Group seeks probe of ‘overpriced’ bridge

Group seeks probe of ‘overpriced’ bridge.

The deafening silence of Drilon

Rick B. Ramos, executive director of InfraWatch, found it puzzling that Senator Franklin M. Drilon did not show interest in the privilege speech of Senator Serge Osmena on the alleged P111-billion anomaly of the mega-bridges projects, two of which projects are situated in Iloilo City. Four other Senators stood to interpellate Osmena after his speech and express support for the Senate Probe.

As everybody knows, Drilon is one of the “big guns” of the Aquino administration against corruption. Or so he would like people to believe. Drilon has been vocal about alleged anomalies in various government agencies. In the past, he exposed rice smuggling in Iloilo City. Hence, people expected him to pick up the cudgels for the people of Iloilo City. The anomalies took place in his own backyard.

Drilon, however, left the chamber before Osmena could finish his speech and never came back, according to Ramos. Since then, he has hardly uttered a word about the expose.

Why did Drilon not join the fray against the mega-bridges? Why didn’t he condemn the glaring overprice? Well, as it turns out, Drilon is a close friend of Rep. Ted Haresco, the man who profited vastly from the anomalous projects. Drilon cut the ceremonial ribbon when the second fly-over was inaugurated in August 2010.

But this isn’t the first anomaly that Drilon has refused to discuss. The most glaring, of course, is the Hall of Justice in Iloilo City. This 21 year-old edifice was built in 1991 when Drilon was Secretary of Justice. According to insiders, the project was undertaken by a very close friend of Drilon, using the contractor’s license of Kanlaon Builders.

This Drilon bosom buddy used substandard materials in putting up the building. The architect for the project complained about the irregularities and brought this to the attention of Drilon’s office. He was ignored. In frustration, the architect resigned from the project and issued a waiver to dissociate himself from any defects arising from the substandard construction.

Last February 6, 2012, a magnitude 6.7 earthquake with epicenter in Negros Oriental shook Iloilo City. The force of the earthquake in Iloilo City was estimated at 5.4 magnitude. While it was strong enough to cause evacuation in many buildings, it did not cause significant damage. Except for one building: the Hall of Justice.

Judges, lawyers and court employees found big cracks in the structure right after the earthquake and evacuated the building. When engineers of the DPWH inspected the building, they validated the worst fears of the judicial officials. The building had become unsafe. The complaints about substandard construction made by the architect of the building 21 years ago were proven right.

But Drilon refused to acknowledge the issue about the substandard construction. He promised to look for funds to “retrofit” the building and make it safe for occupancy once more. Judges and lawyers, however, refuse to accept this approach of just “retrofitting”. They want the building demolished and a new one put up. An expert structural engineer, Nilo Jardeleza, agreed. The Hall of Justice has to be condemned.

Against this backdrop, it is not surprising that Drilon should be keeping quiet about the list of mega-anomalies that have taken place in Iloilo City. He can’t claim to be immaculately clean, and officials involved in the later anomalies might just throw the Hall of Justice issue back at him. It was also Drilon who funded the P62 million purchase of the San Isidro property in Jaro that was used as relocation site. The original cost of the property was P2.6 million!

Drilon is now in the thick of undertaking several huge infrastructure projects in Iloilo City costing more than a billion pesos. It is possible, observers say, that he is cavorting with local officials who are mired in corruption issues to protect his interests in these projects. He can’t dwell on the corruption involved in the mega-bridges so as not to call attention to himself with the flurry of construction activities being undertaken under his patronage.

An ‘obscene’ City Hall building

Rick B. Ramos of the Citizens Infrastructure Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch) has described the New Iloilo City Hall, which was built at a total cost of P810 million, as “obscene” and an insult to the people of Iloilo City. He was guest yesterday in the Kapehan sa Bali.

Iloilo City ‘fly-overs’ rank top in overpriced bridges

Watchdog slams corruption in Dungon Bridge project

It was bad enough that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) demolished the Dungon Bridge even though its structural condition was still good for the overpriced cost of P36 million. What made it worse was that the “matuwid na daan” government of President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III spent an additional P17 million to “widen” it into a four-lane bridge when modern technology could do the job at a cheaper cost.

Rick B. Ramos, executive director of the Citizens Infrastructure  Integrity Watchdog (InfraWatch), said there are several existing bridge projects in the country that utilized the metal plate connector technology to increase the vehicle handling capacity from two- to four-lanes. Among these is the Soro Soro Bridge in Binan, Laguna which was also implemented by the DPWH.

 

The Dungon Bridge was reopened to vehicular traffic two months ago after a public uproar over its delayed completion. When Ilonggos started using it again, they were aghast to discover that the four-lane design that cost them P53 million all in all had not been completed. The roadway on the bridge remained two lanes, with their money already down the drain.

The Dungon Bridge project was pushed by Iloilo City Representative Jerry P. Trenas with help from Senator Franklin Drilon, chairman of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The money for the project came from “savings” of the DPWH, unexpended funds that were scooped from several completed projects to raise a total of P53 million. It was also Drilon who allocated the P65 million to buy the P7 million San Isidro relocation site for the urban poor.

Ramos said the P31.4 million, which later rose to P36 million, for the original contract of the Dungon Bridge project was excessive by itself. He reiterated that the bridge was still in good condition, and it would have been enough for DPWH to reinforce its columns, girders and abutments for more secure structure. But Ramos disclosed that a two-lane bridge project in Negros Occidental completed only last April cost only P21 million. Its length is almost the same as Dungon Bridge.

Ramos had written to DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson, who is always being praised as the paragon of transparency and honesty, about the Dungon Bridge last August 13. But his complaint has been ignored. Philippine Star columnist Boo Chanco wrote about the Dungon Bridge on Sept. 3 based on the Ramos letter. Singson never bothered to respond to him. In a Tweet on Wednesday, @boochanco said Singson has adopted a “deadma”, or indifference, stance towards criticism like this.