UNTIL I came upon a report from the Commission on Audit, it never occurred to me that there were construction activities done by the DPWH Davao City District Engineer Office at San Pedro Extension and Padre Selga and in the stretch of Sandawa Road. What COA reports, copy of which I got, revealed makes the celebrated Janet Napoles caper pipsqueak.

Consider this: The two projects cost P17,948,072.84!!! The “Rehabilitation and Improvement” of the roads may have been done sometime in 2009-2010 since the disbursement voucher was dated April 29, 2010. On a daily basis, (except Saturdays and Sundays) I always pass by Sandawa road because I drove my children to and from Ateneo High School. I can swear I have not seen any visible and perceptible construction activity in Sandawa. I seldom pass San Pedro Extension but a friend who goes to church somewhere in the Wireless enclave also said that he did not notice any rehabilitation done in those parts.

It is not likely that a project costing P17-million in rehabilitation will be unnoticed. While I am wearing eyeglasses my vision is not impaired. Aside from driving my kids to school I would usually go to Sandawa road to buy cement, paint and tiles to repair my house since some items are cheaper there. It therefore shocked me to learn that millions of taxpayers’ money had been spent for rehabilitation of Sandawa. I'm also surprised because the road was fairly better than other roads constructed and maintained by DPWH in the city so why spend that gargantuan amount for rehab?

It has been four years after the said projects were completed and paid. It’s equally disturbing the audit only came up with its findings recently. But better late than never.

I can excuse COA for the delay because what they discovered is one for the Ripley’s in terms of plot and the amount of the loot. The Special COA Audit Team concluded its probe and found the projects to be replete with irregularities, excessive and unconscionable (underlining mine).

In a Notice of Disallowance addressed to incumbent DPWH Davao City District Engineer Fernando Ongkingco, Jr. and District Accountant Edna Penley, State Auditor AraceliPantaleon-Geli, the Special Audit Team Leader, and Maria Victoria Ranada, the Special Audit Team Supervisor, ordered Engineer Ongkinco to direct erstwhile Davao City DPWH District Engineer Lorna T. Ricardo and 14 other DPWH district personnel involved and liable for the transaction to immediately settle the disallowed amount of P12,956,395.91.

Also impleaded was Gardiola Construction and Elaine Gardiola, the proprietor, who, according the audit team, submitted spurious documents and allowed sub-contracting of the projects.

The disallowed amount is about 72% of the P17.9-million. Now you know why Napoles 40% kupit looks paltry. I am afraid that this is merely a tip of the iceberg. Since they are at it, I would suggest that the Special Audit Team look into other DPWH projects.

I have been egging COA to look into the Chevrons (road signs) along the Carlos P. Garcia highway better known as Diversion Road where the garbage dump used to be. That stretch which is barely two kilometers was littered with Chevrons that cost P49-million. Am sure that that issue had been buried in the catacomb of forgetfulness but I cannot dismiss that scandalous project from my mind.

ABS-CBN investigative reporters had consulted experts and found out that the cost per chevron is just a little over P3,000. DPWH coughed up over P13,000 per unit. These days, you do not see anymore as many chevrons standing as before. They uprooted hundreds and who knows maybe, some enterprising DPWH personnel sold them elsewhere. But if COA wants to have copies of the pictures and video taken they can get it from Manny Cabrera, anchorman of Malayang Talakayan sa Radyo Ukay.

There were also repairs and construction projects which were unfinished. The extension of Rizal St. for example is unfinished. I saw a “lapida” of the project proponent at the end of the road.

These projects were undertaken in the in the late 2009 and District Engineer Lorna Ricardo must have direct supervision of these too. In fact, I heard, although I have no way of confirming it, that an official of the District Engineer’s Office resigned from his job for he can no longer countenance the modus operandi in the District.

Engineer Ricardo and cohorts have a lot of explaining to do and they were given by COA six months within which to return the P12.9-million and explain. I tried to reach her at the DE Davao City Office but I was told that she had been assigned in Davao del Norte.

Those impleaded by COA along with Torralba in the SAndawa and Padre Selga-San Pedro Extension projects are Engineers: Dwight Vincent Fernandez, Gregorio Yee, Cecilia Barrientos (retired), Emilio Sucaldito, Eduardo Villar (retired), Lilibeth Sarmiento, Ma. Gloria Sorrera, Perry Palacio, Alfredo Caballero and Messrs. Nelson Luayon, Rolly Tulayba and Restituto Mira.

The auditors described the role of each in the project undertaking. They will have their chance to explain and refute. I am certain that some may have minor direct involvement or knowledge of the subterfuge. It would help if they turn state witness so we can dig deeper into the gamut of graft and corruption in the DPWH Davao City District Engineers Office.

For COA, this is a feather in their cap.