Den of thieves?

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Saturday, March 8, 2014


COMMISSION on Audi’s Heidi Mendoza, again, failed to get the green light from the Commission on Appointments. So, what’s the CA’s excuse this time?

“Senator Jinggoy Estrada was absent.” Mired to his neck in the pork barrel scam, the senator wanted to lob questiions at Mendoza. At his own good time, of course. He’s busy drafting a reply to the latest revelation before the Blue Ribbon Committee that he twisted elbows for pork barrel releases.

Mendoza is not alone in the CA freezer. Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo, the 2000 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee for good governance, went to his grave with confirmation snarled for years by Camarines Sur politicians.

There was wailing by those who undercut Roberdo. That’s par for a heavily politicized Commission on Appointments. It often resembles what Ali Baba called “a den of thieves.”

Mendoza is discovering that integrity and competence mean nothing in the CA. So did Robredo and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima before her. Concession is the only currency spoken there.

De Lima, who spearheads the probe into officials tarred by the pork scam, slammed Estrada. The senator denied that he threatened to block her confirmation, shunted aside for four years now..

That’s “practically blackmail...(If) that’s the price to pay for doing my job, so be it... I serve at the pleasure of the President," de Lima snapped. “And I’ll serve as long as I have his trust and the support of the public.

“Iyon ang importante sa akin, hindi 'yung isang naghahari-harian lang sa Senate or sa CA,” she added.

“She has balls” was the irreverent accolade people heaped on Heidi Mendoza. A COA officer for 22 years, she audited the Armed Forces comptroller’s office and documented plunder.
That included a P200-million reimbursement check from the UN for Filipino peacekeepers.

Mendoza’s report was stashed in the freezer. She resigned from a comfortable Asian Development Bank job to testify before Congress, on an almost P510-million AFP loss she traced. Former major-general Carlos Garcia is in prison today.

So, why is Mendoza still unconfirmed, asked columnist Solita Monsod two years back. And when did she get into the gunsight of Vice-President Jejomar Binay and his attack squads?

Rewind 12 years. COA then formed a “Special Task Force“ to sift contracts involving infrastructure projects of Metro Manila local government units. Mendoza was assigned to Makati. And her team went through deals for office partitions and furniture of the Makati City Government and city hospital.

That audit nailed Makati. overlords. Award on furniture was made on Sept. 15, two days before the bidding on Sept. 17. Bidding companies had the same owners but different addresses. The warehouse of a bidding firm was the same address used by the City of Makati in sending letters of invitation for another bidding company, ad nauseam.

Heidi Mendoza’s record is spotless, Monsod notes. "That she quit ADB is a testament to her indifference to financial security. Her statements of assets, liabilities show no unexplained wealth.”

It is an open secret in COA that the one responsible for this situation is—guess who?—the Binay camp. They think Mendoza wants her job so much she can be persuaded to soft-pedal on her findings on Makati's embedded corruption there. “It has another think coming.”

Now, Binay lusts to be President in 2016. And guess who he floats as his vice president after Lucena governor Vilma Santos-Recto said no thank you sir?

Jinggoy Estrada. That’s who. Pag may tiktik, may aswang, the old Pilipino proverb says.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on March 09, 2014.

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