Questions for Governor Toto

By: Manuel “Boy” Mejorada

I THINK it’s time to get some answers from Governor Toto Defensor on the status of the landscaping and parking lot projects (including the parking building) for the Iloilo Capitol Grounds that were started during the incumbency of his father.

Gov. Toto has been on the job for two months now, and I am pretty sure he has gotten enough briefing on the status of projects being undertaken by the Iloilo Provincial Government. His father, former Governor Arthur Sr., was tight-lipped about the issues pertaining to these projects, a testimony to how poorly he regards the concept of transparency in government.

I started writing and talking about these projects late last year yet. The main issue was the overpricing and the anomalous procurement of the contract for the landscaping design awarded to Paolo G. Alcazaren and Associates. But now, another issue has emerged: unjustified delay in the completion of the projects.

I will skip the issue of overpricing and anomalous award of the contract for obvious reasons. Gov. Toto will not want to put his own father in a compromising situation if he tells the truth. The public, however, is entitled to get answers on the issue of inordinate and unjustified delays.

With this in mind, I will put them on the table for Gov. Toto to answer and enlighten the public. Hopefully, he is more transparent than his father who, instead of clarifying the issues, resorted to filing libel charges against me. I guess it’s an illustration that truth hurts.

Governor Toto, I remember clearly that sometime in March this year, Provincial Engineer Gracianito Lucero made a commitment to finish the landscaping and parking lot components by June 30, 2019, which was the end of your father’s term of office.

The projects were already delayed in March. The landscaping package was originally set to be completed on November 24, 2018. The Capitol extended and extended the contract despite the big negative slippage. The grounds by which contract extensions can be granted under RA 9184 and its IRR do not exist. Even then, the Capitol’s self-imposed deadline of June 30, 2019 was not met.

The question: WHY?

The contract gave Roprim Construction eight months to finish the project. In March 2019, the contract reached its one-year anniversary. It’s now the end of August, and it’s still not completed. The scope of works is not complicated.

I remember the warnings issued by Engr. Lucero in October last year to Roprim Construction threatening to terminate the contract on account of the negative slippage. What made the Capitol go soft on the contractor?

And with the project still unfinished, is the Capitol imposing any sanctions on the contractor? As of August 24, 2019, the project is already nine months overdue. The delay is already longer than the original contract time.

The parking lot package with a contract price of P70-million was also scheduled to be completed in February 2019. It’s six months overdue.

Why did the Capitol allow this to happen?

As the new Governor of the Province, are you taking steps to protect the interests of the LGU? Are you enforcing the penalty provisions of RA 9184 and its IRR? Or will you just continue what your father has done, and turn a blind eye on these issues?

I hope to hear some answers from you, Governor.