Senate probes NIA corruption, acting chief admits irregularities in agency
MANILA, Philippines — Acting chief Eduardo Guillen of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) on Thursday admitted to senators that there is corruption within the agency amid alleged anomalies in irrigation projects.
During a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing on NIA irregularities regarding irrigation projects, Guillen was questioned by Senator Raffy Tulfo if there was any corruption within the agency.
“I think sabi po nila lahat daw po yata ng — kahit abroad po — lahat po ng organisasyon meron pong certain corruption,” Guillen initially said.
(I think they said that all — even abroad — all organizations have certain corruption.)
Tulfo, however, told Guillen not to involve other organizations, reminding him that the subject at hand is NIA.
“I’m just talking about NIA. Let’s accept it. The only time you can solve a corruption problem in your agency that you handle, is to accept that there is corruption,” said Tulfo.
“Kasi (because), if you don’t accept that there is corruption, how can you solve that corruption problem? Denial is not the right answer to solve any problem,” he added.
Guillen seemed to rephrase his answer and said there were “lapses” in NIA, but Tulfo told the acting chief not to “sugarcoat” his answers.
“So if there’s corruption, we must solve this. So you admit that there’s corruption?” Tulfo asked.
“Yes po. Kaya inaayos natin iyong sistema (yes, which is why we’re trying to fix the system),” Guillen responded.
Tulfo then told Guillen not to “dilly-dally,” especially if he wanted to be a part of the solution to the corruption problem.
“Papalabasin pa na walang probema, lapses lang. It’s unacceptable in my terms (don’t imply that there are no problems, just lapses. It’s unacceptable in my terms),” said Tulfo.
During the hearing, Tulfo listed several delayed and allegedly anomalous irrigation projects in several provinces, to which Guillen also admitted.
These projects included the Balog Balog Dam, which Guillen explained had been initiated as far back as former President Corazon Aquino’s term.
In a press conference after the hearing, Senator Francis Tolentino praised Guillen for being “honest” in his responses.
“It’s a good start for him having been there just for a few months. Siguro trabaho niya na ngayong ayusin ‘yun (his job now is to fix the problem) hand in hand with the newly designated Chairman of the Board,” said Tolentino.
When asked if the past officials of NIA will be held accountable if the alleged anomalies in the agency’s projects have been proven to be true, Tolentino responded that “subject to proof,” they will be, but it will depend on the committee report.
“But I think even if there is no committee report coming from the Blue Ribbon, the constitutional body named the Ombudsman can motu proprio act,” said Tolentino. With reports from Harold Hernandez, INQUIRER.net trainee