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Drilon’s ‘Midas touch’

Not a few people raised their eyebrows last Sunday when Senate President Franklin Drilon boasted that by this time next year, the City of Iloilo will be inaugurating the P1 billion state of the art Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of MegaWorld.

It’s not because they doubted that the Convention Center will indeed by completed by then. The construction of the project has commenced on a 1.6-hectare lot at the heart of the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao. The reaction was triggered by the amount mentioned by the Senate President as the project cost — P1 billion.

How did the project cost escalate to P1 billion?

When the project was announced back in February 2012, the estimated cost for the convention center was only P350 million. Then in the middle of 2013, the figure rose to P400 million. Towards the last quarter, it had become P470 millon. (The approved budget for the contract as advertised by DPWH was P478 million).

And now Drilon announced the total cost is P1 billion!

Nobody has bothered to tell the people the reasons for the creeping increases in cost estimates, and now this giant leap.

Perhaps it’s the product of Drilon’s “Midas touch”. It’s the same phenomenon that was observed in other infrastructure projects he initiated for Iloilo City. Of course, everybody knows the rise in prices isn’t the result of a legitimate increase in the cost of construction materials. The overprice goes to a bank account that is getting fatter and fatter and fatter every day.

It doesn’t end there. Just this morning, it was reported over RMN 774 (as disclosed by Atty. Pistong Melliza on Facebook) that the convention center, once completed and operational, will be turned over to a private entity for the management and supervision. Does this mean the government will not earn anything from its bloated P1 billon investment?

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Drilon faces graft raps before Ombudsman

http://www.scribd.com/doc/166912674/Graft-raps-vs-Senate-President-Franklin-M-Drilon-over-pork-barrel-scam-in-Iloilo-City-filed

Drilon’s ‘golden’ watering system

It was, in the language of a government official who is an expert in the law on government procurement, “a bullet train ride” for the P13.5 million pork barrel project with a“manual irrigation system” for the Iloilo Esplanade as its centerpiece.

“Right from step one to step 10, almost every rule in Republic Act No. 9184 and its revised implementing rules and regulations were violated,” the procurement law resource person, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said.

Whoever was behind it must have been in a hurry to award the contract to a favored contractor, he said. He added that the entire procurement process took 38 days, which he likened to “a bullet train ride” because of its swiftness.02sep_1 front

The expert outlined the violations of RA 9184, which governs all procurement for supplies and services in the public sector, based on what he found out in an examination of the documents released by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Regional Office No. 6:

  • The contract was advertised through an invitation to bid on Sept. 21, 2012 even before the funds reached DPWH Region VI.

The documents show that the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) issued the Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) on Sept. 17, 2012. It was received by DPWH central office on Sept. 27, 2012, which endorsed it to DPWH Region VI on Sept. 28, 2012. Under the law, the funds must already be available when a project is advertised for public bidding, the expert said.

He said the prior issuance of the SARO is not required before the procurement can start when a project is listed in the agency’s annual procurement plan or APP. This project isn’t listed in the APP of DPWH, he said. When the invitation to bid was posted, the SARO was still in transit. Hence, no funds available yet at the time it was advertised, he said. “That’s putting the cart ahead of the horse,” he said.

While this is not a “fatal” flaw, he said “speaks loudly that somebody powerful is moving the project forward.”

  • The invitation to bid was not published in a newspaper of national circulation at least once because it involved a contract exceeding P5 million.

RA 9184 and its revised implementing rules and regulations imposes a requirement for publication in a newspaper of national circulation for infrastructure contracts above P5 million. The DPWH Region VI did not present any proof this was complied with. TNT Libre also verified with the digital archive of The Manila Standard Today, which was designated as official newspaper for DPWH invitations to bid, for the dates Sept. 21 to 28, and this invitation to bid did not appear on any of these dates.

  • The Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) illegally raised the approved budget for the contract (ABC) after the pre-bid conference was conducted.

The invitation to bid issued on Sept. 21, 2012 placed the ABC for the project at P10,110,640.14. But subsequently, the ABC was changed twice and raised to P13,092,238.67 through what is known as a “bid bulletin”. This is illegal, the expert said. The bid bulletin is only for purposes of clarifying the bid documents to help bidders submit a responsive offer for the contract. The ABC is determined by the agency before it is advertised for bidding. “The BAC has no power to increase or decrease the ABC,” he said.

