The 20 Cases - Cases involving ethical issues in Civil Engineering Profession

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Technological University of the Philippines

College of Engineering

Department of Civil Engineering

CE 522

CE Laws, Contracts, Specification & Ethics

THE 20 CASES

A Compilation of Ethical Issues in Civil Engineering Profession

Submitted by:

Fesalbon, Mayson R.

BSCE 5A

Submitted to:

Engr. Teodinis Petalcorin – Garcia

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THE 20 CASES

A Compilation of Ethical Issues in Civil Engineering Profession

Mayson R. Fesalbon

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INTRODUCTION

Engineering ethics is the field of applied ethics and system of

moral principles that apply to the practice of engineering. The

field examines and sets the obligations by engineers to society, to

their clients, and to the profession.

The compilation consists of 20 cases of ethical issues in the field of Civil Engineering. Issues like breach of contract, misconduct, insufficient design, corruption and many more are some of the main issues.

In the local scenes, 10 cases were introduced by means of news articles obtained from the internet. Some of these issues are the controversial Makati City Hall Building II, Torre de Manila and Ozone Disco. On the other hand, another 10 cases were introduced in the international scene. Some of which are the Rana Plaza Building, Hyatt Regency Hotel Wlakway and Ronan Point.

Also, a copy of the Code of Ethics for Civil Engineers from the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineering (PICE) is included.

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CODE OF ETHICS

FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS

It shall be considered unprofessional and inconsistent with honorable and dignified bearing for any registered Civil Engineer:

To act for his clients* in professional matters otherwise than as a faithful agent or trustee, or to accept any remuneration other than his stated charges for services rendered to his clients.

To attempt to injure falsely or maliciously, directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, prospects, or business of another Engineer.

To attempt to supplant another Engineer after definite steps have been taken toward his employment.

To compete with another Engineer for employment on the basis of his professional charges, by reducing his usual charges and in his manner attempting to underbid after being informed of the charges named by another.

To review the work of another Engineer for the same client, except with the knowledge or consent of such Engineer, or unless the connection of such Engineer with the work has been terminated.

To advertise in self-laudatory language, or in any other manner derogatory to the dignity of the Profession.

To use the advantages of a salaried position to compete unfairly with Engineers in private practice.

To act in any manner or engage in any practice which will tend to bring discredit on the honor or dignity of the Engineering Profession.

Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.

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CODE OF ETHICS

FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS

FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES

Civil engineers uphold and advance the integrity, honor and dignity of the civil engineering profession by:

1. Using their knowledge and skill for the enhancement of human welfare and the environment;

2. Being honest and impartial and serving with fidelity the public, their employers/employees and clients;

3. Striving to increase the competence and prestige of the civil engineering profession; and

4. Supporting the professional and technical societies of their disciplines.

Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.

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CODE OF ETHICS

FOR CIVIL ENGINEERS

FUNDAMENTAL CANONS

1. Civil Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public and shall strive to comply with the principles of sustainable development in the performance of their duties.

2. Civil Engineers shall perform services only in areas of their competence.

3. Civil Engineers shall issue public statements only in an objective and truthful manner.

4. Civil Engineers shall act in professional matters for each employer or client as faithful agents or trustees, and shall avoid conflicts of interest.

5. Civil Engineers shall build their professional reputation on the merit of their services and shall not compete unfairly with others.

6. Civil Engineers shall act in such a manner as to uphold and enhance the honor, integrity, and dignity of the civil engineering profession.

Adopted in September 2001 as part of the Manual of Professional Practice for Civil Engineers Published by the Philippine Institute of Civil Engineers.

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TABLE OF CONTENTS

Introduction

Code of Ethics for Civil Engineers I. Local Cases

Makati City Hall Building II 1

Torre De Manila 6

Manila River Green Residences 9

Irrigation Projects of NIA 12

Parañaque Premier Medical Center 16

Two Serendra 18

Palawan Infrastructure Projects 22

The Eton Residences 27

9 Cebu City Barangays Road & Bridge Projects 31

Ozone Disco 34

II. International Cases

Rana Plaza Building 37

Sampoong Superstore 41

Hyatt Regency Hotel Walkway 44

2000 Commonwealth 48

Ronan Point 53

Autoroute 19 Dela Concorde Overpass 56

Minneapolis I-35W Bridge 58

Tacoma Narrows Bridge 60

Quebec Bridge 64

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LOCAL CASES

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Photograph by Rappler.com

Contrary to what bid documents show, one contractor denies

participating in the 2007 bidding for Phase 1 of the controversial Makati

City Hall parking building.

MANILA, Philippines – On December 28, 2007, a Friday, the bids and awards secretariat of the Makati City government was on overtime mode. It was the last working day for the year, and the secretariat was under time pressure to finish all the scheduled bidding activities for projects that were to be undertaken the following year.

Covering 16 projects, more than P1.3 billion ($29.5 million) of funds was at stake, including Phase 1 of the controversial Makati City Hall parking building. In fact, with a P400 million ($9 million) approved budget contract (ABC), it was easily the biggest project in the line-up.

MAKATI CITY HALL BUILDING II

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Documents show that 3 contractors supposedly submitted their bids for the parking building project – Hilmarc’s Construction Inc, ITP Construction Inc, and J Bros Construction. These 3 firms also supposedly participated in another project where bids were also opened that day: Phase 1 of the P100 million ($2.27 million), 10-story Makati Science High School.

For the City Hall parking building, Hilmarc’s price tag of P386, 998,154.20 ($8.79 million) was considered the lowest bid and was awarded the contract. Before the day ended, it secured its second project, beating its competitors for the Makati Science High School with a bid of P99,631,205.15 ($2.26 million). Thus, in less than 24 hours, Hilmarc’s Construction cornered almost half a billion pesos worth of projects from the Makati City government.

This was just the beginning.

The firm, which is one of the top 10 contractors nationwide based on cumulative cost of contracts from 2009 to 2014, would also bag Phases 2, 3, 4 and 5 of the Makati parking building for a total contract price of P2.276 billion ($51.7 million) for the entire parking project.

Hilmarc’s Construction also cornered Phases 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 of the Makati Science High School for a combined price tag of P1.33 billion ($30 million). For the 2 projects alone, Hilmarc’s Construction secured almost P3.5 billion ($79 million) worth of projects from the Makati City government alone. These were supposed to have been won fair and square, on the merits of competitive bidding. But there are red flags that raise questions about the integrity of the process – foremost of which was the outright denial of one bidder that it was among those who participated in the bidding. Collusion among bidders

Documents from the Senate Blue Ribbon committee showed that Hilmarc’s Construction was able to outbid ITP and J Bros Construction for the Makati parking building and the Makati Science High School with the slimmest of margins.

