asia.australia.3.16.13


MANILA — Former President and current Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (pictured above) is facing another multi-million-peso plunder charge before the Office of the Ombudsman, this time in connection with the allegedly anomalous P1.6-billion dam and skybridge projects in Camarines Sur in 2008.

Arroyo’s son, Camarines Sur second district Rep. Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo, was also named respondent in the case filed Tuesday by lawyers Argee Guevarra and Renecio Espiritu Jr., University of the Philippines-University Student Council (UP-USC) vice chairman Jules Guiang, and Cebu-based activist Aaron Pedrosa.

The 17-page complaint accused the Arroyos of receiving kickbacks and commissions in the amount of P202 million through alleged dummies in the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The money supposedly accounted for 30 percent of the P300 million released for the P700-million Libmanan-Cabusao Dam project and P376 million for Skybridge 1 and 2 projects worth P900 million.

However, the construction of both projects was stopped in 2009 for being unfeasible.

Guevarra said the former president and her son should be indicted for graft at the very least.

The militant party-list group Sanlakas, which held a protest action during the filing of the complaint, said the case stemmed from Arroyo’s P3-billion “birthday gift” to her son in September 2008 when Dato turned 34.

The projects, which started without consultation with affected communities, included a reforestation program, building of a dam, irrigation works and a skybridge that should have connected Libmanan town in Dato’s district to Canaman town to reduce travel time to Naga City.

Guevarra, legal counsel for Sanlakas, said the skybridge project served as Dato’s campaign promise in the 2010 elections, but it was never completed.

“The project was a scam all along, designed to ensure that any release for the P900-million project will be liquidated in the form of a 30-percent ‘SOP’ and used to bankroll Dato Arroyo’s 2010 congressional bid,” he said.

Guevarra said Sanlakas members from Camarines Sur brought him to where the bridge should have been built.

Upon his ocular inspection, “the only thing that could be seen was the sky and a river — but no bridge.”

The complainants said the dam and skybridge projects were rushed in time for Dato’s re-election bid in May 2010 following the reapportionment of legislative districts in the province.

“Billions of pesos were spent and wasted as the projects turned out to be economically unviable and damaging to the lives of the residents and the ecosystem found in the affected communities,” the charge sheet read.

The Ateneo de Naga, through its Institute for Environmental Conservation and Research (INECAR), opposed the dam project which would have flooded 13 Camarines Sur towns.

The complainants said the construction of Skybridges 1 and 2 and the improvement of 26 kilometers of road passing the Libmanan-Canaman-Magarao-Naga route sought to link the first and second districts of Camarines Sur with the Pan Philippine Highway.

In a report dated Sept. 25, 2012, the DPWH said “the construction of the two skybridges is no longer viable and must be abandoned because they would have to be constructed on very soft ground, requiring the use of viaduct approaches that would increase the project cost to as much as P1,980.78 billion.”