Last-minute pork spree by Arroyo bared
MANILA, Philippines—Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s congressional allies, including at least three who are now key allies of President Aquino, spent a total of P10.6 billion on their pet public works projects and P3.9 billion to augment their pork barrel allotments during the last six months of her administration.
This was confirmed by Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson in his testimony before the House committee on good government and accountability that is conducting a probe on how the P69.7-billion congressional insertions—of which P30 billion went to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH)—in Arroyo’s last budget year (2010) were spent.
Singson said only P10.6 billion of the P30 billion was disbursed as of Arroyo’s last day in office, June 30, 2010, but the way the funds were used up “to the last peso” strongly indicated, he said, that the road repairs, dredgings, bridges and schools did not go through the bidding process.
“Most of the projects were farmed out at exactly their ABC (approved budget cost) which obviously means they were not bid out right. Most of the projects were cut into small parcels, like a P100-million project into smaller projects of P500,000 each,” said Singson.
“Whatever was allocated was used up to the last peso. If they were bid out properly, the project cost should have been lower than the budget cost,” he said.
Singson said the DPWH could not establish whether these were “ghost projects” because “I cannot possibly check all of them, we are just looking at the big-ticket items.”
He has left it to the Commission on Audit to determine if these DPWH projects were implemented properly. The House committee has summoned several of the contractors involved to its next hearing.
“At this point there are suspicions, but nothing has been established yet,” said Singson, who stressed that the DPWH could not blacklist contractors on mere suspicion.
But Singson revealed that the DPWH was close to wrapping up its investigation of one of the biggest contractors involved in the suspected scam—JSG Construction and E. Gardiola Construction owned by Edwin and Judy Gardiola.
Singson said that most of the special allocation release orders (Saro) were given directly to the DPWH district offices without the knowledge of the central office.
Singson said these anomalies led him to adopt reforms in farming out DPWH projects such as stopping direct releases to offices, stopping the submission of letters of intent from bidders (which allows syndicates to determine in advance the auction participants) and discontinuing the use of credit line certifications from banks as a basis for determining the capacity of bidders, which Singson said had allowed fly-by-night contractors to bid for big contracts.
The officials who were the biggest recipients of the Arroyo administration’s “midnight” spending were: former and incumbent Representatives Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte’s first district (P735 million), Exequiel Javier of Antique (P636 million), Alfrancis Bichara of Albay’s second district (P633 million), Elandro Jesus Madrona of Romblon (P609 million), Glenn Chong of Biliran (P570 million), Proceso Alcala of Quezon’s second district (P560 million), Aurelio M. Gonzales Jr. of Pampanga’s third district and Arroyo’s hometown (502.5 million), Mark Mendoza of Batangas’ fourth district (P412 million), Edcel Lagman of Albay’s first district (P322.7 million), Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya (P300 million), Diosdado Macapagal Arroyo of Camarines Sur’s first district (P268 million);
Marc Douglas Cagas of Davao del Sur (P260 million), Lorenzo Tañada III of Quezon’s fourth district (P220 million), Carmen Cari of Leyte’s fifth district (P210 million), Pedro Romualdo of Camiguin (P181 million), Vicente Garcia of Davao City (P175 million), Adeline Rodriguez Zaldarriaga of Rizal’s second district (P167 million), Reno Lim of Albay’s third district (P165 million), Orlando Fua of Siquijor (P160 million), Trinidad Apostol of Leyte’s second district (P152.5 million), Arthur Pingoy Jr. of South Cotabato (P150 million), Edwin Uy of Isabela (P147 million), Maria Evita R. Arago of Laguna’s third district (P130 million), Neptali Gonzales of Mandaluyong City (P120 millon), Victoria Reyes of Batangas’ third district (P120 million), Danilo Suarez of Quezon’s third district (P120 million), Thelma Almario of Davao Oriental (P107 million) and Prospero Nograles (P83.5 million).
Tañada, Alcala and Neptali Gonzales are closely allied with the Aquino administration. Tañada is the spokesman of the ruling Liberal Party, Alcala is agriculture secretary while Gonzales continues to be the Mandaluyong congressional representative.
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