Table 1: Bids for the Makati parking building (Phase 1)

CONTRACTOR BID

Hilmarc's Construction Php 386,998,154.20

J Bros Construction 387,315,511.37

ITP Construction 387,528,277.11

Based on the above, Hilmarc’s Construction beat J Bros Construction for the Makati parking building by a mere P317, 000 ($7,204) difference in the bids.

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Table 2: Bids for the Makati Science High School (Phase 1)

CONTRACTOR BID

Hilmarc’s Construction Php 99,631,205.15

ITP Construction 99,745,601.20

J Bros Construction 99,850,400.80

In the case of the Makati Science High School, Hilmarc’s Construction pulled the rug from under ITP Construction by a margin of only P114,000 ($2,590).

An expert on the Procurement Law, who studied the procurement practices of local government units in 20 provinces, said that while close bidding happens, “it is usually a red flag that a collusion could be happening.”

In a particular project for instance, the favored bidder seeks out other bidders “to simulate a semblance of competitive bidding,” the source explained. This favored bidder takes care of everything – from preparing all the required documents to the fees needed for the bidding process. In some cases, as part of the arrangement, the "winning" bidder taps the complicit bidders as subcontractors for the project.

“On paper, everything appears to be above board. That’s why collusion between or among the bidders is hard to pinpoint,” the source said.

Winner by default?

Former Makati BAC vice chair Mario Hechanova, during a Senate hearing, said bid fixing is “usual practice” in Makati. Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay, in defending the allegedly overpriced Makati parking building, argued that the city government even saved P200 million in implementing the project. He said the estimated cost of the project amounted to P2.4 billion but the total cost amounted to only P2.2 billion. Documents show that the Makati parking building (from Phase 1 to 5) has a total estimated cost of P2.55 billion. On the other hand, total project cost awarded to Hilmarc’s Construction amounted to P2.276 billion.

Table 3: Makati parking building

BUDGET BID YEAR MAYOR

Phase 1 P400 million P386.998 million 2007 Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 2 P500 million P499.357 million 2008 Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 3 P600 million P599.395 million 2010 Jejomar “Junjun” Binay

Phase 4 P650 million P649.275 million 2011 Jejomar “Junjun" Binay

Phase 5 *P400 million P141.649 million 2012 Jejomar “Junjun” Binay

TOTAL P2.550 billion P2.276 billion

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The documents show that for the succeeding phases of the Makati parking building, only Hilmarc’s Construction participated in the invitation to bid, resulting in its being declared as having the lowest calculated bid.

Its submitted bid also hewed closely to the approved budget for the contract or ABC, which indicates that the alleged bidding was rigged, lawyer Renato Bondal, in a phone interview said. Bondal, a losing Makati mayoral candidate and a former ally and family friend of the Binays, has filed a plunder complaint against the Vice President and his son, Makati Mayor Jejomar “Junjun” Binay, before the Ombudsman.

At least in Phases 2, 3 and 4, Hilmarc’s submitted bids were only lower by less than P1 million compared to the project’s ABC.

The expert on procurement law said that one potential indicator that bidding was rigged is the proximity of the bid to the ABC. “Contractors will try to maximize profits by placing their bid close to the ABC.”

Bondal pointed out that the practice of awarding contracts which almost approximated the ABC had been observed in other projects of the Makati City government.

The Makati Science High School contract could be another example. The company was also the sole bidder for the succeeding phases of the Makati Science High School, winning by default. However, Phase 3 of the project amounting to P149.5 million was awarded on a silver platter. Hilmarc's Construction cornered the contract through negotiation with the Makati City government in 2009. “Considering that the contractor’s past performance was highly commendable, the (BAC) board unanimously accepted the offer of P149,505 million, which is lower than the agency (city of Makati) estimate of P149.990 million,” the minutes of the negotiation for Phase 3 showed.

Table 4: Makati Science High School

BUDGET BID YEAR MAYOR

Phase 1 P100 million P 99.631 million 2007 Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 2 P175 million P174.508 million 2008 Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 3 P149.99 million P149.504 million 2009 Jejomar “Jojo” Binay

Phase 4 P394.140 million 2011 Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

Phase 5 P349.920 million 2012 Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

Phase 6 P165.264 million 2012 Jejomar “Junjun” Binay Jr

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From the above, it can be seen that Hilmarc’s bids for Phases 1 and 2 were almost similar to the Makati parking building where the variance of the bid to the ABC is less than P1 million.

No participation

Perhaps the clearest indicator that the bidding for the Makati parking building was a sweetheart deal was the confirmation from J Bros Construction that it did not participate in the 2007 bidding for the Phase 1. In a letter submitted to the Senate Blue Ribbon Thursday, J Bros Construction chief operating officer Alejandro Tengco denied that the company has ever implemented any project with the Makati City government since it was established in 1999.

“Neither have I nor J Bros Construction ever given any form of consent, whether expressly or tacitly, for any person or entity to use the firm’s name, license…in any manner so as to participate or feign participation in the conduct of any or all public biddings undertaken by the LGU of Makati City for its infrastructure projects, including the Makati City Hall Parking Building,” Tengco said. In the first place Tengco said that at the time of the bidding for the controversial parking building, J Bros was not yet qualified to participate since it had not undertaken any project of similar magnitude as required under the Procurement Law. J Bros Human Resource head Florence Sibal, in a separate interview, also denied that the company participated in the bid for the Makati Science High School. For his part, ITP Construction president Antonio Cruz refused to be interviewed when Rappler sought his side.

Favored contractor?

Based on available data, the Makati City government is a regular client of Hilmarc’s Construction. From 1999 to 2004, data showed it cornered projects amounting to P2 billion. Data scraped from the Philippine Government Procurement Electronic System (PhilGEPS) showed that from 2009 to 2014, the company bagged some P4.5 billion worth of 12 contracts from government agencies and LGUs. Of these, 7 were from the Makati LGU, with a total amount of P3.919 billion. The Makati contracts include the P1.929 billion Emergency Hospital (Ospital ng Makati).

Two months before it cornered the Emergency Hospital project in October 2012, Hilmarc’s sister company, Building Beaver Corporation, bagged a P94- million contract for the construction of an Ospital ng Makati parking building. Hilmarc’s Construction and Building Beaver Construction have identical addresses.

Reference

Manuel, W. (2014, September 14). Red flags in ‘overpriced’ Makati infra projects. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com

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Photograph by mb.com.ph

The construction of Torre de Manila has been hit for violating Manila

City zoning laws.

