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What caused Marawi rehab delays

"They may be obedient to the President, but they should not make short cuts because we have laws and procedures."

President Duterte may not realize it, but I believe he is staking so much —his credibility and even the trust and acceptance by the people—at the rate he is endorsing candidates for the Senate who are newcomers and at the bottom of the list according to the Social Weather Stations and Pulse Asia surveys.

First, the President endorsed his special assistant, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go and even accompanied him when he filed his certificate of candidacy. Now, Santa Banana, Go is seen all over the place soliciting the endorsements of mayors and governors using the name of the President.

Who is Bong Go anyway? What is his academic background? Did he finish college? What is his profession to qualify him for the Senate?

I recall President Duterte calling him a billionaire. My gulay, how did Go become a billionaire? Has this something to do with the findings of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism that Go’s father and half-brother were able to corner P2.4 billion worth of road contracts with the Department of Public Works and Highways under the Duterte administration? In one way or another, all these questions must be answered.

Now comes the endorsement of the President of folk singer Freddie Aguilar for the Senate, claiming he is a great fan of Aguilar’s nationalistic songs, especially ‘Anak’ which has been translated in several languages. I, too, love Aguilar’s ‘Anak’ and I admire him. But I won’t vote for him in the Senate.

What are his qualifications, academic experience and background that we should vote for him as senator? Is Aguilar’s ‘Anak’ a sure ticket to the Senate? The President even called Aguilar a “brillant man.” But Mr. President, may I ask what makes Aguilar a brillant man?

For one thing, the Senate should be composed of people we respect and admire, not just because one was the President’s special assistant, much less because the President loves Aguilar’s nationalistic songs. The Senate must be composed of people of independent minds, not lapdogs and not one whose only contribution to society is the ability to sing nationalistic folk songs.

* * *

President Duterte often likes to say that he appoints former military men to the Cabinet because of their discipline, action-orientation, and professionalism. But there is one characteristic of military men that he values—their obedience. They do what they are told to do.

Along this line, the President often calls military personnel his “utility boys” in contrast to argumentative civilians in government bureaucracy whom he blamed for slowing down the implementation of policies.

In this connection, the question pops up: Why did it take the rehabilitation of Marawi City in Lanao del Sur over a year to start its rehab? Santa Banana, for over 12 months ruins remained ruins!

As one press report described it, the “sickle moon” of Marawi’s mosques watched over darkened shells of what were once bright homes and busy thoroughfares. Residents of the so-called Most Affected Areas endured the pain of uncertainty, not knowing whether they would get their lives backm using the words of Marawi City Mayor Usman Gandamra.

The rehab should have started Oct. 17, which marked the first anniversary of the city’s liberation. President Duterte, however, could not make it so it was moved to Oct. 31.

But only four days before the ceremony, Malacañang told organizers Duterte could not make it so they scrambled to hold the ceremony a day earlier on Oct. 30.

But why did it take the national government more than a year to begin reconstruction? A report found that government agencies’ ill-founded insistence on using a Joint Venture Agreement model to lock down a developer was the biggest factor that led to unnecessary delays.

Along this line, recall that Eduardo del Rosario, a former military general who is chariman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council and also the chairman of the National Housing Authority, was named “rehab czar.”

To make the story short, JVA was considered by Malacañang as a way to legally shorten the requirements that government must bid out projects to qualified contractors—a process that in Del Rosario’s view would take too long. Duterte also publicly expressed his aversion to public bidding because the process would lead to corruption.

But public bidding is required by Philippine procurement laws, save for special instances when government wants to carry out a project but lacks the capability to do it. This is entirely different from a JVA, which was the preferred mode for Marawi’s rehab by Malacañang and Task Force Bangon Marawi.

On Jan. 27, the President was quoted to have said that “henceforth, all projects in the Philippines would be something like a Swiss challenge... I am telling everybody—I am telling Congress, COA, and the Supreme Court that the policy of lowest bid dragged us into corruption.”

Afterwards, the President signed Executive Order No. 49 exempting the NHA from JVA guidelines set by the National Economic Development Authority in 2005. Del Rosario even said in compliance with the President’s pronouncement that the Swiss challenge is “an inherent process in JVA” which in effect makes NHA the signing agency in contracts for the Marawi rehab. This led to months of discussions with 5 Chinese companies and 4 Filipino firms.

On May 15, NHA board members met to discuss the JVA plan of Malacañang and Del Rosario. During the meeting, former Corporate Counsel Rudolf Jurado told the board that a JVA model cannot be used for Marawi rehab since the project is not a commercial venture meant to generate profits.

During the meeting, sources said under a JVA, the government would partner with a private entity that would then shell out the funds, and that government would only pay the private entity upon completion of the project. Obviously, Del Rosario had a mistaken belief of what a JVA was, since everybody knows that two parties having a JVA must spend equally for the project at the start, 50-50. That is a former military general for you.

Del Rosario was quoted to have said: “Why do you want another modality? In a joint venture agreement, the developer provides the funds and we pay them at the end of the process using a buy-out option.” My gulay, how wrong could Del Rosario get!

Jurado told the board that if they pushed through with the JVA, they could be charged for violating the procurement law. But Del Rosario and his assistant insisted on their mode, insisting that JVA is legal according to EO 49. 

The President reportedly wanted to fire Jurado, which he did later on. 

According to reports, from May to August this year, Del Rosario and the Task Force Bangon Marawi fought hard for a JVA. That further delayed the rehab. Jurado’s opinion to follow the law eventually led to the opinion he gave on the APEC franchise that did not sit well with the President.

Del Rosario, ever the obedient former military general, noted that projects that were not income-generating could be awarded through either negotiated procurement or a build-operate-transfer arrangement.

But under the Government Procurement Act, negotiated contracts where the procuring entity directly negotiates with a supplier does not involve a Swiss challenge. Aside from this, the method can only be used “under extraordinary circumstances” which Del Rosario insisted could be invoked. This again led to delays.

During the Oct. 30 groundbreaking ceremony, Del Rosario came up again with a new concept which would open the rehab plans to Mindanao firms. 

The big question now is: Would the Marawi rehab have been done quickly had the President not assigned Del Rosario, a former military general?

The answer to that question is maybe yes, or maybe no. It depends. All I am saying is that military people are not the best people for a job in government. They may be obedient to the President, but they should not make short cuts because we have laws and procedures. They may be cumbersome and cause delays, but the law is the law. 

Topics: Rodrigo Duterte , Government Procurement Act , Christopher Lawrence Go , Rudolf Jurado
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