Yolanda anomalies deplored; BOC irregularities to be checked




Published September 5, 2017, 10:00 PM
By Fred Lobo

Concerned congressmen have deplored multi-million peso irregularities in the implementation of the housing project for victims of super-typhoon “Yolanda,” and recommended the fiing of criminal charges against public officials and contractors involved.

Materials used were substandard and their style is “bulok.”

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Likewise, a House panel has recommended the filing of criminal charges against Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials in relation to the recent smuggling of 604 kilos of shabu, and the recasting of their qualifications for office.

BOC suffer from lapses and shortcomings, it claims.

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Congressmen said that hundreds of government-funded housing units for Yolanda victims will have to be inspected after contractors who won the heavily financed shelter project allegedly tapped unqualified sub-contractors to do their job.

Yolanda housing projects battered with criticism.

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Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said the anomaly was revealed during a public hearing conducted by his panel in Borongan, based on a House resolution authored by Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone.

The use of substandard materials noted, as Big Ben alleged.

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

Translation: Binagyo na,dinaya pa!

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Benitez said that the same irregularity may have also been committed in other housing and community-building projects for Yolanda victims funded by government.

Monkey business as usual?

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He said that during the congressional hearing , Camilo Salazar, a subcontractor, claimed that substandard construction materials were used to construct houses in Balangiga, Eastern Samar.

Benitez said Salazar disclosed the use of undersized steel bars, cheap cement mix, and below-standard roofing materials.

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Benitez asked the National Housing Authority to dig deeper into the irregularities, likewise pointing 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,” he said.

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Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone also said he will make those involved in the irregularity accountable.

Don’t fool my constituents, he said.

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Leyte Rep. Vicente S. Veloso said the people involved in the project implementation should be made to face criminal and civil liability for not following the standards and specifications.

We will file estafa cases and violation of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act, he said.

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Meanwhile, the House Committee on Dangerous Drugs has recommended the filing of charges in relation to the recent shabu smuggling, and the passage of a law that would set stringent qualifications for BOC commissioner and deputies.

Time for disciplining BOC officials and putting the Aduana in order, they said.

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Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers, chairman of the panel, said the BOC officials should not only enjoy the trust and confidence of the President, but they should also possess the needed qualifications.

“We will be filing a bill to propose qualifications or requirements for the [high-ranking] Bureau of Customs’ officials, from the commissioner to the deputy commissioners,” he said.

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Barbers also said his his panel’s 57-page report recommended the investigation and filing of criminal charges by the Ombudsman against resigned Customs Commissioner Nicanor Faeldon for violations of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act and for alleged failure to coordinate with PDEA and turn over the recently seized 604 kilos of shabu to PDEA.

Time to check lapses and to cut BOC excesses, Barbers said.