MANILA, Philippines – Senator Pia Cayetano did not mince words in reacting to the allegation of DMCI Homes that photos taken by media of the controversial Torre de Manila were photoshopped.

"It is unfortunate that instead of answering the issues head on, DMCI has chosen to trivialize mounting public protests against Torre de Manila by claiming that all photographs showing its condo tower photobombing the Rizal Monument were manipulated or merely Photoshopped,” she said in a September 17 statement.

TORRE DE MANILA

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DMCI Homes had earlier publicized a statement saying “to grab public attention,” some parties had taken the “unethical approach of virtually juxtaposing pictures of our project right behind the monument.”

Cayetano took it personally, saying DMCI’s allegations undermine the integrity of the Senate inquiry she has called to look into the company’s possible violations in constructing the tower. "DMCI's attitude towards this issue insults the intelligence of any self-respecting Filipino. It questions the reputation of professional photographers and media establishments that have posted photos and aired video footages of their photobombing tower,” she said.

The senator stood by the integrity of her staff and media photographers who documented the ocular inspection she had conducted on August 27. Photos of the inspection have been used in recent articles about the Senate inquiry on the 49-storey condominium.

Adjusting to DMCI Homes

She also derided suggestions of DMCI Homes that if one were to stand at a certain angle from the Rizal Shrine, Torre de Manila would be hidden from sight, thereby allaying concerns that it would ruin the view and the monument’s visual dominance.

“It now wants all Filipinos, foreign tourists, dignitaries and practically coming generations from here on to adopt its preferred 'view' of the Rizal Monument, which until late last year, has stood there, proud and unchallenged for 100 years. How convenient!”

During a September 18 press conference, she made a counter-suggestion.

“Why don’t they just put an arc near the Shrine so we can tell people to just stay there if they want an unobstructed view?”

To set matters straight, Cayetano said she would once again invite DMCI Homes to attend a hearing set to take place the following week. She said she would also invite company representatives to join her in an ocular inspection of the Rizal Monument to show her how the landmark may be viewed without the tower.

It is similar to the challenge posed by cultural activist Carlos Celdran who dared DMCI Homes executives to take a “selfie” at the Shrine to prove the tower did not ruin the view.

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Possible demolition

Aside from its impact on the Rizal Shrine, a National Historical Landmark, the construction of Torre de Manila has been hit for violating Manila City zoning laws.

Its floor-to-area ratio far exceeds the limit set for its location, thereby burdening utilities and vehicle capacity of the area.

But DMCI Homes has reiterated that it had all the necessary permits to begin construction, all of which were obtained during the term of then Manila mayor Alfredo Lim.

After two Senate hearings, Cayetano said she believed that the company was a “builder in bad faith” because it had proceeded with construction despite opposition from the Manila City Council and allegations that the permits were hastily issued.

As of August 20, Torre de Manila was already 19 floors high. The Knights of Rizal have filed a petition with the Supreme Court for the demolition of the condominium.

Cayetano also confirmed that the demolition of the building or an imposed height limit may be part of the recommendations she will make at the end of her Senate inquiry.

Reference

Ranada P. (2014, September 18).Pia Cayetano to DMCI: Don’t insult Filipinos. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com

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Photograph by Pia Cayetano’s media team

CDC Holdings, Inc., the developer of the planned Manila Green

Residences located along Pedro Gil between Santa Villas and OB

Montessori, started yet another condominium construction project in

the historical Santa Ana town without undergoing the Archaeological

Impact Assessment (AIA).

This information was stated in a letter from National Museum director Jeremy Barns to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada stated.

MANILA RIVER GREEN RESIDENCES

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The letter, dated November 27, 2013, said that the location of the 31-storey condominium was in proximity of a significant archaeological areas. It also noted that the area of the project covered the Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay Zone.

Hence, Barns said an AIA must be performed before the city government can issue a building permit by virtue of Republic Act 10066, or The National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009, Section 30.

The AIA is an important step in determining if an area is an important archaeological site before excavation or land-moving is performed.

However, the developer pushed through with the project since the permit was issued before the AIA, De Leon explained. The permit only had a note saying, "subject to AIA." Moreover, its zoning permit had a different street address, she added.

Although the Santa Ana Heritage Tourism Association (SAHTA) tried to stop the excavation, with the blessing of the national agencies and the help of the police, CDC Holdings continued the work saying a building permit was already issued, De Leon said.

A team of experts inspected the site on January 2014. The team found pieces of pottery and other artifacts, which were already damaged.

CDC Holdings, Inc. was also invited to the Thursday public hearing led by senator Pia Cayetano at the Rizal Park Visitors' Center in Manila, but no representative showed up.

Heritage zone

The residents of Santa Ana, Manila, led by SAHTA president Sylvia Lichauco-de Leon, presented the challenges the town is facing as a heritage district during the Thursday hearing.

According to De Leon, a portion of Santa Ana was declared a heritage zone by the National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) on May 12, 2014. Prior to this, the government of Manila classified the town as a Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay Zone by virtue of City Ordinance No. 8244 on September 22, 2011.

Following the recent declaration, the Manila City Council, led by councilor Priscilla Marie Abante, also stated in a resolution issued August 14, 2014 that there must be strict compliance with national agency-issued guidelines in dealing with the Santa Ana Histo-Cultural Heritage Overlay Zone.

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Santa Ana's heritage zone is composed of historic houses and structures from the Spanish and American colonial periods, including the Santa Ana Church complex and Plaza Hugo. Moreover, the town is known to be an archaeological area.

Once an area has been recognized as a heritage site, it is protected by NHCP. Therefore, any construction should adhere to the guidelines given by the national agency.

Reference

Macas, T. (2014, September 26).Santa Ana, Manila residents cry for help to protect the heritage district.

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Photograph by Rappler.com

In June 2013, President Aquino scolded NIA for irrigating only 65% of

its target coverage. A year later, investigations reveal corruption of

alarming proportions.

MANILA, Philippines – Corruption cases were filed with the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday afternoon, August 18, against at least 53 persons for their alleged involvement in multi-million-peso anomalous projects of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) in Caraga since 2012. At the top of the list are Modesto Membreve, former NIA Caraga regional manager; Dexter Patrocinio, who took Membreve's post in October 2012; Encarnacion Soriano, current NIA Caraga regional manager; and Gardinel Jimenez, owner of Dungan Constructors and Development Corporation (DCDC).

IRRIGATION PROJECTS OF NATIONAL IRRIGATION

ADMINISTRATION (NIA)

CARAGA, 2014

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Members of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) filed some 30 bound documents as evidence.

