JICA agrees with DPWH to stop 'midnight deals'

By Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 28 2010 11:48 PM | Updated as of Jul 29 2010 06:10 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson has ordered a stop to the implementation of "midnight deals" entered into by the previous administration for the construction of infrastructure projects funded by a P3.5 billion loan from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

In an interview, Singson said the projects consist mostly of flood mitigation projects supposedly for Ondoy- and Pepeng-affected areas.

In a document, 19 projects were enumerated by the previous administration. But the biggest surprise that hit the DPWH Secretary was the date when the contract was signed. The contract was entered by government on June 18, 12 days before the inauguration of President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, and the SARO (Statement of Allocation Release Order) was signed on June 25, 5 days before the termination of the previous administration.

By procedure, SAROs should come first before any contract can be signed.

The biggest allocation was P228.7 million for the town of San Manuel in Pangasinan, which was badly hit in 2009 when San Roque Dam released large volumes of water brought by Ondoy and Pepeng.

But the province of Pampanga, which was not hit by Ondoy and Pepeng, got almost P200 million, even if it did not suffer heavy damage from the previous typhoons.

Singson shook his head and chuckled while going through the documents.

"Kung kaya naman palang iklian yung proseso, bakit ang tagal pag bidding," said Singson.

Singson said that the contracts were obviously negotiated.

JICA, DPWH agree to stop project

Singson had a meeting on Wednesday morning with officials of JICA, and inquired which among DPWH and JICA pushed for the expeditious signing of the contract.

"Sabi nila sa akin, it was the [Arroyo] government, and they're okay with it na i-stop muna yung project," said Singson.

A rebidding was ordered by Singson for the projects.

An investigation was also ordered against those involved in the crafting of the contract.

DPWH Undersecretary Jaime Pacanan heads the investigating group. He is expected to submit a report once the people who were given "show cause memos" reply.

Looking at the system

The new DPWH Secretary is also focusing his target, not only on leakage in processing and handling public works projects but also on identification of projects.

Singson noted the part of President Aquino's State of the Nation Address, where several projects, not included in the priorities, were approved instead and given higher funding instead of the original request.

"Ngayon magbibigay na lang kami ng priority menu ng mga projects na pwedeng ipagawa," said Singson.
Singson's move and pronouncements can be considered daring, considering the notorious image of the DPWH as the third most corrupt agency of government.

However, the new secretary said he is not afraid. "That's part of my job. Di pwedeng scared of the issue."

ABS-CBN News tried to get the side of former DPWH Secretary Victor Domingo, but a former aide said he is in America seeking medical treatment.