Friday, January 30, 2009

Falling Apart

The signs are all around us. The agencies and institutions which form the polity of this nation are falling apart.

The regulatory agencies which are supposed to ensure that the public is protected from the excesses and abuses committed by private business in its pursuit of profit and market objectives are negligent, and in many instances, even collusive.

Of late, we have been shocked that the World Bank blacklisted three of the biggest public works contractors in the country, whose accounts with the DPWH run into the billions of pesos, each. What became more shocking is that the House of Representatives, or at least its public works committee headed by a contractor, the gentleman from Southern Leyte, and whose vice-chair is another contractor, the gentleman from Pampanga, circled their wagons to protect their fellow contractors, and damned the World Bank for its effrontery in investigating three of their kind. Funny how these guys wrapped the Philippine flag around the blacklisted contractors.

A crisis brought to fore years ago, about the capability of educational pre-need plans to live up to their written commitments, in the case of the Yuchengco-owned Pacific Plans and the College Assurance Plan, should have brought the regulators, in this case principally the Securities and Exchange Commission, looking for solutions in order to protect the victims (of which my own family is one), and ensure that the problem is obviated. Nothing doing.

The queer sell-out for a song by the powerful Yuchengcos of their moribund and hollowed-out pre-need firm to a rather unknown guy who happens to be close to Malacanang, recently brought the same controversy back to life. And the Pandora’s box reveals that so many other pre-need firms are on the verge of collapse. Along with their financial ruin, of course, crash the hopes of hundreds of thousands of poor and middle-class families who had pinned their hopes on the educational future of their offspring. And what has the SEC done all these years, since the red flags went up two years ago? If you are to judge by their lame statements, clearly, they are still clueless.

One of the fall guys in the Alabang Boys’ drug scandal, a lowly prosecutor in the Department of Justice, is getting the heat for an 800,000 peso deposit traced to his and his spouse’s account in some bank somewhere in Tarlac. If the guy got less than a million, assuming these monies are related to the dismissal of the case, who but an absolute dolt would believe that others in the hierarchy did not get anything? Why, I am reliably informed that the lawyer who fixed someone higher than this guy Resado is very, very influential because he is a partner of a very, very powerful congressman, whose son is one of the most influential figures in the current dispensation. And this lawyer is also hooked into drugs, the ecstatic kind that the Alabang Boys, say the PDEA people, purvey.

And then again, you wonder how this guy Resado, whose services as a lawyer in the useless Legal Division of the Philippine Tourism Authority were terminated years back, and whose termination was finally affirmed by the Civil Service Commission four years ago, got another job in another government agency, and this time in the agency that is supposed to prosecute crooks and criminals --- the Department of Justice?

Yes, Manong Raul, this lawyer Resado, who used to be a casual, later recommended for a permanent item by the division chief, was terminated after the period of probation, when his record of under-achievement was reviewed. He would lose cases of the PTA by default. Maybe he was so busy lending money in the public market of Camiling? When his appointment was not renewed after the probationary period, he went to the Civil Service Commission, whose regional office sustained him and ordered his re-instatement. But the PTA management appealed to the Commission en banc, and thank God there was a Karina David who sifted through the minutiae of the case, and sustained management. Why should the lazy and the incompetent be allowed to populate government agencies, indeed?

So you wonder, how did he get a job as prosecutor in an even more critical agency of the same government under the same leadership? Will wonders never cease !

The reason is there for us all to see. Ours is a bureaucracy so hopelessly corrupted. Our institutions are falling apart. But then again, what can you expect when, as it always is, a case of follow the leader? A leader who thinks nothing is wrong with calling up an elections commissioner in the wee hours of the night and ask, “Will I win by one million?”

And whose husband thinks there is nothing unseemly about meeting public works contractors, and asking the DPWH secretary to meet with him and the contractor together. Why, if Ping Lacson had the appointments book of El Esposo in 2003 or 2004, would it shock us if, perhaps, he also met with those characters in Jocjoc’s looney tunes, such as Jimmy “El Suave” Paule, and that Larena woman?

The then majority floor leader of the House of Representatives, now its Speaker, arranged for a dinner with then Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation CEO Ric Tan in 2005. Lo and behold, Ric is forced to shake hands with Celso de los Angeles, whose gamut of rural banks under the flagship of “Legacy” (a word that sounds familiar even in the Byzantine halls of the stinking palace beside the stinking river) he had begun to worry about.

“Primo, give him what he wants, he needs it. He helped Kabayan (the vice-president of the Republic, in case you have forgotten) a lot”, Nograles tells Tan. So helpful that he at a time headed the National Home Mortgage and Financing Corporation, (part of the housing flagship HUDCC which Vice-President De Castro heads) where he was forced to resign. Ahh, but that’s another story, filed for some future article.

Obviously my friend Ric did not “give him what he wanted”, and so, he was replaced, first by Mike Osmena who died, and later, till the present, by Joepot, the younger brother of El Prospero. Now that the Bangko Sentral has closed the Legacy rural banks, who will foot the bill?

Why Joepot’s PDIC, naturalmente. Poor Joepot, who’s really a nice fellow if you ask our Dabaweno friends. And since PDIC does not have the 14 or so billion to cover the numerous “small” accounts that went under with De los Angeles’ legerdemain, he now wants to borrow from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

The same Bangko Sentral which has a division that is supposed to closely audit and supervise the operations of the Legacy banks, among others. I would think BSP Governor Armando Tetangco has had nothing to do with this unseemly group of banks, but what about the boys under, eh? If they did their jobs punctiliously, as holders of fiduciary responsibility, would Legacy ever have lasted this long in its high-finance schemes?

And once again, we recall that it is the same BSP which in some other time, and under some other Monetary Board composition, which allowed a dying bank, Capitol it’s name was, to borrow in two tranches a 180-day loan totalling 1.5 billion pesos. Just like that. And when pay-up time came, the same BSP accepted payment in kind, dacion en pago, the bankers and their lawyers call it, of real estate worth less than a fifth of the loan principal. And later discovered they were holding spurious titles to the dacion, the mother title of which were given during the Japanese occupation --- en tiempo de la guerra mondial! Bakerrrru!

The system is falling apart. Everything is falling apart.

The tragedy of it all is that it’s our money they fiddle around with. It’s our future they toy around with.

What a country!