Sunday, February 15, 2009


If there is anything that our government officials are good at, it is their uncanny ability to remain in power and enjoy the perks of their office while abdicating themselves of the responsibility to which they have been sworn into. This is the picture we have been getting lately from our congressional leaders and heads of prosecutorial agencies in the wake of the controversy on the blacklisting of local contractors by the World Bank (WB). Don't get me wrong, this is not the first time that our government officials have acted this way, but of late it has become increasingly clear how far they have gone in betraying the trust of their office.

First, congressmen have cleared the blacklisted contractors in haste by saying there is no evidence that would substantiate WB's allegations that these contractors have engaged in the nefarious enterprise of rigging the bidding for a national road project. In an article by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), it revealed that most of the members of House of Representatives's Public Works Committee, that held hearings on this blacklisting issue, are engaged in the construction business themselves.

Wouldn't it be more appropriate for these congressmen to have left the exoneration of the contractors to our investigative agencies, like the Department of Justice or the Ombudsman? A congressional committee investigates not to determine guilt or innocence, but to determine the effectiveness of existing laws or how a particular issue could impact legislation.

Second, when it became the turn of senators to conduct hearings on the matter they turned the tables on WB by lambasting it for not sending any representative or additional information about allegations of involvement of top personalities like First Gentleman Mike Arroyo and even the president herself. The Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez - the government's top prosecutor tasked to investigate corruption in the government - even had the temerity to complain that the WB supplied her only with a short report about the bid rigging; that she did not receive the detailed and bulky report that Sen. Ping Lacson has.

Evidently our government officials have conveniently abdicated the functions of their office by refusing to act on a report by an international and independent body like the WB about corruption in the government. Let it be made clear that the WB does not have any political motive in implicating high government officials. It has nothing to gain by it, pecuniarily or politically.

By pointing to the WB's failure to cooperate in the investigation in not appearing before the Senate and not providing more detailed information, it seems it is now suddenly the responsibility of the WB to investigate and prosecute corrupt officials. More than any one else, it should be our government officials who must zealously pursue investigation of this bid rigging scandal and go to the doorsteps of the WB, if need be, to gather more information and not the other way around. We should be thankful rather than cynical of the WB report because it is to our best interest that we weed out corruption in the government, unless of course our government officials are engaged in a disturbing pattern of covering up official wrongdoing at the highest level, which is somehow not much of a surprise anymore with controversies after controversies about corruption at the highest level plaguing our government.

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