"What does a Biden presidency mean for the Philippines?"
Santa Banana, claims of United States President Donald Trump that there was massive cheating in their November 3 elections sound all too familiar to us here in the Philippines.
Here at home, we are used to hearing claims of fraud. In fact, there are only two kinds of candidates here – the winners, and those who claim they were cheated.
Some networks cut their coverage of the Trump remarks because he made statements that were unfounded.
So, how will a Biden presidency affect the Philippines? There are those who say nothing much will change, but there are also those who claim that this will mean greater criticism for the Duterte administration’s human rights record.
Some Democratic senators, if you recall, made a big issue out of the detention of Senator Leila de Lima.
But what is good is that Biden himself has acknowledged the ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration with regard to our dispute with China on the South China Sea.
Just how Biden will treat Duterte and China is worth watching.
We are seeing a steady decline in the number of COVID-19 cases in the country. However, there are fears that the numbers might surge again around the Christmas holidays. My gulay, I can believe this.
People will want to get together and have reunions with family and friends. No amount of restrictions can stop Filipinos from celebrating “noche buena.”
My wife and I will just stay home, though, the way we have since the start of the lockdown.
As chief of the Department of Public Works and Highways, Secretary Mark Villar must know what is going on in his agency. I was genuinely surprised when he said he had only recently become aware of corruption among DPWH officials and contractors. It had been widely acknowledged, even before he became secretary, that there was a lot of monkey business there.
I used to be business editor of The Philippines Herald so I know that corruption issues in the agency go way back.
Most of the time, regional DPWH officials ink deals with big and small contractors behind closed doors. These are in connection with pork barrel funds from Congress. Sure, pork has been declared illegal by the Supreme Court. But allocation among members of Congress is still embedded in the national budget. This is why I cannot believe that the 2021 budget is “pork-free.”
Behind these contractors who deal with regional public works officials are lawmakers who insist on getting kickbacks. The names of these members of Congress are out there somewhere – the “greedy” ones demand 30 percent or more, those who get 20 percent are “wise,” and those who ask for just 10 percent are “friendly.”
With the Justice Department now zeroing in on graft and corruption in government, DOJ Secretary Menardo Guevarra should look into lawmakers involved in public works projects. He might be shocked.
If you see unfinished roads or bridges – and there are many – I am certain that corruption is the cause.
And if Secretary Villar says he does not know about the corruption in his agency, then he is lying. He may not be personally involved in these acts, but if he did not take action on them, then that is negligence and incompetence.
If only to show you how corrupt the DPWH is, when my former classmate Ting Jayme was appointed as secretary, he lasted only six months. I asked him why, and he said: “That department is so corrupt I cannot stand it.”
There are so many ways corruption can prevail at the DPWH. Aside from the kickbacks, right-of-way issues are also a rich source of corruption. This refers to projects that pass through private property. The stink goes all the way to the top, because ROW contracts have to be approved by the Office of the Secretary.
I am not accusing Villar of involvement. But what about his assistant secretaries and undersecretaries, and his regional heads?
In my book, the most graft-ridden agencies are the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the DPWH.
I have been a journalist for over seven decades. I know that corruption is so deeply embedded in our government system where human discretion and intervention are involved.