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Wednesday, July 24, 2024

When ‘iconic’ becomes astronomical

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“Was it a case of intellectual dishonesty on the part of our senators, knowing fully well that the actual expense would run to more through the usual ‘variations’ that would ratchet up the cost?”

“Painful to watch” was how Sen. Ping described the “balitaktakan” in the Senate between his former colleagues Sen. Alan Peter and Sen. Nancy over what was billed as an “iconic” building, a supposedly architectural gem that would for posterity house the 24 members of what its occupants proudly call the “august” chamber of Congress.

The surreal committee hearing is one for a history book, if anyone would want to write about encounters among our legislators where words could injure more than the fisticuffs that characterize some of the sessions of Taiwan’s Legislative Yuan.

The interiors of each senator’s office, as described by a cuckoo at the DPWH, could perhaps be featured in a coffee table book on what is gross about Philippine interior design, as the project supervisors tailored the office accoutrements according to the personal preferences and “tastes” of the individual members of the “august”.

But all the barbs and insults hurled by gentleman Alan upon a befuddled lady Nancy cloaked the real answers to questions in the public mind, wondering how “iconic” comes at an astronomical cost, charged and chargeable to Juan de la Cruz.

And what are these questions?

First of all, why do the two chambers of Congress have to be housed in two distantly sited locations, the “lower” house in the foothills of Rizal and the “upper” one in toney BGC in the southwestern corner of NCR?

But for one former living senator, the “august” are just as addicted to pork and perks as the 316 inhabitants of the “lower” chamber, “bigger” to be politically correct.

Same-same lang naman, bakit ayaw magsama? There must be some more land in the Batasan Hills compound.

Second, why did the Senate, then headed by SP Tito Sotto, thence SP Migs Zubiri, announce a cost estimate of P8.9 billion without specifying before the public that this was only for an initial phase of the construction?

For as far as the public was informed, the entire cost to house our senators was just around P8.9 billion. Not much attention was raised about it, as the public was more pre-occupied with surviving the pandemic.

I was in Taiwan at the time, and pardon my ignorance, but that not so unreasonable cost was what media impressed upon the public.

Was it a case of intellectual dishonesty on the part of our senators, knowing fully well that the actual expense would run to more through the usual “variations” that would ratchet up the cost?

Or belatedly, use DPWH to segregate the construction phases into core and shell, fit-out, finishing, furnishings and fixtures, façade and landscaping, with variation orders neatly placed such that these do not go above the procurement law limit not to exceed 10 percent of budgeted cost?

Certainly not to balloon to as much as P21 billion, plus the cost of land which is not an issue at all, as it was first, reasonable; and second, from one government pocket to another (Senate budget to BCDA)?

Lady Nancy was quibbling about P21 billion and not P23 billion, as if it would make a difference in the investigation initiated by SP Chiz Escudero whose yet unanswered question was why so “astronomical?”

To which quibbling, gentleman Alan responded with ad hominems con mucho gusto.

Lost in the squabble were the real issues which even the DPWH resource persons could not adequately answer, wondering which of the two “august” members they had to please, afraid their paltry budget for 2025 would be scrutinized soon, and, as in previous years, be gobbled up by the pork hungry insertions, transfers and assignments to follow the choice of our 340 lawmakers.

Sure, the DPWH gave a cost breakdown, which when properly scrutinized, not by angry senators but perhaps by a hopefully impartial and fearless Commission on Audit and the Ombudsman thereafter, would give the taxpaying public reason to judge whether the new “iconic” Senate building was a gargantuan and needless expense, coming as it unfortunately does at a time when hunger envelops the teeming millions of the poor.

What a spectacle, yet always and ever, at the expense of taxpayers, especially the middle class now rendered nouveau poor by inflation and the forever poor who subsist on Kadiwa’s chalky, broken grained “laon” rice laced with miniscule portions of a tin of sardinas na hinahating kapatid or doused with soupy instant noodles loaded with MSG.


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