Senators question ‘pork barrel’ in DPWH 2017 proposed budget

admin   •   November 23, 2016   •   7366

File photo: DPWH Secretary Mark Villar (L) and Atty. Karen Jimeno (R).

File photo: DPWH Secretary Mark Villar (L) and Atty. Karen Jimeno (R).

 

MANILA, Philippines – Sen. Panfilo Lacson questioned the more than 9 billion-peso line item included in the proposed 2017 budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

This includes the separate 500 million and 150 million pesos allotted to the central office of the DPWH devoid of any details identifying where the money will be spent on.

Senate Committee of Finance Sen. Loren Legarda explained that it is a standby fund that can be used for feasibility studies of projects.

However, Senators Lacson and Franklin Drilon were not convinced.

Lacson claimed the fund as pork barrel provisions because it appears that the department secretary is given authority to decide on how to spend the fund.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III also questioned the alleged bidding of projects by DPWH pending approval of the budget for next year.

Sen. Koko Pimentel expressed, “Ako po ay nababahala rito kasi hindi pa po ito law. Ito po ay bill at pinag-uusapan pa po iyan so what is now the legal basis for already bidding out projects anticipated to be part of the law, but officially not yet part of the law.”

(I am worried here because this is not yet a law. This is still a bill and still under discussion. So what is now the legal basis for already bidding out projects anticipated to be part of the law, but officially not yet part of the law?)

Legarda said this is an old practice to speed up the procurement process, especially on infrastructure projects.

Sen. Miguel Zubiri agreed and pointed out that the bidding was done out of practicality.

In spite this, Pimentel reminded DPWH Sec. Mark Villar to investigate on reports so issues of corruption will be avoided.  — Joyce Balancio | UNTV News & Rescue

More COVID-19 wards, ICU rooms at EAMC by end of August — DPWH

Marje Pelayo   •   August 6, 2020

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is working double time to complete the construction of additional wards and intensive care units (ICU) at the East Avenue Medical Center (EAMC) in Quezon City.

“In a meeting, together with our team and its counterpart at the Department of Health (DOH) and the building contractor, I was assured that a system is in place to complete the EAMC facilities the soonest,” Secretary Mark Villar said.

Villar added that the facilities will be able to accommodate additional 250 patients.

The DOH tapped the DPWH to help expedite the construction of the facilities at EAMC to increase its bed capacity for coronavirus disease (COVID-19) patients.

The additional wards are expected to be completed by August 17 while the enhancement of the third floor for ICU will be finished on September 15.

Drilon on Duterte tirade: I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes

Robie de Guzman   •   July 28, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon asserted that he was defending the freedom of the press and not the Lopezes after President Rodrigo Duterte accused him of defending the owners of the closed down media network ABS-CBN.

“I was defending freedom of the press, not the Lopezes. The closure of the ABS-CBN sent a chilling effect,” Drilon said in a statement issued shortly after Duterte’s fifth State of the Nation Address (SONA) at the Batasang Pambansa on July 27.

In the first five minutes of his SONA, Duterte lambasted Drilon over his “arrogant” statements on oligarchs and accused the senator of defending the Lopezes as he slammed “those who take advantage of a preoccupied government” amid the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic.

“One of them is Senator Frank Drilon. In an interview, he arrogantly mentioned, among others, that oligarchs need not be rich. Then he linked the anti-dynasty system with oligarchy and the topic was my daughter and son,” he said.

“This happened after the Committee on Franchise voted 70-11 to deny the grant of a franchise to ABS-CBN. Obviously, he was defending the Lopezes that they are not oligarchs,” he added.

In a forum last July 15, Drilon called on the president to push for the passage of a law prohibiting political dynasties in order to dismantle oligarchy in the country. He also said in the same forum that being rich does not equate to being an oligarch.

Drilon made the remark after Duterte said in a speech during his visit to Jolo on July 14 that he had dismantled oligarchy in the country without declaring martial law.

“As I said before, for democracy to thrive we need free press and to allow journalists to exercise complete freedom to do their mandate of reporting facts without fear,” Drilon said.

The lawmaker said he was also defending the 11,000 ABS-CBN employees who would lose jobs amid the pandemic.

“In the face of a pandemic, we need more access to information,” he said.

“I aired my support for the renewal of franchise of ABS-CBN because undeniably the network complements other stations in providing timely and accurate reportage even in the farthest locality unreachable to others, even to the government,” he added.

In a separate interview with UNTV on Tuesday, Drilon also said he owed nothing to the Lopezes.

“‘Yung mga Lopezes po, wala po akong utang na loob sa kanila. Kung ako po ay tumayo para sa ABS-CBN, yan po ay dahilan sa aking paningin na ang kalayaan ng pamamahayag o freedom of the press, malaking bagay po at importante sa ating demokrasya,” he reiterated.

He also denied Duterte’s allegation about his involvement when his former law firm drafted water concession agreements that allegedly contained provisions that are onerous and disadvantageous to the government.

“Hindi ko nga nakita kung ano ‘yung itsura nung agreement na ‘yun. Wala po akong kinalaman diyan… Wala po ako diyan. Hindi ko po alam. Hindi ko nakikita ‘yang kontratang ‘yan hanggang ngayon,” he said. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

Sotto, Lacson want fresh probe into alleged PhilHealth corruption

Robie de Guzman   •   July 24, 2020

MANILA, Philippines – Senate President Vicente Sotto III on Friday said a fresh investigation should be conducted into the alleged corruption at the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (Philhealth) following the resignation of one of its officers.

“There must be a full blown Senate investigation. Allegations and denials abound therefore diligence is necessary,” Sotto said in a statement.

“Where there is smoke, there is fire!” he added.

Lawyer Thorrsson Montes Keith resigned from his post in PhilHealth citing “widespread corruption” in the agency as one of his reasons for quitting. He also said in his resignation letter that the mandatory payment of PhilHealth contribution by overseas Filipinos workers was “unconstitutional” and against his personal values to let OFWs “pay for the spillages” of the agency.

He also claimed that there is rampant and patent unfairness in the agency’s promotion process, and that his salary and hazard pay has not been on time since he started investigating Philhealth officers as its “anti-fraud legal officer.”

According to Senator Panfilo Lacson, he is now drafting a resolution seeking for an inquiry into the issue.

“I am now drafting a resolution calling for a Senate Committee of the Whole inquiry. As expressed by SP Sotto to me last night, this inquiry will be one of the Senate’s top agenda after our session resumes on Monday,” Lacson said in a separate statement.

Reports quoting sources said that corruption claims were the topic of an online meeting that led to a shouting match between Philhealth officials on Thursday evening.

“That such corruption occurred amid the COVID-19 crisis makes it more disgusting and abominable,” Lacson said.

“Nakakasuya na sobra. Needless to say, there is urgency that the Senate has to act on the matter immediately, as part of its oversight mandate, having passed the Universal Health Law,” he added.

Last year, the Senate launched a probe into alleged conflict of interest between PhilHealth and the Department of Health. The investigation also covered DOH contracts that went to pharmaceutical firms owned by relatives of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III.

PhilHealth President and CEO Ricardo Morales earlier denied claims of widespread corruption in the agency and called on Keith to substantiate his allegations. He also said that Keith only raised the issue after his application for another post at the agency was turned down.

Morales also denied the alleged resignation of two other PhilHealth officers due to corruption allegations. He said his head executive assistant resigned to pursue his doctoral studies while a corporate counsel denied any news of quitting his post. – RRD (with details from Correspondent Harlene Delgado)

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