'IS OUR government beyond redemption?' was a rhetorical question posed by President Aquino in his Inaugural Speech. A few minutes later he added unreassuringly: 'I do not believe that all of those who serve in our government are corrupt.'
Thus a problem is defined. There are at least some who serve in our government who are corrupt.
What to do?
'Secretary de Lima, you have your marching orders.'
An energetic, tenacious and impartial Department of Justice is a necessary, but far from sufficient, resource for creating the fair society we seek.
If we are addressing government corruption, we are often, though by no means always, confronting overprice where excessive amounts of public money are spent on inferior goods and services.
But alleged overprice cases do not reach a decisive conclusion. None of the Cebu lamppost scam, the Bacolod schools computer alleged overprice, NBN, fertilizer fund, all perpetrated in the wicked years 2004-2007, have reached a point where we can say 'case closed.'
The methodology of dealing with these cases may be suspect. It would seem fair to everyone, including the respondents, to establish firstly whether there has been an over price. The respondents are free to explain why the contracted price is reasonable though in the case of 1800 lampposts costing P365m this may be difficult.
The Court reviews the evidence and decides whether or not there is an over price. If the Court decides there is no overprice, then it is case closed.
If the Court decides that there is an over price, then the respondents need to make their defense. We would be making progress. This proposed two stage process dealing with (1) Is there an over price? and (2) What happened to the surplus funds? Can lead to a satisfactory conclusion that proves the innocence or guilt of the respondents.
But the Ombudsman Visayas' conduct of the alleged schools computer overprice, after over two years and endless 'clarificatory' hearings which tend to make the circumstances of the case more opaque, is thoroughly unsatisfactory. The facts of the case need to be established. A more decisive approach step-by-step needs to be taken:
(1) What computers were installed?
(2) How much public funds were used?
(3) For the computers installed, how much public funds should have been used?
(4) Is there a discrepancy between (2) and (3)?
(5) Can this discrepancy be satisfactorily explained?
(6) If not, who is responsible?
Instead, the Ombudsman is presiding over a directionless mess whereby no progress is being made. A waste of time!
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Agriculture received special mention in the Inaugural Speech:
'If there was a fertilizer scam in the past, today there will be security for the farmers. We will help them with irrigation, extension services, and marketing their products at the best possible prices.
We are directing Secretary Alcala to set up trading centers that will directly link farmers and consumers thereby eliminating middlemen and opportunities for corruption. In this way, funds can be shared by farmers and consumers.'
Sec Alcala, therefore, has his marching orders. These were amplified in a June 30 news item which reported that President Aquino sees Alcala as a `main agent for the job generation aspect of our platform.' Alcala stated: 'In three years' time, we may no longer have to import rice.' We hope he is correct. But our analysis shows that in 2013 our population will be 100 million. Rice production will have to be increased substantially to cope with population growth as well as the current two million tonne deficit.
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'Gradually we will lessen the lack of infrastructure for transportation, tourism and trade.' Spot on! We support the appointment of Alberto Lim as Tourism Sec. A micromanager in the best sense of the word, Lim does not remain aloof from the nitty gritty. Tourism needs attention to detail as well as marketing skills. The Chinese are on the move and with appropriate tourism-related decision-making, we can obtain our fair share of this enormous market.
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Truth Commission. Much depends on its terms of reference. President Aquino is taking a hard line on reconciliation. 'There can be no reconciliation without justice.'
When Nelson Mandela assumed the Presidency of South Africa in 1994, he established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Headed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu its aim was to try to heal the wounds of a divided nation. It enjoyed some successes. Erstwhile thuggish members of the Bureau of State Security (BOSS) confessed to their misdeeds. Winnie Mandela, however, did not co-operate-much to the chagrin of Archbishop Tutu.
If anyone can make a success of the Truth Commission, it is Hilario Davide. We wish him well. Much depends on the terms of reference of the Commission which, according to an AFP report published yesterday, may take a month to establish.
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President Aquino shows he is profoundly democratic and that he accepts the mandate of the people. We hope that he can accept the people's mandate relating to their choice of Vice-President. Binay has considerable abilities and it would be regrettable and indeed wasteful if Aquino cannot find a useful and productive role for his Vice-President.
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In some journalistic circles it is customary to give the incoming president 100 days grace.
There is no honeymoon from Honeyman!