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Money pitch puts DPWH exec in hot water

Aldrin Cardona



It reportedly rained money in the Province of Quezon as the rest of the country battled with the COVID-19 pandemic.

And for this manna from a box, a regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) is now facing administrative and criminal complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman over alleged violations of the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

Subject of the complaint filed by Arkie Manuel O. Yulde — a councilor of Lopez, Quezon — is DPWH Region 1 Director Ronnel Montanez Tan, husband of Quezon 4th district Rep. Helen Tan, who was herself controversial following her removal as chairperson of the House Committee on Health ousted Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano at the height of his attempt to keep the post from being transferred to newly-elected Speaker Lord Allan Jay Velasco.

The Quezon lawmaker has since been reinstated to her old post which traditionally belongs to her party — the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

It’s now DPWH Director Tan who is in hot water as Yulde accused him of extravagant living, days after President Rodrigo Duterte formed a mega task force that will investigate corruption in the government bureaucracy.

Yulde filed the case before the Office of the Ombudsman at 11:17 a.m. on Thursday, 29 October 2020.

He accused Tan of Grave Misconduct and violations of Republic Act (RA) 6713 or the Act Establishing a Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees; RA 3019 or the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and RA 7160 or an Act Providing for a Local Government Code of 1991.

What stood out among Yulde’s accusations against the public works official, however, was his claim that the subject of his complaint had “indulged in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth.”

Yulde’s narrative centered on Tan’s recent birthday party, which he celebrated with his wife, the lawmaker Helen, and select friends and political supporters in their residence in the Fourth District of Quezon Province.

Among those present, Yulde claimed, were Gumaca, Quezon Mayor Webster Lerargo and Alabat, Quezon Mayor Ferdinand Mesa whom he said have witnessed how Tan “brought (out) a box filled with cash estimated to be about P2 to P3 million.”

Yulde said Tan made his guests scramble for its content when he pitched the money the into the air, creating a mayhem which they considered a fun event.

“Pag-agawan ninyo itong pera” (Scramble for this money),” Yulde quoted Tan as having told his guests.

The Mayors reportedly told Yulde that some guests managed to pick amounts from P100,000 to P200,000.

Yulde called this “ostentatious display of wealth” as “surely a grave misconduct committed by a public official such as the Respondent and clearly a violation of Section 4 of RA 6713,” which states “(h) Simple living — Public officials and employees and their families shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income.

They shall not indulge in extravagant and ostentatious display of wealth in any form.”

The Tans, Yulde alleged, reside in “an exclusive and luxurious subdivision at Loyola Grand Villas in Quezon City” — a 600-square meter property. Lots in that village cost approximately P75,000 per square meter.

Yulde said that while Tan’s publicly declared net worth is just P14 million, he also allegedly owns other real properties in many localities on top of his ownership of pricey vehicles.

“Clearly, his wealth is grossly disproportionate to his declared incomes or remunerations as Regional Director (of DPWH),” Yulde stated.

President Rodrigo Duterte has named the DPWH as among the epicenters of corruption among the tainted government agencies.

The Chief Executive particularly mentioned the junior officials of the DPWH as involved in corruption when he gave Public Works Secretary Mark Villar an instruction to cleanse his agency.

Aside from the DPWH, the President also wants the Bureau of Customs and Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Land Registration Authority probed.

The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) was the first agency to be investigated. The Task Force that was tasked to probe the PhilHealth was then transformed by President Duterte into the “mega task force” that will look into the alleged anomalies in the bureaucracy.

DoJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra said the PhilHealth probe over alleged corruption and its investigation into the insurer’s information technology and legal sector has yet to finish.

He added that the agency will form another task force composed of the same members to help look into state departments.

“I think within the term of the President we can present results to the public,” Guevarra said, adding that lawmakers and members of other government branches will be investigated if they are involved in criminals or corrupt acts with the executive department.

“If their involvement is incidental to the investigation of an executive agency, if they were part of a criminal act, we do not look at them as a member of Congress, judiciary or executive department,” he added.

“They’re all included because we look at the criminal act, the corrupt act. If there’s evidence of their involvement, direct or indirect, they are included.”