Double whammy?

N. Vizcaya solon’s ‘pork’ project questioned

From the Philippine Daily Inquirer, September 29, 2012

BAMBANG, Nueva Vizcaya—The authenticity of a P1-million drainage canal project, which has been the subject of complaints from residents here, has been challenged by documents that suggest that it was charged against two separate government allocations.

Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla and officials of the Department of Public Works and Highways had earlier announced that the project in Banggot village here was financed by the lawmaker’s 2011 priority development assistance fund (PDAF). But DPWH records also showed that it was charged against the DPWH’s regular funding for 2011.

Documents obtained by the Inquirer reveal that the construction of the drainage canal, as well as three other projects, was included in a P4-million special allotment release order (Saro) that was charged against the agency’s 2011 fund classified as Various Infrastructure including Local Projects (VILP).

The controversial drainage project in Barangay Banggot in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya. Even the DPWH billboard announces that it was charged out of the 2011 Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of Rep. Carlos Padilla. Photo by Melvin Gascon

DPWH sources, who asked not to be named to protect them from reprisals, said that projects funded out of the PDAF and of the VILP fall under separate categories.

“The VILP is part of the regular funding of the DPWH, while the congressman’s PDAF is not. What is worrisome here is that funds may have been drawn twice for the same project. This is what is often called ‘double charging,’” said the source in Filipino.

The source also questioned how the P1-million contract was supposedly passed on from the winning contractor to another company which was not a licensed and accredited contractor of the government, based on official documents.

“The winning contractor may have been forced to yield to the whims of the subcontractor who has the right connections,” the source said, without elaborating.

In a public forum presided over by Padilla on Aug. 30, the congressman took to task the Inquirer for a published photograph of a billboard bearing his face and name, with a caption that said the poster was “grabbing credit” for the lawmaker.

“I do not see any credit-grabbing so the caption is erroneous, because that fund came from my PDAF. That did not come from the regular fund of the DPWH, or from the provincial government or the town government. But how come [the Inquirer is] now saying that that was credit-grabbing?” Padilla said.

Ronald Reyes, DPWH district engineer, said the project was just mistakenly reported as PDAF-funded. “It can be confusing at times, because even the VILP funds are released through the initiative of (members of Congress). Thus they may also be considered as PDAF,” he said.

Sought for comment, Padilla said: “Records show that the P1 million released by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) is charged against DPWH VILP. What is important is there is this same Saro, so there can be no duplication.”

Banggot village residents had blamed the allegedly poor construction of the canal project for the flooding in their neighborhood.

Reyes also said they had no information that the project was undertaken by a subcontractor. He said it was difficult for the DPWH to detect if contractors violate the agency’s regulations against subcontracting of projects.

“They can always deny and we have no way of tracing that further. What is important is [that] the main contractor remains answerable to the DPWH,” he said. Melvin Gascon, Inquirer Northern Luzon

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