DPWH orders return of P4.8-B RROW fund for Region 12

GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 5 December) — The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has pulled out around P4.8 billion in road right-of-way (RROW) funds for Region 12 in the wake of the alleged multibillion scam involving fake claims in this city and the neighboring areas.

Deputy House Speaker and South Cotabato second district Rep. Ferdinand Hernandez said Tuesday DPWH Secretary Mark Villar ordered the return of the funds from the region to the central office pending proper validation of the RROW claims.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea chats with DPWH Secretary Mark Villar (right) in Davao City. Mindanews File Photo

He said the move was in response to a letter that he and the eight other House members from Region 12 submitted to Villar regarding the fake RROW claims and settlements in the area.

“He (Villar) pulled out the money so it would be returned to the central office. Right now they’re carefully looking at all the (RROW) claims,” he said in an interview over Brigada News TV here.

Hernandez cited that their July letter focused on the pending P4.8 billion worth of RROW claims in Region 12.

It was signed by South Cotabato first district and General Santos City Rep. Pedro Acharon Jr., Sultan Kudarat first district Rep. Suharto Mangundadatu, Sultan Kudarat second district Rep. Horacio Suansing Jr., Sarangani Rep. Rogelio Pacquiao, Maguindanao first district and Cotabato City Rep. Bai Sandra Sema, North Cotabato first district Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, North Cotabato second district Rep. Nancy Catamco and North Cotabato third district Rep. Jose Tejada.

The region comprises the provinces of South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat, Sarangani and North Cotabato, and the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

He said the letter was based on a complaint received by Rep. Acharon regarding supposed fake RROW claims and settlements in the city.

Hernandez said they immediately reported the matter to Sec. Villar, urging the latter to look into the complaint to protect government funds.

By then, he said they were informed that the DPWH regional office already received some P4.8 billion for the settlement of pending RROW claims.

Owing to this, Hernandez said they asked Sec. Villar to stop the processing of pending RROW claims involving the P4.8-billion funding until they are convinced of the legitimacy and whether the claimed amounts are reasonable.

“We wanted to make sure that all claims would be properly validated and audited to make sure that the valuations are correct and the money would be paid to the rightful claimants,” he said.

Aside from the pullout of the RROW funds, Hernandez said Villar ordered changes in the procedures regarding the claims.

It involves the conduct of separate stringent validations by the district and regional offices of all RROW claims.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II disclosed two weeks ago an alleged scam involving some P8.7 billion in RROW settlements in the city and neighboring areas based on supposed fictitious and fabricated documents.

He has directed the National Bureau of Investigation to investigate the scam, which was based on revelations made by whistleblower Rodolfo Catapang Jr.

Catapang, who hails from this city, said the fake claims were made by a syndicate that he was previously a part of and allegedly involved prominent personalities, among them Eldon Cruz, brother-in-law of former President Benigno S. Aquino III.

The ongoing investigation has included former Department of Budget and Management secretary Florencio Abad and former DPWH secretary Rogelio Singson. (MindaNews)