New game – bid or bribe?

From ‘lowest bidding’ to ‘highest bribing’?

This has become the paradigm shift, matter-of-factly, in current corporate management of RP’s state of affairs. That long standing practice of government projects being awarded to the lowest bidder has shifted to this new scheme of fraud – awards go to the highest briber. Clearly, the officialdom is involved in this rather anomalous comeuppance according to that World Bank reports on foreign-assisted projects implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways. Now, the Senate shall issue a subpoena duces tecum to the Ombudsman, or the Department of Finance, or any other office sent a copy of the WB report since it aims to seriously initiate a full-dress investigation on persons involved and no less than the First Gentleman shall have his day in a Senate hearing.

Economist Solita Monsod already had a copy of this controversial World Bank confidential file even before Sen. Miriam Santiago can land her hand a copy owing to the fact that special laws do not permit the Senate or any other agency of government to summon, much less, investigate the WB personalities as this would be an attack on its integrity which has never been put in question. Thus, if there is any starting point to a no-nonsense Senate inquiry, everything will have to begin right off with the assumptions laid in the report which, for all intent and purpose, have already been validated by the largest funding institution that operates around the globe. What with it’s in-house – a Department of Institutional Integrity – being fool-proof?

It should be remembered that one of the normal bundle of conditions of the WB in granting fund-assistance, aid, grants, or loans to availing countries is for that applicant to show sound housekeeping practice. Simply put, the World Bank wants to know that foreign governments can repay back their loans and more importantly, that the projects themselves have been well implemented and there was not a situation where the funds are just being siphoned off thus sacrificing the lifespan of the infrastructure project itself. In other words, there is nothing wrong in a funding or doning institution to somehow oversee or at least monitor how a project getting funded with huge capital outlay is being implemented where every dollar counts. Let us not of course, shoot the messenger but work upon the message – out of a sense of duty.

Incidentally, when this matter was taken up in the House of Representatives’ congressional hearing, what the cognizant committee did was to absolve those blacklisted construction companies blacklisted by the World Bank for rigging, collusion, and corrupt practices – at least one of which is owned by a Member of Congress. This is particularly questionable since the members of the committee that investigated the matter are largely composed of contractor-congressmen themselves who indicatively want to cover up for their colleagues. The good thing still, is that Senate is taken to task to at least to raise the level of investigation to a much higher plane that will see the light of day on an already luminous evidence of possible grand scale anomaly initiated from the inner sanctums of Malacanang.

It is not as if such exposes by Sen. Ping Lacson are just intended to malign FG or no less than PGMA as in the earlier controversies of the Jose Pidal, the famous NBN or ZTE fund mess where FG is said to have spitted the words “buck off” and where PGMA has been referred to as an ‘evil’ by her own cabinet secretary, and so on. With Monsod, from the point of view of a subject matter expert of economist, being well-convinced on the kind of validation process the whole WB file has undergone, with more reason then that the Senate now do an honest-to-goodness revalidation itself. However, we have heard earlier on how indicatively biased Sen. Santiago is on whether or not FG is possibly involved in the deal but we hope she is in fact challenging more proof to the reported possible involvement so she can unload such mental baggage.

So where is this taking us? After the P200 million C5 double-entry controversy that unseated Manny Villar from the Senate presidency, what else do we have? After that P200 million Neri-Abalos snafu and relatedly, the aborted NBN or ZTE deal in the famous ‘buck off’ scene that involves so many millions of kickbacks or commissions, what’s next? If these were the symptoms, what could be the disease? If again, we have a new stimulus plan where government banks have to dole out P12.5 billion each for a P50 billion start-up fund, what so-called infrastructure projects could be free from all these malaise? Fact is, the scheme itself where pension funds will be siphoned off to help the government come up with solid economic back support to again start an X number of infrastructure projects is itself – an anomaly of sort – as pension funds are a contribution of their members who are private employees or government employees of SSS and GSIS, respectively.

It seems that the search for the ‘moral forces’ will be long in coming. However much endorsed, Chief Justice Puno has rather resigned himself to have to drive his grandchildren on and off school after his retirement in 2010 rather than go politics as this would invade the judicial independence of the High Tribunal. How then do we ‘moderate greed’ when we now see top bigwigs close to the president herself into all sorts of scams? Clearly, we have an extremely high threshold level to be able to endure punishments such as these brought upon us by the very public officials reposed the moral responsibility to lead clean. So how will PGMA, despite all token motherhood if dogmatic claims, cut neat and clean on every kind of government transactions?

From where a layman stands, this whole imbroglio in our state of affairs is simply symptomatic of an already worsening cancer in society that no less than foreign governments have already validated – from myth to reality. When we don’t have any more need for lowest bidders to make sure corporate deals are advantageous to the government. When we don’t anymore care whether the infrastructure projects we built on the ground will reach their ‘lifespan’. When we allow grafters and those involved in corruption to go Scot-free and are never held accountable. This is the time that we have given up on the traditional values we thought we hold dear – as a country, as a people.

From all indications, we do not have an honest government, a caring one. No wonder then, the hard and rabid campaign to erect a new Constitution is a thread from the same cloth. People in power do not mind having to sell even our sovereignty to the highest bidder or highest briber, as the case may be. We are selling to foreign corporate giants ownership of our lands when no existing law could have allowed this to ever happen. These economic provisions will find their way in the new fundamental law of the land our politicians – as an organized fraternity – will be able to wrestle up once all have approved of charter change. In the end, it was not a charter change any more than a ‘charger change’ and who is in charge, charges.

UP Diliman, Quezon City Email: