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‘Dito ba, o Dito ba’

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 21, 2020 - 12:00am

Anyone familiar with Original Pilipino Music or OPM will quickly pick up that today’s title is a playful spin on the hit song of Kuh Ledesma entitled “Dito Ba” where I inserted the name of aspiring telecoms company DITO. As you read on and then check the lyrics of the song you will realize that today’s opening piece has some people asking the very questions in the song.

A week ago someone from the Visayas reached out to me to inquire about how the company DITO transacts business, particularly in site acquisition, civil works or structural requirements and construction of cell sites and does DITO have official representatives going around the Visayas to negotiate project sites and works. I thought the guy wanted to see if he could offer property to DITO to rent or purchase, but as it turned out he and a group of other contractors/engineers were approached to participate in the various aspects involved in constructing cell sites or towers reportedly for DITO. Being contractors, they of course signified interest until some guys started getting suspicious. The long and short of it was that the people offering the projects were name dropping left and right, mentioning Dennis Uy, Adel Tamano, Chavit Singson and a company called ROMA. All the would-be contractors wanted to know was who they were dealing with?

Then the people making project offers were asking each contractor P100,000 as a lock-in fee per project that would be refundable once the contracts were approved. The lock-in fee had to be paid by 23 December but the awarding or contract approval per site would tentatively be released after the second week of January 2021. The lock-in gave the impression that if you paid the money you would get the project. This of course is strange since corporations usually call in for bids for projects based on a set requirement of work and location, require a deposit that would be returned after the bidding and then enter into a contract with the winning bidder/s.

The problem the would-be contractors had about the so-called projects was that being local residents and engaged in many businesses, none of them had heard of any property being bought or leased by DITO in their area and the project offers only came with a schedule of work but no location maps for the respective cell towers or sites. As one guy put it, you were being asked to fork over P100K x how many willing parties with no idea if you will end up with a project by the sea, up in the mountain or some remote jungle. Like in the song, the contractors are asking  “dito ba ang dapat kong kalagyan.” I hope Adel Tamano of DITO gets to read this because if some scammers are trying to hoodwink contractors in the Visayas, such an embarrassing and controversial event could rob DITO of much needed contractors and the support of the business communities.

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“Once burned, twice shy”

The saying basically tells us that once people are burned, humiliated or victimized, chances are they will think twice, and be very careful when faced by a similar situation in the future. Such is the case of DOH Secretary Francisco Duque with regards to the acquisition of the Pfizer vaccines. He did not drop the ball as some people suggested; he simply dribbled it into overtime. It seems that many people have forgotten how Sec. Duque was unfairly indicted, accused and bashed on social media during the Dengvaxia controversy.

First of all, Duque had just come in from the cold, not having much knowledge or involvement in the development and use of the Dengvaxia vaccine. The minute he came into the picture he was summarily accused as one of the guilty parties and, if I’m not mistaken, sued or made a respondent in court. But the worst part of it all was when bashers and the anti-Dengvaxia critics unfairly accused Duque of being in bed with the multinational pharmaceutical companies.

The “being in bed” line really stung Duque and he took every step to show he had no love lost for the pharmaceutical industry, he even refused to meet with industry representatives exclusively and went all the way to spearheading a second round of price control, price reduction measures on medicines. Needless to say, many people in the industry got hurt and hated what Duque did. Truth be told, some people in the industry dislike him passionately, so it was a total lie to say that Duque was in bed with them. Ironically, Covid-19 and the need for vaccines puts Secretary Duque in the most awkward and uncomfortable position. He remains traumatized by the Dengvaxia controversy, battered by the PhilHealth scandals and now, after making life and business so bad for the pharma companies, he must now swallow his pride and shamelessly negotiate with vaccine manufacturers. On top of that he is still haunted by the “in bed” accusation and that explains why Sec. Duque insisted on being methodical and deliberate in processing the Pfizer vaccine acquisition.

Unfortunately for Duque, this is a situation he can’t get out of or step back and let his minions do since the Executive Secretary has reportedly told Duque that he needs to be the principle party in negotiating and purchasing the Pfizer vaccines because them are the rules. I am reminded of what our most senior Pastor Steve Murrel once said: “Some mountains are meant to be climbed.” I would add: “There are also mirrors we cannot avoid.”

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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