With barely a month before the official campaign period startsÂ for national officials, opposition candidates lashed out at the administration for alleged incompetence and the slow paced implementation of projects intended for poverty alleviation and earthquake rehabilitation in Bohol.
Four cabinet secretaries and two presidential and vice presidential candidates and five senatorial bets crossed paths in Bohol on January 7-8, 2016 with the administration launching an expanded major road improvement program and the political opposition bets hitting the campaign trail.
Mindful of ruffling local political sensitivities, opposition candidates aimed their fire at the national government over their alleged failure to address swiftly local concerns even as their attacks bounced back on the performance of local officials.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, presidential standard bearer of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), together with former Senator Panfilo Lacson and Leyte 1st District Representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez pounced on the slow recovery efforts of the national government despite the release of P2.3 billion for the Bohol Emergency Assistance (BEA) – DILG Fund.
Bohol was struck by a 7.2 magnitude earthquake on October 15, 2013 that badly hit 42 municipalities and Tagbilaran City sparing the towns of Bien Unido, Jetafe, Bilar and Anda.
Citing a 2014 Commission on Audit Report stating that a measly 12 out of 1,065 rehabilitation projects were completed under BEA by the end of 2014, Binay vowed to give more attention to the rehabilitation needs of earthquake stricken areas in Bohol, if elected President.
DILG released Special Allotment Release Order (SARO)-BMB-D-14-0006008 for the initial funding support under the BEA on May 26, 2014 with rehabilitation efforts concentrated in the seventeen towns considered badly devastated.
Provincial Administrator Alfornso “Ae” Damalerio, taking the cudgels for the Provincial Government told the local media that “we are torn between accountability and urgency”
Even with billions of rehabilitation funds, a 75 page Memorandum Circular No. 68, Series of 2014 was issued by the DILG to serve as a guide in the implementation of the rehabilitation program.
The DILG circular stressed that “Build Back Bohol Better (BBBB) design and specifications for disaster resilient public infrastructures shallÂ be incorporated in the planning and design of proposed infrastructuresÂ and facilities.
Damalerio disclosed that as of 2015 completed projects reached 561 out of the 1,065 proposed projects with 307 on going construction works despite the lack of masons and carpenters and the stringent requirements of RA 9184 known as the Government Procurement Act.
The Provincial Government of Bohol has been designated as the primaryÂ partner of the DILG and shall act as the Fund Administrator for theÂ Php2.4B rehab budget.
The LGU’s, under the DILG guidelines shall provide counterpart funds for preparatory activities, equity for administrative costs, cash
counterpart for project cost exceeding approved fund allocation.
Projects may be undertaken under either by Contract for projects Php5MÂ and above orÂ by Administration for projects Php5M and below
Damalerio debunked the claims of detractors of the ongoing projects implemented in tandem with the national government saying ” they got their figures wrong and are outdated”.
Former Senator Panfilo Lacson who is seeking another fresh term in the Senate and is running as an independent after a 13 year stint shared his experiences as Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery for typhoon ravaged areas hit by super typhoon Yolanda.
“The enormity of the problem confronting calamity stricken areas like Leyte and Bohol calls for a establishment of a department that will oversee disaster preparedness, relief and rehabilitation”.
Lacson resigned his cabinet ranked position and was quoted in an interview with Rappler “the weak powers given to his office and was powerless over the billion peso budget for the typhoon Yolanda rehab and the incorrigibly uncooperative officials and even some Cabinet members”.
Lacson flew to Bohol last Wednesday to be the resource speaker of an agricultural forum in Jagna upon the invitation of Joseph Ranola, an independent Jagna mayoral candidate who works closely with the senator being the president of the Center for Budget Legislation (CBL) in Manila, Lacson’s advocacy against corruption has always been anchored on the studies and findings of Ranola’s CBL.
Romualdez, a senatorial candidate under Lakas-CMD but is included in Duterte’s senatorial slate also lamented the state of the rehabilitation efforts in Bohol “slams slow Bohol rehab” in a Philippine Daily Inquirer article on January 14, 2016.
But Romualdez, who were all praise for the Boholanos concern for the Leyte typhoon victims despite being hit by an earthquake a few weeks before disowned the statements in the Inquirer in a text message addressed to Governor Edgar Chatto which was relayed toÂ The Chronicle.
“Gov, this is Cong Martin Romualdez fyi I’ve called the Inquirer re the erroneous statement they attributed to me re Bohol rehab I never slammed nor made any statement to that effect especially after you briefed me re the progress of the rehab”.
Romualdez who gave Chatto a plaque of appreciation during his quick visit to Bohol on January 13, 2016 continued “In fact my advocacy is to create a Dept for Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management to better assist and expedite the relief rehab and recovery”.
Binay, accused Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman of putting words into his mouth and misrepresenting his positions.
Binay was referring to alleged disinformation peddled by Soliman’s subordinates that “if elected president I will terminate the implementation of the 4P’s”.
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program, known as the 4P’s and the center piece poverty alleviation program of the government using the conditional cash transfer scheme wherein beneficiaries receive cash grants based on the requirements on health and education.
“This is part of their demolition by perception and I confronted her about this. She should also explain the more than the P1.5 billion unaccounted from the more than P62 billion budget”.
Admitting that the 4P’s poverty alleviation program of the Aquino administration is “a good program”, Binay promised that if elected president he will “expand the cash transfer to include healthcare, high school students and senior citizens”.
However, Soliman, in a text message to the Chronicle said “I deny that I am spreading that VP Binay will stop 4P’s. We should be careful and discerning during election time”.
Soliman also stressed that “We have accounted for all Pantawid funds given to DSWD. Our website has a window that provides all our financial reports. Thank you”.
Soliman and Budget Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Health Secretary Janette Garin were in Bohol to fine tune the provisions of the 4P’s expounding on the benefits on Philhealth coverage, health and education grants and the high school expansion program.
Thousands of the 4P’s beneficiaries testified on the benefits and their improved quality of life under the program administered by the DSWD during an assessment meeting on January 8, 2016 at the JJ’s Seafood Village.
Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Francis “Chiz” Escudero, both vice presidential bets of Partido Demokratiko Pilipino and People’s Party respectively were one in saying that “the poverty alleviation program needs tweaking”.
Escudero said “the 4Ps program needs a livelihood component and a constant review of all beneficiaries to avoid leakages in the release of funds”.
But Soliman explained that even now the 4P’s include livelihood components but are separately reported from the 4P’s while continuing review of all beneficiaries is a major component of the project to ensure that only legitimate recipients are granted financial assistance.
Binay, who was apparently misinformed, took a dig at the ongoing construction of the New Bohol Panglao Airport funded by the Japanese government “the progress is too slow but the completion of the airport will hasten tourism business in the province”.
During the monthly coordination meeting on December, 2015, the Japanese Airport Consultants confirmed that the airport will be completed by the last quarter of 2017 and test flights will be carried out on December,
Binay is now in Bohol doing the rounds of public markets and is with broadcaster Rey Langit and labor lawyer Allan Montano, both UNA senatorial bets while Senator Grace Poe and Escudero of the Partido Pilipinas party were with Pasig Representative Roman Romulo and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno, senatorial candidates under Poe’s Partido Pilipinas party.
Poe and Escudero were in Bohol for a student’s forum at the Holy Name University while PDP Vice Presidential bearer Senator Alan Peter Cayetano visited Bohol to share his Christmas blessings with sectoral groups at the Bohol Tropics Resort.Â (Chito M. Visarra)