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‘Cover fire’

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - December 30, 2020 - 12:00am

After all the flak and heat that Malacañang got from the controversial use of the China-made vaccine that has no local approval from the FDA, the President’s decision to publicly name names of politicians and DPWH officials allegedly involved in corruption was a welcome surprise but something to be treated with a grain of salt if not out right suspicion. I was reminded of a term or practice of military and police forces whenever they find themselves in a tight spot and need to move as safely as possible. That’s when they use “cover fire” or “covering fire.” One or a number of individuals shoot at the enemy with a barrage of bullets while the rest of the team or a key individual tries to scamper for safety or a better position.

What made the President’s mention of members of Congress suspicious was his choice of words and mention of Greco Belgica, the anti corruption czar. PRRD simply mentioned that congressman or congresswoman so and so owned a construction company and if there was an allegation of corruption, it was left there; simply allegations, and not much on available evidence.

One clue that supports the “cover fire” angle was when the President mentioned the name of Director General Greco Belgica, who has been been talking about the DPWH issue for several months until Duterte himself stated that there is separation of powers, suggesting that Congress should not be dragged into or messed with as far as the DPWH corruption was concerned. So the story died – or so we thought until last Monday when the President microwaved the frozen facts and identities and used them as ammunition, much like the movie “Wag The Dog.”

The cover fire was certainly necessary because all the angles surrounding the use and inoculation of members of the Armed Forces and the PSG and by any member of the Cabinet open up a can of worms, each of which have crawled all over social media and will surely be fodder for critics of the Duterte administration.

In a single stroke of political power, Malacañang rendered useless the entirety of the Food and Drug Administration and all it stands for. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, it usually took the FDA about one to two years to study, evaluate and process the approval of new medicines entering the Philippine market because of stacks of documentation, trials and testing. It did not matter if a new medicine was made by a reputable multinational corporation or if the medicine already had approval and use in countries that had better facilities and capacities for testing. But as of Monday evening, Dec. 28, the FDA had not been informed by the parties involved on who gave, sold, donated or facilitated the supply and inoculation of the Sinopharm vaccine. We only have an admission from the Presidential Security Group and the AFP that some personnel had been vaccinated in the interest of protecting the President from COVID-19. The only thing we heard was legalese and turning the table by the presidential spokesperson.

If the PSG and Malacañang were seriously concerned about the President getting infected, how difficult would it have been for them to connect with Pfizer to get a small batch of vaccines for the President and PSG personnel? At least with Pfizer, their data and documentation and acceptance globally are public knowledge.

Or, were the PSG personnel simply a willing group of guinea pigs who will eventually be the product endorsers for Sinopharm? The use of an undocumented, untested, unapproved vaccination given to government personnel could constitute reckless endangerment or reckless imprudence, graft or grave abuse of authority. Having sworn to protect the laws of the land, the use or approval of use of a vaccine with no DFA approval breaks the law. No amount of legalese on the part of Atty. Harry Roque will prevent potential investigations and future cases that could be brought to court against the President and his men. It would not surprise me if the opposition starts talking about impeachment even if their intention was only to launch an acoustic attack in response to Malacañang’s “cover fire.”

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While the accused and stunned politicians are probably still in a daze, I am sure that the talk of the town this weekend will probably center on “Who else has a construction company?” or “Is it now a crime for an elected official to own a construction company?” The fact of the matter is that many legislators as well as governors and mayors own construction companies.

Some time ago I wrote that some mayors in Metro Manila owned engineering or construction companies and that there was an unholy alliance and agreement among them. Because of anti-graft concerns and public perception, these LGU officials made sure that their companies never took projects in their own backyard. Instead, the project goes to another mayor’s construction company. In other words, they don’t shit in their own backyard.

Owning a construction company does not necessarily mean you operate a corrupt construction company. But since the President has decided to stir a kettle of corruption, perhaps he should also ask Greco Belgica to investigate or look into the business activities of the sons and daughters of Cabinet members. I’d like to think that Cabinet members are squeaky clean but I do know of some whose adult offspring have been mining and harvesting contacts, connections and projects and passing them on to third parties for a fee or silent partnership. While Belgica is snooping around he might also want to do a random check on the offspring of military and police generals.

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E-mail: utalk2ctalk@gmail.com

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