A Thief who Became a Philanthropist-A A +A
By Max Sangil
For the Record
Thursday, January 9, 2014
ROGELIO "Babes" Singson, now secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), was former president of Clark Development Corporation (CDC). He is a professional manager, no-nonsense and honest. And above all he is stingy. When Mina Paras and I were seated as members of the CDC board, and Babes was our chairman, the board meeting at the Bases Conversion Development Corporation (BCDA) corporate offices in Taguig lasted up to almost 8 in the evening. There was a serving of small plates of pancit guisado in the late afternoon, and that was all. On our return home to Angeles, we were caught in a monstrous traffic jam in the North Luzon Expressway, and I got so hungry and Mina so angry with Babes for failing, or shall we say refusing, to order meals for the board members and staff in attendance. We reached home past midnight. From then on, Babes Singson got the tag as "Boy Kuripot".
A friend from DPWH based in Sindalan, San Fernando told me that no contractor will ever participate in a government project without profit in mind. If the project is grossly underpriced, he will find ways to cut corners, and will still make a profit. Babes is honest, but he is no genius. But you don't have to be a genius to know that contractors are businessmen, and there is less charity in their hearts. So when DPWH designed those bunkhouses in Tacloban, and took away the margin of profit of the contractors, Babes should have expected that there will be substandard materials to be used. More so if politicians will also dip their sticky fingers in the project, demanding the usual percentage (SOP). The end result: the shelters for Yolanda victims are subpar.
In adversity, there is opportunity, so the saying goes. Opportunity for whom? In the Yolanda case, the opportunity tilted in favor of "vultures". They are now preying on the victims of Yolanda. It cannot be helped to recall that when Mt. Pinatubo erupted and lahar flows destroyed a large swath of land in Pampanga, burying houses and killing hundreds of people, the "vultures" flew down from their perch and devoured a lot of government funds intended for the victims. Some local officials made tens of millions in building the several upland and lowland resettlement subdivisions in Pampanga and Tarlac. It was in the desilting of river channels where big money was made through collusion of DPWH officials and the contractors. Approved collections were 10 times what is due the contractors. There were even ghost projects. There was this fellow who was in charge of government equipments based in Sindalan who made hundreds of millions of pesos, and became a philanthropist, living in style in Baguio City, and the long arm of the Ombudsman failed to catch him. There are so many thieves in government. To these people, they have a strong belief that it pays to rob government money.
In a news report this week, the Commission on Audit discovered irregularities in the implementation of the multi-billion conditional cash transfer program (CCT), a program handled by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD). This is a program intended to extend a small amount, P500 per month (loose change to the rich) to the poorest among the poor. The recently released Consolidated Audit Report of the assistance program noted that 7,782 supposed beneficiaries are non-existent, meaning the names are fictitious. COA also reported P18 billion in expenditures were not documented. Somebody from DSWD pocketed what is for the poorest among the poor. How's that for "tuwid na daan"? There is a saying that there are only TWO honest men in the world. One is dead, and the other is yet to be born.
Published in the Sun.Star Pampanga newspaper on January 10, 2014.