Today's Punto
Today's Punto
Power corrupts, scandals erupt
By Bong Lacson

Jun 05, 2018

“AH, HINDI pa naibabalik (It has not been returned). As of now, ‘di pa ata (I think not yet).”

No, the fire-breathing, brimstone-spewing brothers of resigned tourism secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo have not yet returned the P60 million they received from the Department of Tourism for advertisements in their Kilos Pronto show. This, despite their announced promise to do so in the wake of the controversy that drove their sister out of her family-enriching turf.

So, announced new DOT Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat last May 30. Fielding a reporter’s question, Puyat said: “I leave it up to the COA kasi sila magsasabi kung may disallowance (because they will be the one to issue a notice of disallowance.)”

Ah, the COA! The Commission on Audit, by all appearances current, has never worked as hard as of late in flagging one government deal after another that reeks of corruption, hence:

Tourism Promotions Board COO Cesar Montano’s alleged mismanagement of the board and misuse of funds coming to a head with the P80-million sponsorship of the Buhay Carinderia food tourism project.

Montano has since resigned, but not after telling one and all that it was Teo that endorsed the project.

The Movie and Television Review and Classification Board (MTRCB) for releasing P14.8 million worth of “reimbursibles and other expenses” to its 32 members sans authority from either the Office of the President or the Department of Budget and Management.

COA specially cited over P5.2 million in representation and travel expenses extended to the Board, who each received P41,500, despite a provision under Section 2 of Presidential Decree No. 1986 which states that allowances of board members cannot exceed P5,000 a month.

Less hunger than gluttony impacted the National Youth Commission incurring some P300,000 in meals and snacks during 126 meetings, 122 of which were not official.

PhilHealth may have lost P9 billion in 2017, but this did not prevent its interim president Celestina Ma. Jude Dela Serna from spending P627,000 for travel in that same year. Why, she was even reported to have stayed for one year in a hotel that charges P3,800 per night. Please do the math.

COA said the disbursements were not in accordance with the agency’s circular on the disallowance of irregular expenditures.

Under the wigman himself -- Vitaliano Aguirre II – the Department of Justice had some P65.69 million maintained in three ATM bank accounts at Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) without authorization.

COA said this is contrary to Section 2 of Executive Order No. 338 and Section 4 of the General Appropriations Act of 2017 mandating that all revenues from government agencies must be deposited to the National Treasury.

That these bank deposits account for the DOJ’s Inter-agency Transfer Funds and grants and donations, Victims Compensation Fund, and for the Witness Protection Program instantly raises the red flag. Trust funds, grants, donations, compensations – milking cows all!

And then, there is Solicitor General Jose Calida’s excess honoraria and allowances amounting to P7.46 million.

COA noted that Calida received a total of P8.376 million, which ran in conflict with a 1985 COA circular that prohibits him from receiving additional fees exceeding 50 percent of his annual basic salary, that at P1.827 million should have been only maxxed at P913,950.

Calida’s excessive honoraria is but the latest impingement on his putative honor, coming in the wake of the exposé of his company, Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc., bagging P150.815 million in contracts from six government agencies, including the DOJ, since he became the government’s top lawyer.

Not to mention his alleged extra-marital dalliance that allegedly cost the government P1.8 million.

So, COA has flagged so many, so costly, so anomalous transactions in government. So, what?

Malacañang has as easily let go of some of the personalities involved as it has steadfastly vouched for the character of the others. Not even a minute in the graft court in store for all of them.

What else is new?

Comes here once-Senate President Jose Avelino’s word that have outlived him in infamy: What are we in power for?

Better yet, Lord Acton’s immortal dictum: Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Best yet, some wags take of it: Power corrupts. Scandals erupt.

So, should we applaud?

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