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C-5 Extension Project, Latest Version of DM Macapagal Highway Robbery?

The C-5 Extension Project is also known as President Carlos P. Garcia Avenue a Road project that will extend SLEX to Sucat Road in Parañaque City. It seems it has all the makings of a repeat or maybe the latest version of DM Macapagal Highway Robbery with allegations of windfall profit on rights-of-way to double budget insertion.

On the surface it appears to be an “honest mistake,” a “loose change,” or a “molehill” depending on who is talking or who you want to believe. Insertion is legal; a common practice according to Senate President Manny Villar to speed up the date of the completion of infrastructure projects by allocating more funds that is needed in the staggered release of funds due to budget constraints. Sounds practical especially when you consider the snail paced processing to release funds due to the maze of bureaucratic red tapes.

On the other hand maybe it is about time to take a second look into the practice owing to the rampant corruption in government agencies. In a privilege speech by Senator Panfilo Lacson citing instances of the insertion practice of the legislative branch while the purpose was to speed up the project it also has other effects, to quote:

In my seven years in Congress, this is probably the first time that I have encountered TWO versions of a House bill, namely House Bill 2454: the RED and the BLACK, the LEFT and the RIGHT. Another case of double entry? What gives?

Take the case of the DPWH budget. In GAB-1, or HB 2454 Red Version, locally funded projects in the DPWH budget received a total appropriation of P52,648,923.000.

But in GAB-2, or HB 2454 Black Version, the appropriation ballooned to a whopping P65,461,538,000, with a difference of close to P13 billion.
Now how did that happen? Did they enlist the services of the Comelec math geniuses to do their number crunching thus when they insert more funds which was supposedly for the purpose of completing the infrastructure on the target date or even earlier the cost also increases when it was about early release and the geniuses goes on the Dagdag (add) and Dagdag (add) and discarded the Bawas (substract)?

Here is an excerpt from the Panfilo Lacson’s privilege speech:

The following are the insertions made in the Senate:

  • Kibawe-Kadingilan-Kalinangan Road, P5 million; and Don Carlos-Kadingilan Road, P25 million, both in Bukidnon;
  • Construction of access road, West Lateral Dike connecting to Hacienda Dolores, Porac Interchange of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, P100 million;
  • For the completion of the Cagayan de Oro International Trade and Convention Multi-Purpose Center, P100 million;
  • Tagaytay-Silang Road, Balalang-Matanda section, P13 million;
  • Construction of Molino Boulevard, in Cavite, including right of way, P37 million;
  • As I mentioned earlier, the construction of C-5 Road Extension from SLEX to Sucat, including right of way, P200 million – This is the first discovered double entry; and
  • Aguinaldo Bridge, P50 million – This is the second discovered double entry; and,
P200 million for Maharlika Road, God knows which part;
  • Included in the Senate insertions are these lump sum appropriations:
  • Repair and rehabilitation, including improvement of safety standards of various roads along public schools, P100 million;
  • Flood Control and Drainage System, P500 million;
  • Construction, repair and rehabilitation of government facilities including educational facilities, P760 million;
  • Rehabilitation, reconstruction of damaged paved national roads generated from payment management system/highway development and management, nationwide, P50 million;
  • Road upgrading, gravel to concrete, based on gravel road, strategies traffic benchmark for upgrading to paved road standard, nationwide: P50 million; and
  • Over and above all these, Mr. President, without any specification and merely lumped as "Various infrastructure projects," there is a lump sum of P1.760 billion. Saan kaya mapupunta ang ganito kalaking halaga? (Where will these huge lump sums go?) At sino ang magdidesisyon kung anong proyekto ang mabibiyayaan ng lump sum na ito? (And who will decide which project will benefit this lump sum?)

Pagdating sa bicameral conference committee, ang P3.95 bilyon na iminungkahing idagdag ng Senado ay naging mahigit P4.1 bilyon. (When this reached the bicameral conference, the P3.95B that the senate additional funds recommended went up to P4.1B.) Lalo pang lumaki! (It is ballooned?) Why?

Because under Item H, described as "Other national public works local infrastructure projects," the biggest lump sum of P1.76 billion almost doubled to P3,426,500,000.

Another lump sum appropriation outside the Senate insertions were discovered in the 2008 budget, page 657: A Dash III Point A Point 1 Point D, amounting to P2,001,850,000; and Point E, P4 billion.

Under B Point A Point 3, an amount of P7,981,565,000 was appropriated.

Of this amount, P546,653,000 was already appropriated as lump sum for projects nationwide under this category. An analysis of the insertion made in the GAA of 2008 will reveal that under Item H Point 9, there is another amount of P50 million appropriated for the same.

Para saan na naman ang dagdag na ito? (For what purpose is the added funds for?)

So not only do we have double entries in the line budget items. We also have double entries in the lump sum appropriations.

Total lump sum appropriations in the 2008 budget of the DPWH alone amounted to P23,467,383,000.
The number of insertions bloated the total cost when it should not affect it as it was just drawing more funds ahead of the allocation date and that tells us that something is seriously wrong with the system. It does not help when the reaction of the senators is in itself puzzling. The senators are upset especially the Joker who is probably having a senior moment indignantly stating this is an indictment of the whole senate, well guess what? It definitely is an indictment. Do they expect those in different cabinets that are the beneficiary of those allocations to be saints when their pork barrels are beyond the reach of any auditing agency?

Going back to my used to be idol and hero Joker Arroyo who seems to be acting strangely nowadays after the Jun Lozada ZTE-NBN seems not so enthusiastic about the prospect according to this report by Allison Lopez and Gil Cabacungan:
Arroyo mockingly laughed at the thought of senators investigating themselves for endorsing the insertions in the budget.
Well, I agree that it will be silly to investigate yourselves especially if we believe
Mirriam Santiago saying the 2007 elected senators are criminals or if it is true then we are really in trouble. We know what the outcome is when you guys do that but don't you think the honor should be given to an anti-corruption body like the Ombudsman? Oh, wait with Merceditas Gutierrez dismal conviction record maybe that is not exactly a good idea, so tell us Mr. Joker where can the Filipino turn to and not end up with jokers on the job?

Panfilo Lacson has a very interesting take on how to deal with the culprits in his blog, Lacson to Palace: Sue Grafters Behind Double Appropriation of 'Road to Nowhere,’ an interesting quote worth mentioning here:
Dapat sa kanila ibitin ng patiwarik (They should be hanged upside-down)
What is puzzling is that the focus seems to be on Manny Villar, how about Mike Velarde who stands to gain from the project itself with or without the insertion. Is it because Amvel Mike Velarde’s firm is threatening to sue or are they afraid of losing the support of El Shaddai followers on the upcoming 2010 election? Exactly why Lacson’s accusation is perceived as a “demolition job” because of the selective pinpointing of the blame on Villar? All those who have “legally double inserted allocations” should be investigated especially if the total cost ballooned and everyone else that benefited from the projects should also be investigated and brought to court for accountability. The people deserves to know, after all these are their taxes that is being spent poorly and incompetently.

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