The 53 persons are accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3091) and the Government Procurement Reform Act (RA 9184), said Police Superintendent Rudy Lacadin of the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG).

The case filed on Monday pertains to alleged corrupt dealings involving 3 NIA-funded projects in Caraga. They are MAP Irrigation Project Packages 2, 3, 7 worth a total of P53,682,027 (US$1.2 million*).

But the MAP Irrigation Project (MAP IP) has a total of 7 packages worth P119,816,309 ($2.7 million). Cases for anomalies spotted in the 4 remaining packages will be filed soon, possibly within the week, said Lacadin.

MAP IP was meant to build canals and other irrigation works in the remote villages of Mat-i, Ambacon and Pinana-anof in Las Nieves, Agusan del Norte.

The non-implementation of these irrigation projects ultimately affects the more than 240,000 farmers in Caraga, 37,300 of whom are rice farmers dependent on good irrigation, according to Department of Agriculture (DA) statistics.

The 'anomalous' irrigation projects

The 7 MAP IP packages were bid out and awarded to contractors in 2012 while Modesto Membreve was NIA Caraga Regional Manager. At least 5 of these were proven by the special investigation to have been put under the control of Gardinel Jimenez of DCDC, known to contractors as "James" or "Jim." But on paper, these packages were awarded to 5 different contractors from Region 3 (Central Luzon): two from Nueva Ecija, two from Pampanga, and one from Bulacan. DCDC itself is based in Pampanga but with an office in Butuan City.

5 MAP IP Packages allegedly awarded to DCDC dummies:

MAP IP Package Contractor Project Cost Deadline for Completion Project Duration % of Completion accdg to NIA Caraga Duration in Incomplete Status Since Deadline as of

March 15, 2014 Package 1 LMG Construction (Nueva Ecija) 17,127,325 Nov 13, 2012 120 days 56.60 1 year, 3 months (suspended)

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Package 2 WIRO Construction (Nueva Ecija) 18,267,093 Nov 12, 2012 120

days 95 1 year, 3 months

Package 3 MCB Zamora (Pampanga) 14,446,297 Oct 24, 2012 100

days 91 1 year, 3 months

Package 4 PALMEA Construction (Pampanga) 18,256,020 Nov 12, 2012 120

days 95 1 year, 3 months

Package 7 MG Salazar (Bulacan) 20,968,637 Nov 10, 2012 120

days 98 1 year, 3 months TOTAL: 89,065,372

But onsite inspection by investigators of the 5 canal works in April showed a gross discrepancy between the reported progress and the actual status of the projects.

For instance, Package 3, awarded on paper to MCB Zamora Construction of Pampanga, involved the construction of a 1,300-meter concrete hollow block canal which would connect villages of Las Nieves to a dam site in the upper region of Agusan del Sur. But the April inspection found the actual length of the constructed canal to be only 520 meters, far from the 91% completion status reported by NIA Caraga a month ago.

Yet 91% of the P14.44 million ($328,500) funds for the project (P13.15 million or $299,000) had already been released.

Contractors 'never visited' the sites

The investigation revealed that the 5 contractors awarded the MAP IP packages were mere dummies of DCDC run by Gardinel Jimenez and his wife Corazon. Two sub-contractors hired to finish 3 of the packages admitted they were hired, not by the contractors on paper, but by James Jimenez of DCDC. A check with the Securities and Exchange Commission showed that "Dungan Constructors and Trading Corporation" was registered in June 2005, with office address in San Fernando, Pampanga.

The contractors from Nueva Ecija (LMG Construction and WIRO Construction) also revealed that they never even participated in the bidding for MAP IP packages. But they allowed the Jimenez couple to use their license as contractors in exchange for payment. According to sources, they told investigators they never even visited the project sites. Aside from NIA Caraga projects they allegedly controlled through dummy contractors, the Jimenez couple was officially awarded 10 projects. The 10 other projects – in total costing P74,380,474 ($1.7 million) – were allegedly not inspected. Seven remained unfinished 4 to 9 months past their deadlines.

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Rigged bids

But the 17 anomalous projects may just be scratching the surface. NIA employees claimed that the bidding of at least 195 projects were rigged upon the orders of Membreve, who was then NIA Regional Manager. An Audit Observation Memorandum dated October 2012 reported "irregularities" in 123 contracts entered into by NIA Caraga under Membreve worth P1.29 billion ($29.3 million).

The contracts were not submitted to COA for review, violating COA rules requiring contracts and other required documents to be submitted within 5 days from the execution of the contract. Awarding of contracts to companies outside the province was also rampant during Membreve's time, a violation of the Implementing Rules and Regulations of the Government Procurement Act, which says companies whose principal office is in the same province should be given an equal chance to bid for infrastructure projects. But 120, or 80% of the 163 winning contractors in 2012 do not have main offices in Caraga.

'Honest human error'

A November 2012 Audit Observation Memorandum reported that NIA funds totaling P6.4 million ($145,600) paid to two contractors in June 2012 were not properly documented. Disbursement vouchers submitted by NIA Caraga to COA lacked required documents like statement of work accomplished, inspection report and pictures of the project site before and during construction. The memorandum also noted there was "an attempt to conceal the deficiencies" of the disbursement vouchers.

The two contractors – John Arne Construction and Virlo Construction – refunded the P6.4 million in September, 3 months after they received the checks. A month after, Membreve explained to COA that his office had mistakenly paid the contractors. He blamed "honest human error" by his staff and the voluminous transactions in his office. But COA asked, "If indeed it was an error, how come it took them 3 months to correct that human error?" Another audit team report noted: "The said monies were returned because of COA's findings. What if COA's findings were not divulged?"

Reference

Ranada, P. (2014, Aug 18). EXCLUSIVE: Corruption cases filed vs. irrigation officials. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com

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Photograph by DZMM.ABS-CBNnews.com

“We are urging the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure

that both the project owner and contractors of the hospital construction

project are made to face the consequences of their negligence.”

– GERARD SENO

MANILA, Philippies - A labor group on Monday called on the Department of Labor and Employment to hold liable the project owner and contractors for an accident at a construction site in Parañaque City last week, where one worker was killed and eight more were hurt.

PARAÑAQUE PREMIER MEDICAL CENTER

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The Associated Labor Unions-Trade Union Congress of the Philippines also condemned the grave negligence of those involved in the hospital construction project.

"We are urging the Department of Labor and Employment to ensure that both the project owner and contractors of the hospital construction project are made to face the consequences of their negligence," ALU-TUCP executive vice president Gerard Seno said.

