Friday, October 14, 2005

NR1014: Solon calls for criminal charges against Northrail proponents; alleges corruption in NHA

Mula sa Tanggapan ni Anakpawis Rep. Crispin B. Beltran
News Release October 14, 2005
House of Representatives, South Wing Rm 602
931-6615 Ina Alleco R. Silverio, chief of staff
Celphone number 09213907362

Rep. Beltran supports call for criminal charges against NorthRail Project proponents; alleges corruption in National Housing Authority (NHA) handling of relocations

Anakpawis Representative Crispin Beltran today sponsored a presscon with the members of the UP Law Center NorthRail Project Research team and leaders of the Stop NorthRail Project Coalition and the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (KADAMAY) in in Quezon City. The attorneys of the research team are Prof. Carmelo Sison, former law dean Raul Pagalangan, Prof. Solomon Lumba and Prof. Florin Hilbay. Prof. Lumba is the chair of the research team.

Beltran has expressed full support for the study the counsels have presented to the last Senate investigations on the possible anomalous nature of the NorthRail project contract between the Macapagal-Arroyo government and China. He said that UP Law Center’s paper has made a strong impact and opened a massive can of worms and deserves to be discussed in detail in the Senate and its recommendations acted upon -- including the recommendation that the contract be annulled and civil, criminal and administrative charges be filed against the proponents and signatories on the side of the Philippine government.

Beltran himself has already filed five resolutions in Congress calling for investigations into the impact of the project in urban poor residents; the possible violations of the contract provisions on Philippine economic sovereignty laws; and the alleged corruption that's going in the National Housing Authority's (NHA) relocation operations in Bulacan. The resolutions are addressed to the House Committees on Good Government and Civil and Professional Regulation, as well as to the Committee on Housing and Urban Development.

"The Northrail Project has been highly controversial from day one, and was kept under close wraps. So secret it is that it did not even undergo the scrutiny much less approval of the Senate. Now the impact of the project implementation is already being felt -- translating in the chaos erupting in the communities being demolished to make way for the project," he said. "I fully support the recommendation of the UP Law Center study team that civil, criminal and administrative charges be filed against the Philippine government officials who pushed for this infamous project. These officials, of course, are led by Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Mr. Noli de Castro.”

The veteran labor leader said that the nitty-gritty of the Northrail project deserve to be exposed because they will reveal to what extent the RP government went to secure the contract which is seriously prejudiced against the Philippines. "It's still shocking to realize how far and how low the Macapagal-Arroyo government will sink and how much it will compromise to secure loans," he said. "What's most outrageous in this is that it's the Filipino people who will pay these off and suffer the consequences.'

Beltran urged senators to subpoena Mr. de Castro and other officials directly involved with the project, including heads of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and the National Housing Authority ( NHA) and compell them to answer questions regarding the project.

In the meantime, the veteran labor leader said that Northrail-affected communities have voiced complaints and allegations, mostly in connection with the relocation packages and conduct of demolition and clearing operations, against National Housing Authority (NHA) General Manager Federico Laxa. These alleged anomalies include overpricing of resettlement lots, preferential treatment to developers closely related to the General Manager, stringent qualification process for beneficiaries of relocation packages, and violation of NHA’s Terms of Reference.

Bumatama Inc. and Kapulong Inc. to name just a few, are organizations that have voiced their opposition against the NHA and how it began relocating people without clearly explaining the terms of payment of the resettlement lots. Similarly, the residents of Marilao say that NHA was able to procure lots at P450/sqm but sells these to the urban poor relocatees at P650/sqm, which means a profit of P200/sqm or P200,000 per lot. The bigger the number of lots, the bigger the profit – this is why, Marilao residents say, lot sizes in their area were being reduced from 40 sqm to 32 sq, or even as small as 22 sqm.

“Lot developers are also allegedly closely identified with GM Laxa. For instance, they allege that former actor Tony Ferrer and former Pampanga mayor Asur who are both developers of the relocation site in Lambakin, Marilao, are a relative and a close friend respectively of Laxa. According to residents, Ferrer, Asur and Laxa personally approached and convinced the leaders of Marilao to choose Lambakin over Loma de Gato as site of relocation. In return, they allegedly promised those leaders P10,000 each as well as ‘ghost employee’ status at the NHA for six months,” he said.

According to Beltran, the residents also question the accreditation of another Marilao relocation site developer by the name of D’grand Builders, a corporation duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May 2005. The residents allege that one of the reasons that the Local Inter-Agency Committee rejected the Bocaue residents’ preferred relocation site is that the proposed developer of the said lot was registered with the SEC only in July 2005 and thus lacked the required track record, legal personality and equipment. Besides this, they also point to an NHA policy that new developers are allowed to develop only lots less than one hectare.#


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