“At any street corner, the feeling of absurdity strikes any man in the face.” Nobel Laureate Albert Camus said that of the turmoil lacerating his native Algeria. That barb applies to 1,928 lightless street lamps mouldering on Metro Cebu street corners.
Those lamps lit up the 12th Asean Summit.But they flickered out as delegates left. Only 41 light up now — if overdue electricity bills are paid. Vandals tore down 165. Scavengers peddled to scrap dealers much of the wire in 1,722.
Mayor Arturo Radaza didn’t shove lamps under bushels. He lined Lapu-Lapu city streets with 139 “single-arm” and 60 “double-arm” lights. Then mayor Thadeo Ouano festooned Mandaue city’s streets with 89 lampposts, plus 78“single-arm” lights. Total tab: P365 million.
Taxpayers were bilked P72,500 for a “single-arm” post, an earlier Ombudsman-Visayas report reveals. Double-arm posts price tags bolted to P85,000. Similar lamps, installed in Naga town, Cebu, cost less than P15,000.
Stow those lightless lamps, embarrassed Cebuanos urged. But they are evidence in criminal proceedings. So, they moulder in the dark. Cases against Radaza, Ouano and public works officials haven’t gone to trial. Why?
In an Ombudsman, overseen by Merceditas Gutierrez, “case just lie there, and they die there,” says “Philippine Human Development Report 2009”.
Of 9,826 criminal cases lodged with the Ombudsman, over 12 years, almost 58 percent remain unresolved, Of 9,033 administrative cases, over 61 percent gather dust.
PHDR is a biennial study crafted by Filipino scientists.. United Nations Development Programme and New Zealand co-sponsored this latest edition. It analyzes institutions, politics and their impact of human development.
Ombudsman Gutierrez undid reforms instituted by her predecessor, the respected Simeon Marcelo, the study says. She re-centralized decisions in herself. She shut out the Commission on Audit and Civil Service Commission.
Cases were refrigerated in the process. These include the P1.4 billion Mega Pacific election computer scam, the P728 million fertilizer scandal and $328 million ZTE broadband scheme. Add to that Asean street lamps.
Ombudsman conviction rates plummeted from 55 percent in 2007 to zero in June 2008. Ms Guiterrez’s credibility plunged in tanderm, . Public perception of the Ombudsman’s sincerity in battling corruption last year scraped at +4 precent, Social Weather Stations found. This was a nosedive from the high of +24 percent Marcelo set.
Now, Sandiganbayan’ prosecutors claim: evidence against Asean lamp suppliers Fabmik Construction & Supply Co. “is weak. This is a 180-degree turn.
“It reeks of collusion by multiple parties,” former Central Bank governor Jose Cuisia Jr told the Conference of Independent Business Clubs. “How is it possible that an office that found probable cause, filed…the criminal information with Sandiganbayan would later say it has no case?”
Rules were “brushed aside just to achieve the illegal purpose of purchasing items at prices the suppliers pegged,” Ombudsman-Visayas reported earlier. “Not one qualified Bids and Awards Committee observer was present during the entire procurement process.” Commission on Audit was shut out. Signatures scrawled on program of works and estimates are “footprints of their participation in the project”,
Cuisia is president of the giant PhilAm Life Insurance company. He wears the Coalition against Corruption chair’s hat.. This civil society has, for members, Bishops-Businessmen’s Conference, Ateneo School of Government, Baurg Pilipino Cebu and other cause-oriented organizations.
“Every Filipino must know what goes on in Malacañang”, Cuisia told Cebu and Makati business clubs. “But it is essential he knows what goes on in his backyard first.” Watch how tax pesos are spent by local governments – and hold them to account.
Sleaze does not emerge overnight. Earlier infractions that go unpunished spur it’s spread. Like cancer, graft metastasizes from impunity.
Re-read the 2007 Mactan Island Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MICCI) survey Twelve respondents, in Lapu-Lapu city, claimed The mayor himself made the demand for money…And 15 respondents asserted “one of the mayor’s assistants” demanded the grease for release of license, permit or clearance.
Radaza & Co. bought P23.4 million worth of Pentium 4 computer clones from a fly-by-night shop. At P49,900 each, they were double the cost in legit shops. There’s been no sanction. Neither have Lapu-Lapu figures, involved in funneling Girl Scout funds into a congresswoman’s private account, been held accountable..
Local governments, steeped in sleaze, rarely deliver basic services.” A quarter of Lapu-Lapu homes, for example, have no toilets. It is water short. And garbage is poorly collected.
“Fundamental change is needed but has not occurred”, PHDR notes. “Deeper than policies and larger than individuals, it is the institutions that structure behavior that matter deeply”. This is specially relevant for a “soft state” like the Philippines. Here, rules and enforcement are for sale.
Like Camus “street corner absurdities” , those lightless lamps make corruption visible. So, did Imelda’s 1,080 shoes, Erap’s’ “Jose Velarde secret bank account or Gloria’s “Hello Garci” tapes. The lamps are 1,928 parables that instruct without words.