These local gov’t rackets can spread nationwide
GOTCHA - Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) - July 20, 2018 - 12:00am

Trial of the “PNP chopper scam” goes on at the Sandiganbayan. Generals are in the dock for procuring two used civilian aircraft as brand new in 2009. Prosecution is presenting evidence and witnesses. Sen. Ping Lacson, ex-PNP head, had implicated first gentleman Mike Arroyo as the seller. The helicopters allegedly were among five that Arroyo had bought for the 2004 presidential election. Businessman Archibald Po testified at the Senate to supplying the units, as exclusive local dealer of Robinson Helicopters of California. But Arroyo claimed that his congressman-brother Ignacio Arroyo, now deceased, merely had leased them from Po’s Lion Air Inc. The lease supposedly was through Arroyo’s LTA Corp.

Last month Deputy Director Jerry Labaguis Leal of the Anti-Money Laundering Council testified. He reviewed bank transaction records, particularly the source and destination accounts, on request of Deputy Special Prosecutor Omar Sagadal. Seen were three payments for the helicopters – $408,067.06 and $509,065.41 on Feb. 27, 2004, and $148,217.53 on Mar. 1, 2004. That total of $1,065,350 was in addition to the $500,000 that, Po earlier swore, was Arroyo’s partial payment to Robinson’s on Dec. 11, 2003.

The Ombudsman is seeking to prove fraud and corruption. That is, that Arroyo bought the five choppers and used them for five years, then passed on two to the PNP as brand-new after some retouching.

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It’s rampant. In Metro Manila cities supposed environment teams flag down diesel vans and trucks in streets for random emission testing. Testers would floor the pedal, naturally making the tailpipe spew smoke, while cohorts measure the supposed pollution with hand-held gadgets. Vehicles invariably are found in violation of emission levels, the plates confiscated, and the drivers issued citations. There’s only five days to have the vehicle checked, then retested at an accredited motor vehicle inspection service for P430, and the plate retrieved for a P1,600 fine. The racketeers officiously identify themselves to victims as “flying squad”, so they conveniently can fly off upon striking at dozens of them at a time.

Here’s the catch. There’s nothing really wrong with the vehicles. The offices involved only split up the money. Fake citations and receipts are issued for the payments.

A recent victim recounted his ordeal. He had just renewed the registration of his ten-year-old van. Naturally in that process he first had to have it cleared by the MVIS before he paid the Land Transportation Office fees. Days later his driver motored through Pasig City, was stopped, tested, and ticketed by the “flying squad”. He had the driver go to the MVIS then the plate-releasing unit at once, shelling out the combined P2,030. Hours later the driver passed Pasig again, was stopped, tested, and ticketed. Again the P2,030 was paid.

The victim realized: His van had just undergone periodic maintenance in order to be registered. Then the “flying squad” flunked him twice in one day, yet the MVIS passed him twice too without doing anything to the van engine.

* * *

It gets worse. In Mandaluyong City a gang of self-proclaimed “Ortigas Enforcers” confiscates drivers’ licenses for minor or imagined traffic violations. Victims have the option to pay on the spot, called “areglo” (“fix”), or be issued a citation and pay at City Hall. Even motorists who merely drop off passengers at the curb are accosted for illegal parking and forced by the burly goons to pay up.

It’s bad enough that motorists are caught in hours-long traffic in Metro Manila. Those racketeers on the road make it worse.

Hard-hitting DZMM-TeleRadyo commentator Ted Failon had exposed those two rackets years ago in Makati. They stopped – but apparently have moved to the next towns.

* * *

Another racket that Ted has just exposed is partly responsible for the bad state of telecoms service. Those telecom companies need to secure local government clearances to expand their facilities. Certain barangays are having a field day, charging the companies P5,000 per post that would be put up, and P100 for every meter of cable to be spanned. That racket thrives in Quezon City where barangays are big, each consisting of dozens of subdivisions and slums. Imagine how much a company would need to shell out just to lay down one kilometer of fiber-optics cable. No wonder those firms are expanding so slow, the facilities so flimsy, the service so spotty, and the charges sky-high.

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This week was delivered to Philippine Airlines the first of six new Airbus 350-900s, along with an A-321. The A-350s will fly the Manila-New York and -London routes by Oct., after initial fielding in Asian destinations. PAL has the option to acquire six more A-350s till 2020.

PAL recently was adjudged the world’s second most improved airline of 2018. The national flag carrier earned the distinction for its frontline product and staff service standards. The London-based international air transport rating organization Skytrax reviews the quality of airlines, then ranks them. PAL was adjudged to have zoomed from rank 67 in 2017 to 49 in 2018, next only to giant China Southern that moved from 23 to 14.

Earlier this year Skytrax also upgraded PAL to four-star airline rating. It rated PAL’s overall staff and product services, from in-flight to ground, international and domestic routes.

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

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