Once more - with feeling-A A +A
Saturday, February 2, 2013
IN two Sun.Star columns, Public and Standards editor Pachico Seares skewered state investigators and prosecutors for ham-handed handling of the P403-million Asean Summit lamppost scandal.
The blatant overpricing embarrassed Cebuanos who urged the hulks be stowed. Yet, “state prosecutors couldn’t prove the overprice,” Seares erupted. “That stings the most.”
We echo Seares’ gripe “once more - with feeling.” Here are excerpts of our Inquirer column on “Mute Paralables of Greed”:
“At any street corner, the absurdity strikes you in the face.” Nobel Laureate Albert Camus wrote. It applies to 1,928 lamps that lit up 12th Asean Summit but flickered out as delegates left.
A year later, only 41 would light up - if overdue electricity bills were paid. Vandals tore down 165. Scavengers peddled to scrap dealers much of the wire in 1,722. “These are mute parables of greed.”
Mayor Arturo Radaza lined Lapu-Lapu streets with 139 “single-arm” and 60 “double-arm” lights. Then mayor Thadeo Ouano festooned Mandaue with 89 lampposts, plus 78 “single-arm” lights. Total tab: P365 million.
Taxpayers were bilked P72,500 for a “single-arm” post. Double-arm posts price tags bolted to P85,000. Similar lamps, installed in Naga town, Cebu, cost less than P15,000.
In an Ombudsman, then overseen by Merceditas Gutierrez, “cases just lie there, and they die there.” Of 9,826 criminal cases lodged with Guterrez, over 12 years, 58 percent were unresolved. So did 61 percent of 9,033 administrative cases.
Midway in the Cebu scam, Sandiganbayan’ prosecutors claimed: evidence against Asean lamp suppliers Fabmik Construction & Supply Co. “is weak.” This is a 180-degree turn.
“It reeks of collusion by multiple parties,” former Central Bank governor Jose Cuisia Jr. told the Conference of Independent Business Clubs. “How is it possible that an office that found probable cause, filed...criminal information with Sandiganbayan would later say it has no case?”
Cuisia is president of the giant PhilAm Life Insurance company. He wears the Coalition against Corruption chair’s hat. Members: Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference, Ateneo School of Government, Barug Pilipino Cebu and other cause-oriented organizations.
“Rules were “brushed aside just to achieve the illegal purpose of purchasing items at prices the suppliers pegged,” then Visayas Ombudsman Virginia Palanca Santiago documented. “Not one qualified Bids and Awards Committee observer was present during the entire procurement process.” Commission on Audit was shut out. Signatures scrawled on program of works and estimates are “footprints of their participation in the project”,
All is not yet lost - yet. The new Ombudsman is Conchita Carpio Morales, known for integrity - and bluntness. When Arroyo justices scrambled to award tycoon Eduardo Cojuangco with 16.2 million San Miguel Corp. shares, bought with funds chipped in by small farmers, this former Supreme Court justice dubbed it “joke of the century” - and showed why in a concise dissent.
A pity none of Carpio-Morales’ grit rubbed off on hold-over Visayas Deputy Ombusdman Pelagio Apostol. This vital office needs it because graft metastasizes from impunity.
Like Camus’ “street corner absurdities,” those lightless lamps made corruption visible. So did Imelda’s 1,080 shoes, Erap’s’ “Jose Velarde secret bank account and Gloria’s “Hello Garci” tapes. Even in storage, those gutted lamps are 1,928 parables that instruct without words.
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Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 03, 2013.