A LAWMAKER and an official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) are being investigated for possible involvement in the construction of bunkhouses for typhoon victims in Central Visayas that are reportedly undersized and overpriced.
Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (PARR) Secretary Panfilo “Ping” Lacson ordered the investigation on Monday.
Lacson said he received reports as early as December 18 about the anomaly and he immediately asked Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to look into it.
“I have actually coordinated with Secretary Singson on the reported anomaly as early as December 18 after I got the info on possible graft involved in the construction,” Lacson told The Manila Times.
A DPWH inquiry is already under way, but Lacson has asked the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to do its own probe.
“Once we gather sufficient evidence, we will refer it to the Ombudsman,” he added.
In an earlier radio interview, Lacson said an administration congressman and an official of the Comelec are among those being investigated for allegedly “influencing” the choice of the contractors.
He said it appears that the bunkhouses are indeed too small.
“The 3.5 square meters [sqm.] per person standard makes the 8.64 sqm. size per unit in a bunkhouse only good for a couple. With just one child it’s automatically overcrowded,” Lacson said.
Singson denied the bunkhouses were overpriced, adding that it is proven that they are, “the following day I will submit my resignation to President Aquino.”
He, however, admitted that some of the contractors “may have not followed the specifications.”
“If the contractors did not follow the specifications that we gave them, they will not be paid . . . unless they correct or rectify [it]to meet our standards,” Singson said.
He said that while the government has signed a contract with the contractors, no funds have been released.
Contractors whose work will be found to be substandard can retrofit the bunkhouses or donate them altogether, Singson said.
The DPWH’s original design is for each bunkhouse to accommodate up to 24 families. The design was revised to have a bunkhouse accommodate up to 12 families.
The change stemmed from comments of representatives of international agencies that a one-room unit is too cramped.
“The target is 6,000 families by end of January. But because of reconfiguration, we will have to reduce the families that will be accommodated,” Singson said.
World-renowned architect and urban planner Felino Palafox Jr. backed Lacson’s observation that the bunkhouses are “undersized, substandard and overpriced.”
“We at Palafox Associates helped re-plan, remake, and rebuild disaster areas elsewhere in the world. The minimum size of temporary homes is 21 square meters,” he said.
The temporary housing being built has a floor area of 6 sqm. to 9 sqm.
Palafox noted that “fathers and daughters or brothers should not share bedrooms.”
If the allegations of overpricing are true, Palafox said “we are not building back better but building back worse.”
“Our nation builds monuments for the dead and we cannot even provide decent housing for the living,” he said.
He added that if corruption is involved, “the victims are doubly victimized, we taxpayers and donors felt betrayed and frustrated.”
A report by the Camp Coordination and Camp Management group raised concerns regarding the construction of bunkhouses ranging from cramped spaces to lack of ventilation, risk of fires and safety and security of occupants.
Singson said there is no guarantee the DPWH can finish all the bunkhouses in the remaining term of President Benigno Aquino 3rd.
“We’re not saying everything will be done in two years. We’re telling you it can’t, with the scale of devastation there,” he said.
“But we are doing our best to do what we can do in two-and-a-half years,” he said.
Singson is scheduled to check on the bunkhouses on Tuesday.