Irrigation chief quits amid whiff of corruption | Inquirer News

Irrigation chief quits amid whiff of corruption

Rodrigo Duterte and Peter Laviña

President Rodrigo Duterte and Peter Tiu Laviña. (Photo by MARIANNE BERMUDEZ/INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

“Even a whiff, or a whisper, of corruption and you’re out.”

Rodrigo Duterte sounded that warning to government officials barely a week before he assumed the presidency in July last year.


On Wednesday, Malacañang announced that the head of the  National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Peter Laviña, had “tendered his resignation amid attempts to vilify, discredit and malign him and to spare the President from any embarrassment due to these attempts.”


“It is with deep regret that our office receives this news and wishes him well in his next endeavors,” said the curt statement issued by Cabinet Secretary Leoncio Evasco, which was read by presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella at a news conference.

Last December, two associate commissioners of the Bureau of Immigration—Michael Robles and Al Argosino—were sacked amid an alleged P50-million bribery scandal. The two were fraternity brothers of the President at San Beda College of Law.

Abella was asked if the President referred to Laviña in a speech last week in which he said he had fired someone from Davao for supposedly asking for money—40 percent—from NIA contractors, according to one news report.

Mr. Duterte mentioned no name, Abella said. “So, let’s leave it at that,” he said.

Abused and maligned

Sonny Matula, president of the Federation of Free Workers, said Mr. Duterte, in a meeting with 20 labor leaders in Malacañang on Monday, mentioned that he had fired Laviña, a longtime aide when he was the Davao City mayor.


Laviña also served as Mr. Duterte’s presidential campaign spokesperson last year.

“It was during the free-flowing discussion that the President mentioned Pete Laviña’s name as the person he had sacked,” Matula said in a telephone interview.

Matula said the President recounted that he had learned that this person “could not resist temptation, that he was getting a certain percentage. That’s why he said he talked to him and fired him. He said he could not tolerate this kind of activity.”

In a Facebook post on Wednesday, Laviña announced that he had left the Duterte administration just three months after he was named to the top NIA post. He said his name had been “used, abused and maligned.”

“Recently, there had been efforts to discredit me again. There are rumors circulating that I have asked money from NIA contractors. These are not true!” said Laviña, whose wife is an undersecretary in the Department of Agriculture.

Laviña said he decided to resign to spare Mr. Duterte embarrassment, especially now that attacks on the President are intensifying.

Rigged bidding denied

In a statement on Monday, Laviña denied as “baseless” a report that the NIA was repeatedly revising bidding requirements for the Balog-Balog Multipurpose (BBMP) dam project in Tarlac province to ensure that the preferred contractor or contractors would win.

“I have not received any report about the BBMP bidding or its results so there is no truth that a bidder had won the contract for this project,” Laviña said.

The BBMP project has a potential to generate 43.5 megawatt of hydropower, with the dam having a storage capacity of 560 million cubic meters. It is also expected to provide the upland communities with livelihood opportunities through fishery on at least 150 hectares in the 1,755-ha reservoir.

According to the bids and awards committee (BAC), only the consortium of ITP Construction Inc. and Guangxi Hydroelectric Construction Bureau Co. Ltd. submitted a tender before the deadline in January.

Only one other party—the consortium of Green Asia Construction and Development Corp. and Guandong No. 2 Hydropower Engineering Co. Ltd.—came to submit a bid, but did so past the deadline.

The BAC said there were other qualified bidders, but they later withdrew.

Incompetent contractors

Milagros Nopre, who headed the BAC secretariat, said the decision to continue the bidding process was based on section 36 of the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act No. 9184 (Government Procurement Reform Act).

“The bidding can proceed even with a lone bidder because there is no assurance that (this bidder) will be awarded with the contract,” Nopre said.

“What if the lone bidder failed the postqualification evaluation? It is only then can we declare a failure of bidding and proceed to a rebidding,” he added.

On Jan. 11, Laviña threatened to blacklist “incompetent contractors” and called for an inspection of all dams and irrigation infrastructure to check their structural integrity and safety in case of earthquakes and typhoons.

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Back then, Laviña said there were some contractors who had started “courting” him for participation in future NIA projects, but that he had insisted on strict compliance with the rules and requirements of public bidding.

TAGS: Peter Laviña

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