House panel members eye cases vs Yolanda rehab contractor

MANILA, Philippines – Legislators who are part of a probe into alleged anomalies in the construction of homes for survivors of 2013's Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan) on Tuesday, September 26, said they plan on filing charges against contractors for breach of contract, lying before the House, and possibly syndicated estafa.

Negros Occidental 3rd District Representative Alfredo Benitez made the announcement during a press conference, following a hearing into the apparent use of substandard materials in the construction of homes for survivors of the 2013 typhoon. (READ: Lawmakers told: Substandard materials used in post-Yolanda housing)

A whistleblower, who turned out to be a subcontractor for contractor JC Tayag, said instead of using 10 millimeter (mm) steel rods for the construction project, only 8 mm ones arrived.

Another whistleblower said during the hearing said that instead of using 12 mm horizontal steel rods, only 10 mm rods were used.

As a result, lawmakers noted, typhoon survivors preferred to stay in their makeshift houses rather than risk living in newly-constructed homes which they felt were not sturdy enough.

During a House hearing, representatives from JC Tayag denied using substandard materials. But an inspection team which included members of the National Housing Authority (NHA), proved otherwise.

JC Tayag, Eastern Samar Representative Ben Evardone had earlier said, bagged around 80% of projects in his province alone. Benitez noted that as a result of using smaller steel rods, the contractor was able to slash costs by 30% to 40%.

Yolanda was among the strongest storms in history to make landfall. It devastated most of Eastern Visayas and many neighboring provinces. 

The housing and urban development panel, which Benitez chairs, wants the contract with JC Tayag terminated immediately. They also want cases including, but not limited to breach of contract, syndicated estafa, and even plunder filed against persons involved in the alleged anomaly.

Benitez said they are expecting the NHA to formalize a report, even as they plan on inviting former housing officials to the next hearing to explain why JC Tayag got away with using subpar materials. The lawmaker said they will be summoning NHA officials from the national down to the local level.

While he refused to say who exactly in government is accountable for the delay, Benitez said there was indications of negligence on the part of the NHA. –