The BCDA deal is a can of worms

"The Ombudsman must look, and look closely."



Last Tuesday was a sad day for me. I found out that my colleague, former editor-in-chief, fellow columnist and good friend Alejandro “Andy” del Rosario had died last Sunday at the age of 78.

Andy was also ambassador to Hungary and Poland under the Arroyo administration. He was a long-time member of the diplomatic corps, having served as adviser to former Foreign Affairs Secretary Bobby Romulo.

Andy was a true-blue journalist. He used to be with the Daily Mirror as sportswriter, and at the Chronicle, he became managing editor. He even became president of the Philippine Sportswriters Association. Believe it or not, Andy trained at the Chicago Daily News, courtesy of the World Press Institute. Andy became my publisher when Ricky Razon bought the publication.

As his colleague and fellow columnist, I am an avid reader of his column. His pieces are always incisive and straight-to-the-point.

My sincerest condolences to his wife, Mary, and their children. His wife is also a regular at the 365 Club which meets every Saturday at the Holiday Inn Suites in Makati.

Andy will be missed. I bid him farewell.

I can never forget what Andy wrote as he endorsed my book:

“Chronicling his over half-century in Philippine journalism, The Road Never Ends is the pinnacle of Emil’s career, covering Philippine presidents from Carlos P. Garcia to Rodrigo Duterte, writing his insights on Malacañang Palace and passing them on to the readers of his column. Emil Jurado belongs to the pantheon of Philippine journalism...with legends such as Doroy Valencia and Joe Guevarra.”

* * *

The Office of the Ombudsman, under former Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires, will soon start its investigation into allegations of graft and corruption in the funding of the recent Southeast Asian Games, even as President Duterte had cleared House Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano of any wrongdoing. This means that the probe by the Ombudsman will involve the organizing body as a whole.

May I also suggest that the Ombudsman include the deal between the Bases Conversion Development Authority and the Malaysian firm MTD Capital Berhad which I said was questionable and anomalous on so many points.

What is the deal, anyway?

The joint venture was for the building at New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, on a sprawling 9,500-hectare government office called the National Government Administrative Center and the sports facilities, consisting of a 20,000-meter athletic stadium, a 2,000-seater aquatic center and an athletic village.

What the Ombudsman should look into is, first, the building of the sports facilities. It is a build-transfer project embedded in the Joint Venture Agreement between BCDA and the Malaysian firm. Under the law, a public bidding is required for such arrangements.

In a joint venture agreement, all partners contribute. The BCDA contributed its 40 hectares. MTD Capital Berhad’s contribution was P8.5 billion. But did you know that no Malaysian funds were used in the process? The Malaysian firm borrowed P9.5 billion from the Development Bank of the Philippines!

Total cost of the project somehow ballooned to P11 billion.

If the Office of the Ombudsman looked more closely, it would find that the agreement was heavily skewed in favor of the Malaysia company.

The participation of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel also needs looking into. It had earlier flagged the BCDA as both a joint venture agreement in which is embedded a build-transfer project. The question comes up, my gulay: Why did the OGCC end up saying that the building of the sports facilities was in compliance with the law?

* * *

The House panel on constitutional amendments has four proposals to look into:

First, the amendment of the restrictive provisions of the 1987 Constitution, specifically on foreign investments. This is the reason the Philippines is always at the bottom of the heap when it comes to investments. Our neighbors in the region have definitely overtaken us. We forget that more investments mean more jobs.

Second, the lifting of term limits for local officials. The suggestion is to extend the term to five years with only one reelection. I think this is a good move because it would allow local officials to pursue their initiatives for a longer period.

Third, the election of senators by region. I think all regions nationwide have to be represented in the Senate.

Finally, the election of the president and vice president in tandem. This is to avoid instances where the vice president does nothing but criticize the President.

* * *

Here we go again, Santa Banana!

I refer to renewed attempts by President Duterte to talk peace with the communists.

Does Duterte even know what he is doing? Does he not realize there have been many attempts before?

To me, the most contentious problem is the disarmament of the New People’s Army. Joma Sison and his followers will never agree to this. And, truth to tell, all the communist fronts in Congress are still very much alive.

I don’t think there will ever be peace between with the government and the communists!

Topics: Emil Jurado , Bases Conversion Development Authority , BCDA , 1987 Constitution
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