THE PUBLIC’S right to information is enshrined in the Philippine Constitution, but the absence of an enabling law has apparently enabled various government agencies and officials – including Supreme Court justices – to violate this.
Some agencies do know and observe the Constitution’s guarantee of transparency, which is a prior condition to good governance. Far too many others, however, seem stuck in confidentiality mode and require prodding and coaxing to release documents. The most hostile, in fact, simply flatly deny or altogether ignore requests for public documents.
PART CRAGGY mountains and part deep valleys, Apayao in the Philippine north is probably not a place for those seeking an easy life. Yet up until six years ago, the ruggedly beautiful province had a relatively respectable poverty incidence rate of 16.8 percent, which meant more than 80 percent of the families there were consistently meeting their basic needs without much problem.
By 2006, however, majority of Apayao families were struggling, with the province posting a poverty incidence rate of 57.5 percent. As a result, Apayao had also become the newest entry in the Philippines’ list of 10 poorest provinces, and even earned the dubious honor of clinching rank No. 4.
AT LEAST four congressmen and a governor have personal and family interests in companies that secured multi-million-peso civil-works contracts over the last seven years, according to the online registry of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The five elective officials, in reply to PCIJ queries about possible cases of conflict of interest, acknowledge their interest in the companies but also stress that the contracts were awarded before they took their oaths of office.
BEFORE SHE — bids good-bye as president — an event that is supposed to happen next year — Gloria Macapagal Arroyo had planned to spend P2.03 trillion ($42.7 billion) on infrastructure projects between 2007 and 2010. By all accounts, she is hoping that these projects would earn her the legacy she so covets, as well as the gratitude of a people she would have served for nine years.
Yet before she could spend a single centavo, Arroyo has had to muster the numbers in Congress, which wields the illusory “power of the purse,” and have her budget approved.
IF IT seems as if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is omnipresent, even when on frequent travels overseas, that could partly be because of the proliferation of huge tarpaulins bearing her image.
Indeed, in the last few years, practically every town across the country has at any one time a tarpaulin with a photo of a smiling Arroyo, sometimes wearing a hard hat, and often posing beside a congressman, governor, mayor, barangay captain and other allies.
SHE HAS been president for the last seven years, but Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could also be called “queen” — queen of roads, that is.
Arroyo seemed so obsessed with roads that her first budget secretary, Emilia T. Boncodin, recalls: “You could point to a road anywhere on the map of the Philippines, and she could tell you its name. She had memorized it all.”
WORLD BANK investigators looking into alleged collusion and corruption in Bank-funded road projects came very close to catching the conspirators while meeting to fix the bids, according to the Notice of Sanctions Proceedings dated March 2008 that summarized the Bank’s findings.
It happened on November 7, 2006, when the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) held an auction for a civil-works contract on a section of the Surigao-Davao coastal road, one of the many sub-projects of the $150-million National Roads Improvement and Management Project-1 (NRIMP-1).
THEY MAY have played vastly different roles but both the suspects and the whistle-blowers in the World Bank investigation on collusion and corruption in Bank-funded road projects in the Philippines have one thing in common: They all bagged some of the biggest public works contracts from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
But even bigger in value and number are the DPWH contracts obtained by the firms that served as whistle-blowers and witnesses — who were not sanctioned — in the investigation conducted by the World Bank’s anti-corruption unit, the powerful Department of Institutional Integrity (INT).
CORRUPTED TO the core, and entirely, by a “cartel” of kickback-takers with support from the highest levels of the Philippine government.
In gist, this is the damning conclusion of the World Bank’s anti-corruption unit, the powerful and dreaded Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) regarding the Bank-funded National Road Improvement and Management Project-1 (NRIMP-1).
IN INVESTIGATING the alleged collusion and overpricing of World Bank-funded road projects in the Philippines, the international financial institution’s powerful and dreaded anti-corruption unit, the Department of Institutional Integrity (INT), conducted interviews for almost three years in at least three countries. By the time it wound up its work, it had interviewed some 60 people.
The 230-page Part II of the Notice of Sanctions Proceedings is perhaps the first solid and extensive documentation of the myriad, if also conflicting, cases of collusion and corruption in the public works sector, according to industry players themselves.
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