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Will Napoles spill the beans?

I have never believed that Janet Lim Napoles masterminded the siphoning of billions of pesos of public funds into the hands of lawmakers through fake NGOs and other avenues. It was above and beyond her competency, to put it directly. She was just a high school graduate who learned to corner huge government contracts using connections in the military back in the 90s.

Janet_Lim-Napoles_mugshotWhen the Aquino administration came to power in 2010, she had developed enough political contacts to be able to penetrate the inner sanctums of government. She was in the right place at the right time. Top officials of the Aquino administration, especially those in Congress and the DBM, found in Napoles a perfect specimen, a businesswoman who followed orders to the letter for a piece of the pie. The pie happened to be the PDAF and DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program). A former Cabinet secretary, a lawyer from Iloilo, was assigned to be the cow tender for the Napoles machinery.

The complexity of the entire operation is enough to show that Napoles couldn’t have conceived how the money will be stolen. It took the evil genius of these top LP leaders to map out the whole scam, right from the faucet of DBM to the bank accounts of lawmakers who partook of the largess. Of course, what is not highlighted is the fact that the real masterminds reaped a bigger harvest. Napoles got small change, although that was in the vicinity of hundreds of millions of pesos. It was easy money for Napoles, but easier still for the brains of the scam.

As expected, the news about Napoles being admitted to the Witness Protection Program (WPP) of the Department of Justice was devastating for lawmakers who were in one way or the other complicit in the scam. But the biggest fright is now being felt by the real masterminds. For one thing, Napoles could provide information about her shopping trips with the wife of an LP senator abroad. That would belie the claim of that LP senator that he and Napoles were mere acquaintances.

Those who have no dark secrets with Napoles don’t have to be worried. After all, her testimony would be subjected to cross-examination at trial. If she is lying, then the innocent can win back their freedoms.

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Gone is the rule of law

I just received word that the Ombudsman, in less than one month, dismissed my motion for reconsideration in the graft complaint I filed against Senate President Franklin Drilon and several other respondents in connection with the Iloilo Convention Center project anomalies.

The Ombudsman has shown once again its unrivaled speed and efficiency in resolving cases (lopsidedly when it comes to close allies of the President). I filed the motion for reconsideration on June 4, 2015 (by registered mail). The resolution denying it was signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on July 9, 2015.
This was not unexpected. When the Ombudsman dismissed my complaint in record time of five months last May, I knew that forces outside the law were at work here. This is an agency that takes five years, on the average, in resolving simple graft cases. Several complaints I have filed against Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog have languished in the central office on review for more than two years (and that’s just REVIEW).
The Ombudsman swept aside the truth, especially on the point that the fund disbursements for the ICC from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were illegal and constituted malversation of public funds. The DAP funds for the ICC were disbursed through DPWH even if there was no line item budget for the project in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Ombudsman mocked at the decision of the Supreme Court on the DAP cases when it ruled that those funds allocated to projects NOT INCLUDED IN THE GAA AS LINE ITEMS ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ILLEGAL. It is so brazen that one wonders where the rule of law has been buried.
This is a concrete illustration of selective justice. The evidence was ignored to favor the respondents, especially Senate President Drilon. I must accept defeat in the face of this herculean conspiracy to bury the truth. I am powerless against them. I have no resources to carry the battle to the higher courts.
I guess this will have to be resolved at a later time when the rule of law is fully restored in our country, and the principle of accountability is strengthened. The Ombudsman is making a huge travesty of the anti-corruption efforts. It is undermining its own mandate.
With my head unbowed, I say, I have fought the good fight.

ICC a monumental fraud using DAP funds – Mejorada

Phase I ICC

PRESS RELEASE

The Supreme Court ruling upholding the unconstitutionality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) sets the stage for the prosecution of Senate President Franklin Drilon for deliberately pushing for “augmentation” in the hundreds of millions of pesos for a project that wasn’t on the General Appropriations Act (GAA), former Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel Mejorada said.

In a statement following the announcement of the SC ruling, Mejorada said the Iloilo Convention Center was a project of the Department of Tourism (DOT) through the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (TIEZA) using the latter’s corporate funds.

Describing the ICC as “a monumental fraud”, Mejorada said Drilon used his clout and influence to secure the release of P300 million in DAP funds for phase I of the project despite his knowledge that there was no item in the GAA for 2012 and 2013 to augment in the first place.

Mejorada said the SC ruling strengthens his plunder case against Drilon for being the proponent of the release of P300 million in DAP funds for the ICC.

On January 26, Mejorada submitted to the Ombudsman his reply-affidavit to refute the “lame excuses” given by Drilon and his co-respondents in his complaint for plunder, malversation of public funds, perjury, dishonesty and grave misconduct.

“There’s no more dispute that Drilon is the proponent for the release of the DAP funds as he had admitted it during the Blue Ribbon Committee hearing on the issue last Nov. 13,” Mejorada said.

He expressed confidence that the Ombudsman will find probable cause and indict Drilon, DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, DOT secretary Ramon Jimenez Jr., TIEZA chief Mark Lapid, DPWH Usecs Romeo Momo and Jaime Pacanan, DPWH regional director Edilberto Tayao and BAC chairman Marily Celiz.

Mejorada said the ICC is riddled with violations of RA 9184 and other laws, including RA 8974 that governs the acquisition of private property for right-of-way and sites for infrastructure projects.

“The number one violation is the Deed of Donation (between Megaworld and DOT) over the 1.7-hectare property on which the ICC is being constructed,” he said.

