By RHAYDZ B. BARCIA
LEGAZPI CITY : While most Filipinos were raising their arms against the much-abused pork barrel funds, government engineers here succeeded in bidding out P25 million worth of the so-called PDAF (or the controversial Priority Development Assistance Fund) project for the dredging of a river in the town of Polangui, Albay through a negotiated bidding process.
The alleged hastily called bidding was contested by Rep Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay) saying that it went against the President’s call for prudent and honest use of pork barrel funds.
The bidding for the multimillion project was reportedly conducted Tuesday when the whole nation up to now is raging against the P10B pork barrel scam allegedly maneuvered by Janet Lim-Napoles in cahoots with corrupt senators and congressmen.
The dredging project was reportedly downloaded to the municipal government of Polangui through Mayor Cherilie Mella-Sampal.
Gonzalez told Bicol Mail in a telephone interview that P10M of the original P25M came from the pork barrel fund of AKB Rep. Christopher Co.
The Albay congressman said transparency was not observed in the bidding.
There was apparent garapalan, a Tagalog word for pressing something without caution or shame.
“Why should the project be pushed under a negotiated or emergency bidding when there is no calamity or typhoon?” Gonzalez asked.
“LGU-Polangui has been a recipient of PDAF assistance for rehabilitation of flood control system for Nacascasan River (Lanigay-Balangibang-Matacon Section) in the amount of P10M.
"It has posted in PhilGEPS the following procurement notice: rehabilitation of flood control river system of Salug River (Basud-Ubaliw Section); rehabilitation of flood control system of Nacascasan River (Lanigay-Balangibang-Matacon).
"They’re just using the improvement of river but the truth is, this dredging and desilting project is a total waste of money. This is temporary in nature which would not be allowed by the President,” Gonzalez said.
The bidding was conducted August 27, 2013 at 10:00 a.m. at the ABC Hall inside the Polangui municipal building.
Gonzalez reminded those involved that President Noynoy Aquino made it clear that all government projects should undergo open and competitive bidding, especially those temporary structures such as dredging, desilting, regravelling, and asphalt overlay.
“The President has spoken and pronounced on PDAF that only open and competitive bidding; no temporary structures and neither can these be dredging, de-silting, re-gravelling, or asphalt overlay.
"He warned that the negotiated bidding recently conducted is clearly an open defiance of the President’s order and may be subjected to an investigation by the Department of Justice/Ombudsman or any competent authority,” the solon added.
Polangui town Mayor Cherilie Mella-Sampal for her part told Bicol Mail that the P25 million budget was downloaded by Department of Budget and Management to the municipal government of Polangui before the 2013 local elections prior to latest pronouncements by the President against pork barrel.
But the bidding was put on hold because of election ban, she explained.
When told that the negotiated bidding was being questioned, Sampal said the bidding passed through the process, with appropriate clearances from COA and the Albay Public Safety Emergency Management Office.
She added that due to the exigency of the project, there was a need to immediately implement the project with the onset of the rainy season that historically puts the town under severe and dangerous flooding.
“Our town is the catchment of floods from Lake Bato so we need to dredge and scour the rivers before the rainy season hits us,” Sampal said.
When asked who was the winning bidder, Sampal said that Ramar Contractor which is owned by former Polangui Mayor Rafael Lo won the bid.
She added that three bidders actually participated in the bidding, which include the TR Construction owned by Tom Rañola, Hi Tone construction, which is owned by Rep. Christopher Co of Ako Bicol, and the construction firm of former Mayor Lo.
Mayor Sampal admitted it was former Polangui Mayor Lo who facilitated the release of funds for the said project.
“Si ex-mayor Rafael Lo ang naglakad para maproseso ang fund. Ang P10 million ay intended para sa Nacascasan River and P15 million for San Francisco dredging and desilting,” Sampal told Bicol Mail.
Though Ramar Contrator won the bid, Sampal said they have yet to award the project after a clearance has been required from the Office of the President. – Bicol Mail