Senate may invite ex-President GMA in anomalous bridge’s program probe –Osmena

October 22, 2012 10:00 pm 

MANILA, Oct. 22 – The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is considering inviting former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the ongoing Senate inquiry into the 14 allegedly anomalous contracts that marred the President’s Bridge Program during the previous administration, according to Senator Sergio Osmena III.

”I would like to invite her, but you know the problems involved. She is in the hospital, has back pains… There are a lot of excuses, but you know that might be a good idea. I will extend an invitation,” Osmena said after Monday's Senate investigation into the questionable contracts worth P111.9 billion.

Osmena, who is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said the testimony of Ms. Arroyo, who has been under hospital arrest for plunder charges in relation to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) fund scam, would be helpful in finding the culprits behind the questionable bridge program project which was approved by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

”She was the chairperson and presiding officer of the NEDA board. This has to get approval by the NEDA board and she was present in every NEDA board meeting,” Osmena explained.

Actually, Osmena said all the government officials involved in the anomalous contracts can be held liable for violating the anti-graft and corrupt practices law.

”The law is very specific: they shall not enter into a grossly disadvantageous contract,” he added.

Osmena said almost all of the contracts have no public bidding, though the supervision of the bridge program has been transferred from the Office of the President to the Department of Public Works and Highways in 2002.

”The whole essence of public bidding is to allow the people of the Philippines to enjoy the lowest price. They transferred it under DPWH but they have put their own man there. So they were still in control,” he said.

According to Osmena, some of the previous government officials who have to face the Senate inquiry are former DPWH Secretaries Hermogenes Ebdane and Simeon Datumanong.

Osmena estimated that P15 to P20 billion went into the pockets of the government officials allegedly involved in the questionable bridge program.

The senator said he and the Senate will conduct more investigations until "we nail down all the loose ends" of the anomaly.

”We should not waste such big amount (P111 billion) of money that is difficult to collect. It’s difficult that some of these (contracts) were signed in 1999 to 2001. It’s hard to gather documents but we’re getting there,” Osmena said.

Osmena said he is getting the assistance of all the national government agencies down to the local government units in gathering all the necessary documents to pinpoint the real culprits in the 14 anomalous contracts. (PNA)

SCS/JFM

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