Project description

The wake of disasters and wars like Marawi is a breeding ground for fraud and corruption. The need for services during a war is high, but such urgency can lead to poor controls, opening the door to graft and corruption. Bearing these in mind, we initiated the investigation based on two controversial pegs: the pre-selection of a Chinese-led consortium and in so doing, the government setting aside traditional procedures to supposedly “fast-track” the reconstruction of Marawi.

Our investigation yielded the following findings, among others:

1. The government plans to rebuild Marawi by pre-selecting a China-led consortium that didn’t have qualifications required if standard procedures were to be followed. (This consortium has since been disqualified after PCIJ’s investigation was released.)

2. A majority of Duterte allies that will pick Marawi’s ground-zero contractor.

3. Firms of political clans were among winners of Marawi road and housing deals.

4. Food packs and various kits procured for Marawi residents were overpriced.

The groundbreaking for the Marawi rebuilding and rehabilitation project had already been pushed back at least 10 times since the investigation began. Until rehabilitation activities actually start, what used to be Lanao del Sur’s proud and beautiful capital will continue to lie in ruins, and thousands of its residents will remain displaced.

One of the reporting challenges we encountered was the lack of expertise in the procurement process which was being bypassed by our government in the case of Marawi. To address this, we reached out to procurement experts and former government officials who provided valuable inputs in the stories.

Access to information from the key agencies also posed a problem but we were able to find our way around it by looking at the paper trail to see which other agencies might have a copy of the information we’re looking for.

What makes this project innovative?

The use of open data makes this project innovative. We need not request for records but because we were able to handle the data that’s already available online, we were able to uncover findings buried deep in hundreds of thousands of rows of data. This matched with verification using other sources completed the investigation.

What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?

Through this series, PCIJ has contributed to raising awareness on the Marawi rehabilitation efforts that’s beyond the government’s press releases. We covered the procurement process, an underreported aspect of the issue. The reports revelead questionable contractors and inefficiencies within the implementing agencies. After the publication of the stories, the awarding of contracts to two China-led consortiums were halted.

Source and methodology

The key data (awarded contracts) used in the series were obtained from the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS). Apart from awarded contracts data, PCIJ also reviewed the list of blacklisting reports of the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB); list of licensed contractors of the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB); suspension orders of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH); corporate documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); case files at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court; records of candidates and campaign donors of the Commission on Elections (Comelec); and Construction Performance Evaluation System (CPES) reports. It was also important for us to see what was really going in Marawi so we reached out to Carolyn Arguillas, a Mindanao-based journalist, to help us complete the story.

Technologies Used

Microsoft Excel, Navicat (MySQL), Data visualization applications

Project members

John Antiquerra, Carolyn Arguillas, Cecile Balgos, Kreizel Bojero, Karol Cruz, Karol Ilagan, Malou Mangahas, MindaNews photographers

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