In the wake of contractors being allowed to bid for government infrastructure projects despite being blacklisted by the World Bank, Senator Panfilo M. Lacson sought to toughen the government’s procurement law.
Lacson pushed to amend the implementing rules of Republic Act 9184, where the blacklisting of a prospective contractor by a foreign agency will be enough to disqualify it from the bidding.
“Under Section 23.6(d) of the present implementing rules and regulations, a bidder is qualified to join the bidding, if it is not ‘blacklisted’ or barred from bidding by the Philippine government. We should toughen our procurement law by making a blacklisting by a foreign agency like the World Bank a basis for disqualification. This is one way to protect our procurement system from corruption,” he said.
Lacson lamented that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) allowed some World Bank-blacklisted firms to continue bidding in government projects, saying this gives the Philippines yet another black eye.
He said that even if the government invokes the implementing rule to justify the continued participation of the blacklisted firms, this will send the wrong signal to the world that the Philippines tolerates – if not encourages – corruption. “This is especially glaring considering that one of the contractors who was blacklisted but still allowed to bid has been shown to be close to very powerful personalities,” he said.
During the Senate hearing on alleged collusive practices among contractors that marred World Bank-funded projects, Lacson cited entries from an appointments book of First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo showing Atty. Arroyo met at least 20 times in 2002 alone with Eduardo de Luna – a contractor who along with his firm the World Bank permanently barred from bidding for WB-funded projects.
On the other hand, he said the Ombudsman should be taken to task for sitting on the case of the Filipino contractors blacklisted by the World Bank.
Documents reaching Lacson showed the World Bank transmitted its findings to the Department of Finance (DOF) on November 16, 2007. The DOF forwarded this report to the Office of the Ombudsman on November 19, the next working day. “Had the Ombudsman performed her task, the firms could have been blacklisted and the story would have been different,” Lacson said.
Also, Lacson said this should be all the more to continue hearings on the mess involving World Bank-funded projects, “with or without eyewitnesses” to a P70-million bribery attempt in April 2003.
“There is now more reason to continue the hearings instead of terminating the same since there is an obvious flaw in this provision of Republic Act 9184. Besides, we should not be insensitive to the findings of the World Bank. It will be our own misdoing if we ignore the same,” he said.