LEYTE Rep. Vicente Veloso is considering filing estafa and plunder cases against the main contractor of the housing project for victims of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in Eastern Samar for building substandard units.
Veloso and members of the House of Representatives’ Committee on Housing and Urban Development found that only 33 percent of the project has been completed. The lawmakers visited the housing site in Leyte.
At least 14,000 families were displaced in Tacloban when “Yolanda” slammed Eastern Visayas in 2013 in Tacloban.
“Nakita naming na ang mga relocation sites did not have electricity, did not have water (The relocation sites do not have electricity or water). [The housing] has incomplete facilities which hampered the transfer of the intended beneficiaries. To sum it up, I think there was a very substandard construction of the facilities,” Rep. Alfredo Benitez, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development committee, said.
“It was also in this visit that we were able to stumble into one whistleblower who testified under oath during our formal hearing that the materials they used for the construction of the Yolanda housing was substandard,” Benitez added.
The whistleblower, Camilo Salazar, was a sub-contractor of JC Tayag, the main contractor of the National Housing Authority in Eastern Samar.
According to Benitez, Salazar admitted that eight millimeters of metals were used instead of the declared 10 millimeters.
“P75.5 billion ang total allocation with the supplemental budget. P60 billion was already appropriated, and P60 billion is 70 percent of the budget but only 33 percent of the project has been completed. Not even half,” Benitez said.
“So there are billions of pesos that are missing, and therefore somebody has to answer and somebody has to be accountable.This accounts to be a case of plunder,” Velasco said.
The panel urged the Commission on Audit to make a special audit of the Yolanda housing to determine whether or not the houses built for displaced families are safe.
“It’s been four years. Yung iba bumalik sa mga danger zones (Some have returned to live in danger zones). Isipin mo, tinamaan na sila ng trahedya tapos [ganito](Imagine, they were victims of a tragedy and yet this is the situation),” Benitez said.
The lawmakers said Tayag could be charged with estafa because he did not deliver on his promise to build safe houses for the typhoon victims.
“I will say JC Tayag was guilty of estafa when his corporation impressed upon the government that he can build livable and safe houses. But he used substandard materials, he did not follow the specifications of the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways),” Benitez said.
Rep. Arlene Brosas, also a member of the panel, said it is possible that more irregularities will be uncovered when the committee holds an investigation.