A construction worker was killed and eight others were wounded when an improvised scaffolding collapsed at the Parañaque Premier Medical Center in Barangay San Dionisio.

Seno said project owners and contractors appeared to have ignored indications that the scaffold materials they are using are sub-standard after a similar mishap in the work site happened days before the incident.

"Under existing rules and regulations, both the owners and the contractors are equally liable not only for the death and the injuries sustained by the other workers but also for not enrolling the workers to SSS, Philhealth and other benefits as revealed by workers interviewed by media. The DOLE also needs to check if workers received lawful wages," Seno added.

He said that the incident revives the labor group's urgent call for government to approve the government-labor-management tripartite collaboration in revising current state standards and regulations governing the use of scaffoldings.

Reference

Carcamo, D. (2013, October 7). Hold owner, contractor liable for P’que mishap. Philstar. Retrieved from http://www.philstar.com

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Photograph by Rappler.com

As the probe on the cause of the Two Serendra blast continues, residents

raise concerns about gas detectors and lack of safety procedures during

emergencies.

MANILA, Philippines - Whether or not the deadly explosion at Unit 501B in a posh enclave in Taguig was caused by a gas leak, a bomb, or another source, residents are still concerned about what they perceive to be lapses in safety protocol days after the May 31 blast.

Serendra residents told Rappler that electrical supply was cut off from some Two Serendra buildings on the day of the blast, including building B where the explosion took place on Friday. The power interruption consequently turned off the units' gas detectors, which were attached to electric outlets.

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That day, a scheduled annual preventive maintenance of electric facilities cut off electricity from 8 am-5 pm, according to a Serendra circular. During the maintenance, the building provided emergency power from the property's generator.

One resident, who was cooking and using the gas stove before the electricity was cut off, told Rappler the gas-lit burner on his stove continued to work despite the electricity interruption. This confirmed that gas continued to flow.

This, despite the gas detector (which detects leaks and comes with a shut-off valve that automatically stops the flow of gas when the sensors beep) not working, said the resident. Serendra's maintenance office, however, said that while detectors are not plugged into an uninterrupted power source (UPS), they should have continued to work. They should be powered by the generator during preventive maintenance, because they require only low voltage.

But the resident insisted not a single outlet or appliance was working in his apartment during that time, and expressed concern about the detector and safety valve not being connected to a UPS – a must, he said, so they would continue to work despite any power interruption.

Serendra uses a centralized, piped-in Liquid Petroleum Gas (LPG) system, rather than individual gas sources in units.

The investigation into the cause of the blast that killed 3 and injured 5 is ongoing, although Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said the likelihood it was a bomb that triggered the blast is getting slimmer. Gas has been turned off in all buildings as the probe continues.

Residents' responsibility

Rappler also learned that since the gas detectors are located inside the units, residents have control over them, whether or not they are plugged.

Residents said the detectors are sensitive – they beep even when they detect chemicals from insecticide or cleaners. Once they beep, residents are asked to call maintenance to check if there's a leak, and to reset the detector.

At least one resident told Rappler that rather than calling maintenance, he resets the detector himself when it beeps, because insecticide often sets off the sensor. Maintenance is only alerted about a possible gas leak if residents, whose detectors start to beep, call their attention.

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While the gas detectors are effective in sensing chemicals, they should be watched too by residents. In Serendra, however, it is not unlikely that residents leave their units for months at a time – like the owner of Unit 501B.

George Cayton, the listed owner of the unit, is said to have bought the apartment only to have a place to stay in when he is in Manila. Cayton and his family are based in California. For unit owners like Cayton, who do not live in their Serendra apartments or are away for an extended amount of time, Serendra expects them to ask maintenance to turn their gas off, through a service valve controlled by maintenance and attached to the meter.

This way, when a gas leak occurs while the resident is gone, the shut-off valve attached to the gas detector can stop the gas flow itself once the sensors beep. Serendra's requirement to install gas detectors when purchasing a stove is their main safety measure against gas leaks.

Despite a beeping gas detector, however, maintenance men are not allowed to enter the unit unless called by the resident. It is assumed that residents keep the detectors plugged when they are away from their unit.

Lack of information

Units in Serendra are also often leased out by real owners, contributing to occupants' lack of knowledge on what to do in the event of gas leaks.

Cayton's unit, for instance, was being rented for 9 days by a family friend, Angelito San Juan, at the time of the blast. Cayton's family lawyer, Raymond Fortun, told Rappler that the unit was still awaiting clearance for leasing, after renovations were made from April to May. Despite this, Serendra accepted the written request of the Cayton family to allow San Juan to use the unit temporarily.

Robin Leonard, a lessee in Building A of Two Serendra for over a year, told Rappler he was unaware of whether the unit he is renting has a gas detector or not. He said he never noticed it before, and is unsure whether his unit even has one installed. While he was briefed on the location of fire exits, he said he was not informed of the safety protocol, if any, in the event of gas leaks. Leonard is one of those whose apartment was damaged in the blast, and who has been relocated to Seda Hotel by Ayala Land Inc (ALI), developer of Two Serendra, while the probe is ongoing.

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Evacuation woes

But besides these concerns, another Serendra resident, who lives in a unit in the same building where the blast took place, identified yet another problem. She said she was disappointed about the lack of assistance from management immediately after the incident.

"There were no marshals or emergency committee that came to guide us to safety. We were completely alone and clueless on where to go. It made us more afraid and unsafe," said the resident. She and her young daughter fled their badly damaged unit barefoot. "As we arrived at the garden, no one approached us to ask if we were okay or hurt. We were on our own not knowing what to do," she added.

Leonard, whose doors to the unit were jammed by the blast's impact, said he was stuck inside his apartment after the explosion. The phone line was cut off as well. He said help came about 15-20 minutes later, after he notified his house help, who was outside of the unit when the blast happened. Leonard expressed relief there was no fire or other effects of the blast, which could have endangered him. He said he knew of about 3 other units that had their door locks jammed as well.

Tony Aquino, the president of ALI, also defended Serendra's use of a centralized gas system. In an interview with ABS-CBN News Channel, he said this universal and environment-friendly system "is being used by many companies here and abroad without any consequences."

Reference

Gutierrez, W. (2013, June 5). Blast highlights Serendra flaws. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com

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Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

COA only recommended the filing of administrative charges and

unspecified criminal cases against mostly engineers of the

Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district office.

No local official has been recommended for prosecution.

MANILA, Philippines – How much, do you think, does the construction of a road that looks like “mashed potato” cost?