To support his contention, he cited Resolution No. 07-2005 of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) which oversees all government procurement activities and manages the PhilGEPS website. The resolution authorizes an “upward” adjustment of the ABC only after two failed biddings in which all submitted bids exceeded the amount, or no bids were submitted, or that a negotiated procurement after two failed biddings also resulted in failure.

“This will put the entire BAC in serious trouble,” he said.

  • The Notice of Award and Notice to Proceed to the winning contractor was not posted in the PhilGEPS website, which is again a violation of the revised implementing rules and regulations of RA 9184.

A key feature of the transparency mechanism for government procurement under RA 9184 is the posting of “milestone” events for a contract in the PhilGEPS website. The documents that must be posted on this website are the invitation to bid, bid bulletins, notice of award, contract agreement and notice to proceed. A “Certificate of Compliance” on these postings signed by Tayao and the new BAC chairman, Marilyn H. Celiz, dated June 7, 2013 show that these notices and contract agreement were not posted on the PhilGEPS website.  On the remarks column, there appeared a note that these “Cannot be posted due to changes in ABC as posted in the bid bulletins”.

These violations are “tell-tale signs” of a rigged bidding, the expert said. “One can readily see that there was an effort to conceal the bidding,” he said.

Down the drain

When the Iloilo Esplanade was inaugurated on Aug. 18, 2012, its patron, Senator Franklin Drilon, was asked this question: “Sir, why is it that with the beautiful park you have brought to Iloilo City, it lacks a basic necessity, which is a rest room?” The reporters who had flocked around Drilon were surprised to see his reaction. His faced darkened; he was displeased. “Why ask for something that is not there? Be contented with what we have!” The senator was irritated.

Image

Senate President Franklin Drilon waves to crowds along with Sarangani congressman Manny Pacquiao during the inauguration of the Iloilo Esplanade.

Indeed, that was a valid question. The government claims to have spent P70 million  on the 1.2 kilometer riverside park. With such extravagance showered upon the project, it’s hard to see how something so basic could have been overlooked. The project is supposed to draw hordes and hordes of tourists. Where are they supposed to relieve themselves when the call of nature comes? “Just go to a nearby restaurant!” was the retort of Drilon.

The bladed remarks of Drilon comes back to mind after it was revealed that a month after the Iloilo Esplanade was inaugurated, he drew from his pork barrel fund, the so-called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), and allocated P13.5 million for “completion works”. That fund release was kept under wraps. There was no media announcement as Drilon is wont to do each time he brings funds to the city.

As it turned out, the extra money was primarily for a “manual irrigation system” and “sprigging” and installation of “concrete pavers”. It was substantially a ghost project, because about 70% of the supposed scopes of work are mere paper work items, intended to justify the expenditures. That huge chunk of the money went into the pocket of somebody, and I won’t even have to mention who that somebody is.

The centerpiece of this pork barrel scam is a network of PVC pipes stretching about 1.2 kilometers. Under the program of work prepared by the DPWH, about P6.4 million was earmarked for this project. But a check on the ground fails to persuade us that Drilon (I specifically mention him, not DPWH, because he ordered all of these things) spent even a fraction of that amount for the watering system. Our chief photographer, Leo Solinap, went around the Iloilo Esplanade and saw PVC pipes sticking out of the ground. There were no valves or faucets. It wasn’t working.Image

An ordinary layman will not find it hard to conclude that this is a scam. Drilon had the money, but he didn’t even bother to provide for a restroom facility which was the clamor of the people. He chose instead to flush down the drain taxpayers’ money for a sophisticated sounding plant watering system to the prejudice of the Filipino people.

Drilon’s gift to himself?

Drilon’s gift to himself?

The Individual Program of Work for the DPWH implemented “completion” project for the Iloilo Esplanade, which was funded with P13.5 million from the pork barrel of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon, tells it all.

The Big Man in the Senate spent P6.4 million on a kilometer-long network of PVC pipes for a so-called “manual irrigation system” when he could not even set aside P1 million for a decent rest room for the overpriced riverbank park.