Group of mostly Duterte allies will pick Marawi contractor – PCIJ

Ralf Rivas
Group of mostly Duterte allies will pick Marawi contractor – PCIJ

Photo by Martin San Diego/Rapple

Majority of the selection committee members lack experience 'in evaluating public contracts on technical and financial merits,' says a PCIJ report

MANILA, Philippines— At least 7 people, 4 of whom are political allies of President Rodrigo Duterte, will decide which business entities will win the P17.2-billion contract for the rehabilitation of ground zero in Marawi City, according to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ).

The report said majority of selection committee members lack experience “in evaluating public contracts on technical and financial merits,” yet will pass judgment on the deal for the “most affected areas” or MAA. (LIST: Tasks for China consortium in P17.2-B Marawi contract)

The small committee will decide the fate of the deal without the “usual rigorous rules that should apply to public contracts worth P1 billion or more.”

The committee’s co-chairperson, National Housing Authority (NHA) general manager Marcelino Escalada Jr, acknowledged the selection committee’s gap in experience and expertise.

He also admitted that they do not have persons adept in mechanical and electrical work because most of their personnel are architects and civil engineers.

Escalada, however, gave the assurance that he is aided by a pool of consultants, and they “will stay with the team in Marawi.”

“The technical team can check roads… We made a pool of consultants and 4 were identified — one mechanical, one civil, one electrical, and one business consultant. That is the gap of the competency of NHA,” Escalada said.

Committee members

Their committee is chaired by Falconi Millar, secretary general of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council  (HUDCC). Millar is a lawyer and a certified public accountant who had not served in public office before being appointed to the HUDCC.

Millar’s co-chairperson, Escalada, was appointed to the NHA only in 2016, but had worked closely with the President since 1995, according to the PCIJ. Prior to this post, he was Davao City’s administrator and served as head of the City Planning and Development Office.

“Escalada will be the person in charge of the main signatory to the joint venture agreement that will be approved and signed with the winning developer in Marawi’s MAA,” the PCIJ report said.

Paola Alvarez, Department of Finance (DOF) assistant secretary for communications and special concerns, joins the team as a member. She is a lawyer and daughter of House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

Another member of the committee is Emil Sadain, Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) undersecretary for unified project management operations and technical services. The report noted that Sadain “has the most experience of the 7 committee members, having started his public service career in 1986 in what was then the Ministry of Public Works and Highways.”

The report also said that Sadain replaced Tingagun Ampaso Umpa, former DPWH assistant secretary for ARMM in the committee. Umpa was axed due to corruption allegations.

Other members of the committee are Department of Environment and Natural Resources assistant secretary for field operations Michelle Angelica Go, NHA deputy secretary Avelino Tolentino III, and NHA head of operations Victor Balba.

“The selection committee also includes one non-voting member from the Public Private Partnership Center and one observer each from the City of Marawi and Commission on Audit,” the report said.

Questions hounding agencies involved

Overseeing the selection committee is Task Force Bangon Marawi Chair and Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario. He is a retired army general and was an undersecretary of the Department of National Defense during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: HUDCC’s Del Rosario on Marawi rehab, housing backlog, Kadamay)

The report said that “infrastructure and development projects as huge and as complex as those being planned for Marawi are not a strong suit” of the agencies tasked to select the business entities.

A former senior DPWH official said that “NHA is a housing production agency,” and questioned the capacity of the involved agencies.

Ano plano nila sa site development issues? May electric coop, water district diyan for sure. Sino mag-o-organize niyan, ang laki ng project,” the PCIJ source said. (What are their plans for site-development issues? Who will organize all that? It’s such a huge project.)

However, a public procurement expert interviewed by PCIJ warned that “getting technical experts from development partners…is typical in any big-ticket projects of the government. The question here, however, is how involved they are.”

Another contentious feature of the ground zero rehabilitation is the exemption of the private contractors from the scrutiny of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). (READ: Marawi rehabilitation won’t repeat Typhoon Yolanda mistakes – NEDA)

In fact, the report emphasized that NEDA “purposely requested to be excluded from the selection committee.”

NEDA said their presence in the committee would be “inappropriate” as they “would not be following NEDA guidelines (but) NHA guidelines” anyway. —

Read the full PCIJ report here.

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Ralf Rivas

A sociologist by heart, a journalist by profession. Ralf is Rappler's business reporter, covering macroeconomy, government finance, companies, and agriculture.