An enabling environment for nefarious activities | Inquirer Opinion
Kris-Crossing Mindanao

An enabling environment for nefarious activities

An enabling environment for nefarious activities

Recent news stories and events that hogged mainstream media headlines have shown how the Philippines has been considered a fertile ground for a wide range of nefarious activities. These range from the illegal drug trade, human and sex trafficking, pyramiding scams, to illegal gambling and now, illegal offshore gambling, among others. These do not include the innumerable cases of overpricing and hoarding of basic commodities, with the complicit roles played by government officials, then and now. Corruption and other anomalous practices among government officials are reported almost daily, with no one held accountable for alleged plunder and huge cases of malversation of public funds.

On July 6, authorities in Porac, Pampanga, raided a sprawling 2-hectare compound believed to be the private residence of the big bosses of Philippine offshore gaming operations (Pogos), the Lucky South 99 Outsourcing Inc.

The raid was conducted based on a search warrant issued by a local court, and carried out by the Philippine National Police authorities in Pampanga, together with provincial governor Dennis Pineda, and a provincial board member. The team found out that the three mansions in the compound have access to a sophisticated indoor firing range and an underground tunnel. The firing range is quite modern and well-equipped and no less than one of the raiding officials admitted that the PNP does not even have this kind of facility.

All these and past cases of irregularities and anomalous transactions implicate top-ranking government officials, like the alleged Pogo bosses. If government officials claim ignorance of such activities within their jurisdiction, it is a manifestation that they have either turned a blind eye to these illegal activities for pecuniary reasons or that they are not doing their due diligence as local chief executives.

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The proliferation of these activities is also a glaring and sad truth about Philippine bureaucracy—that it has very weak regulatory and investigative mechanisms, including an equally debilitated checks and balances system. More importantly, its infrastructure for transparency, accountability, and other crucial requisites for a truly working public administration and management is quite frail. Those tasked to hold people accountable for irregularities can easily be swayed by the lure of money and access to more power in the future.

It is not the first time we heard about local government officials totally oblivious to what is happening in their area of responsibility. Just a few months ago, we learned about the irregularities of illegally constructed structures, including a swimming pool, on the foothills of one of the Chocolate Hills. The whole area where the hills are located has been classified a cultural heritage park, and as such, structures like swimming pools and other buildings like hotels are not allowed there. But the local government in the three municipalities straddled by the famous hills claimed that they did not know who allowed those structures to be built and granted the building permits to the business owners. Several national government officials, including the interior secretary, went there to investigate. But nothing came out of that investigation, and after a while the issue was buried, only to be replaced by similar irregular, anomalous cases like that of Guo Hua Ping, aka Alice Guo, the elected foreign mayor of Bamban, Tarlac.

Years back, I did investigative research on the illegal drug trade in the provinces of Maguindanao (it was just one province then) and Lanao del Sur. The study unveiled the “dirty entanglements” among people in authority and those alleged to be the bosses in the illegal and highly profitable drug trade in the two provinces, and in other localities as well, to ensure that the illegal trade thrives. It described several weak links in the government’s security and investigative structure, making it easily bent to the insidious goals of illegal business persons and their wards.

The anomalies surrounding the election of an Alice Guo Hua Ping as Philippine mayor and the existence of Pogos would not have been possible under a truly functioning, transparent, accountable, and stringent criminal investigation and justice system that we still don’t have.

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TAGS: Kris-Crossing Mindanao, opinion

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