Demolition dud

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You know it’s election season when demolition jobs proliferate. For the opposition which is hell bent on returning to power, Special Assistant to the President (SAP) Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go is fair game even if the fellow is not interested to run as a senator in next year’s mid-term elections.

It’s pretty understandable for villainous political parties not to take any chances as the guy is not only a potential senatorial candidate with a snowballing clamor for him to join the election race. Go is also a winnable bet in the upcoming mid-term elections and can easily spoil the opposition’s aspirations to regain political power.

So in February came the opening salvo of the demolition job on Go that tried to portray him as being behind the government choice of a naval ship supplier. Obviously malicious, the claim failed to demolish Go. Last week, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) came out with a report insinuating that President Duterte’s aide used his influence to make the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) favor contractors owned by his father and half-brother in undertaking big public infrastructure projects in the Davao Region last year.

It was not, however, expected that another flawed black propaganda was hurled against Go after the accusation he shifted the naval ship contract to another supplier flopped. The PCIJ report is clearly slanted to put SAP in a bad light by highlighting CLTG Builders owned by his father, Desiderio Go, and Alfrego Builders and Supply, owned by his half-brother Alfredo Go, as delayed in completing government infrastructure projects in the region. The same report indicated the cause of the delay as beyond their control since it involved road right of way (RRoW) issues that the DPWH are supposed to resolve.

The two companies have not abandoned the projects and, in fact, shelled out their own money to expedite the settlement of RRoW compensation so they can complete construction works and collect full payment from the government. Thus, unlike the contractor of the Department of Tourism that reportedly collected in advance the full payment for a “carinderia” project before any tangible result was delivered, Davao’s contractors patiently waited for the payment after finishing their jobs, which is the industry norm.

Construction project delays and slippage or missing a deadline are normal for legitimate reasons, including bad weather and security threats particularly in Mindanao areas where extremists, insurgents and communist rebels operate. What is unacceptable is failure to implement a project like what the past administration did.

The construction of Makati-Pasay-Taguig Mass Transit Loop System, Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike, rehabilitation of airports, modernization of the Philippine Orthopedic Center and construction of a new prison in Fort Magsaysay, Nueva Ecija under the Aquino administration never saw the light of day.

Conversely, the Duterte administration started the long delayed projects and even completed the prison. For one, the Mass Transit Loop is the Metro Manila subway project that the Department of Transportation is scheduled to break ground in December.

As for PCIJ’s claim that the two contractors bit more than they could chew by taking projects way beyond their capacity to undertake and way beyond their capitalization, nothing in the report says that CLTG and Alfrego left government projects unfinished in the past.

The report’s timeline showing the value of CLTG’s contracts since 2007 indicates that it was already undertaking with joint venture partners nearly P500 million worth of government infrastructure projects by 2015, one year before Go became SAP upon Duterte’s election as president.

In other words, these contractors can handle mega projects. Moreover, CLTG and Alfrego legally won the bidding for big budgeted DPWH projects in the Davao Region in 2017 just like the other local contractors that cornered the biggest chunk of infrastructure projects for the Davao provinces.

Go aptly described the report as malicious, politically motivated and fake news for dragging his name into something he was not involved with. The funny thing about the report is it also absolved the contractors by quoting DPWH XI officials as saying that CLTG and Alfrego are qualified to bid for government procurement contracts and the law prohibits the agency from preventing contractor from bidding for any government project.

Go is professional enough not to let unfounded accusations distract him from the important task of extending the Office of the President’s helping hand to the poor and to disaster victims. It may be better for those paranoid of Go making it into the Senate to use their war chest to help the needy.

Funding a smear campaign against someone like Go is a waste of money, time and effort because putting a good man down and destroying a man of integrity can be an exercise in futility.

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