By Jose B. Perez, Editor
NAGA CITY --- There are at least five major projects in Bicol where negligence and incidents of graft and corruption may be evident that the Bicol mission of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) is looking into to save public funds and protect the interest of the government, as well as the taxpayers.
In a media conference at the boardroom here of Avenue through the Kapihan sa Chamber hosted by the Metro Naga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, PACC Commissioner Manuelito Luna, lead investigator for Bicol and Mindanao identified these problematic projects at the Calabanga Fishport and its adjoining Ice Plant, Calabanga Infirmary, Bicol Medical Center in Naga City, and the Mayon Circumferential Road.
Luna said they are now collating documents and evidences to verify allegations of irregularities in the implementation of the aforementioned projects that cost millions of pesos of taxpayers’ money.
Curiously, many of these projects started construction during the term of then President Ninoy Aquino. And while VP Leni was congressman of the 3rd district of Camarines Sur where the town of Libmanan is located.
The PACC was created on October 4, through Executive Order No. 43signed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Its primary purpose is to assist the President in investigating or hearing administrative cases that involve graft and corruption against all presidential appointees and government employees in fulfillment of the President’s mandate to stop corruption.
According to the PACC, initial findings have shown significant delays in project implementation and substandard work and materials employed and used in these projects. “But we are still completing our reports and need more verification of the findings,” Tommy Lee, a member of the PACC Bicol team told the newsmen during the Kapihan held at the Boardroom of Avenue Plaza here.
Slide presentations were shown to point out the alleged irregularities and questionable implementation of the program of works, including some technical omissions in the planning and construction stage.
One example they have shown is the construction of the Operating Room of the new over billion-peso upgrading of the Bicol Medical Center on the third floor while the Emergency Room is on the ground floor. “It would take 333 steps from the ER for a patient to reach the OR,” Lee said, adding that such distance would be risky for a patient to reach his operating table still alive.
But another newsman on the sideline said many modern hospitals in Manila, including the Philippine Heart Center, have their ORs on as high as the 4th floor, further away from the ER.
Presidential Assistant for Bicol Affairs, Undersecretay Marvel Clavecilla who was also at the media conference again could not hide his irritation at the BMC which, despite its three brand new tall buildings, 4, 5 and 8 storeys, high respectively, the giant trio of mammoth buildings have remained empty shells with no equipment, especially for its heart and cancer centers.
Clavecilla said the equipment intended for the BMC might have been diverted or re-allocated, but there is still chance to appropriate amounts for the needed equipment so that the center will eventually become operational for the welfare of hundreds and thousands of patients from Camarines Sur and all over Bicol.
When pressed by the newsmen, Clavecilla, a retired judge, said the government may resort to canceling the contract for the questionable projects where the government will take over, or file legal action for damages (brought by delays and substandard works).
Clavecilla also revealed that they are finding ways to resolve the controversies attending the rehabilitation and reorientation of the Naga Airport even as he called for local leaders to unite for the people’s higher interest.
He underscored that the Naga Airport should be priority and should forget the planned San Jose Airport in the Partido district so as not to spread thin or divide the funds intended for a more feasible and accessible airport in Camarines Sur.
He said his office is working closely with the PACC, which is chaired by Dante Jimenez, a fellow Bicolano, such that of there was probable cause found after the investigations, appropriate charges may be filed against those accountable.
For his part, Commissioner Luna said: “We are not here to find faults, but to call the attention of the agencies involved to prevent undue injury to the government and the people, in compliance with the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”