That was a masterstroke on the part of President Duterte, trying to convince former President Fidel V. Ramos to be a special envoy to conduct back channel talks with China. This is in the aftermath of the decision of the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision on the territorial dispute in the South China Sea.
The question is whether FVR would accept the task, given that he is already 88 years old.
Yes, we won our case at the UN arbitration court, which ruled that China’s nine-dash-line claim to nearly the entire South China Sea is illegal. The court also said that China’s territorial claim is against International Maritime Law.
But China has refused to participate in the arbitration proceedings even as it is a signatory to the Unclos. It also said the decision was null and void.
If FVR accepts the job—Mission Impossible, I call it—he won’t even able to start talking with China about the PCA’s decision. While diplomatically China may accept FVR as special envoy of the Duterte government, its doors are already closed, and will remain closed, to the idea of negotiation.
What, then, can FVR negotiate, when China has become an immovable object on the issue? Tensions over the China issue will continue and there’s nothing we can do to stop. So, what now?
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I got hold of information about an anomalous transaction at the Department of Public Works and Highways. Obviously, former Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson was not aware of this because the amount involved is only P44 million—below his authority to approve at P50 million. Still, this anomaly can only indicate the magnitude of irregularities that have made the DPWH one of the most corrupt government agencies.
This anomalous project is called “DPWH Contract ID No. 16000052-CY2016” on the annual operation and maintenance of traffic signal facilities in 56 intersections along Manila North Road Bulacan to Tarlac Section and Jose Abad Santos, Guagua and Lubao, Pampanga Section.
The pertinent invitation to bid was posted on the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGeps) on March 29, 2016. On March 31, 2016, one Arthur Q. Santos, head of the Bidding and Awards Committee of DPWH Region III, also placed an ITB advertisement in the Manila Times and made the official bid documents available at the DWPH Region III Office so that interested bidders can participate.
A review of the Philgeps-The Manila Times ITB notices versus the official bidding document shows a glaring discrepancy. The ads state that the contract is “civil works,” categorized as “construction project.” The official bid documents, however, state that the contract is for “delivery of goods and services.”
Thus, the Philgeps and the Manila Times ads, through no fault of the publication, misled potential bidders into thinking that they are not qualified to bid because “civil works and construction projects” require a Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board license and a DPWH Contractor Registration Certificate, thereby limiting the number of bidders.
The true nature of the contract stated in the official bid documents —“delivery of goods and services” —does not impose the same rigid requirements.
In this regard, the DPWH violated the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act 9184, which reads: “the provision of the IRR are in line with the commitment of the GOP to promote good governance and its effort to adhere to the principle of transparency, accountability, equity, efficiently and economy in its procurement process. It is policy of the GOP that procurement of infrastructure projects, goods and consulting services shall be competitive and transparent and shall go through public bidding.”
My gulay, because of the misleading advertisement, only three entities showed interest to bid. This prevented other bidders from proving their capability and using their resources.
Another violation, which is very blatant, of RA 9184 was when DPWH Region III specified on the bid documents the brand name of goods and equipment to be used for the subject contract (Aldridge traffic controllers and Swarco LED modules). Rule VI-18 states that “reference to brand names shall not be allowed.”
Because of the reference to specific brands, one of the three bidders, Abratique & Associates, decided not to join the bidding. The other bidders were KIV Marketing and Traffic Safety and Construction Corp.
Despite the highest calculated bid, KIV was awarded the contract. KIV is the exclusive distributor of Aldridge and the authorized distributor of Swarco, brands specified in the contract. At the time of the bidding, KIV was not listed as a DPWH contractor with active and legitimate PCAB licenses required for the DWPH civil works projects.
The two aforementioned major violations of the procurement law merit serious review by the Duterte administration and investigation. In fact, with these violations of the law, I believe that the entire project should be scrapped in the interest of transparency and competitiveness. The entire bidding process was flawed from the start, which makes the contract null and void.
I had admired former DPWH Secretary Singson for trying his best to rid the graft-ridden DWPH of corrupt officials. To a certain extent, Singson succeeded. But it’s obvious that since Singson was already on his way out, corrupt DWPH officials tried to pull a fast one on him.
This may well be the test for DWPH Secretary Mark Villar, given the vow of President Duterte to rid the country of graft and corruption. President Duterte has said the three most corrupt agencies are the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Land Transportation Office. He may as well add the DPWH to the list, because it is rotten to the core.
This anomalous transaction has already reached the attention of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales. Given the blatant violations of the Procurement Act, the Ombudsman must file a case of graft and corruption against those involved, including the bidders that participated in this project.
The amount may not be as big as the more controversial cases we know. But we must remember that it’s the small things that breed corruption in government.
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There are pluses and minuses in Du30’s campaign against illegal drugs. The President’s commitment and political resolve to eradicate the illegal drugs menace within three to six months is certainly a plus. The police, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency are now doing their jobs. The ranks of the Philippine National Police are being cleansed.
But there are more minuses. The President has given marching orders to the police and other law enforcement units to go against illegal drugs. With this, a culture of violence and impunity has developed. Many of those reported to be in the drug trade are reported to engage the police in shootouts and then killed. The culture of vigilantism has also come about. Alleged drug pushers, which include the police, are also killed.
I still believe that the police cannot just summarily kill anybody involved in the drug trade. I am pro-life and I believe that everybody, even criminals, enjoys rights.
The fact is that the campaign against illegal drugs appears directed against the poor. The Duterte government must remember that there are also drug users and dealers in gated subdivisions.
The President must prove that his campaign against crime, illegal drugs and corruption is not selective. He must show to us that the affluent are not exempt.