Note: This rant / article was also posted on this site's FB page here.
The following issues regarding the right-of-way acquisition process of the #mindanaorailwayproject have come to light:
- Property owners whose properties are affected by government restrictions (e.g., Commonwealth Act 141, etc.) were reportedly not given advance notice that they would not be compensated for their land. This policy is affirmed by law and DOTr regulations.
- There are outstanding, back-end, issues regarding payment of the Capital Gains Tax, and related taxes. Section 5 of RA10752 actually requires the DOTr to pay this. Community members have reportedly been told by the Mindanao Railway Project Office (MRPO) that this had not been properly sorted out and is causing delays in the processing of Deeds of Absolute Sale (DOAS).
End result: More delays, aggravation, and lives in limbo.
Some vocal Mindanao Railway Watchers community members have alleged that there was a conspiracy to hide the truth about these problems from people, and that everyone in the MRPO was deliberately giving the public false hope despite knowing that the completion of the right-of-way acquisition phase was actually further down the road than announced. While it is not impossible that this was the case, that line of thinking assumes that EVERYONE in the MRPO, right down to the office clerks, are all experts in the convoluted collection of laws that govern how land is acquired.
Lawyers should know. But not everyone in the MRPO is a lawyer. Even more so with the LGU staff that are tasked to do their part to help the MRPO.
An alternative, and I would argue a more realistic, explanation is that honest mistakes were made. That there was simply a failure to educate everyone that needed to be educated. It is entirely plausible that the people involved simply didn't know what they should have known. Or worse . . . they assumed to know more than they did.
In all my years studying and documenting how bureaucratic government acquisitions work, the current situation is arguably not one single person's fault. Think about it. There are no less than 4 departments involved in this . . . to include the individual LGUs that are independent entities that are not answerable to the national government.
As much as people want to blame specific individuals -- because it is more convenient -- that simply isn't how the world works people. F*ck-ups of this scale are the result of a series of failed, or poorly executed, hand-offs of responsibility. This is invariably coupled with a failure to implement, or an inability to enforce, proper oversight.
You would think that the DOTr has had enough prior experience in other projects like this that it would function like a well-oiled machine by now. But here we are.
It is what it is.
All that we can do now is SHARE KNOWLEDGE with each other so that everyone gets a better picture of what can be done to minimize the pain and damage. We also have a collective RESPONSIBILITY to gather all lessons-learned so that the mistakes that have been made are NOT REPEATED in the other phases of the project.