By Charissa Luci-Atienza
A member of the House committee on appropriations is calling on the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to ensure the proper and transparent use of P28.9 billion earmarked in 2019 for right-of-way (ROW) payments for infrastructure projects.
Surigao del Sur Rep. Johnny Pimentel disclosed that the Duterte administration is expected to spend up to P28.9 billion in 2019 for ROW expenses.
“The amount is P27.5 billion smaller, or 49 percent less than the P56.4 billion earmarked this year for the DPWH’s payments for ROW expenses,” he said in a statement.
He said the DPWH should ensure the transparent and proper use of fund by publicly posting list of payees, the amounts paid and the properties acquired.
“To ensure absolute transparency and greater accountability, we would urge the DPWH to henceforth post on its website the list of payees, the amounts paid and the properties acquired to pave the way for the construction of new roads, flyovers and bridges,” Pimentel said following the multibillion-peso ROW payment scam.
The former chairman of the House committee on good government and public accountability cited that Senate Blue Ribbon committee earlier urged the Office of the Ombudsman and the Department of Justice to conduct lifestyle checks on officials suspected of complicity in a multibillion-peso ROW payment scam.
Sen. Richard Gordon, committee chairman, expressed serious concern DPWH lost up to P8.7 billion from the rip-off that involved fraudulent claims for ROW payments backed by bogus land titles.
Officials and staff at the DPWH, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Budget and Management and the Land Registration Authority have been implicated in the scam, according to Gordon.
Pimentel explained that ROW expenses are authorized by Republic Act 10752, An Act Facilitating the Acquisition of ROW Site or Location for National Government Infrastructure Projects.
“Under the law, the national government may acquire real property needed as ROW site or location for any infrastructure project via donation, negotiated sale, expropriation, or any other mode of acquisition, as provided by law,” he said.
According to Pimentel, the DPWH has to settle all ROW obligations before the start of projects, and the release of funds is subject to the submission of the list of claimants with the corresponding projects and amounts certified correct by the DPWH.