February 25, 2018, 3:41 am
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Whiff of corruption

I WILL not tolerate even a whiff of corruption”, so says President Rodrigo Roa Duterte aka Digong.
Is there a whiff of corruption in the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO)?
More than a whiff, it would seem, if Sandra Cam, a recent appointee of Digong as a PCSO board member and gambling consultant Charlie “Atong” Ang who, Digong admitted was asked by him to help “cleanse” the PCSO, were to be believed.
Both Cam and Ang accused PCSO general manager Alexander Balutan of corruption during a Senate hearing recently, which the latter denied. 
Cam cited the lavish PCSO Christmas Party held at 5-star Shangrila Plaza Hotel which she said cost P10 million, but which Balutan said cost “only” P6 million.
Ang accused Balutan and former PCSO chairman Jose Corpuz of allegedly giving out Small Town Lottery (STL) franchises to private individuals “para lang kumita kayong lahat”, as well as allegedly doling out money to parties that are not intended recipients of PCSO funds.
Cam and Balutan have since been hurling accusations publicly at each other which obviously is not good for the agency and somehow puts Digong’s pledge to rid his administration of even a whiff of corruption under a cloud of doubt.
Digong told Cam to make peace with Balutan but the latter reportedly merely shrugged off the idea of mending fences with Cam and said he would rather keep his feelings to himself. 
Cam likewise said she will not reconcile with Balutan.
“I will not reconcile with Balutan. I am very firm with my la patria advocacy, the love of country first. PRRD is just joking on that… You know the President always cracks a joke. I can’t compromise my stand against corruption. I’m just following the marching order of PRRD that corruption must stop now,” Cam said.
As an ardent supporter of Digong commented, “Make peace? Paano na ‘yung alleged corruption against Balutan? Di ba dapat imbestigahan ‘yun?”
In the meantime, the whiff of corruption in the PCSO persists. 
People expect a more decisive action on the part of Digong.

COMELEC
AND SMARTMATIC

Another whiff of corruption?
The decision of the Commission on Elections to purchase the vote counting machines from scandal-ridden Smartmatic, Inc. reeks of a midnight deal which is nothing really new. Former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes also signed a different deal with Smartmatic on the eve of his retirement some years ago.
And, lest we forget, another former Comelec chairman, Andres Bautista, had to resign rather than be impeached due to allegations of irregularity in conducting the 2016 elections with the use of the same Smartmatic vote counting machines.
Both Brillantes and Bautista were appointees of ex-President Noynoy Aquino.
This time, acting Comelec chairman Christian Robert Lim, another appointee of Aquino, concluded with Smartmatic the election body’s decision to exercise its “option to purchase (OTP)” more than 97,000 units of the machines to be used for the mid-term elections next year.
Presidential political affairs adviser Francis Tolentino, however, claimed that the contract was irregular because it was approved by the Comelec on 18 December 2017 and signed by Lim on January 12 this year, three weeks before he retired.
“It is highly irregular that a contract of such national significance was consummated bereft of the required transparency (public notice or public bidding) needed by the electorate,” Tolentino said.
Lim, however, said the decision to purchase the machines which were also used in the 2016 elections was due to a tight budget. He also denied it was a “midnight deal”.
What people find a little strange is the complete absence of any comment or reaction from Digong or his spokesman on a matter of such national significance. What gives?
We hope it has nothing to do with the Comelec being a supposedly independent body as reportedly invoked by the Palace spokesman. The Office of the Ombudsman, for instance, is also an independent body but that has not stopped Malacañang from “intervening” in its affairs on occasions.

NEW DRUG LORDS IN NBP
 
After a succession of different heads of the New Bilibid Prison and tapping the Philippine National Police Special Action Force (PNP-SAF) to guard the national penitentiary, it is now reported that there are new drug lords operating in the facility.
According to the PNP-SAF, the new drug lords are able to conduct their illicit activity because cellphones are still being smuggled almost everyday into the prison. To date, 3,666 have reportedly been confiscated.
Moreover, the PNP-SAF says some signal jammers in the facility have been out of order. Do these jammers conk out on their own? Once installed, jammers should normally remain working unless someone or something decommissions them.
Let’s watch what happens when PNP Chief Ronald dela Rosa takes over as head of the Bureau of Corrections.
***
REMINDERS
This segment is intended to remind the administration of some of its yet unfulfilled promises and matters that need attention and/or follow-up action. More importantly, the people are entitled to know what’s being done about them.
1) Digong’s promise to rid the country of foreign troops. This, of course, necessitates re-visiting the lopsided VFA and the EDCA with the US. 
2) Reciprocal visa arrangements with the US and other countries. 
3) The retrieval of the Balangiga bells.
4) The return of the Canadian waste.
5) The immediate implementation of the FOI.
With respect to No. 1, what steps have the Departments of Foreign Affairs and National Defense taken so far on the matter?
With respect to Nos. 2, 3 and 4, what steps is the DFA taking on them?
With respect to No. 5, has the PCOO given substance and meaning to the Executive Order on the FOI? The people are asking for guidelines.
***
Today is the 272nd day of the eleventh year of the enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, son of the late press icon and founder of this newspaper, Joe Burgos.
After the acquittal of Major Harry Baliaga, Jr., the only person formally charged with Jonas’ kidnapping, I guess what happens next is now up to Divine Providence.
***
From an internet friend:
Three little lads were on their way home from school when one of them noticed a red Ferrari parked at the side of the road. 
He said: “When I’m older I’m going to get a great job and buy one of them.”
The second lad said: “I am going to university to get a great education, and a great job and buy one also.” 
The third lad says: “I’m going to get a job like my sister.” 
The other two asked what she did. 
“She’s a prostitute.” 
“What’s a prostitute?” the other two ask. 
“I don’t know, but that’s my sister’s car.” 
***
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