Alarm gongs for Marawi rehab
The disturbing report that the Marawi rehabilitation program is opening doors to the possibilities of graft and corruption smacks of cronyism.
Records uncovered by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s Malou Mangahas and Karol Ilagan reveal a distressing composition in the seven-person bids and awards committee (BAC) that will crucially decide which business entities will get the multibillion-peso contracts for the rehabilitation of Marawi’s ground zero.
Four committee members are identified as political appointees and two Davao City associates of President Duterte. The PCIJ avers that “despite their evident lack of experience in evaluating public contracts on technical and financial merits,” these appointees “will pass judgment on the deal estimated at P17.2 billion to P20 billion by a proponent consortium of five Chinese and three Filipino companies.”
Who are these cohorts and how close are they to Mr. Duterte?
Marcelino P. Escalada Jr., currently general manager of the National Housing Authority, is the BAC cochair. He has been a close Duterte associate since 1995. He was human resource management head, then special projects head at Davao City Hall. In 2010, Mr. Duterte appointed him city administrator and concurrent head of the city planning and development office and also the city cooperative and development office. And listen to this—Escalada will be the main signatory to all joint venture agreements approved for the Marawi rehabilitation.
Paola Sherina A. Alvarez, currently assistant secretary in the Department of Finance, was official spokesperson of the PDP-Laban party during the Duterte campaign. But here’s the twist—she is the daughter of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez, never mind her Ateneo law degree which is completely negated by her blood ties to those in the Duterte power corridor. The so-called “sins of the father” may not necessarily rub off on the daughter, but the Alvarez connection leaves a bad taste in the mouth.
Two other committee members are latter-day Duterte appointees. And here’s the catch as revealed by the PCIJ: In his Executive Order No. 49-2018, Mr. Duterte designated all these four allies as voting members of the BAC. Then of course the overall command of the Marawi rehabilitation is in the hands of Housing Secretary and Task Force Bangon Marawi Chair Eduardo D. del Rosario who was Mr. Duterte’s past commander for Task Force Davao plus several other Davao City assignments.
But this isn’t as yet the most ridiculous part. The insult comes from the selection of two firms tapped for the rehab, China State Construction Engineering Corp. and China Geo-Engineering Corp. Contortionist and distortionist Harry Roque may spin as he pleases, but the fact will always remain that both firms have had a well-documented past of rigging projects financed by the World Bank.
Roque can brush off their blacklisting by the World Bank, but can he faithfully and ethically answer this: Are tainted Chinese companies the government’s best that it can offer the M’ranao? Why them?
The Davao government needs a lesson or two on maratabat, that critical sense of amor propio that markedly defines M’ranao social relations. I can bet you that some of these Filipino firms are stricken with the medieval disease of Islamophobia.
If bringing the house down just to kill a rat was not disquieting enough to the 353,900 M’ranao displaced until this day, their civil society groups have decried the lack of genuine participation and consultation among those affected. Task Force Bangon Marawi’s top-down approach at reconstruction offers minimal space for public participation. Dakila Kim P. Yee’s study calls it disaster capitalism—greater role is given to private business entities over community participation. The rehab is nothing but an imposed program on an anguished people.
Last week’s public outrage by the Ranaw Multi-Sectoral Movement and the Moro Consensus Group serves as a stern warning to the Duterte administration. Ignore the already alienated M’ranao and we will see their push into insurrection and rebellion.