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Senate body wants charges vs. personalities in substandard 'Yolanda' bunkhouses

Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) - May 27, 2014 - 6:52pm

MANILA, Philippines - The Senate committee on public works has urged the Philippine National Police's Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) to pursue the probe and filing of criminal charges against personalities, including a politician who may have colluded over the construction of temporary shelters in Tacloban City and other areas affected by super typhoon Yolanda last year.

“Should the facts and evidence warrant, the appropriate administrative, criminal and civil charges should be filed against the perpetrators,” read Committee Report Number 30 following the series of Senate hearings that delved on the overpriced bunkhouses and slow-paced conduct of disaster relief operations in the affected areas.

The Senate panel also declared that the bunkhouses were not overpriced since they were designed to serve as traditional or temporary shelters for victims of super typhoon Yolanda.

Senators Ferdinand Marcos Jr. (chairman) and Ramon Revilla Jr (vice-chairman) signed the report along with members Sonny Angara, Lito Lapid, Cynthia Villar, Loren Legarda, Nancy Binay and Joseph Victor Ejercito.

Senate president pro-tempore Ralph Recto and minority leader Juan Ponce Enrile also signed the report as ex-officio members.

The Senate committee also sees the need to amend Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act that will introduce provisions that will prevent unscrupulous contractors, government officials and employees from taking advantage of construction of buildings during disasters. The amendments also aim to prevent the compromise of structural integrity of government structures.

The committee also called on the Department of Social Welfare and Development to streamline the bureaucratic process of identifying family-beneficiaries of comprehensive assistance from government. The body also saw the need for the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to review their policies in prioritizing the provision of basic necessities to the most needy and endangered.

The senators also batted for the need to enact the proposed Department of Housing and Urban Development.  There is also an imperative need to review the National Building Code, Republic Act 6541 as amended by Presidential Decree 1096.

Based on the Senate panel's hearings, a total of 222 bunkhouses have been built in the provinces of Leyte and Eastern Samar by February 6 this year. Out of this number, 198 units have been completed by that time.

The initial cost for a 255.28-square meter bunkhouse was pegged at P959,345. The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) later adjusted the costs by removing the overheard margins and reduced the amount to P 836,000.

The bunkhouses complied with the specification of the DPWH, with each structure measuring 207.36 square meters at P3,455.15 per meter. A bunkhouse costs P716,460.82 each.

The report also recognized the lack of skilled workers in the affected areas, which gave the government and even private contractors difficulty in speeding up the construction.

Since there was an initial deadline to put up the temporary shelter by Christmas last year, the Senate committee noted that the contractors then started building the bunkhouses out of available materials since they raced against time.

Sought for answers why the other countries such as Banda, Aceh in Indonesia succeeded in ensuring that the bunkhouses comply with international standards, the resource persons said it is simply because the Philippines has no standard or guide of its own on building temporary housing structures specifically adaptable to its needs and resources.

COMMITTEE REPORT NUMBER CRIMINAL INVESTIGATION AND DETECTION GROUP CYNTHIA VILLAR DEPARTMENT OF HOUSING AND URBAN DEVELOPMENT DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS DEPARTMENT OF SOCIAL WELFARE AND DEVELOPMENT GOVERNMENT PROCUREMENT REFORM ACT JUAN PONCE ENRILE LEYTE AND EASTERN SAMAR LITO LAPID REPUBLIC ACT
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