Corruption is corruption, be it in DPWH or BIR

SHOOTING STRAIGHT - Bobit S. Avila - The Philippine Star

I read in The STAR that President Duterte has vowed not to forgive officials involved in corruption and has urged the public to report irregularities so that the government could act on them. Well, last Monday I reported on what has been happening in Cebu City with Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials.

President Duterte, who has been accused by his critics of applying a double standard in the crackdown against corruption, said he is ready to put in place a new “structure” to ensure that projects are free of irregularities.

“I do not forgive cases of corruption. Wala talaga. Walang areglo, wala lahat (Nothing. No compromise, no anything). No quarter given, no quarter asked,” Duterte said during a televised public address Monday night. “Iyang sa mga project sa baba, iyon ang laro diyan (Corruption is present in the projects on the ground). So we might, maybe, place another structure there – structure to improve the integrity of the projects and puwede ninyong ma-report maski ano, basta corruption and walang patawad (You may report any corruption and there will be no mercy),” he added, but did not elaborate on the new structure that he wants established.

The President made the remark days after he described the corruption in the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as “grave.” The statement also came as some senators are alleging that the DPWH budget for next year contains billions in lump-sum appropriations.

Duterte, however, is convinced that DPWH Secretary Mark Villar is not involved in anomalies. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque Jr. said Villar still has the trust of Duterte because the DPWH chief has effectively delivered infrastructure projects promised under the administration’s Build, Build, Build program. “Secretary Villar has lots of money. He does not need to steal money. The problem is in the lower level, and it’s still serious until now,” the President said.

Duterte also encouraged the public to report anomalies through the government hotline 8888. He also reminded agencies to publish details of projects, including interested bidders, so that the public could check their background.

Duterte has fired several officials tied to anomalies, but critics are not impressed, noting that some of the dismissed appointees were given new posts.

Last Monday, I wrote in the Freeman about what is happening with the Bureau of Internal Revenue these days. I just heard from so many friends that the BIR is literally hitting on many businesses despite the fact that so many businesses suffered during the global pandemic.

What really surprised me was a text message that I got from Rep. Ade Sitoy, presidential liaison officer, who texted me this message: “Bobit, your Freeman column today is timely and consoling to Cebuano businessmen who are harassed by the BIR official who is out to collect and collect in disregard to procedural assessment. I have received many complaints against him…Kudos!”

Perhaps Ade Sitoy should report this case to Atty. Greco Belgica, who handles the anti-corruption office in Malacañang. So I’m not alone in getting these ugly reports coming in from Central Visayas and this includes many businesses also in the island of Bohol. If not for the IATF initiated lockdown, businesses would have never suffered the way they did in Central Visayas.

I also heard that this BIR official was supposed to have been transferred by now… but he made an appeal to stay on which was approved, so now he is hitting on many businessmen. He doesn’t realize that many businessmen are connected to the Duterte government in one way or another, which is why this BIR official should take it easy, otherwise he’d end up in a hot spot.

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After giving you some bad news, there is good news in the Vatican as a Cebuano priest has been named by Pope Francis as Papal Chaplain or a member of the papal household. This honor was given to Msgr. Jan Thomas Limchua, nephew of Tatay Dodong Limchua of CCTN.

Msgr. Jan Limchua finished his theological studies at the Faculty of Theology of the University of Navarre in Pamplona, Spain. He was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of Cebu last 2010. They are addressed as Monsignor and have certain privileges with respect to ecclesiastical dress and vestments.

Msgr. Jan Thomas Limchua, was assigned as a papal representative in Egypt until this year.

He earned his doctorate in Canon Law at the Pontifical Lateran University in Rome and underwent his diplomatic formation at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, the diplomatic school of the Holy See. He then entered the diplomatic service of the Holy See last 2014, serving at the Apostolic Nunciature in Benin and Togo (West Africa) and in Egypt.

Earlier this year, Limchua was appointed as an official of the Section for the Relations with States of the Holy See by the Vatican’s Secretary of State, His Eminence Pietro Cardinal Parolin. The appointment is considered an honor for the Archdiocese of Cebu.

Limchua is the third Cebuano to enter the diplomatic service. The other two are: Archbishop Osvaldo Padilla, Apostolic Nuncio Emeritus to Korea, and his brother Archbishop Francisco Padilla, the Apostolic Nuncio to Guatemala.

Another good news for Cebu was the swearing into the Swiss Guard of half Cebuano Vincent Lüthi, who was among the 38 new recruits who took oath of allegiance to Pope Francis in the Vatican on Oct. 4.

The Swiss Guards is an elite corps of soldiers who protect the pope that has been around for hundreds of years. The 22-year-old Luthi grew up in Cugy, Switzerland, the only child of a Swiss father and a Filipino mother from Santa Fe town on Bantayan Island in Cebu province.

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