Citizens hostage of gov’t legalities
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - December 10, 2014 - 12:00am

Ex-congressman Florencio Noel’s entry to the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office fills up its five-man board. Yet the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) is vetting a candidate for one more director. This reportedly is to oblige a nominee of the ruling Liberal Party from Pangasinan.

If the GCG endorses that sixth director for presidential posting, it would violate the PCSO Charter. Enacted by Congress, that Charter specifies only five board members. No executive agency, not even the Office of the President to which the PCSO is attached, may supersede a legislation.

The GCG notoriously is politicized. No screening, it routinely puts in LP gofers for presidential signature. One such was Orlan Calayag, ex-aide of Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala, LP treasurer. Calayag first was “cleared” by GCG as NFA trustee when there was no vacancy and he was away immigrating to America. Then, newly returned to Manila months later as American tourist, he was made NFA administrator, a post only for natural-born Filipinos. Only later did he apply for dual citizen and submit credentials to GCG. The agency bothered not to square the dates of his appointments while he was working odd jobs as a misfit in the US. Exposed he was defended by the press secretary, who ate crow when shown official documents. An embarrassed P-Noy let go of him a year later. By then Calayag had caused two price hikes of rice, vegetables, and pork, and was implicated in billion-peso kickbacks.

All this would not have happened had GCG been on the ball. Yet there it goes again, trying to squeeze in an LP man.

When GCG’s creation by an LP bill was tabled in Congress, critics said it would only add another inept layer in the bureaucracy. That’s coming true.

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Foreign Smartmatic Inc. holds the Comelec by the nose so hard it practically brags so in its latest press release. The firm is being petitioned for blacklisting, for selling P10 billion lousy voting machines in 2010 and 2013. To that it declares that citizens have no choice but to shell out P1.2 billion more for it to refurbish the fast-aging units. For the Comelec to bid out the work instead of contracting it outright would void the system warranties for the 2016 elections, Smartmatic harrumphs.

That a totally unqualified firm has such temerity makes citizens hostage. Comelec already erred in leasing 74,000 precinct count optical scanners for P7.2 billion in 2010, when Smartmatic misrepresented itself as software developer-owner. Comelec slipped again in buying the old machines and adding 12,000 more for P1.8 billion in 2013, for the PCOS failed to finish the precinct count and national canvass. Besides, there was P5 billion added cost, for accessories, warehousing, manning, and tally transmission.

Its SEC registration authorizes Smartmatic to transact with the government only for the 2010 election automation. Yet, the Comelec is letting it bid for yet another P4.3 billion in voting machines, and closed-door negotiating for the P1.2 billion refurbishing. The citizen hostages have no choice but to comply.

The citizen hostaging is happening in other agencies. The Dept. of Budget and Management misappropriated P57 billion in 2011-2013 to items that Congress never approved or even heard off. When discovered, the DBM sneered that such “Disbursement Acceleration Program” was for economic pump priming. And when the Supreme Court disallowed it, the agency glares that the ban is slowing down the economy this year. Meaning, citizens had better allow the DAP’s revival if they want progress.

The PNP chief is aping the bad example. Suspended six months by the Ombudsman for a scam in gun license deliveries, he refuses to depart but invokes legalities: One, the suspension is not a punishment but mere formality while he is being investigated; yet his leaving would worsen the crime wave. Two, it was his predecessor who had signed the sleazy deal, and he had stopped it.

Citizen hostages who follow the news know better. It was this PNP chief who triggered the crime wave by promoting incompetent favorites, other bad contracting, and disarming law-abiding gun owners. As for the license delivery scam, it was he who implemented the dirty deal, but was forced to stop it only because of public outcry. Now he says he must stay on for the citizens’ good.

The hostaging is happening also in the state railways. Already exposed was the poor maintenance at the MRT-3. Yet the influence-peddling contractors were retained, or else there would be no maintenance at all. In effect, it’s the hostage-citizens fault for expecting maintenance at all.

Worst is how local officials evacuate and underfeed the poor in public classrooms during natural calamity. Oblivious to disrupting school, they claim that the provincial capitol or municipal hall has no money for subsidized shelters. Yet, who has been stealing taxpayers’ money in the first place? And who gerrymandered the already low-income jurisdiction into another province, city, or township, if not the politico who wanted to prolong his dynastic reign?

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

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