A total of P20 million, if we will go by the documents showing how a special fund released to then Palawan Rep Abraham Kahlil Mitra (2nd district) was spent. If this is not enough of an overpricing for what's practically a dirt road, there were 21 of these roads, according to state auditors. This means that more than 80% of the P520-M Malampaya fund that Mitra received in 2008 were spent questionably.

PALAWAN INFRASTRUCTURE PROJECTS

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This prompted a Palawan-based people's organization to call for plunder charges to be filed against Mitra, who is now governor of the province and an ally of President Benigno Aquino III in the Liberal Party.

However, the Commission on Audit (COA), in a recent report, only recommended the filing of administrative charges and unspecified criminal cases against mostly engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) district office. No local official has been recommended for prosecution.

Kilusan Love Malampaya (KLM), which presented the COA findings in a press briefing on Tuesday, October 23, said COA's recommendations were insufficient.

The COA report cited only the lack of invitation for bidding for the projects and deficiencies in the quality of materials and finished projects, among others. But KLM partner Michaella Ortega said, “We have documents that were not included in the COA report,” and which could point to alleged overpricing.

KLM also presented documents and photos to show classrooms that Mitra's Malampaya fund allegedly built at P1 million each. There were 100 of these classrooms, the organization said. Ortega said the parties involved – like Mitra and former Gov. Joel Reyes – should be made liable for plunder.

PURING-BULILUYAN, PALAWAN – A road that costs P20-M. Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

“'Pag tiningnan mo 'yung kalsada, mukhang mashed potato,” the young Ortega noted. (If you look at the roads, they look like mashed potatoes.) “It doesn't take a genius. You don't even have to be an accountant, you don't even have to be an engineer. You can just be a normal person with

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common sense, and you can see, something is wrong. The money was not put here,” she explained.

The KLM partner is the daughter of the late broadcaster Gerardo “Gerry” Ortega, who was killed in 2010 allegedly due to his radio commentaries on how Reyes, his brother, and Mitra had misused the local governments' share in the Malampaya funds. She now chairs the Justice for Doc Gerry Ortega Movement.

Hunted by the Interpol, Reyes and his brother, former Coron mayor Mario Reyes are now fugitives and evading arrest for allegedly masterminding Ortega's killing.

The Malampaya natural gas production off the island-province of Palawan, which started in 2001, was initially seen to earn up to US$10 billion in two decades. While the Constitution and the Local Government Code are clear that 40% of the proceeds should be released by the national government to the host local governments, Malacañang under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo withheld it.

In a case that reached the Supreme Court, the Palace argued that the site of the operations is not within the municipal waters of Palawan, and therefore national territory, so the LGUs are not entitled to a share in the proceeds.

Pending the resolution of the case, Reyes and other local officials entered into an interim agreement with the Palace so that even a small percentage of their share would be released to them as "special assistance."

The KLM questioned that interim agreement before the SC. The agreement expired in 2010. Mitra, newly elected governor by then, was reported to have asked President Aquino to consider another interim agreement.

Mitra has denied involvement in any anomaly. “Ang pondo po ay na-implement po ng Department

of Public Works and Highways. At kung ano man 'yung pamamaraan at findings ng COA, I think dapat pong masagot 'yan at dapat ma-correct,” Mitra said in an interview aired on ABS-CBN on

Monday evening, October 22. 'Unexplained' costs

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“It's not just an administrative oversight. Ang paniniwala natin diyan ay talagang merong ibinulsa.

Talagang merong nawawala. Meron talagang unexplained,” Ortega told Rappler. (We believe that

money was actually stolen. Money was gone. There was something unexplained.)

(LEFT) LINAO BRIDGE. A P20-M bridge in Culandanun-Panalingaan crossroad. (RIGHT) CULANDANUM-PANALINGAAN CROSS ROAD. A P20-M improvement project. Photograph by Bishop Pedro Arigo

One “anomaly,” according to Ortega, is the lack of project documents that contain the breakdown of costs. She said available documents only state that each road costs P20 million, without details like materials to be used and the project's extent.

The KLM, through Ortega, thus urged the Ombudsman to bring to court the parties involved – over the recent report and, especially, a previous report that covers 1999 to 2003. “We're asking the Ombudsman to file those cases already. That has been a long time ago,” she said.

She added the COA should reinvestigate the projects given additional documents that did not make it to the recent audit.

She also urged the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to investigate the Malampaya funds, which she noted is a bigger case than the P366-M plunder suit filed against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and others.

Arroyo, too

Lawyer Harry Roque, who has helped KLM in its advocacy, said Mrs Arroyo should be held liable, too.

In 2007, Mrs. Arroyo issued the executive order that authorized the release of half of the 40% disputed government share in the Malampaya project. In 2008, Roque and other parties questioned the constitutionality of Mrs. Arroyo's order, saying it infringes on Congress' power of the purse.

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For Bishop Pedro Arigo, apostolic vicar of Puerto Princesa, Palawan, and the bottom line is the people affected by the alleged Malampaya fund misuse.

“"Kung nagamit lamang nang maayos itong perang ito – it's a big amount, P3.1 billion – eh 'di

sana'y 'yung laging sinasabi ni President Noy, merong better life na na-e-enjoy ang ating mga kababayan,” Arigo explained. (If this money was used properly – it's a big amount, P3.1 billion –

then our countrymen would experience a better life as President Noy would say.)

“Milyun-milyon ang kinuha, tapos wala man lang ma-explain,” Ortega added. “Tapos

napakalantaran, napakagarapal, samantalang ang daming mga Palaweñong naghihirap.” (They

got millions, yet they left everything unexplained... And it's so brazen, so shameless, while a lot of Palaweños wallow in poverty.)

Since 2010, COA had been conducting an audit of the Malampaya funds covering a full decade, but no report has been released yet. It wasn't clear during the KLM press conference if the COA report covering only the second district of Palawan was part of a longer report.

Reference

Esmael II, P. (2012, October 23). Plunder in ‘mashed potato’ Palawan roads?. Rappler. Retrieved from http://www.rappler.com

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Photograph by PCAmetro.ph

The investigation into the causes of the accident revealed a scandalous

disregard for the safety of the workers on the part of Eton Property

Group and its subcontractors.

An electric gondola used on the exterior of a high-rise construction in the Makati business district of the capital Manila collapsed on January 27. It fell 21 stories and landed on protruding metal rods. Ten construction workers died; one survived but is now in the hospital with numerous fractures and injuries. The tragic death of these workers was completely avoidable. The accident reveals the appalling working conditions of the construction industry in the Philippines.

