SEVERAL developments in recent days augur well for the success of President Duterte’s campaign against graft and corruption.
Most notably of these is the active involvement of government employees themselves in coming out from the closet of fear and embarrassment to tell on their bosses about what they perceive to be incidences of corruption.
And unlike in the unlamented days of President Benigno Aquino III, these complaints involve not just shameful indiscretions of the immediate past administration but most importantly, about recent transgressions of open and honest procedures in government. One case in point is the move by employees of the Tourism Promotions Board headed by movie actor Cesar Montano, who holds the rank of undersecretary, to demand an investigation by the Palace about questionable contracts, sponsorships and other initiatives by Montano that to them merit denouncing. Clearly, the actor turned government official has some serious explaining to do, and he may well do it before a forthcoming Senate investigation.
Also, charges and denunciations of corruption, this time at the government owned and controlled corporation (GOCC) APO-Production Unit printing firm, are substantial and brazen as they involved hundreds of millions of pesos that employees of this firm had sought the help of Office of the Ombudsman. The persons complained about? Their former boss, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma of the previous administration and several officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs. This case is about alleged monopolistic practices and overpricing in the printing of electronic passports by the government by APO-PU, a small printing company under the former Office of the Press Secretary, now the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO).
APO-PU is a printing firm that does not have the facilities and expertise needed to printing e-passports, but it does have the government mandate to do so, endowed to it by the DFA in 2015. So it struck a sweetheart tieup with a private company, United Graphic Expression Corp. (UGEC) to print the e-passports that costs P400 each but is sold by the DFA at more than P1,000 each.
Employees of APO-PU, like the personnel of Cesar Montano’s Tourist Promotions Board, have complained about this irregularity, this time with the Office of the Ombudsman. They claimed Filipino travelers are fleeced by this passporting racket by at least P500 each, and with 17,000 passport applications filed personally and online every single day, that amounts to a whooping P8.5 million daily take for the DFA, some of its officials, the private printer UGEC, and former PCOO officials led by Coloma.
The Ombudsman had better act fast and judiciously on this complaint of plunder and graft by organized labor and employees of APO-PU, considering that most passport owners are Overseas Filipino Workers trying to eke out a living abroad.
And while we are at it, whatever happened to the case of more than 100 Indonesians on their way to Mecca who were caught holding Philippine passports which they bought from unscrupulous DFA syndicate men for at least P100,000 each? Looks like the former Secretary of Foreign Affairs, was caught lying by the Commission on Appointments on the fundamental issue of citizenship, has his hands full of serious problems needing attention.
The fight against official corruption goes on in the government, under successive administrations that promise to give full meaning to honesty and transparency in government service.
It is our hope that President Duterte will not falter on this one.