Six executives of the National Printing Office are feeling the wrath of what appears to be a disgruntled contractor of the agency.
The six, led by director Emmanuel C. Andaya, up to this day cannot comprehend the motives of the blacklisted printer. The NPO officials are ignoring the bedevilment, but the persistent harassment is sullying their reputation at a time when they are overseeing the printing of election ballots.
Media reports about the legal cases filed with the Ombudsman against the six NPO officials are also getting overblown, especially their sensitive role in the printing of election ballots.
The timing of the story is suspect because it implies that the government has plans to subvert the elections by making sure its trusted lieutenants are in place once the ballots are printed.
A misleading report said the six NPO officials had “assigned” the delicate task to themselves by creating an executive committee. There is nothing irregular about the supposed assignment at all. As a practice, top officials of private as well as public sector companies regularly create ad hoc committees to make sure nothing goes wrong in very important projects.
Andaya and the other five officials were actually ordered dismissed by the Ombudsman, but the order is not immediately executory pending appeal in higher courts. There have been previous cases where dismissal orders have been reversed after new evidence is presented, or when the complete picture has been revealed.
Besides, the suspension of Andaya, chief administrative officer Sylvia Banda, supervising administrative officer Bernadette Lagumen, printing operations assistant chief Ma. Zita Gracia Enriquez, printing operations chief Josefina Samson and printing operations chief Antonio Sillona, was caused by an individual, who owns and operates a printing company.
Ready Forms Inc. had been a top supplier of the NPO, before it was blacklisted for acts inimical to the recognized government printer. Its president and general manager, Guillermo Sylianteng Jr., has sued the NPO officials and harassed them more than 60 times, but only one case received an initial judgment from the Ombudsman.
For a 12-year period, or from 1996 to 2008, Sylianteng’s company was the biggest supplier of the NPO, cornering no less than 25 percent of the printing contracts farmed out to the private sector. NPO has its own printing equipment and machinery, but it is not always capable of delivering bulk orders. In such cases, NPO is allowed by law to farm out the printing jobs.
Sylianteng’s company in 2009 was blacklisted for five years after it was discovered that RFI had been submitting falsified financial statements.
By his own admission, Sylianteng filed no less than 60 cases against NPO officials, the overwhelming number of which have been dismissed as being frivolous and lacking legal basis. He continues to file cases, and believes that he has hit a gold mine when the Ombudsman initially believed there was reason enough to dismiss Andaya and company.
A closer look at the case, however, shows that it was part of an orchestrated attempt to remove the officials deemed responsible for the blacklisting of RFI, and to embarrass the administration.
Sylianteng apparently wants the NPO permanently closed to open the door to the private sector to handle all the government’s printing requirements. With its long history of sub-contracting printing contracts, the dissolution of the NPO puts RFI in the best position of winning the largest chunk of all government printing contracts, resulting in revenues in hundreds of millions of pesos per month.
The dismissal of the NPO officials, meanwhile, stems from a measly P1.9-million contract with the National Bureau of Investigation. The agency had agreed to pay the NPO for the printing of 1,000 boxes of Travel Clearance Certificates, after the NBI ran low on supply of the document needed by Filipinos traveling abroad.
Claims that the NBI could resort to the use of alternate certificates for the time being border on the ridiculous, as all foreign embassies only recognize the TCCs issued by the bureau. A Local Clearance issued by the NBI applies only for local employment and is not valid for travel.
Sylianteng, however, claimed the NPO officials had committed “grave misconduct,” although the NBI considered the procurement of the documents as being in the nature of an emergency.
The absence of TCCs is not an acceptable option, as tens of thousands, even hundreds of thousands, of business travelers as well as migrant Filipino workers would not be able to leave the country without the document.
Sylianteng’s claim that the NBI “could issue an ordinary TCC in case of non-availability of the specialized form” does not make sense, as there is no such document. There is no such thing as an ordinary as opposed to a regular TCC. There is only one TCC, which is precisely what the NBI received from the NPO.
With the May 9 elections only three months away, stopping the NPO from printing the ballots must be avoided at all cost to prevent chaos.
The case cited by Sylianteng dates back to 2010. Since that time and by all accounts, the six NPO officials have been performing their work to the best of their ability with no serious accusations of graft and corruption against them. Only Sylianteng has sued them.