MANILA, NOVEMBER 20, 2003  (MALAYA) Der Spiegel, a liberal news magazine operating out of Hamburg, claims that the alleged 500,000 deutschmark bribery by Fraport to a powerful and richest man in Central Asia "might be the biggest international criminal bribery."

According to the report, Fraport or Frankfurt Airport Company, concealed the transmission of bribe money given to the former chief of the Uzbukistani Airlines.

Fraport managers have been charged with "having drawn a contract with the country (Uzbukistan) with the aid of payments to (a certain) Rusznetow, a contract worth millions for the modernization, among other things, of the airport of Tashkent. The statutory offense is "international bribery," according to the Der Spiegel report.

The alleged bribery, the newsmagazine reported, "was carried out mostly with cash, sometimes covered up one way or another through consultative contracts.

"Since in many regions of the world nothing gets done without 'bakshbish' or gifts, German authorities also closed their eyes - until recently.

"Even the exchequer (treasurer) honored the bribery. Bribe money could be dismissed as 'useful expenditure' of the tax authorities."

According to the report, "On June 20, 2000 Fraport awarded two contracts worth DM478,000 to the Humarick expediter Kastan Kroll.

"This transaction was initiated by a Fraport project leader in Tashkent. Three days later the bill from Kroll entered Fraport. On July 5, the amount was finally transferred."

So why are we so het up about the declaration by the Supreme Court that the contract between Philippine International Air Transport Corp. and the Department of Transportation and Communications is null and void?

Piatco has a bribing partner. This is not the kind of foreign investor we want but it is what we get.

Stockholder sues Fraport

Fraport, the German partner of the family of Cheng Bon Yong in Philippine International Air Transport Corp. (Piatco) is getting deeper and deeper in trouble.

It is quarreling with the Chengs over financial settlements of Terminal III whose contract has been declared null and void by the Supreme Court.

It is also facing suits regarding the construction of an international terminal in Lima, Peru.

Before the Supreme Court declared the Piatco-DOTC contract null and void, the company was already under fire for monopolizing practically all of the concessions and services in the new terminal.

The same accusations have been made in Lima, Peru.

Now comes another problem. We learned from reliable sources that one of the stockholders has sued Fraport. We do not have the details of the charges but we suspect the stockholder has been embarrassed no end by the suits Fraport is facing in Peru and the Philippines. With a problem like this and the family of the Chengs having been accused of excessive spending, how can Liwayway Vinzons Chato, former BIR commissioner and now counsel of Piatco, claim that Gloria Tan Climaco is destroying the company so it can be handed to Lucio Tan?

Chato, a lawyer, conveniently forgets that Tan was one of six taipans who offered to construct the new terminal for $350 million (compared to Piatco's expenses of higher than $500 million but the terminal is not yet completed up to now). The six taipans backed out because the Chengs refused to divulge the terms of its offer when the proposal of the taipans was challenged.

Chato should keep herself busy defending the alleged financial malfeasances of her clients instead of covering it up by making wild, baseless, silly and unfounded accusations.

Chato is creating a smoke screen that does not hide the truth. This might have been a result of her personal hatred for Lucio Tan. We all remember that Chato created an investigating team to look into the tax liabilities of Tan's Fortune Tobacco and La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Factory of the Telingtan Bros.

She let La Suerte off the hook with an abatement agreement that was not even 20 percent of what was due government but filed criminal suits against the officers of Fortune Tobacco, specifically Lucio Tan.

If Lucio Tan was so influential with Joseph Estrada, why did his government appeal the case after the charges against Tan and company were dismissed?

A dirty deal is allowed

In spite of the disclosure of the one-sidedness of the concession contract between Duty Free Philippines and Colombo Management Holdings, a foreign company registered in Hong Kong, the government of President Arroyo has not found the time to look into the matter.

If it acts now and requires DFP officials to explain why the deal is so disadvantageous to the government and why no public bidding was ever called, President Arroyo would have stolen the thunder from the Senate committee on government corporations headed by John H. Osmeņa.

Osmeņa, his cousin Sergio III, Senators Edgardo Angara and Aquilino Pimentel jointly sponsored a resolution calling for the investigation of the concession agreement.

Osmeņa's committee is neck-deep in putting together materials that tend to show that the contract is indeed anomalous.

