Battling graft

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By Godofredo M. Roperos

Politics also

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


AN ISSUE emerged recently that challenged basic government efforts to control or do away with shenanigans in public service. We are referring to the administration’s efforts to extend assistance to the victims of last year’s twin calamities, the 7.2 magnitude temblor that hit Bohol and super typhoon Yolanda that hit some parts of the Visayas.

The two calamities left the hardest hit inhabitants practically hopeless. But thanks to the unseen hand of the Divine Mercy, many of them lived to bear witness to the kindness of their fellow men, who went out of their way to send assistance.

The problem is that the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery (OPARR) found “smuggled and substandard construction materials being sold in areas recovering from typhoon Yolanda.” This was uncovered after a raid was undertaken.

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The OPARR head thus issued a warning, saying that an estimated P40 million worth of construction steel was found during a joint raid of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG).

The OPARR head’s report pointed out that “about 16,000 pieces of steel bars, 600 tons of angle bars in varied sizes, uncertified Galvanized Iron (GI) wires and unmarked roofing materials were seized from a warehouse of Tower Steel Corp. in Golden Gate Business Park, Barangay Buenavista, General Trias, Cavite last July 8.

The raid was undertaken by the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detention Group.

The perpetration of graft in the implementation of charitable assistance to the victims of the twin calamities is made even more despicable when considered against the backdrop of more than 6,000 casualties and the damage of about “P40 billion worth of infrastructure and crops.”

The OPARR seems to have zero tolerance over the practice that defeats its “overall strategic vision of building back better and safer (homes for the victims.} Worse, victims may be deceived into buying cheaper materials.”

The OPARR head, Panfilo Lacson, used to lead the PNP before he was elected to the Senate. When President Noynoy Aquino asked him to join the Cabinet, he willingly lent his experience in helping the administration fulfill the “Matuwid na Daan” anti-graft and corruption program.

Lacson has become a sort of anti-graft czar of the present government. And judged from the way the administration gained public respect despite the recent DAP imbroglio, it seems to be winning the challenge.

The problem arising from the Supreme Court (SC) decision over the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) is largely political than anything else.

And the fact that President Aquino went out on a limb to retain Budget Secretary Florencio Abad indicates that the President believes in the solid foundation of his stand and the rationale behind his decision.

There’s a good chance, really, that he will somehow prevail.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on July 17, 2014.

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