Public bidding for appearance’s sake?
CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - November 9, 2018 - 12:00am

The recently concluded public bidding for the “Third Telco” franchise in the Philippines now sounds more like an election and selection instead of a public bidding. Except for one happy participant, the rest of the pack now sound like election candidates declaring “I was cheated.” To be fair, participants have raised issues early on with one bidder even going to court to challenge the bidding rules or procedures in selecting the third player. Another bidder suggests that the bidding was discriminatory to favor companies with a war chest but no real experience. But the saddest thing I heard many times yesterday was the general impression or suspicion among media people that the bidding is beginning to look more like a zarzuela or an orchestrated conspiracy where all the “actors” are playing a role because the public bidding is simply for appearance and compliance sake.

That may be a bit of a stretch but considering the complaints from the start, followed by an analysis of so called bidders, and due diligence on front acts and players what comes to the surface is that most if not all of the bidders are Johnny come lately in the real mobile and data telco line of business. The players may have operations in one aspect but not enough or large enough to validate their ability or capability to stand alongside Smart/PLDT and Globe. The impression of several media observers is that many of the participants were assembled in the last 30 to 60 days as teams. The funny part of it all is that the whole thing reminds many of public biddings at the Bureau of Customs in the past where several bidders show up but turn out to be one and the same except for amateurs and outsiders who are misled and misinformed so they make low or losing bids.

In the end, a comment that sums it all up was: “Looks like China was the only one that had the means and the size to win the bid – so why didn’t they just make it a government to government arrangement?”

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“The newly appointed President of PhilHealth was charged for corruption before the Ombudsman two days ago.” What else is new?

I have commented time and again that every time a new president is appointed at PhilHealth, part of their initiation process or hazing is to be charged for corruption or incompetence at the Ombudsman and maligned with an organized demolition campaign in newspapers and social media. I have known this organized activity being done against the last 3 or 4 presidents of PhilHealth and this recent one is no different. You first receive emails, then messages on Facebook about the cases being filed, followed by links and images of published news items regarding these cases. The only difference this time is that it’s no longer from one source. There are two additional groups but they are apparently against those publicizing the charges or those who filed the charges.

Although it was out of topic, I pushed my luck and asked Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque to comment on the matter and judging from his facial expression it was like reminding someone of an unsettled score or a perennial irritant that he was fed up with. Duque expressed his full support for PhilHealth President Ferrer as well as his instructions for Ferrer to fight the matter head on because it was clearly another attempt to intimidate and cripple the PhilHealth leadership from initiating reforms particularly the mandatory rotation of the “Band of Brothers” or PhilHealth officials in Mindanao who as Duque termed it; have established their “Fiefdoms” in the south.

If Secretary Duque and Mr. Ferrer want to go head on against the Mindanao blockade at PhilHealth, then the quickest way to go about it is to call in a coordinated strike from Malacañang, DOJ, Civil Service Commission, Sandiganbayan, PNP. It is not enough that the PhilHealth resident fights the battle by himself. The endemic and long-term internal conflict in PhilHealth has to be addressed and the process should include its Chairman Secretary Duque as well as the members of the Board, the Office of the President, etc.   If you have a destabilizing rebellion from within that constantly discredits the institution, then it is time to treat them as no less.  From the way Secretary Duque referred to the problem, I was reminded of the state of affairs of the Bureau of Customs. Perhaps it is time to declare certain positions vacant due to insubordination and acts of destabilization by persons concerned, give them a choice to be rotated or removed for cause.

Judging from the past experience of PhilHealth presidents, they were all charged or accused and scandalized through media. They responded with facts and data to clear their names, but none of them hunted down the enemy so to speak. Once the controversy has settled they too settled in their office or their work not realizing that the rebels in PhilHealth were simply gathering accusations, ammunitions, and allies with as much vested interest or covetousness in their guts. Once the rebels found allies and opportunities they struck using their favorite media, political ally or relative with the apparent help of one or two PR practitioners.

Someone asked me how can they fight the rebellion? Well, you don’t win the war by simply establishing your innocence or integrity. That was never really the point of the attack. The objective was to get the official out of PhilHealth or out of their way. So do unto others what they would do unto you and just like they do, make it public including those who are giving aid or comfort to the enemy, especially the politicians. The last thing a politician wants is to be perpetually barred from running for public office or exposed.

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