, FEBRUARY 22, 2008 (STAR) DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco - Ate Glue defended her anti-corruption credentials saying she had allocated P3 billion to fight corruption in recent years and spearheaded lifestyle checks of officials suspected of living beyond the means of their government salaries. Reacting to the testimony of Senate star witness Rodolfo Lozada Jr. that she was at the center of the country’s graft problems, Ate Glue insisted she has put an anti-corruption campaign at the top of her agenda.

In her opening statement at the Procurement Transparency Group-National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet Group meeting at the Aguinaldo State Dining Room in Malacañang, Ate Glue pointed out that “dozens of government officials had been removed and charged in court every year because of our lifestyle check.” Ate Glue also pointed out the budget of the Office of the Ombudsman was doubled to allow it to hire more investigators and prosecutors.

How come such protestations fail to get traction in the realm of public opinion? It is simply because action speaks louder than words.

How can anyone believe Ate Glue’s supposed advocacy of transparency and good governance at a time when the Palace is still stonewalling public demands for Romy Neri to complete his Senate testimony and for NEDA’s Augusto Santos to release relevant transcripts of NEDA meetings that discussed the ZTE-NBN deal?

I caught the tail end of Pia Hontiveros’s show on ANC where Ric Saludo passionately urged that the public withhold judgment until institutions in our judicial system hear and rule on the issues behind the ZTE-NBN scandal. I realize Ric is just doing his job. But I hope he also realizes that the reason why these institutions have been discounted is because his boss, Ate Glue, has damaged these institutions through her appointments.

Take the Ombudsman, for example. Given that Simeon Marcelo resigned the position because he couldn’t stand the extreme pressures on him in a number of headline cases involving administration figures, Ate Glue should have looked for a replacement equally respected for independence. She appointed her legal counsel and known Arroyo family friend. That’s the end of the institution’s credibility.

Already starting with a credibility handicap, the Ombudsman could have done something to win public trust she badly needs to function. But her first major decision, made with a lot of delays and great hesitation, was to absolve Comelec officials, notably Benjamin Abalos of any wrongdoing with regard the computerization deal which the Supreme Court already ruled anomalous. The public is left to believe that a crime has been committed according to the Supreme Court but there are no criminals according to the Ombudsman. No one is even trying to get our money back as the high court ordered. Paano naman yan?

Then she made a big announcement almost two years ago about filing charges against Nani Perez, a former Secretary of Justice (her ex-boss) with regard to a high profile case that involved moving large amounts of money in foreign banks. That was the last we heard of the case. I read the other day that when asked about it, the response was they are still studying the motion for reconsideration filed by Nani. For all we know, Nani is innocent of the charges and the delay is causing him unwarranted anxiety. The long delay is also not helping the Ombudsman win public trust on her ability to make impartial decisions.

Going back to Ate Glue, whatever happened to that anti-corruption expert from Hong Kong that she hired? I understand he has made his recommendations and the taxpayers have paid his fee. But nothing much more has been heard about his work and his recommendations. It is strange, or maybe it isn’t, that Ate Glue kept on talking about this guy and his anti corruption work in Hong Kong and how we will benefit from his experience and then it was all quiet. Did he set the bar too high for Ate Glue’s taste? Since we have paid for it, perhaps Ate Glue can release his report so we can at least be entertained by it.

There are other recent developments that fall under the category of testing our credulity or our patience.

There is that Palace lawyer who admits giving Lozada half a million pesos in cold cash with no other motive than to help someone in need. (Ok guys, the line starts after me). The money is his personal funds, he reportedly initially said, and it is just a loan for poor JLoz. He must be a rare bureaucrat who is rich and with a heart of gold. He hardly knows Lozada yet he sends him half a million pesos of his own money? It doesn’t add up. I think Ate Glue should subject him to a lifestyle check for having so much loose cash. (He has amended his story… from unnamed private sources na daw… tsk… tsk… tsk. It still doesn’t add up.)

Then there is Romy Neri, again. When he was revealed to have described his boss as evil, he tries to evade giving a categorical confirmation or denial by saying he can’t remember saying it. Romy must really be still struggling to figure out how much white lies his conscience can take.

He should have gone for broke and directly denied saying any such thing, if he can’t bear losing his Cabinet perks. Saying “I don’t remember” may fool some people but not Ate Glue who can only take his answer as a yes. Romy may think his boss is evil but she is definitely not stupid. Now she knows how Romy feels about her and that means, Romy’s goose is cooked, unity walk photo ops notwithstanding. It is still messy to get rid of Romy now but he is finished nevertheless.

Ric Saludo is right to say we must make our institutions work. But it is too late for that, thanks to his boss. People Power may be too drastic a solution for many folks these days but just maybe, there is still time for an independent commission to sort things out.

We are just wasting our time with the DOJ and Ombudsman probes. Neither will be credible. Thus, neither will fail to defuse the brooding public distrust of this administration. What we need is an independent commission of citizens (like the Davide Commission) to look into the various issues raised. It must have powers to subpoena people and documents and cite those who refuse to cooperate with contempt. That may need special legislation too.

In the meantime, I hope Ate Glue and company got enough of a jolt from current events to want to do something to repair their damaged credibility… and I don’t mean by buying full page advertisements. They only have to clean up their acts or if that’s not possible, get intensive drama lessons so they can lie more convincingly before the news cameras.

Army trucks

I received this e-mail from PhilStar reader Rey Vergara of Makati.

In today’s issue of The Philippine Star, Gen. Hermogenes Esperon showed in a press release a long line of newly-procured military trucks.

In the spirit of transparency and in the light of the government’s desire to have a positive public perception, the DBM or the AFP must publish the public bidding participants and the cost of the winning bid for these trucks.

In fact, all public biddings and the results of which must be made public with full disclosure of the ownership of the business entities participating in such biddings.

When people see the general showing off the newly procured trucks, the first thing that comes to mind is “how much commission got into the hands of …”

By publicizing the bidding, people will be well informed and if done above board, they will realize that Ali Baba and the thieves do not reside in the Philippine government.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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