House committee uncovers anomalies in shelter project for ‘Yolanda’ victims

Updated September 3, 2017, 7:34 AM
By Ben R. Rosario

Borongan, Eastern Samar – A senior administration congressman yesterday deplored multi-million peso irregularities in the implementation of the shelter project for victims of super-typhoon “Yolanda,” noting that the housing units were built using substandard construction materials.

Hundreds of government-funded housing units for Yolanda victims will have to be inspected after contractors who won the heavily-financed shelter project have reportedly tapped unqualified sub-contractors to do their job, Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez revealed.

Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said the anomaly was revealed during a public hearing conducted by the house panel here.

“Our people have been victimized twice over.  First, by super-typhoon Yolanda and now by crooked contractors and their cohorts,” lamented Benitez.

Benitez aired strong fears that the same anomalous situation may have also been committed in many other housing and community-building projects for Yolanda victims funded by government.

Substandard materials

During a congressional hearing here, Camilo Salazar, a subcontractor, claimed that substandard construction materials were used to construct houses in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Benitez disclosed that Salazar said that among the construction materials used were undersized steel bars, cement mix that are cheap and of inferior quality.

It was disclose that roofing materials were also way below the standard.

Salazar admitted that he is a subcontractor tapped by a certain Juanito Tayag to help construct the housing units in Yolanda-stricken areas.

Benitez called on the National Housing Authority to dig deep into the irregularities even as he pointed out that subcontracting is barred under the contract awarded to winning bidders.

“It involves people’s money and the future of Yolanda victims.  We need to get to the bottom of all of these,” the irate lawmaker said.

In reaction, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone vowed to make those involved accountable.

Criminal and civil liability

Meanwhile, Leyte Rep. Vicente S. Veloso said the people involved in the project implementation should face criminal and civil liability for not following the standards and specification.

Veloso said they can be charged with estafa and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

Veloso expressed dismay that his district, which is adjacent to Tacloban City, did not receive housing assistance.  He said that typhoon victims in Iloilo received more assistance than the typhoon victims in Samar and Leyte.

Benitez said they will continue with their committee investigation in Manila and call for more witnesses and resource persons. (With a report from Nestor L. Abrematea)