Manila Standard - Corruption-free?

News & Interviews
30 May 2019

By Alejandro Del Rosario | Manila Standard

"The President may have gone overboard."

President Rodrigo Duterte in his recent visit to Japan may have gone overboard in guaranteeing a corruption-free business environment for Japanese investors he was wooing to come to the country. Filipinos, including this columnist, wish him success. Who does not want a graft- free government which can draw in foreign investors who can provide jobs and economic stability?

But considering the institutionalized corruption in government, that is a pretty tall order. In the Bureau of Customs alone which is generally considered as the flagship of corruption among government agencies, Mr. Duterte, already in the middle of his six-year term, has yet to stamp out graft from the BOC officials to the rank and file. The billion peso shipment of shabu cleverly smuggled inside six magnetic lifters has yet to be solved and the culprits placed behind bars.

If it’s not smuggling, Japanese investors might encounter bureaucratic red tape in getting out their equipment necessary in undertaking their projects in the Philippines. There will probably be no problem in the entry of Japanese workers as there was none with the Bureau of Immigration which allowed in illegal Chinese workers do jobs in the online gambling industry that can be done by Filipinos. The immigration bureau is another agency of the government that has to be cleaned up.

The mining industry is one area that can be explored by Japanese investors. Although the country is richly endowed with mineral resources like copper, gold and aluminum, mining is a moribund industry and has yet to be given the green light for full-blast operation by the government. It is said that copper is the cousin of gold and where there is copper there is gold. One obstacle to mining is the barriers put by local government officials down to the barangay level which want some of the money to grant permits even if already approved by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

We hope that President Duterte, in his hubris during the Tokyo visit, can deliver on his promise of a corruption-free business climate. Digong even threatened to kill those who commit graft as he said he staked his name and honor in his commitment to Japanese investors for a corruption-free business climate. Well, let us see..

His delegation alone was accompanied by most of the Cabinet members which drew criticism when Philippine Ambassador to Japan Jose Laurel V commented on it. The Philippine envoy was rebuked by the Palace but assured that he was not going to be replaced for his indiscreet remark that the Cabinet members were asked to join the presidential trip as reward for their efforts in making administration senatorial bets win in a total shutout of opposition candidates

We thought all along the President made clear he did not want government officials campaigning or endorsing senatorial and congressional candidates. Which is which? So what was the reward for?

The Commission on Elections, on the other hand, needs a total revamp if not abolition. Not for corruption but for incompetence in the conduct of elections. There were so many glitches where the Vote Counting Machine did not accept ballots inserted into it including that of former Vice President Jejomar Binay. Aside from the mechanical glitches, many voters could not find their names in precincts where they are supposed to cast their ballots.

Yet Comelec spokesman James Jimenez declared the 2019 midterm elections “generally successful.” Yeah, right.

Tracing the mess goes all the way back to the time of former Comelec Commissioner Sixto Brillantes who contracted the faulty Venezuelan company and renewed its contract to do the job in another election. The irony of it is that Venezuela, the base of Smartmatic, stopped using the equipment in their elections. Other countries reverted to doing manual count because of the unreliability of the Venezuelan equipment, If so ,why then did Brillantes and the Comelec chiefs like Andres Bautista who followed him still renewed the contract of Smartmatic? Not so smart. Or are they smarter contrary to what we think? Just asking.

With the next presidential election coming up in 2022, there is still time to rethink and scrap Smartmatic and look at other options including a return to manual counting. Six years of a president elected through tampered and faulty vote counting machines is too much to bear for the Filipino people who have suffered enough. Let us give the people deliverance from a president erroneously elected because of electronic glitches.