The accident occurred at Eton Property Group’s luxury condominium construction, Eton Residences. Eton Residences is a 39-story complex scheduled for completion this year. The workers had been installing glass windows on the 32nd floor. News reports vary, but the suspended

electric lift had a maximum carrying capacity of five or six people. There were 11 men crowded into the gondola. At shortly after 11 am, the ropes on which the gondola were suspended gave way and it collapsed, falling 21 stories and landing on a safety net that was perforated at numerous points by twisted metal bars.

The investigation into the causes of the accident revealed a scandalous disregard for the safety of the workers on the part of Eton Property Group and its subcontractors. There were no safety harnesses or lifelines provided for employees. Workers were not supplied any protective

THE ETON RESIDENCES

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equipment. A photograph of the mangled body of a worker being removed from the wreckage of the gondola showed that he was wearing tsinelas, a pair of cheap rubber flip-flops, not work boots. The lift that collapsed had no official operator; any worker was allowed to raise or lower the gondola. The job site had no permit to be operating a gondola at all.

All of these practices are violations of the safety standards of the Philippine Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE). Eton Property Group’s construction sites, however, are not inspected by DOLE. Under the Labor Standards Enforcement Framework, the policy of the Philippine government is that any corporation which employs more than 200 workers should voluntarily self-regulate its own safety standards. DOLE inspectors only investigate companies that employ less than 200 workers. Large capitalist firms are entirely unregulated.

The workers had no employment records with the construction firm. This is because they were all contractual laborers. Not treated as permanent employees by their employer, they received no social security or medical benefits. As contractual laborers they were prevented from forming a union. They were paid a daily rate of 260 pesos ($US5.75). The country’s minimum wage is 404 pesos ($US9).

According to a statement issued by the Ecumenical Institute for Labor Education and Research, 1.8 million workers are employed in the construction industry. Of these, 100,000 are considered permanent employees and 1.79 million are contractual. They share similar circumstances to those who died in the gondola accident. They are paid less than the minimum wage and receive no benefits. Job site safety standards are non-existent. Construction work is characterized by a flagrant disregard for the value of human life. The workers often live on the job site, their makeshift plywood shelters standing in stark contrast to the towering glass and aluminum structures which they have built.

Eton Property Group responded to the public outrage over the accident by blaming its construction subcontractor, CE Construction. CE Construction, in turn, blamed its subcontractor, Arlo Glass and Aluminum. Arlo Glass and Aluminum blamed its labor subcontractor EM Piñon. Not one of these groups has accepted any responsibility for the death of 10 workers. When questioned about the appalling conditions, the CEO of Arlo Glass callously and curtly responded, “We did not hire them, they came to us.”

All of these companies are complicit in the exploitation and death of their workers. The workers died because the enforcement of even minimal safety standards would have hampered their employers’ rapacious pursuit of profit. Accountability cannot be subcontracted.

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The Philippine government of President Benigno Aquino III has done essentially nothing in response to this tragedy. Flags flew at half-mast in the Makati business district, in part in response to a recent bus bombing and in part to the construction tragedy.

Politicians bandied words on the Senate floor. Senator Jinggoy Estrada, son of former president Joseph Estrada, called for swift justice to be administered. He made his speech a day after he personally ordered the eviction of thousands of squatters from land on which he wished to build a mall and the new San Juan city hall. Forty people were injured in the ensuing violence.

The chief investigator of the Eton Residences accident has said that criminal cases will be filed against those responsible. It is unclear from any government statement whether anyone will be held accountable. A scapegoat will no doubt be found, but it is certain that the Philippine government, which is complicit in the mistreatment and death of these workers, will not see fit to prosecute Eton Property Group or any other of the very wealthy investors who are responsible for this tragedy.

Eton Property Group is owned by Lucio Tan. Forbes magazine lists Tan as the second wealthiest Filipino. He was a crony capitalist during Ferdinand Marcos’s presidency and profited hugely from the largesse bestowed upon allies by the corrupt dictator. He owns a number of banks, Philippines Airlines, a tobacco company, a major beer brewery, and the largest unlisted real estate firm in Hong Kong. Eton Property Group owns luxury condominiums, low-end high-rise housing, business process outsourcing centers, and several malls. It also own residential and commercial towers in Hong Kong and China. Eton Property Group invested $US3 billion in the construction of luxury apartment blocks in Shanghai and Beijing over the past year, adding on to its existing $US6 billion investments in China.

The construction work done by Eton Property Group in the Philippines is contributing to a real estate bubble. High-rise condominiums are being constructed in Metro Manila at a staggering rate. Some are lower-end housing, which is purchased on debt at predatory lending rates by families supported by remittances from overseas workers. These condominiums are being sold by employees who work on commission in every mall—they thrust fliers promising ‘the good life’ into the hands of passers-by.

Other real estate projects cater to the very rich. Eton Residences, where the 10 workers died, is located between the business district and the ostentatious Greenbelt malls and is being sold to the Philippine elite and to wealthy foreigners.

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The speculative construction of condominiums and malls has resulted in recently completed projects standing nearly empty. Many units are purchased as investments, in the expectation that real estate values will continue to appreciate. The trend of rising real estate values in a market soon to be flooded with completed skyscrapers and sprawling commercial complexes cannot continue. This bubble must soon burst.

The classic Tagalog novella written by the former construction worker Edgardo M. Reyes, Sa Mga

Kuko ng Liwanag (In the Claws of Light), captured the condition of these workers aptly, when he

described them at the foot of a skyscraper, their own creation, “lugmok, lupaypay, sugatan, duguan, nagtingala sa kanyang kataasan” / “prostrate, collapsed, wounded, bloody, faces turned upwards to its height.” The current real estate bubble in the Philippines has been built upon the backs of the working class, and at times, over their dead bodies.

Reference

Santolan, J. (2011, February 1). Ten worker die in construction accident in the Philippines. World Socialist

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Photograph by VacationAdvice101.com

At least nine southern Cebu City barangays were found to have used

substandard materials in their infrastructure projects.

Engineers of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) central office which inspected the projects recommended corrections made.

The projects include road concreting in the mountain barangays of Babag, Sudlon I and II, Sinsin, Bonbon, Toong, Pamutan; river bank protection, concreting and drainage system rehabilitation in barangay Kalunasan; construction of covered court in barangay Suba and the drainage system project in Inayawan.

These barangay projects were among the P156 million worth of projects awarded to E.M. Arante Construction in 2009. The firm bagged the contracts for 72 projects in 16 barangays. In their

9 CEBU CITY BARANGAYS ROAD & BRIDGE PROJECTS

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inspection report, the DPWH engineers said they found cracks in the road projects in Babag, Sudlon I and II, Sinsin, Bonbon and Toong.