The purpose is to recommend the cancellation of the concession agreement.

I cannot understand why Malacaņang does not want to conduct its own investigation. But even if it does not, specifically the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, its findings that may say that there is nothing legally wrong in the contract will be considered by the public as pure whitewash.

In which case, the committee of Osmeņa will not be stopped from pursuing its own independent inquiry. The committee probably knows that like previous investigations involving powerful government officials, not much can be expected from Malacaņang in terms of canceling the contract.

But the inquiry is an additional weapon that the Opposition can use against President Arroyo in the 2004 elections.

The inaction or indifference of the government to this so-called sweetheart deal makes the call for reconciliation by President Arroyo a tough proposal to accept.

Another instance of gov't inaction

The laying of an additional submarine cable that will transmit unutilized geothermal electricity from Tongonan, Leyte to Cebu was awarded to Sumitomo, a Japanese company, during the abbreviated Estrada administration.

Immediately after the Arroyo regime took over, the award was canceled. The new government wanted a rebidding of the project on the stupid excuse that the award was attended by suspicious circumstances.

The Estrada contract with Sumitomo was for about $50 million when the foreign exchange rate was way below the present P55 to the dollar.

It is funny that government itself is making a new but higher estimate of around $65 million.

The cancellation of the award has created a minor diplomatic faux pax. The Japanese embassy has interceded.

The Asian Development Bank which is funding the project has insisted that the bidding that Sumitomo won complies with international bidding rules.

However, everybody in Malacaņang has become deaf and blind.

On further inquiry, we discovered that a powerful politician in Cebu has committed to give the project to a French company.

Cebu is coming closer and closer to the dark ages, literally speaking, while the government is faced with rising costs because of the depreciation of the peso.

Meanwhile, we earned another black mark in the international business community which must now be suspicious of putting in money in the Philippines.

If perfected and valid contracts can be canceled, there is no way an investor will do legitimate business in the Philippines.

If that is the case, "when in Rome, do as the Romans do." Meaning, bribe the decision makers and raise the value of the contract so the businessman makes the same profits by submitting to corruption.

There are no two ways of doing it. Not in these times of rampant graft and corruption.

Tesda's acts of oppression

The Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) is slowing down the deployment of Filipino entertainers to foreign countries, particularly Japan.

Applicants for "artist record book" who have been trained by Tesda itself are given the run- around. In fact, they are denied the ARB for very stupid, flimsy, unjust reasons.

A few of such applicants came to my office to denounce the inaction of Tesda on their applications. The reason given them was that there are daily protests among employees of the agency.

Therefore, they cannot do their jobs. Is that so?

Then what is the administrator, a certain Mr. Guiam doing? He cannot get his employees to work. He does not seem to listen to their demands to determine whether they are reasonable or not.

Therefore, nothing moves in Tesda.

Meanwhile, jobs - paid in dollars and yen and other stronger currencies - are being denied to the applicants.

The political spinmasters of President Arroyo are busy planning her campaign, none of them can find time to attend to this little problem. Little to the spin doctors, but life and death to the applicants for ARBs. Also foreign exchange income for the country.

Madam President, you might want to order this Guiam to do his job. Or dismiss him outright.

Your call for reconciliation will be well received by us poor people if you do something drastic about this simple problem.

Power of the powerful

A Christian governor of a large and prosperous province of Mindanao is reportedly facing at least two dozen charges before the Ombudsman.

The governor seems to be giving each of the charges, and also his constituents, a good, hearty laugh.

He has not even been summoned to explain his side. Which means that the charges are sleeping the sleep of the dead.

If that indeed is the case, this governor must be a powerful man. He must possess either or both of two things. He has a large political following whose votes can be delivered in the name of President Arroyo in 2004.

Or he is so rich that he can buy his way out of trouble.

Okay. That's how life is in this country. But how about the President's plea for reconciliation?

With governors like this one, probably identified as influential with Malacaņang, the job of uniting the people for the sake of the country becomes extremely difficult.

The problem of the President, I surmise, is her own people are reactionaries. They do not move until they are told by the President.

In this case for example, what is Interior Secretary Joey Lina doing?

I haven't heard much. In fact, I have not heard anything.

Kick their butts, Madam President. They just might do your bidding. They are not implementing your call for reconciliation.

- A.P. Macasaet Email: apm@malaya.com.ph

Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

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