Why Arroyo is Seen as the Most Corrupt of Philippine Presidents

A reader, Mr. Manny Lopez wrote to me about “Sergio Osmena’s actus reus” (Latin for “the guilty act”) and takes the former Senator to task for his supposed role in the recent Pulse Asia survey which showed that President Arroyo is perceived to be the most corrupt president this country has ever had, beating out the late dictator, Ferdinand Marcos and the convicted, though pardoned, plunderer Erap Estrada.

According to Mr. Lopez, Osmena himself is guilty of having been involved in various anomalies during his stint as senator, including “intervention during the implementation of the Senate Computerization Project” and hinted at Osmena and Senator Aquilino Pimental’s links to a “Senate Mafia” which purportedly extorted money from contractors.

Who knows ? Maybe Mr. Lopez is right and Osmena et. al. may not have clean hands, which, as Mr. Lopez implies, taints the survey as politically motivated. In Mr. Lopez’ words:

” Sergio Osmena’s actus reus

In the course of media inquiries, it was determined that Pulse Asia’s survey was contracted by former Senator Sergio Osmena III. Media reporters who called on Osmena to verify the reports indicate that the former Senator claimed responsibility for bankrolling the controversial survey and did not find anything wrong in doing so.

Former Senator Sergio Osmena III was the campaign manager of defeated presidential candidate, the late actor Fernando Poe, Jr., in the 2004 national elections. Like Estrada, Poe was also high school drop-out who earned his fame through the movies. Serge is known to boast of an uncorruptable image, but his actions differ from words, during his stint at the Senate of the Philippines.

A case of fact was Osmena’s intervention during the implementation of the Senate Computerization Project, upon the assumption of the Estrada administration and Senator Marcelo Fernan as Senate President. Computech Computer Systems, Inc. won the bid in early 1998 after besting 32 foreign and local IT solutions provider by offering the lowest qualified bid. Osmena’s actions apparently supported the illicit modus operandi of a group oddly, referred to as the “Senate Mafia”, who were bent on extracting financial gains from Senate contractors.

The group which received instructions from a powerful woman at the Office of the Senate President, attempted to extract money from the winning bidder by contriving senseless technical and legal issues to delay and derail the project.Consequently, the refusal of Computech to abide with their illicit demands subjected the same to an unending series of reviews and evaluations.

The so-called Senate committee on Computerization headed by Senator Aquilino Q. Pimentel effectively cancelled the contract on faults created by themselves.

Computech defended the technical, financial and legal correctness of the duly awarded contract and supported the same with US manufacturer warranties and technical evaluations of reputable Filipino and American IT consultants. The said committee callously pursued its punitive approach to malign a striving Filipino computer company that would not agree to the Senate Mafia’s illicit demands.

The project was subjected to a series of senseless reviews and evaluations, despite significant improvements on the original specifications made by Computech, during the entire term of the Estrada administration. The circuitous and useless process caused long delays and cost over-runs on the part of the contractor. The project was eventually scrapped despite delivery of millions of pesos worth of equipment and expert services provided.

As Osmena intervened, his personn\ally appointed IT consultant suggested a solution that his company take over the computerization contract – which was angrily rejected by the Computech CEO. Computech Computer Systems, Inc. a pioneer computer manufacturer and distributor in the is the Philippines is a subsidiary of US-based Computech International, a Filipino-American owend company. Computech was officially awarded as the winning bidder of the Senate Computerization Project, delivered conforming equipment and professional services worth millions of pesos but remains unpaid up to this day.

While the pursuit of justice against powerful and well-established interests is not easy, this will continue until the elusive goal of justice and good governance is achieved. Only then can the Senate of the Philippines regain its stature as a well respected and revered institution. The Man from La Mancha may have succeeded had he known how to use the power of prayer, internet and quest for truth. As for the Man from Computech the war had just began.

Thanks to former Senator Serge Osmena III’s actus reus and to his equally deceptive and corruptible colleague Senator Aquilino ” Nene ” Pimentel. The mens rea of the Estrada Government were served very well by these so called statesmen, who incidentally are well known in their respective communities for their inconsistencies. It is for this reason why they can not win an electoral contest in their respective provinces, because people know them better. Neither could they inspire the Filipino people to follow their lead against graft and corruption they so claim to fight.

It was not surprising, therefore, to learn that Sergio Osmena III bank-rolled Pulse Asia’s survey to declare President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as the Most Corrupt President the Philippine’s ever had. With such survey, we can expect more nasty statements from Nene Pimentel who could neither see the log in his eyes. In these matters, Sergio Osmena III and Aquilino Q. Pimentel remain consistent. Consequently, the issue of corruption has become routine for Juan De La Cruz only because the antagonists are no better than those they call corrupt.”

But the fact remains that Gloria Arroyo has given much cause for the widespread perception that she indeed is the most corrupt of our corrupt chief executives. And what are surveys but individual perceptions expressed through a questionnaire ? The instrument may be dishonest, the methodology questionable, the survey samples suspect but this does not mean that that the ultimate findings lack basis or are inaccurate. The public pulse is not that difficult to determine, and any fair-minded observer, without even having even seen or heard of the Pulse Asia Survey, would easily come to the same conclusion. Consider, Mr. Lopez, the following instances of corruption directly connected to the Palace:

a) The estimated 234% overprice by JD Legaspi Construction in the construction of part of President Macapagal Avenue, said to be the most expensive stretch of road in the Philippines.
b) The P728 million in public funds diverted by former Agriculture Undersecretary Joc-Joc Bolante to the 2004 presidential election kitty of Malacanang;
c) The anomalous P1.3 billion COMELEC computerization contract.

And these are only a few examples of Arroyo’s large-scale scams prior to 2007. This year, there was the ZTE scandal, the giving out of paper bags to supposed supporters with up to P0.5 million in undocumented cash and other instances, large and small, of presidential shenanigans involving public funds.

Consider further the Arroyo administration’s dismal human rights record, its failure implement meaningful reforms in the armed forces (whose generals have Gloria in their collective pocket)and in the bureaucracy, to curb criminality, and other sins of commission and omission, and its no wonder she beat out Marcos and Estrada, no slouches in the corrupt practices department, in the evil governance Hall of Shame.

No doubt a significant number of our countrymen, with good reason, see Gloria as what she is: simply another corrupt politician, only more so. Not only did she squander the goodwill and historical opportunity to set things right handed to her by Edsa II, she betrayed the people without shame or conscience, and for this she will be judged harshly by history. The Pulse Asis survey is only the beginning of her judgment.

Merry Christmas to everyone and may we NOT have an “interesting” ( in the sense of chaotic) New Year.

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