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‘Yolanda’ haunts past NHA execs

Jimenez said the PACC Investigation Service found prima facie evidence against the 12 NHA officials for giving unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to sole contractor JC Tayag Builders Inc.

Keith A. Calayag

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PACC chairman Dante Jimenez

Criminal and administrative charges were recommended before the Office of the Ombudsman against 12 officials of the National Housing Authority (NHA) in relation to anomalies in the Yolanda Permanent Housing Program in Eastern Samar in 2013, according to the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

PACC chairman Dante Jimenez transmitted before the Office of the Ombudsman yesterday the complaint that included documents related to the investigation conducted on the major shelter project.

The move of the PACC came a month before the commemoration of the sixth anniversary of the onslaught of “Yolanda,” the super typhoon that struck Eastern Samar on 3 November 2013.

Jimenez said the PACC Investigation Service found prima facie evidence against the 12 NHA officials for giving unwarranted benefits, advantage and preference to sole contractor JC Tayag Builders Inc. (JCTBI) which, in turn, was found to have misrepresented its technical capacity into entering contracts with the government for the nine projects under the Yolanda housing program.

The PACC refused to disclose the names of the NHA officials citing due process but said a former general manager of NHA and officials and members of the Bids and Awards Committee in the NHA regional office in Eastern Visayas were included.

36 houses in 2 years

Jimenez said officials may be held administratively and criminally liable for violation of Section 6 Rule VI of Republic Act 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, RA 9184, the Government Procurement Act, sections 3(e) and 3 (g) of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

The findings of the PACC revealed that in the case of Eastern Samar, contracts for the construction of 2,559 units in four municipalities were bagged by JCTBI, with a total contract cost of P741.53 million.

However, after more than two years since the corresponding notices to proceed were awarded, only 36 housing units — or merely 1.41 percent of the awarded units — were completed.

The PACC said JCTBI failed to perform its obligations in the contract despite receiving at least 15 percent or roughly P111.23 million for the project.

“The government has allocated almost P800 million for the housing projects in Eastern Samar. What was completed by a contractor, JC Tayag, was 36 housing projects, but they were paid P111 million. Why?” Jimenez said.

With the findings of the PACC, which is a product of six months of the agency’s investigation, Jimenez hopes the Office of the Ombudsman’s probe will be expedited.

“My only challenge to the Ombudsman is to step up since we have done the initial work,” he stressed.

Tayag tagged in House probe

“The case of JC Tayag Builders Inc. was also uncovered in a public hearing of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development in September 2017. In spite of this, no legal actions have been taken to bring them to account,” Jimenez said.

JCTBI, during a House hearing in September 2017, has already denied the accusations against it regarding the implementation of the project.

In October of the same year, the NHA ordered the rebidding of the resettlement project.

NHA assistant general manager Froilan Kampitan then said the NHA will rebid the contract to ensure that the project implementation would adhere to standards.

“We are trying to locate some properties already that are available (under the contract of JC Tayag),” Kampitan said.

Tayag, for his part, insisted that he did not use substandard materials in the housing units, saying that it was a possible “sabotage” on him.

In the House hearing, Tayag was alleged to have used eight-millimeter steel rods in the house construction in Balangiga, Eastern Samar instead of the required specification of 10 millimeters.
This allegation was further verified by a joint inspection team dispatched by the NHA and Department of Public Works and Highways.

The inspection team uncovered that the size of the reinforcing steel bars averaged eight millimeters. The contractor also used undersized bars of 12 millimeters, which is below the requirement of 16 millimeters.

Past probes considered

The PACC during the probe, looked into the findings of a previous Social Housing Finance Corp. (SHFC) probe.

The SHFC had filed cases against a community mortgage program mobilizer after hundreds of housing beneficiaries complained of land acquisition, non-remittance of payments, and illegal collection of fees from housing recipients.

From 2013 to 2017 alone, the central government released P67.1 billion for the rehabilitation of areas in Eastern Visayas ravaged by the super typhoon.

Some P41.88 billion of the funds were downloaded through national government agencies, P24.83 billion through government-owned and -controlled corporations and P405.43 million through other executive offices.

On 8 November 2013, “Yolanda” unleashed its wrath in central Philippines, killing an estimated 6,300 people and leaving more than 4.4 million people displaced and homeless.

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