Hontiveros calls for audit of Lao’s P1.8B ‘pork barrel’ under Housing department
Photo Credits: Manila Times
Senator Risa Hontiveros urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to track the more than P5B collected from the private housing developers in compliance with the Urban Development and Housing Act. The senator noted that out of the P5 billion — the grand total of the amounts placed in escrow accounts under various names — 1.8B was reportedly spent by former Usec. Christopher Lloyd Lao during his 2018-2019 stint in the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), and hundreds of millions could not be accounted for when he left HLURB.
“Tumataginting na P5B ang nakolektang pera mula sa private housing developers simula nang pumasok si Usec Lao sa HLURB, na pahirap sa maraming maliliit na developers. Hindi maipaliwanag at matagpuan kung saan ginasta ang malalaking tipak nito noong panahon ni Lao," Hontiveros said. “Walang paper trail. Ang pera ay dapat ay napunta para sa pagtatayo ng murang bahay ng minimum wage earners, pati na yung mga gustong umalis mula sa informal settlements. I urge COA to look into this matter and immediately, and I urge DHSUD to cooperate without hesitation.”
Hontiveros explained that when Lao was serving as Chief Executive Officer and Commissioner of the HLURB, there was a "scheme" in which private developers gave a certain amount or "fee" an express-lane alternative to their compliance with the requirements of the Balanced Housing Development Program law. Under the said law, RA 10884, developers are mandated to allot a portion of their projects to socialized housing.
Hontiveros expressed her confusion over the fact that Lao was able to spend P1.8B without the formal and documented knowledge of the agency.
Hontiveros asked: “Paano nagastos ni Lao ang P1.8B nang hindi alam ng HLURB (na ngayon ay parte na ng Department of Housing)? Siya lang at hindi ang HLURB ang nagdedesisyon kung anu-anong mga lugar at sinong mga kontratista ang mapapaboran ng halagang ito.”
The senator went on to ask, “Naging pork barrel ba ang pera? Hindi natin alam kung pabahay ba ang naitayo. Hindi kayang i-assemble ng DHSUD ang detalyeng matagal ko nang hinihingi. Sunud-sunod ang mga kinasasangkutan ni Lao, hindi lang barya-barya, kundi bilyon. Hindi na dapat ito palampasin pa.”
According to Hontiveros, the scheme may also have been against the law as the funds raised and placed in escrow accounts with banks are only one-fourth of the amount stated in the law. If the law had been followed, the private sector would have created up to P20 bn in socialized housing units and this would have been a huge addition to the very small budget provided by the Budget Department to housing agencies.
"Karapatan ng taumbayan na malaman kung saan napupunta ang pera na pinaghirapan nilang kitain. May kumpyansa ako sa CoA na gagawin nila ang kanilang mandato lalo na sa mga hindi maipaliwanag na paggasta ng ahensya ng gobyerno. Wala akong kumpyansa sa mga taong tuso at mapanlinlang na gagawin ang lahat makapangupit lang at makapanlamang," the senator concluded.