ON Thursday Jan. 23, former senator and former national police chief of chiefs Panfilo Lacson, who is the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery of the Yolanda-devastated areas, told radio audiences that he knows 10 politicians who benefited from the construction of the overpriced substandard bunkhouses.
On the recommendation of the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), the Aquino administration has laid out a P361-billion Reconstruction Assistance on Yolanda (RAY) plan for areas ravaged by the super typhoon.
For some reason—which we think has more to do with keeping President Aquino and his men look clean than any other reason – the Senate’s scheduled hearing into the overpricing of the substandard bunkhouses for Super-typhoon Yolanda victims was cancelled. The hearing was supposed to be held on Wednesday Jan. 29.
Aside from Mr. Lacson, the Senate had invited architect, urban planner and Times columnist Felino Palafox Jr. to appear in its hearing. Mr. Palafox has said that the bunkhouses were “substandard and undersized,’’ therefore unfit for human beings. Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson himself was forced to admit that there was something wrong with the bunkhouses, which President Aquino had inspected and praised. But Sec. Singson, while criticizing the quality of the bunkhouses, denied that the contractors had overpriced them.
Super-Typhoon Yolanda hit the Visayas and part of Mindanao in November, razing virtually entire coastal towns and neighborhoods.
Before the government stopped counting, 6,000-plus victims had been confirmed dead. It is believed the death toll is more than 10,000—a figure that at first Preesident Aquino thought funnily exaggerated.
Mr. Lacson said some of the crooked politician-officials are allies of the Aquino administration and some are in the opposition. They collected kickbacks from contractors who built the government’s charity temporary housing for Yolanda victims rendered homeless by the tsunami force of the giant waves and strong winds.
Mr. Lacson said the PNP and other government authorities were getting ready to file criminal charges against these politicians and contractors,
The state-owned Philippine News Agency has also reported that Mr. Lacson had a list of people who had “tried to hamper the government’s reconstruction efforts.”
The kickbacks the politician-officials received, Mr. Lacson told reporters,
were about one-third the overpriced sum the contractors charged the Department of Public Works for the bunkhouses.
Will these corrupt politician-officials and the contractors ever be punished?
Powerless against the corrupt
Will the crooked contractors and the corrupt politician-officials who got kickbacks go unpunished?
Mr. Lacson complains that Sec. Singson will not go after the corrupt contractors but will only refuse to pay them for their substandard
But he also gives Mr. Singson an excuse. Mr. Lacson claims he and the Aquino administration are powerless against these bad people. He says the procurement law, which was passed to prevent corruption in public works and other government projects, gives swindler-contractors between 60 to 90 days to correct mistakes in their project costs. He would strike out that provision in the procurement law, if he had a say.
Mr. Singson should be a more rigorous exponent of the President’s increasingly seen-to-be the failed “Tuwid na Daan” policy and “Kung Walang kurap walang mahirap” slogan.
He should prove President Aquino right that he is the most effective and clean Cabinet member. This was an assessment the President publicly proclaimed. Last year, Mr. Aquino lauded Secretary Singson for having reformed the Department of Public Works and Highways and gave a bonus of P10,000 to every DPWH employee.
Sec. Singson should move to prosecute the contractors and the kickback politician-officials. If he does not, he will be another proof that the “Daang Matuwid” policy and program is not just a failure but in fact a giant a smokescreen to hide the corruption of the Aquino Administration.