 400 Singapore dollars and overtime pay of 10 Singapore dollars per hour.

DBM data on PDAF releases show that in 2012, Phil-Best secured a total of P23.2 million in pork funds from six legislators. They include four of those who had also donated to Asian Touch and Asian Spirit: Binay, Lagdameo, Quimbo, and Tieng.

Former Palawan 1st District Representative Antonio Alvarez gave Phil-Best its largest pork harvest, P6 million, in 2012. Buhay Party-list Representative Tieng pitched in P4.5 million, while Binay and Lagdameo gave P4 million each. – With research and reporting by Rowena F. Caronan, PCIJ, August 2015