The road project near the Maomawan cemetery in Babag lacked asphalt sealant which caused the weakening of its joints. Major and minor scaling were also found on various parts of the road. Engineers said that earth was used on the shoulders of the concrete pavement in Bonbon proper instead of the aggregate base course specified in the contract. The road project in sitio Gila-gila had poor worksmanship while the booming on its surface was excessive.

Substandard boulders were also found in the riverbank embankment in barangay Kalunasan instead of hard and durable stones while a single twisted wire was used as mesh to secure its gabion structures. The required grouted riprap could not also be found above the gabion structure.

The DPWH inspection team recommended the removal and replacement of substandard materials to make these projects conform to DPWH standards.

“Require the concerned contractor, at his own expense, to institute repair works on the structures with defects and deficiencies,” DPWH engineers said in their report. The DPWH team submitted their Oct. 6 inspection report to DPWH Undersecretary Raul Asis, a copy of which was furnished to Cebu South District Rep. Tomas Rep. Osmena.

The DPWH engineers cited the admission of engineer Raul Buscato of the Association of Barangay Councils (ABC) that no tests (were) conducted on the in-placed materials for all the projects which resulted in lack of quality control.

Lack of supervision during the implementation of the projects was evident, since only one engineer from the ABC was available to supervise all the projects of the barangays, the report said. They DPWH asked the city government to assign more engineers and laboratory technicians to check the quality of the projects implemented by winning contractors and to establish a quality control program to make sure the city is not shortchanged.

Osmena, the city mayor when the projects were implemented, had authorized the release of aid to barangays for the implementation of infrastructure projects in 2009 under the Community Micro Assistance Program. But shortly after the May election, reports reached Osmena that some of the projects were substandard, raising suspicions that someone made money from the projects. Under the micro assistance program, barangays are given funds by the City Hall and allowed to

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bid out their infrastructure projects while the engineering office of the ABC supervises their implementation. Osmena requested the DPWH central office to evaluate and assess the projects in question.

The DPWH team included Engrs. Teodulfo Añonuevo, Lino Reynera and Teodoro Viyar Jr. of the Quality Assurance Unit and the Bureau of Research and Standards of the DPWH central office. They were in Cebu City from Sept. 13 to 17 to inspect the barangay projects.

With the release of the DPWH findings, Osmena said the Ombudsman and the Commission on Audit (COA) now have the needed evidence to investigate the matter. Osmena said that sending those involved and found guilty to jail is a good deterrent against irregularities in the future. Osmena said he smells a conspiracy from the conception of the projects all the way up to their implementation.

Reference

Bongcac, D. C. (2010, October 24). DPWH finds projects of 9 brgys. ‘Substandard’. Inquirer. Retrieved from http://www.globalnation.inquirer.net

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Photograph by Rappler.com

The Sandiganbayan Fifth Division on Thursday found seven former

officials of the Quezon City engineer's office and two private individuals

guilty of graft in connection with the deadly fire at the Ozone Disco Club

on March 19, 1996, 18 years after the tragedy claimed 162 lives.

They were sentenced to six to 10 years in jail.

Convicted of graft and corrupt practices are:  City Engineer Alfredo Macapugay

 Former City Engineer Renato Rivera Jr.  Building Inspector Edgardo Reyes

 Chief, Enforcement and Inspection Division, Francisco Itliong  Chief, Processing Division, Feliciano Sagana

 Engineer Petronillo De Llamas  Building Inspector Rolando Mamaid

OZONE DISCO

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Private respondents Hermilo Ocampo and Ramon Ng, members of the board of directors and stockholders of Westwood Entertainment Co. Inc. which managed the Ozone disco, were also found guilty of similar charges.

In a decision penned by Associate Justice Ma. Theresa Dolores Gomez-Estoesta, the court said that the officials had been remiss in approving the building permit of the disco bar.

Despite having faults in the design and defects in the electrical and safety systems, the authorities still issued two building permits and a certificate of occupancy to the disco, a report on 24 Oras that aired on Thursday said.

"There can never be a slapdash approval of a building permit and certificate of occupancy. To shrink from this duty will certainly run at risk all safety standards contemplated by the National Building Code," the decision said.

According to the report, the fire broke out from an overloaded circuit from the disc jockey's booth. The victims, who were mostly celebrating their graduation, were trapped inside Ozone Disco because there were no emergency exits. Everyone ran to the entrance door, which opened inward instead of the other way.

Quezon City Administrator Aldrin Cuña said Macapugay, Sagana, and Itliong had already retired, Mamaid was on a medical leave, Rivera was in the private sector, and Reyes had transferred to the Manila City Hall.

De Llamas wasn't at his office when a team from GMA News dropped by. The team was also trying to contact Ocampo and Ng for comment but they had yet to respond.

Those convited were given 15 days to file a motion for reconsideration.

The Sandiganbayan in 2007 acquitted Macapugay of criminal liability in the same case.

The Sandiganbayan Third Division at that time said the court was unconvinced about the culpability of Macapugay, whose office was mandated at the time of the inferno to ensure the enforcement of building safety regulations.

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reckless imprudence resulting to multiple homicide and multiple physical injuries for alleged negligence in verifying the safety of the plans and facilities of the Ozone Disco.

Stricter rules

The city administrator said that even before the Sandiganbayan released its decision, Quezon City had already imposed stricter rules in issuing building permits. Issuing the permits was now the task of the Office of the Building Official, instead of the Office of the City Engineer as before.

Cuña also said that city officials regularly inspected buildings to make sure rules and regulations were being followed.

"Lahat naman ng nakatayong buildings dito sa Quezon City must submit for annual inspection. That is also required by the National Building Code to make sure they are structurally safe, (and) they comply with the provisions ng ating Fire Code of the Philippines," Cuña said.

Reference

Chiu, P. D. (2014, November 20). Ex-QC execs face up to 10 years in prison for Ozone Disco tragedy.

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INTERNATIONAL CASES

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Photograph by A.M. AHAD, AP, National Geographic

The substandard construction methods that are suspected of triggering

the deadly collapse of an eight-story building in Bangladesh on are a

common problem in developing countries, where construction

materials can be expensive and building inspections infrequent, experts

say.

The catastrophic collapse happened around 9 a.m. local time in an industrial suburb of the Bangladesh capital city of Dhaka. Ranza Plaza housed four garment factories, as well as some shops and a bank. More than 150 people are confirmed dead, and more than a thousand injured. Many are still trapped in the rubble, buried beneath broken concrete slabs and twisted steel rods.

RANA PLAZA BUILDING

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