DARAGA, Albay: A former employee of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has asked President Benigno Aquino 3rd and the Commission on Audit (COA) to investigate an alleged P100-million road scam in Bicol.
Romeo Esplana a former DPWH executive and a member of Citizens Crime Watch, complained about a barangay road concreting project in former rebel-infested villages that was rapidly deteriorating despite its exorbitant cost.
But in a letter dated May 30, a copy of which was obtained by The Manila Times, DPWH regional director Danilo Dequito denied they had a P100-million road concreting project known as the Mayon-San Ramon-Bigao road in Daraga, Albay covering the period 2012 to 2013.
Albay Gov. Joey Salceda’s provincial engineer Dante Baclao also issued a certification dated May 13 stating that the province did not have a concreting project in the said rebel-infested areas on the Mayon-San Ramon-Bigao route.
Furthermore, DPWH Secretary Rogelio Singson in a June 3 letter asked Esplana to prove his allegations. But Esplana countered that Singson must do the probe himself.
The funding of the P100 million road project, according to documents, formed part of the regular funds developed through the Regional Development Council (RDC), which Salceda has headed for three successive terms. It was officially known as the Mayon-Bigao-San Ra–mon-Gogon section which formed part of the Governor Guecadale platoon road project leading to the P4-billion Bicol International Airport project at upper Barangay Comon, Da–raga town. Guecadale stands for the neighboring Guino–batan, Camalig, Daraga, Legaz–pi road section.
The P100-million project was bid out by the DPWH regional office on March 5, 2013 two months before the May 13 election.
In a report by the Bicol Mail dated April 4, 2013 titled “P100 million airport road project splits two Albay pols,” one Dennis Macandog of the local Virzontal Builders complained of alleged pressure from Albay 2nd District Rep. Al Francis Bichara, who was claiming credit for the project.
Bichara claimed that the project was realized on the basis of his letter-request to Singson for funding dated June 15, 2012. On October 10, 2012, Singson wrote Bichara informing him about the P100-million release for the “upgrading from gravel to concrete of the five-kilometer road known as Guecadale platoon road—Mayon-Bigao-San Vicente-Ibaugan-Gogon section, the documents showed.
Macandog said he won the project in a bidding at the DPWH regional office at a bid price of P96 million and that the funding formed part of Salceda’s Guecadale project. He added that Bichara knew nothing about Guecadale.
Contacted for comment, Sal–ceda confirmed the P100-million project formed part of his Guecadale platoon project, saying his role was limited to the realization of the funding that passed through the Regional Development Council. Bichara cannot be contacted for comment
Last month, Macandog in a radio interview confirmed the Mayon-Bigao-San Vicente-Ibaugan-Gogon project was his but said it was implemented by Daraga barangay captain Alvin Montallana as sub-contractor. During the interview, Macandog said he was willing to handle the cost of the repair if required. Montallana is a brother of former provincial board member Niel Montallana, now Daraga municipal councilor.
Barangay officials and residents said they never thought the road concreting project implemented section by section cost P100 million, saying old damaged concreted portions were merely poured with concrete instead of leveling these first to the ground preparatory to the six-inch concrete pouring. The thickness of the poured cement in many portions was estimated between two and four inches only, according to Esplana who insisted the project was considered a “ghost” project as the accomplishment was worth far below 50 percent of the project cost.
Daraga Mayor Jerry Jaucian confirmed the P100-million fund was a DPWH project awarded to Virzontal Builders, but said the deterioration of the project was caused by heavy equipment having been allegedly allowed to pass the route. The CCW was not convinced, saying a six-inch-high concrete road built according to the program of work would not allow that road to be pulverized less than a year after its reported completion.
Esplana said he had also written the COA to conduct its own probe asking why a P100-million incomplete project could pass its scrutiny. He added that COA auditor Ella Areola detailed at the DPWH regional office was provided free quarters and a helper inside the compound of the Albay First District Engineering Office at the Legazpi airport site. He assailed Dequito, his former boss, for denying the project.
Esplana pointed to the construction division as the DPWH implementing arm of the P100- million project headed by engineer Godofredo Beltran.