Aug 282014

I do not share the view of some that the Senate is wasting its time trying to investigate Makati’s car park building among other recent scandals. The way I see it, airing all that dirty business in public is good for the country. If we, the taxpayers, are being screwed, it is best to know by whom and for how much.

I remember the story of one of our local Chinoy taipans with a rather complicated family life. I once asked someone who knows him well how the taipan manages his vast business empire amidst competing claims from different branches of his immediate family.

I am told that the taipan relishes watching everyone fight. For so long as everyone is making sure no one is getting more than they should, the taipan knows all is well. It is when everything is quiet that the taipan gets worried.

That’s the nature of our democratic system too. For so long as our thieving politicians are exposing each other’s dirt, we are that closer to achieving better governance. It is when there is bipartisan or multipartisan agreement on something sneaky and expensive, like pork barrel funding, we should get worried.

I look at congressional investigations as self cleansing, if properly conducted. Look at that allegation on the thousand peso birthday cakes for senior citizens. The guy who made a big thing out of it was forced to admit he took the thousand peso figure out of thin air.

The key in any successful investigation, specially one that is accessible to the public, is having the right questions asked. Unfortunately, senators and congressman ask a lot of irrelevant questions, giving rise to suspicions that everything is just for show.

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The case of the Makati parking building is starting to become a frustrating investigation. COA officials are giving contradictory testimony. Many of those who gave testimony also don’t seem to have first hand knowledge of how the overprice happened.

The former vice mayor who claimed he benefited from the building’s construction was stingy about details like how much he got in what form (cash or services?) and who gave it to him. All he did was tar the Vice President with a general statement that leaves many of us hungry for more information. So far, the former vice mayor said nothing we haven’t heard before.

Inasmuch as the former vice mayor had already made a sworn testimony admitting “nakinabang” siya on the project, he just might as well paint a complete picture. It is not enough to say that because “nakinabang” siya, Jojo Binay similarly “nakinabang”.

The worse part of the current Senate hearing is leaving the citizenry “bitin”. If it ends at this point because Senate leaders supposedly want to preserve the dignity of the Senate or because they have a lot of work to do, it would be a cop out.

Overpricing the cost of constructing a building should not be too difficult to prove or disprove. The Senate can ask a disinterested party, for example, the Philippine Constructors Association, to estimate the cost on an “as built” basis. The bill of materials should still be on file and so should the building plans. The PCA should have records on costs of labor and materials in the years the construction was done for a good estimate.

If the PCA members are not brave or civic conscious enough, the Senate can hire a foreign consultant to do the job. The point is, the cost of building the car park is verifiable in terms of pesos and centavos if the senators really want to know.

Thus far, no one has looked into the circumstances of the contractor. How many projects has the contractor done for Makati and the Binays in a private capacity? Has the contractor provided “free” services to any Makati official? There must be a way to show if it had been a favored contractor and if so, the Anti Money Laundering Council and the BIR should be asked to review its financial statements as far back as necessary. Follow the money to find the truth.

Again, the point here is simply this: if we are serious about investigating corruption, there are ways of determining the truth. If the objective is just to tar a political adversary, that will merely give us barber shop gossip… not enough to jail anyone.

Perhaps the Binays are also not reacting properly to the Senate hearings. They are protesting too much… as a family. Their denials also contain little, if any, contrary facts… just the accusation that their adversaries are politically motivated. If they have nothing to hide, they should immediately make public all documents related to the construction… post all that in a website.

Let a thousand pairs of eyes review the figures. Crowdsourcing the audit of the project is perhaps better than COA technical auditors who may have been bought, as would sometimes happen.

It is easier to prove corruption in a building project than a Napoles type scam with only whistleblower testimonies and no credible physical evidence that can be examined. Receipts and vouchers can be faked but a building is a building in the same way that a road project can be tested as to materials used and quality of workmanship to justify cost.

It is not a valid defense to say the Senate hoopla is politically motivated. Indeed, I am sure the Senate hearing on the car park building is being held in aid of political ambitions. But it serves the VP nothing to claim it’s politically motivated because that’s beside the point. He needs to go out there and prove the bastards are wrong… if he can.

The VP should take the offensive and demand that his opponents put up or shut up. Details… let us have details and not more innuendoes. VP Jojo had long been accused of corruption but no one had been brave enough to present a smoking gun proving the corruption charges. Not even the former Vice Mayor who says he will spill all in a proper forum. What proper forum? This is a proper forum already!

The Senate should get that proof, if it exists, by asking the right questions and doing the right things. And VP Jojo shouldn’t complain if the hard questions are asked because citizens have a right to know. 

Now that we have seen how important it is to have a President perceived to be honest, anyone who wants to be President must pass the integrity test. It is the only way to gain the confidence of investors, local and foreign. It is the only way we can attract the capital that will create jobs and lift our people out of poverty.

It is not out of bounds for VP Jojo to be asked to explain the details of his SALN based on the same tough standards used on former CJ Corona… Like Corona, he has to answer the question: how has he amassed his assets on largely government pay?

Many people like me are afraid we will be forced to vote for Mar Roxas who we know has been proven less than competent as DOTC Secretary only because there is a cloud of doubt on the integrity of VP Jojo. That parking building will remove or reinforce that doubt depending on how the VP handles it.

It is better for the tough questions to be asked now rather than later. I want to believe VP Jojo wants to dedicate his senior years to build a lasting legacy for our people.

But VP Jojo’s past, or what the rumors say of his past, gets in the way. He shouldn’t waste this one chance to highlight his life in a way our people will never forget. Let VP Jojo show to the Filipino people where his heart really is.

Call center

I got this comment about a call center experience from one of my e-group members residing in the US.

When I called Comcast customer service this afternoon, a friendly voice answered and I recognized instantly a slight Filipina accent.  Turns out she works at a call center in Manila handling Comcast customer questions.  She was well-trained, quite capable in answering my questions and her English was quite good. I was pleasantly surprised!  US companies should start moving their call center operations in India to the Philippines!

Good to know that call center experience is not typical.

Love your husband

Got this from my e-group too.

Love your husband if he looks at all the beautiful females because he is just checking that you are still the best.

Love him if he snores at night and disturbs your sleep because he is trying to prove that he is the most relaxed person after being married to you.

Love him… Because you don’t have a choice and killing is illegal!

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address Follow him on Twitter @boochanco

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