Paying China for botched railway project is violation of graft law
MANILA, Philippines—A lawyer is questioning the government’s move to pay back China’s US$500 million official development assistance (ODA) for the scrapped North Rail project.
Lawyer Harry Roque on Thursday said such payment would be a violation of the anti-graft law since the Supreme Court ruled that the deal with Chinese contractor CNMEG was not an executive agreement and should have gone through proper bidding.
“If the President orders the payment (to push through) it will be an impeachable offense,” he warned.
Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares likewise cautioned the government, saying that “complaints should be filed against all involved, even Chinese officials involved.”
“If the President or any official will allow this to be paid, they must be accountable for that,” said the partylist lawmaker.
Roque said that it was former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had said that the contract with CNMEG need not have gone through the government’s bidding process since it was an executive agreement.
But it was Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno’s decision before she became the head of the high tribunal which stated that the contract was not an executive agreement between the two countries and that CNMEG had no immunity to complaints. “Chief Justice Sereno said that it was an ordinary contract and that the contractor had no immunity. The project should have gone through the bidding process.”
“Why would Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima pay for a contract which violated laws and is considered null and void? [Payment] would be a violation of the anti-graft law,” said the activist lawyer. He was reacting on information that the country has started negotiations to pay back the ODA.
He said that the Chinese contractor could not claim that it signed the agreement in good faith because he along with other groups filed a complaint on the North Rail project at the very onset.
“That is a violation of the anti-graft law. We should not be paying them back since until now not a single part of the railway project has been built,” said Roque.
Roque urged the government to defend its interests, consider the contract with CNMEG illegal and demand that the Chinese contractor give back the amount that the Philippines has already paid for the botched train system project.