Lacson: Kickbacks in the implementation of public works projects âan open secretâ
In this Oct. 14, 2020, screengrab, Sen. Ping Lacson attends budget deliberations for the DPWH's proposed 2021 budget.
Senate PRIB screengrab
Lacson: Kickbacks in the implementation of public works projects ‘an open secret’
Bella Perez-Rubio (Philstar.com) - October 15, 2020 - 6:15pm

MANILA, Philippines — Sen. Ping Lacson on Thursday scored the Department of Public Works and Highways anew, particularly flagging agency officials and lawmakers for their allegedly corrupt implementation of government projects. 

"It has become an open secret that commissions or kickbacks have become the rule rather than the exception in the implementation of public works projects involving not only some corrupt officials of the department but some legislators as well," Lacson said. 

"Fact is, contractors openly talk behind the backs of these officials, changing the definition of 'mabait' and 'maginoo' in the process: officials from the executive and legislative branches who ask for 'only' 10 percent are 'mabait, maginoong kausap' and those who demand 20 to 30 percent are 'matakaw,' while those who demand advance payments and renege on their word as 'balasubas' and 'mandurugas,'" he added. 

As officials from the DPWH on Wednesday faced a Senate panel deliberating on their proposed budget for 2021, Lacson questioned the agency's move to cut funding for vital national projects while increasing allocations for local projects that were apparently pushed by congressmen. The senator said he identified a total of  P70 billion in the budget allocated for “multi-purpose buildings” across the country.

“What I noticed as a pattern—that’s why I ask if there were some interventions from some legislators—in general, we saw the local projects balloon and what was reduced was the national projects,” Lacson told Public Works Secretary Mark Villar.

 On Thursday, the senator reiterated said the changes enacted on the department's budget “mangled” its original proposal “beyond recognition.” 

"If no substantial adjustments are made once the final version of the 2021 [general appropriations bill] is transmitted to the Senate... I intend to propose during our plenary debates to cut or realign the excessive and unjustified 'NEP amendments' that the DPWH illegally made," Lacson said. He added that House Speaker Lord Alan Velasco promised to transmit the final version of the 2021 GAB by next week. 

Malacañang says Villar still has president's 'full trust'

On Wednesday night, after DPWH officials fielded questions from Senators for almost six hours, President Rodrigo Duterte slammed the agency for its corrupt practices. 

"These contractors, the first whiff [of corruption]… Here at the DPWH, it's strong. Projects, those project engineers, all of them, road right-of-way, there is a lot of corruption there. No construction will start here without a transaction. It's there," he said in English and Filipino during a pre-recorded late night address. However, the chief executive said he did not know who exactly is behind the alleged graft in the agency. 

"There are so many officials lined up in the bureaucratic maze so hindi ko alam kung sino diyan, pati ‘yung sa medisina and all (so I do not know who is [corrupt] there, including those in medicine and all)," Duterte said. 

Lacson on Thursday said it was "timely" that the president raised the issue of corruption at the DPWH. However, he has previously expressed disappointment in the chief executive for failing to fulfill his past promise not to tolerate "even a whiff of corruption," and has urged him to exercise "strong political will" in order to carry this promise out.

During a virtual briefing on Thursday, less than a day after Duterte slammed the public works agency, presidential spokesman Harry Roque said that Secretary Villar still has the chief executive's "full trust and confidence." 

"Despite the corruption in DPWH, [Villar] was able to deliver and it helps that his family has more money than the DPWH. Aside form that, the president was just highlighting the challenges [faced by the administration] in the remaining years of his term," Roque said in Filipino and English.

2021 NATIONAL BUDGET DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC WORKS AND HIGHWAYS DPWH PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE SENATOR PING LACSON
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