The silent pandemic
The Senate blue ribbon committee’s report on the nature of the deals struck between the Department of Health by way of the Procurement Service of the Department of Budget and Management (PS-DBM) and Pharmally Pharmaceutical Corp. in 2020 and 2021 stated that “the deals, worth P11.5 billion in all, were grossly and manifestly disadvantageous to the government.” Sen. Richard Gordon called it “a grand conspiracy”; for Sen. Franklin Drilon, it was “premeditated plunder.”
The Commission on Audit (COA) also censured the Department of Education (DepEd) for failing to deliver on time P5.53 billion worth of computers, textbooks, and other learning materials that were supposed to have been bought in 2020 from the PS-DBM, the very same PS-DBM involved in the Senate inquiry on Pharmally.
The DepEd’s purchase of 39,000 laptops for public school teachers were coursed through the PS-DBM. The evaluation, inspection, and procurement process were all carried out by the PS-DBM. The contract was awarded to the second lowest bidder at P2.3 billion, which was P167 million higher than the bid of the lowest bidder.
Likewise reprimanded was the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), for transferring P1.4 billion over the past nine years to PS-DBM. Still, despite its failure to deliver, PS-DBM continued to charge the DENR and other government agencies like the DepEd a four-percent service fee.
Now, it is extremely disturbing to hear that the World Bank (WB) plans to extend a $110 million loan (equivalent to P5.6 billion) to the DepEd in February 2022 to finance its Strengthening Alternative Learning System Program, despite the WB’s earlier assessment that “80 percent of Filipino students are performing below their grade level.”
Why is the WB now giving more money to the debtor it found to have failed to put its borrowed funds to good use? Is the WB not aware that, according to the 2019 audit report of the COA, the DepEd failed to spend the P1.03 billion intended for the purchase of textbooks and other instructional materials, and that the DepEd’s below-par accomplishment rate had deprived public school students and teachers of adequate and quality learning materials? Will the WB continue to condone the bad habit of a borrower of channeling its funds and allowing somebody else to have full control of the money it borrowed? Shouldn’t the WB be concerned about how the DepEd uses the funds it borrows, money it is not for the DepEd to misuse and abuse?
Why is no one questioning the DepEd for assigning its bounden duty and responsibility to procure learning materials to the PS-DBM? Why is the DepEd delegating this most crucial and critical decision to the PS-DBM when the DepEd itself cannot come up with error-free modules and textbooks?
The Shylocks, unscrupulous merchants, loan sharks, and usurers of this world will lend you unlimited sums of money for as long as they are assured of getting their pound of flesh once you default. The Philippines was the WB’s top country-borrower in 2021, with debts in excess of $3 billion (or P155 billion). No less than the future of the next generation of Filipinos serve as the collateral pledged by our government for the payment of these loans.
But have these loans really been used for the purpose for which they were secured? Who has profited from them? Certainly not the 80 percent of Filipino schoolchildren who, according to the lender’s own assessment, “don’t know what they should know in school”!
Children inevitably become collateral damage because of the sins committed by their elders and wards. Widespread and unchecked graft and corruption in government is a silent pandemic that inflicts irreversible and irrevocable damage to the lives, properties, and future of the people.
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Antonio Calipjo Go is a retired private school supervisor who has waged a crusade against error-riddled textbooks in the Philippines for the past 26 years.
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