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01:15 AM October 16th, 2013

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By: Neal H. Cruz, October 16th, 2013 01:15 AM

It appears now that there is widespread looting in the government in spite of P-Noy’s anticorruption and “daang matuwid” stance. It is not only in Congress where vultures are feasting on the people’s money and corruption is rampant but also in the executive branch, the government-owned and -controlled corporations, and, in the unkindest cut of all, the judiciary. Like pigs, all three branches of government are wallowing in the same mud. What is happening? Is P-Noy losing control of his administration? Is this administration sincere about instituting reforms, curbing corruption, and cutting wasteful spending?

Members of Congress are still fighting to keep their beloved pork barrel in spite of appeals by the people to abolish it; the Departments of Agriculture and of Agrarian Reform have been shown to be willing conduits of funds for nonexistent projects of bogus nongovernment organizations; directors of GOCCs have been giving themselves million-peso bonuses; and now it was discovered that there is at least one syndicate that fixes the results of court cases for a fee, and also the result of elections for the association of judges. If there is a “Ma’am Janet” in the pork barrel scam, there is an influential “Ma’am Arlene” in the judicial scams.

No wonder there are skewed decisions in all the courts, including the highest one. Apparently, all that wealthy litigants have to do is go to “Ma’am Arlene” and the judges’ decision would be in their favor.

How can the poor get justice in the Philippines when the rich can buy justice?

How does “Ma’am Arlene” do it? The same way “Ma’am Janet” did it, with a five-letter word: MONEY.

You may have the evidence and the smartest lawyer on your side, but if the money is on the other side, what chance have you got, with the current abysmal quality of our judges and justices?

Reform is much more imperative in the judiciary than in the executive branch because the former is the dispenser of justice. Without justice, everything else fails.

* * *

Equally abominable is the timing of the grant of million-peso bonuses to directors of the Social Security System. The extravagant bonuses were given at the same time that the SSS increased the premium payments of its members. The reason given is that the SSS needs funds to shore up its dwindling financial situation. Why would it not dwindle when the officials who are supposed to safeguard it are looting it? Premiums increase but not the members’ pensions.

SSS members spend many, many years—almost a lifetime—paying the monthly premiums, expecting that when they grow old and retire, they would have a nest egg to comfortably live on. When they retire, they get a pittance, not even enough for medicines in their old age. But as soon as a director is appointed, he gets P14,000 just for attending a meeting that lasts maybe only four hours, a car and allowances, plus a P1.7-million bonus near the end of the year, not counting the 13th-month pay.

In his first State of the Nation Address, President Aquino denounced the excessive pay and perks of officials of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System. With a regular annual payroll of P51.4 million, MWSS executives get P81.1 million in additional benefits and allowances. In short, of the water firm’s P211.5-million annual budget, 66 percent comprised additional perks.

As a result of his discovery, P-Noy formed the Governance Commission for GOCCs (GCG) to curb abuses by the boards of directors who have a penchant for giving themselves lavish perks.

But that only made things worse. Now all that the corporations have to do is go to the GCG and ask permission to give their officials million-peso bonuses, and the latter gladly grants it. Now 20 GOCCs have given themselves fat bonuses, with more millions coming this Christmas.

Bear in mind that many GOCCs are subsidized by the national government, which means by taxpayer money.

When will the looting stop?

* * *

Will the problems of Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon never end? After failing to meet his collection target and to curb smuggling, Biazon was scolded publicly by P-Noy. He was so humiliated that he offered to resign, but the President told him (according to Biazon) to stay on.

To curb corruption and increase collection, Biazon reshuffled his key subordinates. They took him to court and refused their new assignments. Why?

The judge surprisingly granted a temporary restraining order on the transfers. To top it all, his boss, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, claims just now that he did not approve the transfers. What a boss!

In order to stop corruption and increase collections, Biazon decided to computerize operations. The project introduces a modern and internationally accepted system of transacting with the Bureau of Customs without any personal contact with any of its employees or officials because all computations of tariff duties are immediately processed by computers. The system speeds up transactions up to 20 times faster than the current system.

The project was lawfully awarded to Webb Fontaine last May and was about to be implemented, but the disqualified bidder, Omniprime Marketing Inc., was able to secure an injunction from the Manila Regional Trial Court. (Ma’am Arlene, were you there?)

Since then, this worthy project has not been able to move because of the injunction. This prejudices not only Webb Fontaine, which has brought in expensive equipment, but also the government because its effort to curb smuggling is again hampered.

The injunction has derailed BOC efforts to stop smuggling. Poor Biazon.

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