By ROGER M. BALANZA
A member of the Davao City Council took exception to an insinuation that dirty money was involved in the approval of a housing project in Barangay Dumoy where the Davao City Water District (DCWD) draws out drinking water for the city’s 1.5 million residents.
The Dumoy aquifer, an underground water reservoir where the DCWD pumps out the city’s water needs, is located in Dumoy.
Councilor Mary Joselle Villafuerte, the presiding officer when the project was approved during the City Council’s regular session on Tuesday, denied there was bribery in the project approval.
Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang said he would seek a review of the project whether or not it complied with requirements.
In his morning radio program “Banat” on ABS/CBN’s DxAB radio on Friday, broadcaster Jun Bersamin said that there could be “pabaon” for city councilors in the approval of the 590-lot housing project atop the Dumoy aquifer.
“Pabaon” is a Tagalog word meaning give-away gift that took an ugly meaning after it was referred to as millions of pesos of illegally-sourced money on top of retirement benefits given to retiring generals of the Philippine National Police. The give-away gift erupted into a scandal years ago and sparked a full-blown investigation.
“Basig pabaon ni,” said Bersamin in his program. Several city councilors of the City Council headed by Vice Mayor Bernie Al-ag will be winding up their terms before the 2019 mid-term elections.
Reacting to the insinuation, Villafuerte called Bersamin by phone and in the on-air interview protested the anchorman’s insinuation that there was “pabaon” or bribery in the approval.
Villafuerte also said the approval of the project was not hers alone but the collective decision of the City Council.
In the same program, Councilor Danilo Dayanghirang, interviewed also by phone, said he would want the approval of the project reviewed. The project was proposed by Councilor Elias Lopez, chairman of the Committee on Housing and Urban Development.
In the program, Bersamin questioned the approval as the Dumoy area is a protected water resource area.
He also said that the property, where the project would rise, belonging to the Inigo family, is still subject of a land ownership claim by holders of Certificate of Land Ownership Award (CLOA). A CLOA is a title issued by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to tenants of land properties covered by the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government.
In addition, Bersamin said that the City Council also approved the project even without clearance from a City Hall office regulating developments in the city’s water resource areas. Developments in the Dumoy area is regulated by the Davao City Water Resource Management Ordinance. The project approved by the City Council on Tuesday is a low-cost housing project that is banned by another water conservation ordinance, the Davao City Watershed Protection, Conservation and Management Ordinance.
In the past, there were accusations that city councilors milked housing developers for money in exchange for approval of housing projects.
Several years ago, a group of city councilors dubbed as the “DLBM Group,” surfaced as allegedly behind the extortion racket of fleecing developers. The bribery scandal prompted the City Council to conduct its own investigation. The City Council also passed a resolution requesting the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to ferret out the group that allegedly carried the first letters of the names of the involved councilors.
In the program, Bersamin also recalled the case of a soft drinks company applying for permit to establish a manufacturing plant in Toril.
Then chairman of the Committee on Housing and Urban Development, Councilor Arnolfo Cabling, publicly admitted having received a large sum from the company as its application was being processed by the City Council.