Running the Philippine government based on good governance even in the current administration is far from ideal. Let’s hope the next one can improve on its track record instead of going backward.
From BusinessWorld Philippines
August 11, 2015
The Straight Path — bumpy and potholed
As I have written here before a number of times, I voted for Mr. Benigno S. C. Aquino III in 2010 because among the candidates for president, he was the one who promised to put an end to corruption in government and to infuse a culture of change in governance.
I was assured when he declared during his inaugural address that:
“The first step is to have leaders who are ethical, honest, and true public servants.”
“Let those who know of anomalous deals entered into by government officials expose them that they may be shamed and ostracized by society.”
He reaffirmed his campaign promise to put an end to corruption when in his first State of the Nation Address he said:
“Our administration is facing a forked road. On one direction, decisions are made to protect the welfare of our people; to look after the interest of the majority; to have a firm grip on principles; and to be faithful to the public servant’s sworn oath to serve the country honestly. This is the straight path.”
Eighteen months after his inauguration as President, he initiated action that led to the removal from office Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Renato Corona, the biggest roadblocks in the Straight Path. The new Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, lost no time in shoving off the Straight Path Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla.
But the Straight Path turned out to be bumpy and potholed.
The zealousness and earnestness that the President displayed in the cases of Chief Justice Corona and Ombudsman Gutierrez were sorely missing in the case of Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chair Sixto Brillantes.
The Comelec chair was accused by Automated Election System (AES) Watch of “supreme betrayal of public trust” by purchasing 80,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan machines when he knew about the highly-questionable performance of the Smartmatic-supplied AES in the 2010 elections and Smartmatic’s inability to correct the program errors in preparation for the 2013 mid-term elections.
The complaint was formally filed with the Ombudsman by AES Watch convenors led by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona, Jr. Not only did the President take no notice of the complaint against his former election lawyer, his office even released additional intelligence funds in the amount of P30 million to “help Comelec in urgent special operations.”
The President’s appointees to the Social Security System (SSS) board were each given a one million peso bonus in 2013 when the provident fund increased by P100 billion. But only P26.45 billion, or only a quarter of the total increase, was earned from private equities and government securities. Much of the increase came from the increase in the voluntary contributions of employers and employees, self-employed, and voluntary members.
The corporation code says that directors are not to receive any compensation except for reasonable per diems. The SSS per diem is set at P40,000 per board meeting and P20,000 per committee meeting. A maximum of two board meetings and two committee meetings are held in one month. That means a board member could get as much as P120,000 a month or P1,440,000 a year if the board member attends all board and committee meetings.
Other than SSS President Emilio de Quiros, Jr. the directors do not have substantive experience in investment banking nor are they involved in SSS’ operations. The P26.45-billion increase in the SSS provident fund can be attributed to Mr. de Quiros’ investment skills only. Therefore, the P1-million bonus given each of the other directors was not only unjustified but was immoral as well.
The President vacillated on the dismissal of Land Transportation Office Chief Virginia Torres, his province-mate and shooting buddy. Stradcom Corporation filed corrupt practices complaints against Ms. Torres for her refusal to pay P1 billion in overdue payments to Stradcom Corporation. Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose de Jesus thrice ordered Ms. Torres to sign the release order for the payment of Stradcom. She refused to sign the order, triggering the resignation of the DoTC secretary.
Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation Chair Cristino Naguiat, Jr. was named in a lawsuit filed in a district court in Las Vegas. The lawsuit said that Mr. Naguiat, his wife, three children, and nanny received free accommodations at a luxury suite in Wynn Macau; that they were assigned the casino’s best butler and that he requested and received a $1,878-Chanel designer bag for his wife.
The suit also claimed that Kazuo Okada, then-Wynn Resorts director, spent $50,000 on Mr. Naguiat’s visit in September 2010, including $20,000 in cash given to the Filipino delegation for shopping and gaming. Mr. Okada was alleged to be developing a business for his own Universal Entertainment Group in the Philippines. President Aquino saw no wrong in his former classmate’s conduct.
He showed no zeal in getting to the bottom of the unbridled smuggling of food commodities when he did not ask Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, his party mate to go on leave like he did to Health Secretary Enrique T. Ona. The President asked Sec. Ona to go on leave to explain the alleged irregularities in the procurement of the Pneumococcal Conjugate Vaccine (PCV) 10 instead of the reportedly more cost-effective PCV-13 two years ago. Dr. Ona said purchasing the PCV-10 actually resulted in savings for the government. Dr. Ona, feeling the pressure, eventually resigned.
The President did not suspend or sack Philippine National Police Director General Alan L. M. Purisima, his bosom friend from way back, for accepting donation as much as P11 million from three construction firms for the construction of the official residence of the Police force chief. He has not seen fit either to inquire as to how Purisima was able to develop his sizable estate in Nueva Ecija when he had been a police officer all these years. He even stood by the PNP chief by saying him by saying he does not know Purisima to be “luxurious and greedy.”
Just last Friday, Ombudsman Morales ordered a preliminary investigation and administrative proceedings against Technical Education Skills and Development Authority Director General Joel Villanueva in connection with the alleged misuse of P10 million in lawmakers’ funds.
On the same day Justice Secretary Leila de Lima filed a complaint against Mr. Villanueva, the President’s political ally, for his alleged involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. The Office of the President issued yesterday a statement that it is up to Mr. Villanueva to take a leave of absence or not.
The path may be straight but it is bumpy and potholed.
Oscar P. Lagman, Jr. is member of Manindigan!, a cause-oriented group that takes stands on national issues.
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