BOO CHANCO POINT OF VIEW: CALIFORNIA TURNING TO SHOWBIZ, TOO!; COA

MANILA, August 15, 2003 (STAR) By Boo Chanco  - What did anyone expect? California is Hollywood, America’s tinsel town. California is also the state that inflicted on America and the world, Ronald Reagan. It shouldn’t be surprising that when the going gets rough, California goes escapist. Enter… The Terminator!

This world really sucks! Just when some people are seriously thinking of migrating ahead of FPJ moving into Malacańang, Arnold Schwarzenegger has a good chance of taking over as California’s new governor. In California as it is in the Philippines, the politicians have so messed up governance that people are ready to take a chance with action stars.

The only difference is we have taken that course not too long ago and it was not a very good experience. But these are desperate times. California, just like the Philippines is facing a serious budget deficit and its top officials are also being accused of inept leadership.

Compared to us, however, California is big time. If California were an independent country, it would rank fifth in the world, just below Britain and just ahead of France. It is a trendsetter among the 50 states in the Union and has attracted the lion‘s share of new immigrants. It is a real and active melting pot of races… a living expression of the immigrant spirit that made the United States of America.

But things haven‘t been rosy in America‘s most interesting state. First, Silicone Valley‘s high-tech bubble burst and while there are new signs of recovery there, it is still not nearly enough to make a difference in terms of employment and, therefore, taxes for the state government.

Indeed, because jobs are difficult to come by, latest figures indicate that more people have left California for other states in the past few years than those who have moved in. California is the most significant contributor to those distressing employment statistics that zaps the morale of America‘s business sector, not to mention the White House, today.

The power crisis precipitated by greedy energy traders like Enron also effectively gouged the California treasury during the watch of the present governor. The present governor‘s inept handing of that crisis is in fact, at the root of California‘s current budget woes. Rising costs of providing services, including education and health care amidst a shrinking tax base brought them to where they are now.

No wonder I felt like I never left home when I was in California last June. People are forever bitching about new taxes and higher fees. For another, the carnival atmosphere prevails despite all the bad news. I also don’t feel too foreign in California. Non whites now outnumber whites in this state. Asians and Mexicans are the new power blocs. But the politics has yet to fully evolve to reflect the new demographics. In the meantime, this mess came upon them.

A CNN poll revealed that 70 percent of Californians consider the candidacy of Schwarzenegger seriously. A majority of voters are inclined to vote for him from a field of over 120 candidates that includes a porn star, a pornographer and other assorted kooks. As a sales promo effort, the 99-cent store chain even offered to pay the candidate‘s registration fee of anyone aged 99. These Californians are making our own political contest look civilized and less of a circus in comparison.

Does this mean the California voters are as stupid as we had been when we elected Erap? Seems obvious, huh? Or maybe they are just as cynical and frustrated so that they are ready to try the untried and the untested and damn the consequences. Then again, they may just ignore the election and allow the clowns, the crooks and the kooks to do their worst.

COA

Commission on Audit (COA) head Gem Carague wrote to dispute claims made by an academic paper of mutineer Navy Lt. (sg) Antonio Trillanes that COA auditors collect one-to-two percent lagay from suppliers. "Our auditors complain," Mr. Carague wrote, "that in most cases, they are simply used as convenient scapegoats by unscrupulous agency personnel who make the suppliers and dealers believe that ‘one-to two-percent lagay’ had to be added for the auditors, although the amounts are actually augmentations to their own pockets."

Carague explained that they have lifted pre-audit requirements since 1995. This means "no prior approval from COA is necessary to consummate any transaction." Furthermore, the COA chief pointed out that they have been filing cases with the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan based on COA adverse audit reports. Unfortunately, he said, they cannot prosecute cases themselves.

To show that his auditors are on the job, Mr. Carague said, "in the years 1998 and 2001 alone, we lost three of our dedicated and young auditors who were gunned down by unknown killers, simply because they were brave enough to expose the anomalies committed by some people in power."

He also cited "COA Special Audit Report No. 94-98 pertaining to the audit of the Philippine Navy transactions on the procurement of construction materials and other supplies involving hundreds of millions of pesos. This audit report is the subject of Criminal Case No. 25679-80 and OMB 4-97-0965 filed against top naval officers and men now pending at the Office of the Ombudsman."

Carague conceded that "not all our people in COA are saints. In fact, a number of COAns have already been suspended/dismissed from service after due process due to illegal and anomalous practices." He concluded that in the end, heads of offices are our first line of defense. They should not only know what is going on below them, but must take care in hiring only trustworthy people for sensitive positions such as procurement. Fact Finding

The Chief Counsel and the members of the Feliciano Commission should be reminded that they are supposed to be looking for facts, not prosecuting witnesses or delivering sermons to juvenile delinquents. Maybe the presence of TV cameras is responsible for some element of grandstanding, specially on the part of lawyer Mario Ongkiko.

Academician Carol Hernandez should also try harder to simplify her questions and avoid sounding like a professor. She used the word "qualitative" at one point when all she wanted was a comparison. Ayun, sa haba haba ng nauubos na oras as she tried to frame her question, hindi rin siya naintindihan.

Atty. Ongkiko should try thinking more like a journalist asking who, when, what, why, how. How come he missed asking for the name of the officer who ordered the witness to throw grenades at a mosque? Or the name of the informer who told the witness of the presence of General Corpus in Davao? Instead, Atty. Ongkiko wasted time debating the witness on the similarity of General Corpus and the Bataan veterans. That was a pretty stupid part of the hearing that was mercifully cut off by Chairman Feliciano as it was obviously a waste of time.

Atty. Ongkiko should stop trying to destroy the credibility of witnesses. His job is to try to obtain as much information, in a manner that is as efficient and as clinical as possible. The criminal prosecution should happen later on in a proper courtroom. The veteran lawyer should do his best to suppress what looks like an irresistible urge to grandstand, unless he is running for public office. But in that case, he should know that TV is a hot medium and to be effective he must remain very cool. His present style is very alienating and unproductive. Bonus

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@bayantel.com.ph


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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