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Wanted: Graft fighter in DPWH

By Manly M. Ugalde LEGAZPI CITY --- With the retirement of Regional Director Danilo Versola of the Department of Public Works and Highways in Bicol, a former whistleblower hopes that a new blood and someone who will take the cudgel against graft and corruption will take over to help clean up the mess in the graft-ridden office. Versola retired from the service last August 4, 2018 after having been assigned here last March 8, 2017. Prior to his Bicol assignment, Danilo Versola was the regional director of Region 11 in Butuan City. Upon Versola’s assignment in Bicol, many in the regional office feared that he was sent, being a native of Davao from where President Rodrigo Duterte also came from, to institute reforms and scoop out the dirt in the DPWH regional office in pursuance of Malacanang’s oft-repeated drive against government grafters. But as it turned out, no change came. As early as 2006, four groups of Bicol contractors led by the Albay Professional Constructors Association had petitioned Malacanang to investigate the shameless plunder of public works funds in the region allegedly perpetrated by politicians in collaboration with DPWH executives tagged as insider-contractors. The petition claimed that the so-called insider-contractors began under the Cory Administration and mushroomed so fast that even the lowly casual employees had become contractors themselves while reporting to office in their newly-acquired high-priced luxury cars parked in the premises and many of them waging thousands of pesos of bets in cockpit arenas every weekend and on holidays. Robert Canezal, 52, the whistleblower whose latest expose was the P150M scandal in the equipment pool in Masbate a few years ago, lamented that most of the top executives and department heads he had implicated in one or two graft cases have all retired without encountering difficulties in securing their clearances that allowed them full payment of their retirement benefits while the cases remained unresolved or uncleared, to the disadvantage of the government. During his brief stint as top man in Bicol DPWH, Versola had not instituted any movement, nor reassign any district engineer and other personnel to other posts even as the regional director himself concentrated more on his work in the office, according to DPWH legal officer Oliver Rodulfo. Insiders claim that like his predecessors, Versola was an absentee regional director who would come to Legazpi from Manila or elsewhere and vice versa to report for work. In most cases, they said, regional directors who were non-Bicolanos stayed in the office for only two or three days a week.

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