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Probe of Alleged Graft in Cebu ASEAN Summit Pushed

Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño said the alleged overprice of the Cebu International Convention Center by P50 million was "only the tip of the iceberg" of corrupt deals in the preparations for the 12th ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Cebu in January.

Citing a Commission on Audit Report (COA) for 2006 on the Cebu ASEAN summit, Casiño said the COA found that P1.525 billion worth of 136 projects "ranging from the putting up of lampposts, road repairs, and plants" were undertaken without public bidding.

His militant party-list group wants the House of Representatives to conduct either a joint or parallel investigation of the corruption in the summit preparations.

He said his party-list group would file a resolution at the House to start the investigation.

"We are doing this to have a parallel or even a joint probe with the Senate since this involves more than P3 billion pesos of taxpayers' money," he added.

Opposition Senator Panfilo Lacson has also asked the Senate to look into the alleged corruption in preparations for the summit following persistent reports of irregularities almost a year after the ASEAN leaders' meeting.

"The blue ribbon committee in the Senate and the committee on good government in the House might want to coordinate and conduct a joint investigation, " Casiño said in an interview.

"The Cebu International Convention Center, overpriced by at least P50 million, is only the tip of the iceberg of questionable government transactions wherein powerful officials of the country, the province and the Department of Public Works and Highways may be involved," he said.

Casiño said that a COA report for 2006 found the following deficiencies and irregularities in the preparations for the summit:

One hundred thirty-six projects costing P1.525 billion were implemented without public bidding; 63 projects costing P766.749 million were implemented without the perfected contracts; the approved budget for the supply and installation of 660 sets of street lamps were bloated by P35.557 million;

Sixteen regular maintenance projects costing P168.320 million, which were implemented outside the venues of the summit, were included in the list of Asean-related projects; and funds for the summit were used to repair roads in private lands.

"This shows that Cebu's hosting of the 12th ASEAN Summit was a grand project wherein many government laws on procurement, transparency and ethical standards were violated with impunity," Casiño said.

"This major waste of government funds must be immediately investigated by the House," he added.

Casiño said the ASEAN summit was something the government prepares for well in advance.

"Why does it need to cut corners on procurement procedures?" Casiño said.

The summit was originally scheduled late 2006 but bad weather was used as a reason to move it to January 2007.

Casiño said there was no "man-made or natural calamity which required immediate action in order to prevent the loss of life or property to justify a negotiated procurement. "

He said that in a DPWH memorandum dated June 23, 2006, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr., authorized the implementation of projects through "negotiated procurement" stating as reason the proximity of the date of the Summit.

"This also reveals something very fishy happened prior, during and after the 12th ASEAN Leaders' Summit in Cebu. We should not let those involved go scot-free," Casiño said.

Casiño said Bayan Muna got hold of the COA report in September this year.

"We had the report studied," Casiño said when asked how come he came out with it only at this time.

"Plus, there were also the other issues such as the impeachment, the bombing, etc." he added.

Casiño during the 13th Congress asked that the House look into the alleged overprice of the CICC. #