Lessons from the WB snafu
Few lessons may be derived from the Senate hearing held for the purpose of conducting an inquiry – in aid of legislation – over the WB report that has become the bone of supposed-to-be more contentious issues except that the entire proceeding, first and last, as chaired by lady Senator Santiago were reduced to nothing but the greatest one-man-show people have ever seen.
One, it has become a Catch 22. We thought that if the House of Representatives unceremoniously absolved the contractors blacklisted by the WB for bid-rigging and collusive practices, the Senate will not follow suit. But it did thus bolstering the notion, however oblique, that the House may well actually delete the Senate from the surface – at will. Either way it goes, the case against FG is closed.
Two, ‘kill the messenger’ is another trick in the books. The target of attack is the messenger himself, in this case, Mr. Hofman and presumably, there will be a wild goose chase to get him to appear as any resistance would mean his immediate arrest and detention at the Senate until he makes public apology.
Three, the position taken by the Senate is one of ‘begging the question’. According to the argument, however fallacious, is that – no inquiry can proceed until Senate is in receipt of the original WB report. Absent that, the allegations as otherwise contained in details in a 230-page report are deemed mere hearsay.
Four, the Senate adopts the ‘Rules of Court’ (euphemism for congressional inquiry) when it becomes expedient to do so especially where it casts in bad light the First Gentleman. Thus, presiding chairs of committees are deemed as if there were judges to prosecute cases lodged before them. This sets dangerous legislative precedent.
Five, a ‘form of diversionary tactic’ has been employed that deflected the issue of bid-rigging and collusion in road projects funded by the WB. With the report dismissed as a pack of rumors or lies in the absence of the original WB report, it was summarily prejudged as having no probative value. It missed to explain the existence of the official copy sent to the Department of Finance as well as the Ombudsman as the relevant offices of the Philippine government to which such report were sent. The Senate did not feel it incumbent upon said agencies to submit their individual position papers before the Senate could even act on the WB report.
Six, with a ‘time cap’ announced at the beginning of the Senate hearing, it is strange how a fruitful discussion could result if intelligences are literally held in captivity if subservience to the desire of the committee chair.
Seven, tagging the WB report as hearsay betrays one’s knowledge of the World Bank in terms of its legal status, its country memberships, its purpose and focus. For one, has it escaped their understanding that the mission of the WB is combating corruption as one of five key factors for economic growth and an enabling business environment? In other words, part of its corporate philosophy is to evaluate development performance through measurable results on the ground. With corruption, it is not far removed that so-called “bridges or roads to nowhere” may be built – on the ground or off the ground – to line pockets of bribe inducers.
In case there had really been a cartel in the public works sector, it shall remain. Thus, despite the overarching fact that the WB has blacklisted at least seven corporations, the DPWH secretary still did express the opinion that they can still participate in all the biddings in the department. That seems to be antithetical to the avowed thrust of the government to curb corruption in the bureaucracy, doesn’t it?
All told, both House and Senate provide the legal smokescreen against any further effort to investigate the involvement of public officials named in the report most especially when FG is being linked to it again as in other such scams investigated by Congress.
Perhaps, it is not good attribute of our Philippine Civil Service System to have as Ombudsman one who is a classmate of the FG at the Ateneo law school so that its judicial independence cannot be questioned.
That blanket rejection of the importance of such a WB report even as it may have to contain details indicative of corruption up to the level of the president appears not too healthy in a government that vows to have anti-corruption drive as high in its agenda. In the end, the diplomatic language used in the report may have been taken out of context altogether when it failed to even prescribe what the Senate had in mind.
Even if the statement of the FG was afforded a sweet time to be read by his counsel, it serves no real purpose than confirms what the people have long suspected – a sweeping denial of any possible involvement. Just like in Congress, a privilege speech issued by a legislator who refuses to be interpellated is nothing but a disservice even perhaps obstructs justice.
PRIMER C. PAGUNURAN
UP Diliman, Quezon City Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Cell: 09164985265