By Ben Rosario
The contractor of the P892 million housing project for “Yolanda” victims faces plunder and a string of criminal cases after lawmakers confirmed that the houses he built could jeopardize the lives of people for containing substandard construction materials.
Negros Occidental Rep. Alfredo “Albee” Benitez, chairman of the House Committee on Housing and Urban Development, said an inspection team sent by the House panel to verify the contractor’s denials to the said accusations confirmed that he had perjured himself.
Benitez said the adverse findings gave the House panel substantial reason to determine whether or not inferior construction materials were also used for housing units for all other super-typhoon Yolanda victims funded by the government amounting to P60 billion.
During a House hearing early this month, JC Tayag of the construction firm bearing his name vehemently denied accusations by subcontractor Camilo Salazar that he used substandard steel and bars for the construction of over 2,000 houses in Balangiga, Hernani and Guiuan towns, Eastern Samar.
Immediately after the hearing, the House panel dispatched a team of construction experts to determine who between the contractor and whistleblower Salazar was telling the truth.
“Itong contractor na ito, niloko na mga tao sa Eastern Samar, niloko pa rin ang committee,” Benitez concluded as he revealed that charges of perjury, contract violations and plunder are being prepared against Tayag. (This contractor fooled both Eastern Samar folk and the committee.)
Together with Reps. Ben Evardone (LP, Eastern Samar) and Deogracias Victor Savellano (PDP-Laban, Ilocos Sur), Benitez said the team discovered that Salazar was telling the truth when he said that steel bars used in the houses were below the standard set by the National Housing Authority for the construction.
The team, composed of engineers from the NHA and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), found out that instead of 12 mm steel enforcement bars and 20 mm horizontal bars, the constructed houses were undersized by 6 mm and 12 mm, respectively.
“There is a possibility that similar houses for Yolanda victims are being built in Leyte, Biliran and other provinces that suffered the super-typhoon’s wrath,” he said.
Further, Benitez warned the DPWH and other government agencies involved in infrastructure construction to inspect the structural integrity of JC Tayag’s construction projects.
Benitez said he had asked the House Committee on Good Government to jointly conduct the next hearing with his panel to determine whether JC Tayag Builders colluded with government men, particularly the NHA, in committing fraud by constructing and delivering housing units made of substandard and inferior construction materials.
For his part, Evardone asked the NHA to suspend work on all JC Tayag constructions while an investigation is being conducted.
Both Benitez and Savellano agreed that the demolition of all houses built with inferior materials has become necessary in the light of the discovery made by the House panel.