He said the implementing rules and regulations for RA 8974 stipulates that donations of land for ROW and sites for government infrastructure projects should be unconditional.

In the Deed of Donation, Megaworld required DOT to use the property as site for a convention center and allocate P200 million to build the same. It also imposed the condition that DOT use its proposed conceptual design for the project.

Mejorada insisted that the Deed of Donation set the funding parameters for the ICC.

“It is crystal clear that Megaworld had calculated it would cost DOT only P200 million to build the ICC based on the proposed conceptual design it provided,” Mejorada said.

Mejorada also pointed out that the architectural firm of William V. Coscolluela and Associates, did not have a contract to serve as consultant for the DOT. Because of this, it had no legal personality to prepare the building plans for the government and review the technical bid proposal of Hilmarc’s, he added.

One of the most serious breaches of the government procurement reform law was the admission of Coscolluela that he allowed Hilmarc’s to revise its value engineering proposal after it was submitted to DOT for review and approval, he said.

“This violates the pass/fail criteria in RA 9184 because proposals cannot be revised, altered or revised once these are submitted to the procuring entity for evaluation,” he said.

Mejorada reiterated his motion filed with the Ombudsman to place Singson, Jimenez and the other public respondents under preventive suspension while the preliminary investigation of the case is on-going. (30)

Ultimate greed

The Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was the largest robbery in broad daylight this country has ever seen. Hundreds of billions of pesos were hurriedly spent for projects that didn’t undergo rigid planning. Most skipped the processes for procurement like transparent public biddings. The result is that tens of billions of pesos were stolen under the auspices of “matuwid na daan”.

There is no better illustration for this grand plunder than the more than two billion pesos in infrastructure projects implemented in Iloilo City by the Department of Public Works and Highways. It only takes a brief glance at the program of works for the projects to reach a conclusion that this was a criminal operation.

On top of the list is the 1.9 kilometer stretch of the Diversion Road, officially known as the Benigno Aquino Jr. Ave., between the Iloilo River and El 98 in Jaro. The contract price for that short length is P298 million. It involved road widening by one lane on each side, with pavement-tiled bike lanes and service road for the north-bound lane.  At that price, each kilometer of this “beautiful” road cost the taxpayer P156.8 million.

If this fails to shock readers, I don’t know what will. But that is a scandalous overprice by any standards. How its sponsor, Senate President Franklin Drilon, allowed the DPWH to pad the costs to this stratospheric level is difficult to understand. When a kilometer of concrete road by DPWH standards costs only P15 million, this figure demonstrates that the person behind the project possessed the ultimate greed.

But it doesn’t end there. The man behind the Diversion Road must have liked it so much he decided to extend the reach of the ultimate greed machine. Three months ago, DPWH parceled out contracts for more road widening activities on the Diversion Road. One section of the widening project commences at station 6+740 and ends at station 6+940. Its length is just 200 lineal meters. The budget is P22,964,074.44. Two hundred lineal meters! That’s equivalent to P11,482,037.22 per 100 meters.

For this batch of road widening projects for the Diversion Road, the total DPWH appropriation was P167,326,488.54, covering only a total distance of 2.2 kilometers of actual new road surface with pedestrian and bike lanes. That makes the unit cost of the additional road widening a staggering P74,953,921 per kilometer. “Susmaryosep” is a tame expression for the shock it brings to decent people.

There are more contracts like this for the road widening of the Diversion Road, and I could hazard a guess that by the time it reaches Sambag, the expenditures could reach P1 billion. Offhand, the kickbacks from the overpricing for this Diversion Road road widening can’t possibly be less than half a billion pesos. Easy money, at the expense of the people.

Only a man with black soul could orchestrate such a great robbery of public funds. This man used the disguise of accelerated development knowing fully well that only his bank deposits will swell like the Pasig River overflowing its banks. The indecency of this man cannot possibly be matched. What’s worse, he invoked the name of the poor to justify his thundering plunder.

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago noticed these construction activities when she arrived in Iloilo City to deliver the commencement address for the West Visayas State University in March this year. Unable to contain her frustration, Senator Miriam took a swipe at the people behind the projects. She said: “More projects, more kickbacks.”

Is the road widening of the Diversion Road a justified way of spending public funds? Perhaps if the overpricing were kept to the minimum, I would join those who applaud this project of the Senate President. But there is clearly no rhyme or reason in the way it was pursued and implemented. It’s not as if the Senate President was struck by a lightning bolt of inspiration, and he conceived of a beautiful eight-lane highway. The real intention was different.

Like most other DAP projects, the road widening was picked out of thin air just to have a reason to squander billions of pesos in public funds. It wasn’t included in the long-term plan of the DPWH. Just two years ago, DPWH spend more than P60 million for a road widening project along the Diversion Road. Hardly had the concrete dried on the first project when it was demolished to make way for Drilon’s pet project. That P60 million was pulverized and wasted before the public could start to enjoy its use. Why? Because it stood in the way of this great highway robbery!

With this in mind, it’s easy to see that its only reason for being was to accelerate the fattening of somebody’s bank accounts, and not to accelerate the development of Iloilo City. A greedy stomach that is larger than a Hippopotamus won’t settle for only a few millions from DAP. This greed had to be fed with overpriced projects to satisfy it.

No matter how they present it, there’s no way the character of DAP could be sweetened or lightened. It is soaking with evil purposes. And I am confident it won’t be too long before the people behind this great highway robbery are indicted by the Ombudsman and sent to prison to share space with Tanda, Pogi and Sexy. It won’t be too long before the detention facilities of Camp Crame will become one giant piggery farm, with so much pork getting into its cells.