Sen. Osmeña Searching ODA ₱111 Billion Bridge project MISSING Since Ramos, Estrada & Arroyo Administration

Former government officials liable for graft in bridge program

Former government officials during the Ramos, Estrada and Arroyo administrations may be held liable for graft as they allegedly gave undue advantage to contractors involved in the 111-billion President's bridge program.

Senator Sergio Osmeña III, chairman of the Blue Ribbon committee, on Tuesday said the secretaries of the agencies involved in the bridge-building program failed to exercise due diligence in implementing the project.

"There were no valid computations, and due diligence done. They were pointing at each other," said the senator after a Senate hearing on the issue.

He said the Department of Finance also failed to properly check the loan agreements for the program.

"The ones who signed the contract [could be held liable], the secretaries who signed and the undersecretaries who made the studies [for the project], the secretaries of the implementing agencies," said Osmeña.

Official development assistance (ODA)

 The President's bridge program was conceptualized during the incumbency of then President Fidel Ramos after a peace agreement with the Moro National Liberation Front was concluded in 1996.

 The program was an Official Development Assistance (ODA) project. The Ramos administration was able to acquire grants from different governments to finance 30 to 45 percent of the project.

 "The first two years [of the project] were signed under Ramos. But under Ramos these were legitimate grants," Osmeña said.

 But some of the contractors were able to get around the project's safeguards during the last months of the Estrada administration.

 "Last two months of Erap's term, they were distracted kasi pinakasuhan na si Erap ng impeachment," the senator said.

 Arroyo administration

 The bridge program under the Arroyo administration consisted of 14 contracts many of which, according to Senator Panfilo Lacson, led to nowhere or could not be used by the public.

Osmeña alleged that this happened because the agencies involved in the project did not do their job of checking and verifying the bridge projects.

 He said this is because then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo allegedly manipulated the program.

 Osmeña said he would produce evidence supporting his allegations during the Blue Ribbon committee's next hearing.

 "This was so complicated, I only wanted to explain with high degree of clarity kung paano nangyari ito," he said.

 Osmeña earlier said Mrs. Arroyo was guilty of 'serial plunder' for overpricing  the billion-peso bridge program.

 He said Mrs. Arroyo "misrepresented" the bridge program as an ODA project.

GMA News

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