ON October 14, 2013, PCIJ received a five-page letter from Dasmariñas City Rep. Elpidio F. Barzaga Jr., a response to the first two parts of PCIJ’s four-part series on the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork-barrel funds during the Aquino administration.
Along with other lawmakers, Barzaga was mentioned in “Abuse, misuse of PDAF linger under ‘Daang Matuwid‘” and “Same, same bad pork: ‘Chop-chop’ contracts, duplicate projects, etc.” because of the P20.9-million PDAF he allocated for asphalt overlay, which will no longer be allowed in the new mechanism in lieu of pork funds. (See related story.)
PCIJ found out that lawmakers in the 15th Congress allocated half a billion pesos of their PDAF for asphalt overlays, dredging, desilting, and re-graveling. Over P2 billion, meanwhile, went to the acquisition of medicine, training kits, seeds and seedlings, and fertilizer. President Benigno S. Aquino III had earlier announced that these types of infrastructure projects and soft projects will no longer be implemented in the new mechanism because these projects are difficult to track.
In the letter dated October 10, 2013, Barzaga said that the roads he identified for rehabilitation are asphalted roads in a “very dilapidated condition with potholes as deep as one foot and have been the subject of complaints by my constituents.”
Despite the news about the alleged pork-barrel scam, Barzaga, a third-term congressman, wrote that he can proudly say that he has been “very prudent and honest in the disposition of my pork barrel from 2007 up to present.” He added that his website pidibarzaga.com contains information on his use of the PDAF.
Two Special Allotment Release Orders (SARO) were issued to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Cavite District Engineering Office for Barzaga’s asphalting projects – one worth P20 million on Nov. 24, 2011 and another P20 million on Mar. 22, 2013, of which P900,000 was used for asphalt overlay. Copies of these documents are attached to Barzaga’s letter as annexes.
The Nov. 24, 2011 release was allocated for the asphalting of a road at Barangay Luzviminda 2, Salitran III Road, and access roads in Greenfield Heights Subdivision and Via Verde Subdivision.
Barzaga said these roads are city roads and thus cannot be funded by the DPWH because it only covers national roads. “I wish I had enough budget in order to complete the asphalting and/or concreting of all the city and barangay roads in my congressional district so that these projects could not be called ‘quickie infra’ or ‘chop-chop’ projects,” he said.
Barzaga added that even P1 billion would not be sufficient to cover the entire city and barangay roads of Dasmariñas City with asphalt and/or concrete, which he said is “practically the reason why, as you have mentioned and described, I have to chop-chop the P20 million in order to meet the needs of my constituents.”
“After all, as it has always been said, ‘a journey to a thousand miles begins with a single step,’” the congressman said.
As for the P900,000 asphalting project, Barzaga said the balance of the P20-million SARO allotted for multi-purpose buildings covered this. The multi-purpose buildings cost P19.1 million, leaving an amount that was not sufficient to complete the construction of another multi-purpose building. The remaining funds were instead used for the asphalting of Congressional Avenue located in front of the Dasmariñas Elementary Central 2 and the Dasmariñas National High School.
Download link for REP. ELPIDIO BARZAGA LETTER.