In a call that I received the other day from my soft-spoken sister in law, Dr. Felicitas L. Manaloto, she shared with me some nuggets of her wisdom. I respect her a lot not only because she has the blood of my lovely lady, Carmen, but because of her intellectual gift and her profound way of showing how much she cares. Because of these qualities, she started from among the lower positions in the city health department and rose from the ranks in government service until her retirement as the City Health Officer although, at still another time, she steered the city hospital away from the kind of facility Dr. Juan Flavier, described as Monalisa hospital "they lie there and they die there".
In her mind, my articles have been too "exacting" on the way some of our leaders run the government. She was careful to avoid using the word cruel. I could discern what she withheld from saying. Tact. She sensed that I have been too harsh on some of our officials but probably she also saw the validity of some points I raised that it took her time to explain her concern. Dr. Manaloto wanted me to temper my language and without losing sight of any issue, write with less venom. "Balancing interests" would have been the phrase if we were to pick a line from many a Supreme Court ruling.
I like to believe that I now have that frame of mind in addressing a matter that I found disturbing. Our papers yesterday reported the contrasting positions of two of our officials. On one hand, Hon. Jose Daluz, III, city South district councilor expressed the opinion that some supplies procured by the government are priced abnormally high. As a specific example, the ball pen that is sold in the open market at P12.00 each only is acquired by the city at P19.00. If we make a little calculation, the over-price is something like sixty five per cent (65%). Grabeha ou, sobra man sa tinunga! If the councilor found the price difference shockingly high, it was because it was (still very much is) demonstratively anomalous.
It took unprecedented courage for Hon. Daluz to ask that the ballpens be returned to the supplier. He risked the ire of some possible demigods who might have engineered the deal but he could not just ignore the two reasons that prompted him to advice that move - poor quality and obvious over price. And it is not late to applaud him for that less confrontational stance for he could have initiated a stinging complaint and demanded a bloody investigation
There appears to be no question that the pens were of the unacceptably poor quality. If it were not for the influence of my Ate Fely, I would have said that the acquisition was tainted with corruption. The announced act of the supplier to exchange them with better and more expensive ones was a "smoking gun" of some kind. To retrieve a physical evidence of corruption was definitely a smart way of anticipating an Ombudsman inquest.
Yet, on the other hand, Chief Rolando Ardosa of the city's General Service Office had a skewed justification for the price variance. The reports quoted Ardosa in his attempt to explain a mind boggling scene. Consider this portion of the news attributed to him: "the suppliers give a higher price than that in book stores because of several factors that drive up the prices of goods x x x"
Wow! So Ardosa knew that there was an over price. Thank God, he was aware of the difference. At least, he was not misled into accepting goods at higher prices. It would also be safe to conclude that he too, knew the over price was as high as 65%. After all, his office acquired ball pens priced actually at P12.00 by paying P19.00. Considering that the ball pens delivered by the supplier and accepted by Ardosa were of inferior quality than those that carried a tag of P12 per unit, how much was their actual price? It naturally cost lower than P12.
Truth to tell, had not my Ate Fely called up earlier, this article today could have been differently written. As it is, it does not carry the indignation that I truly feel.