House to probe missing P30B during Arroyo admin

By Jess Diaz, The Philippine Star

Posted at Feb 05 2014 02:29 AM | Updated as of Feb 05 2014 10:29 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The House of Representatives committee on good government and public accountability voted yesterday to look into the reported "missing" P30 billion in infrastructure funds during the Arroyo administration.

Chaired by Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, the committee will invite Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson to shed light on the missing funds.

The panel acted on Resolution 592, authored by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, which proposed the investigation.

The committee, acting on Resolution 341 authored by Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio Barzaga Jr., decided to investigate unabated importation of garlic and onions into the country.

Barzaga identified a certain Leah Cruz as the trader who allegedly monopolizes garlic and onion importation, with the blessings of the Bureau of Plant Industry.

In his resolution, Evardone said it was Singson and his people who uncovered the missing infrastructure funds.

He said the public works officials have “admitted discovering releases of agency funds amounting to at least P30 billion, allegedly spent and left unaccounted for by the previous administration, including a 2008 P100-million 12-kilometer road construction project in the town of Mataas na Kahoy in Batangas, which remains unfinished.”

“The contractor, a certain Edwin Gardiola, has allegedly failed to submit accomplishment reports to the DPWH on projects worth about P6 billion,” he said.

Evardone also questioned the accreditation system of the public works department and Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board. He said one of Gardiola’s construction firms, which he identified as JSG Construction named after the contractor’s wife Judy, had only a “B” license but was awarded contracts for “Triple AAA” contractors.

At the very least, the accreditation system and standards are “confusing,” he said.

He said it was important for the House to know where the missing funds went, since it is the chamber that has principal responsibility for allocating taxpayers’ money.

In the garlic and onion importation case, Barzaga said the “favored importer is operating like alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, since she uses dummy companies incorporated by her drivers, clerks and house helpers.”

“The name of Leah Cruz is known within the Bureau of Customs as the sole importer of garlic and onion in the country,” he said.

The Rodriguez committee, acting on a resolution authored by Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, voted to inquire into the grant of bus franchises for Metro Manila by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board despite a prevailing ban on additional units.