Miriam asks World Bank for report linking FG to bid rigging

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 04 2009 11:00 PM | Updated as of Feb 05 2009 07:02 AM

Senate economic affairs committee chair Miriam Defensor Santiago has appealed to the World Bank (WB) to give the Senate a copy of documents on the probe into alleged collusion and bid rigging in WB-funded road projects.

Reacting to a report from abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak stating that a Japanese contractor linked First Gentleman Mike Arroyo to the road mess, Santiago said the online news item is "hearsay" and has "no probative value".

"What I am now requesting from the country director of the World Bank are the so-called supporting papers. In the course of their investigation, definitely they would have taken down the testimonies of witnesses, and they would have acquired certain documents - that I want to see, so that if there is any mention of any public official or any public figure such as the First Gentleman, then I would have basis to continue with my committee hearing," Santiago told ANC's Top Story newscast Wednesday.

"I would have no basis summoning people to my hearing unless there is some legal basis, and a document from the World Bank would serve as legal basis," she said.

Santiago added she has a copy of the World Bank final report and it does not mention the alleged testimony against the First Gentleman.

"I already have a copy of that report, and there is no mention of the First Gentleman or any other official of the Philippine government, but there is a general statement that the three firms must have colluded with certain government officials," Santiago said.

Santiago also said the fact that Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez had copies of the WB report but did not act upon it is "negligence" on their part.

"That's sheer negligence in the discharge of duties. But in the case of the Secretary of Finance, he wrote me and said, the moment I received the report from the World Bank, I immediately transmitted it for appropriate action to the Ombudsman, because that requires preliminary investigation and we don't have the resources. That sounds reasonable to me," she said.

"Now, the next question is, what did the Ombudsman do? Since the copy of the final report was sent to her by the World Bank, reportedly as early as 2007 -- and it is now 2009 -- she wrote to me and said, 'I'm sorry, but we have an internal rule within the Ombudsman's office that we cannot give out the names of the personalities involved in investigations while investigation is still pending,'" Santiago explained.

"The obvious question is, why is it taking you so long to finish the investigation so we'll know the names of these people?," she added, saying the Office of the Ombudsman did not make any explanation on the matter aside from the letter.

Civic groups seek disclosure

Meanwhile, the Concerned Citizens Movement (CCM), has requested the World Bank and the Office of the Ombudsman to furnish them copies of the WB report that led to the blacklisting of the three Filipino companies for bid collusion.

The request was made by CCM convenors, former Transportation and Communications Secretary Josefina Lichauco, Betina Legarda, and Atty. Harry Roque, and journalist Ellen Tordesillas.

Mr. Arroyo was earlier linked to Eduardo de Luna, one of the contractors blacklisted by the World Bank.

In a Senate hearing, Senator Panfilo Lacson said the First Gentleman met with De Luna on several occasions in 2002, the same year that the WB-funded road projects began. -- With reports from ANC