The PCIJ reports involving Bong Go

The latest installments of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism’s continuing series on the Duterte administration’s “Build, build, build” program raise necessary questions about possible special treatment — so special no instructions may have been needed to be given — for two companies owned by relatives of Special Assistant to the President Bong Go.

In “Firms of Bong Go kin, top contractors: Many JVs, delayed projects in Davao,” the PCIJ paints a disturbing picture of billions of pesos’ worth of new infrastructure projects in the Davao region that remain unfinished well past their completion deadlines. But it also puts the spotlight on a company owned by Go’s father Desiderio and another owned by his half-brother Alfredo for winning billions of pesos in contracts from the Department of Public Works and Highways.

In “Did he help firms of Dad, half-bro? Unfair! Prove it, I’ll resign — Bong Go,” President Duterte’s closest aide vigorously denies any wrongdoing.

Allow me to run extended excerpts (edited for additional clarity). Here’s the first:

“The financial bonanza from multibillion-peso projects in the region has benefited not only big contractors but also relatively smaller ones that, through a growing number of joint-venture agreements with the former, have managed to snare more and bigger projects.

“To this lucky set of top contractors in Davao Region belong two entities owned by the father and the half-brother of Special Assistant to the President, Christopher Lawrence ‘Bong’ Tesoro Go: CLTG Builders and Alfrego Builders and Supply.

“CLTG Builders stood out in PCIJ’s research because all of its joint-venture projects with big contractors in 2017 failed to complete projects by the original deadline. With just a B license, the firm could not have implemented the big-ticket projects it won in 2017 without having a partner.

“The company that bears the initials of the presidential aide appears in Davao City’s 10 biggest contractors year on year from 2010 to 2017, according to DPWH data.

“CLTG won a total of PhP1.85 billion worth of infrastructure projects for Davao Region from 2007 to 2017. This sum does not yet include the P2.7 billion in contracts won by CLTG through joint ventures with four other contractors, including Alfrego Builders, a firm owned by Bong Go’s half-brother Alfredo Go.

“In sum, CLTG has been awarded P4.6 billion worth of projects, all from the DPWH, in the past decade. It won more than half of that total only last year, however. None of these projects has been awarded by the local government of Davao City.”

In 2017, the first full year of the Duterte budget, CLTG won DPWH contracts worth a total of P399,336,326.72. In the same year, it won, through joint ventures, a total of P2,732,191,443.36 in DPWH contracts.

Here’s the second excerpt:

“Two senior government officials and at least four contractors privy to procurement activities in Davao told PCIJ in separate interviews that backroom deals are happening in order for certain companies to corner contracts even though they do not have the capability to take on projects. The result is a rather skewed spread of infrastructure projects awarded to supposed favored but incapable contractors. The sources have all requested anonymity because of the potential implications on their employment and business.

“DPWH officials and contractors alike point to one main reason as cause of delay for these projects: the acquisition of the road right-of-way. Although valid, acquiring RROW has been a longtime problem that has hindered many agencies in the past from implementing infrastructure projects.

“What PCIJ also found in its analysis of official records and multiple interviews from sources is a story of individual firms and joint ventures, and an implementing agency with contracting loads that are much heavier than they used to carry, raising questions about their capability to complete the projects.”

Go and his family have faced PCIJ reporters. “Go swears — and public-works officials interviewed separately by PCIJ confirm — that he has not once or ever brokered or appealed for any of the contracts that the firms owned by his closest of kin have won from the DPWH. Notably, too, the two companies had not been awarded any contracts by the local government of Davao City, according to procurement data from 2000 to 2018.”

But questions remain: Did the Go companies enjoy preferential treatment in 2017? And do they in fact have the capacity to complete the projects awarded to them that year? The real scandal here may be, as the PCIJ writes: “Senior officials and some contractors themselves trace the problem to a strange situation in the region: Mostly the same contractors are winning more and more contracts, grabbing more projects than they could finish well within their capability, and within deadline.”

On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand. E-mail: jnery@inquirer.com.ph

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