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Ball now in Ombudsman’s hands

12:57 AM December 26, 2015

It is amazing that it took the Department of Public Works and Highways, through Secretary Rogelio Singson, two weeks to respond to our Dec. 4 letter (“Rich source of campaign funds”).

We presumed that the 2.28-billion 82-kilometer road project, which would pass through the Sierra Madre mountain range going to the Pacific Ocean-side, is a national highway because of its scale and project cost. This is the first time that we, at InfraWatch, has heard of a road project of such magnitude being undertaken by a local government.

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Another major highway crossing the Sierra Madre mountains from Famy, Laguna, to Real, Quezon, was undertaken by the DPWH in the early 1990s. This 35-km national road links Southern Luzon and Metro Manila to the Pacific Ocean.

Whether the Sierra Madre road is a DPWH project or Isabela’s, it must be investigated by the Office of the Ombudsman. Why? Because it is obscenely overpriced at P27.8 million per kilometer, which is 100 percent or double the usual cost of a DPWH project.

Secretary Singson said in his letter that “without the detailed designs and specifications, we cannot conclude that P27.8 million per kilometer is overpriced” (“Sierra Madre road not a project of DPWH,” Opinion, 12/19/15). This, in spite of the fact that the cost is double or 100 percent that of the usual cost of a DPWH project, such as the Circumferential Road in Iloilo City which was completed by the DPWH in 2014 at the cost of P13 million/km only.

Why can’t the DPWH conclude that P27.8 million/km is overpriced without the detailed designs and specifications? It is because the DPWH leadership, under the sanctimonious administration of President Aquino, has constructed a dubious national road at the cost of P28.8 million/km in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

There is the P2.851-billion Transition Investment Support Plan implemented by the DPWH regions 9, 10 and 12 in the five provinces of the ARMM. It includes the total length of 129.12 km of roads and 132.30 linear meters for four bridges. The funding came from the Disbursement Acceleration Program that was later declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The P2.851-billion DPWH project involves the “Upgrading/Rehabilitation/Preventive Maintenance of National Roads & Bridges,” whose average cost is double that of the usual cost of the DPWH road projects. The “upgrading” portion alone from gravel to paved road cost P28.8 million/km. We wrote Secretary Singson about all these two years ago, specifically on Dec. 12, 2013, but there has been no reply from him.

With three letters published in the Inquirer, the Office of the Ombudsman should already investigate both the 82-km Sierra Madre road in the province of Isabela worth P2.28 billion and the P2.851-billion projects in Muslim Mindanao.

The Ombudsman can “investigate and prosecute on its own” these two cases. No need for any complaint to be filed. Subsection 1, Section 15 (Powers, Functions and Duties) of Republic Act No. 6770 or the Ombudsman Act of 1989 so provides.

—RICARDO B. RAMOS, executive director, InfraWatch

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TAGS: Department of Public Works and Highways, InfraWatch, Isabela, ombudsman, Rogelio singson, Sierra Madre road project
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