‘Hold the DPWH accountable’

By Herbert Vego

THAT quotation comes from a retired manager of the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) in Iloilo City, Winfred Elizalde, who has read my previous column on the destruction wrought by a backhoe on a 90-megawatt (MW) submarine cable of the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) along the Bio-os River in Amlan, Negros Oriental. A submarine electricity cable is one laid on the sea or river bed between land-based stations to transmit power.

Commenting on that column via social media, Elizalde wrote:

“On the damage done on the submarine transmission lines, DPWH cannot run away from its obligation to pay damages. It is the principal and hence must be held liable for the acts of its agent, the contractor, for the damage. A dredging operation plan must be strictly followed unless a deviation due to unforeseen reasons emerges which must be made known to the principal (DPWH) before proceeding. A flimsy reason of deviation from the plan simply is not acceptable.”

I agree that the DPWH should be held liable. As a former PPA manager, Elizalde must have based his argument on similar incidents in the past. Why punish the electricity users for a government agency’s fault?

The damage, to refresh our readers’ memory, forced NGCP to hike its transmission rates, consequently passing on the burden to the power consumers in Panay and Negros islands.

The damage reduced the transmission capacity of NGCP, thus prompting the distribution utilities to impose higher rates on their consumers effective the billing month of August 2021.

Here’s an opportunity for the Energy Regulatory Board (ERC) to step in, using its persuasive power to act in behalf of the pandemic-stricken electricity consumers.

Indeed, why ask Juan dela Cruz (the consumer) to pay for the damage done by another?

No less than the engineers at DPWH admitted that their unnamed private contractor had deviated from the location of the dredging agreed upon. Otherwise, the accident could have been avoided.

Had the DPWH seen to it that no such deviation pushed through, the backhoe operator employed by the contractor would not have committed the big mistake.

And now, with the NGCP assuming the task of rehabilitating the damaged submarine facility, we the power users are made to pay until such time when that rehab would have been completed.

The hardest hit are the consumers of electric cooperatives who now must pay between P11 and P13 per kilowatt-hour or an increase of more or less one peso from previous rates.

For example, Iloilo Electric Cooperative (ILECO) II is now charging its consumers P12.29 per kWh, against P11.48 /kWh in July.

We residents of Iloilo City, however, are glad that MORE Power has kept its reputation as the lowest-charging distribution utility in the Philippines at P7.99 per kWh on residential consumers. This is due to the initiative of its president, Roel Z. Castro, who had successfully inked the most consumer-favorable deal with  the environment-friendly geothermal plant of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (PSALM) in Tongonan, Leyte.



SENATOR Manny Pacquiao is returning to the Philippines this week without the “hero’s welcome” he had been accustomed to. No thanks to his loss to WBA super welterweight champ Yordenis Ugas by unanimous decision.

As if that were not bad enough for the 42-year-old boxer/senator, his trainer Buboy Fernandez would want him to engage Ugas in a rematch.

“Nasabihan tayong legendary, di ba? “ he touted Manny within hearing distance of Filipino broadcasters after the Las Vegas fight. “Papayag ka ba na ganun-ganun lang? ”

But of course Fernandez had his own future in mind. Without Manny as his source of income, his happy days could end.

Let the pambansang kamao realize that he has already accomplished a hitherto unknown feat as the only eight-division world champion of the sport. And so he has nothing more to prove.  Another bout with his 35-year-young tormentor could humiliate him – imagine a knockout — even harder.

What the nation now expects from Pacquiao is the fulfillment of his promise to go full-blast against graft and corruption in the government. That is the better way of redeeming his image tainted by his political alliance with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Otherwise, he would be shamed for acting like a baby deprived of a lollipop just because Duterte was not serious when he raised his hands during their first meeting in Malacañang on November 14, 2016.

In that meeting, Duterte raised the boxing champion’s hand in a gesture of victory and said, “For president na ‘to ha! (He’s for president!)”.

It is possible that Pacquiao knows more about cases of graft and corruption than what has already been exposed in the media. Remember, before he left for the Las Vegas fight, he threatened to talk “later” about the hundreds of pages of dossier stacked on his office table.

Are these dossiers more incriminating than those already reported by the Commission on Audit?

Incidentally, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and at least 28 other private sector organizations and schools have rallied behind COA, which flagged the Department of Health for P67.3 billion worth of deficiencies in funds intended for the coronavirus pandemic response.

Pacquiao as the then acting president of the ruling PDP-Laban party had criticized the President’s silent mode on the country’s sea dispute with China over our exclusive economic zones at the West Philippine Sea, hinting there was more to it than “friendship” with President Xi Jin Ping.

Manny claims to be the true leader and still president of the PDP-Laban, now fragmented with the election of Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi as president of the other wing.

But Cusi, a non-politician, knows in his heart that Manny could be a threat to the President’s political agenda – the reason why his group wants a reconciliation.

The PDP Cusi wing is said to be endorsing Sen. Bong Go for President and Pres. Duterte for Vice President.

“Confusing” would be an understatement to describe such a scenario that would pit Go against presidential daughter Sara representing her own Hugpong ng Pagbabago party.

By reconciling with Duterte, Manny would only succeed in unmasking his purely selfish interest. After all, he himself knows he does not have the ability to rule.

But If he runs for senatorial re-election under the opposition banner – presumably with the still undeclared Vice President Leni Robredo for President – he could be the wind beneath her wings. It is no secret that he has millions of die-hard fans.

The post-Duterte presidency might just be the key to revealing billions of pesos worth of overpriced and unnecessary (a la Dolomite) projects in the Philippines.

Did we hear Health Secretary Duque and Sen. Bong Go shouting, “Huwag po!”?     



IN commemoration of the National Heroes Day today, who among us can name our heroes’ names?

Oh, well, when we were in school, me mentioned “Jose Rizal, Andres Bonifacio, Juan Luna, Antonio Luna, Apolinario Mabini, Diego Silang, Gregorio del Pilar, Marcelo del Pilar and Graciano Lopez-Jaena.”

Nobody from the province of Antique?

Antique has its own heroes, although not classified “national”. Their non-mention in historical documents must have motivated Errol Santillan, chairman of the Committee on History and Cultural Heritage of the Sangguniang  Panlalawigan of Antique, to organize a webinar aimed at extolling the “three heroes of Antique.”

For this online lecture to be participated in by a multi-sectoral audience, according to Philippine News Agency (PNA) journalist Annabel Petinglay, Santillan has invited two local historians as resource persons — former Iloilo vice-governor Demy Sonza and operations officer Erwin Bonifacio of the Department of the Interior and Local Government-Western Visayas – to share their researches on the lives of Gen. Leandro Fullon, Lt. Ruperto Abellon, and Gen. Valentin Grasparil.

Sonza will refresh the audience about his published articles on the heroism of Fullon and Abellon during the Spanish occupation while Bonifacio will cover the  Grasparil who helped drive away the Japanese forces in World War II.

Let us quote from Petinglay’s news report for the PNA:

“Fullon, who hailed from the municipality of Hamtic, joined the Katipunan and helped organize the revolutionary government against the Spaniards. He became the first governor of Antique in 1901.

“Abellon was known to have fought side by side with Fullon against the Spanish invaders.

“Grasparil was the commander of the 66th Infantry Regiment that liberated the provinces of Antique, Aklan, and Capiz from the Japanese intruders during World War II.

“His regiment drove the Japanese forces out of Jaro and Balantang in Iloilo City.”

Grasparil must have shouted, “Teki, acchi e ike!”

As to what that means, palihog i-google na lang.