‘Kickbacks on Haiyan bunkhouses at 30%’

Paterno Esmaquel II
Since mid-December, rehabilitation czar Panfilo Lacson has been 'quietly investigating' the alleged overpricing of bunkhouses, as allegedly demanded by a local politician

VICTIMS AGAIN? Thousands of Filipinos lose their homes due to Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson says 'unscrupulous' officials have begun to take advantage of them. File photo by Odd Andersen/AFP

MANILA, Philippines – In the face of over a million houses that Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) damaged, a local politician is working toward possible kickbacks of a third of the cost of bunkhouses for affected residents.

Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo “Ping” Lacson on Monday, January 6, said he has been “quietly investigating” reports on this since December 13, when he first visited Yolanda-hit communities.

He said these allegations involve “at least one politician in the area colluding with contractors.” He refused to disclose the area.

“They talked of 30-35% commissions,” Lacson said, citing these reports.

Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson – who vowed on Monday to resign if reports of overpriced bunkhouses are proven true – said he doesn’t know where the reports of “30-35%” commissions were coming from. He indicated though that local politics could be behind them. (READ: Singson: I will resign if bunkhouses are overpriced.)

Lacson confirmed that the accused politician is among those he mentioned late-2013.

 

In December, he said in a radio interview that “unscrupulous lower-ranking officials” have begun to take advantage of the daunting task ahead. (READ: Lacson smells rehab corruption in LGUs.)

FINISHED BUNKHOUSES. These structures serve as temporary shelters in Barangay 62, Tacloban City. Photo by LeANNE Jazul

On Monday, Lacson disclosed additional details after the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported on allegedly “overpriced” bunkhouses.

The Inquirer cited reports “that a 24-room bunkhouse is being constructed at a cost roughly below P200,000 and not P959,360 – the price tag put on it” in the plan by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

It said the Camp Coordination and Camp Management (CCCM), which is affiliated with the International Organization for Migration, described the bunkhouses as “noncompliant in many respects with internationally recognized standards and best practices.”

The newspaper said it obtained a CCCM report that says: “There appears to be a number of contractors working at different sites. Standards and facilities appear to be somewhat different between different locations. It raises the question of whether contractors have different specifications for different sites, if they are using the same specifications, whether these are fully complied with in every location.”

Singson said in the Palace briefing that overpriced and being substandard should be differentiated.

Preparing charges

 

On Monday, Lacson said he “coordinated closely” with Singson “by sharing with him all the information gathered on the ground.”

 

He said he has the documents on the following: 

 

  • programs of work
  • bills of materials and specifications
  • observations and recommendations by the CCCM

Lacson said he will compare these documents with the standard specifications from the DPWH. He said he is awaiting the DPWH documents, which Singson promised to send him on Monday.

SUBJECT OF CORRUPTION? Rehabilitation Secretary Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson says he is investigating the allegedly overpriced bunkhouses. Photo by LeANNE Jazul

Singson, on the other hand, said: “Hindi ko alam kung saan nanggagaling ‘yung 30 to 35%, dahil alangan naman ‘yung contractor nag-abono pa siya.” (I don’t know where the 30 to 35% came from, because it’s unlikely that the contractor will pay for it in advance.)

Wala pa naman siyang tinatanggap sa aming bayad,” Singson said of the contractor. “Saan manggagaling ‘yung 30 to 35% na ipamimigay ng contractor?” (The contractor hasn’t received any payment. Where will it get the 30 to 35% that it allegedly gives?)

He added, “Eh kung ako naman ang contractor, bakit pa ako pupunta riyan?” (If I were the contractor, why will I have to go there?)

Singson said he talked with Lacson about this, and told him if he has specifics, “let’s address that.”

‘No second chance’

In any case, Lacson said he has requested the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group of the Philippine National Police to investigate this.

He said the government will file charges before the Ombudsman “once we gather sufficient evidence to warrant a formal investigation.”

“As I said earlier, we offer no second chance to people who cannot distinguish anymore between ordinary and extraordinary corruption,” Lacson said.

Lacson assumed his post as presidential assistant for rehabilitation and recovery in December, with orders to ensure transparency in rehabilitation funds. (READ: Aquino to Lacson: Take care of funds.)

 

There’s a hitch, however. Lacson himself has no power over the budget.

 

He said his appointment has no “legal weight,” and he is limited to oversight. (READ/WATCH: Lacson as rehab czar: Does he need more powers?)


 

The amount at stake, according to the government’s rehabilitation blueprint, is around P360.9 billion in a span of 4 years. (READ: PH needs P361B for post-Yolanda rehab.)

 

Government figures show Yolanda damaged at least 1.14 million houses – 550,900 of these totally damaged and 589,400 partially damaged. – Rappler.com

 

Paterno Esmaquel II

Paterno R. Esmaquel II, news editor of Rappler, specializes in covering religion and foreign affairs. He obtained his MA Journalism degree from Ateneo and later finished MSc Asian Studies (Religions in Plural Societies) at RSIS, Singapore. For story ideas or feedback, email him at pat.esmaquel@rappler.com.