THE past three decades started with the presidency of Corazon C. Aquino in 1986 and will end with that of her only son, Benigno S. Aquino 3rd, in 2016. Their two terms of 12 years combined — 1986 to 1992 and 2010 to 2006 – represent 40 percent of the past 30 years. Yet so little has changed for the better and so much has changed for the worse.
Corruption continued under the Cory government in spite of her not being involved and her rising above it. Of course, it can also be said the level of venality during the Aquino administration is not as excessive as the past Marcos regime with its inordinate corruption. However, the Filipino people expected drastic, radical reforms after the EDSA 1 People Power Revolt, which did not unfortunately happen.
A former classmate told me the story of the corruption that he personally witnessed in the late 1980s. The DPWH officials and the conniving contractors would meet at the function room of his restaurant after the bidding of a project by the Department of Public Works & Highways (DPWH). After lunch, the contractors would give bags of cash to the DPWH officials. Everyone was smiling, laughing and definitely very happy.
Fast forward to the past five years of the sanctimonious administration of President B. S Aquino 3rd. I asked a DPWH contractor from Central Luzon if he knows of any DPWH District Engineer who is Not Corrupt. He could only smile and say “No!” It goes without saying the same is true with the Regional Directors, who are their bosses. Then you have the levels of Assistant Secretary and Undersecretary to reckon with. Tough!
In Metro Manila, the DPWH wasted P80 million in 2012 in a road-widening project that is not needed along C-5 in front of the Heritage Park in Taguig. The favored contractor is from Tarlac and a friend and political supporter of President Aquino. Yet DPWH has neither widened the narrow four-lane Cavite section of Daang Hari nor has DPWH repaired and maintained the more than 10-year old national highway!
Other than the anomalies at the DPWH and DoTC, there is also the never-ending corruption at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BoC). The latter has the distinction of having two BoC Commissioners who were fired and the most recent, a former Finance Assistant Secretary who has resigned. Former Customs Chief John Sevilla resigned four months ago in April due to “politics” and influence peddling.
Based on the statements of Customs Commissioner John Sevilla, it is obvious that PNoy NEVER gave him the needed support to accomplish his mission. This sounds familiar because Secretary Rainerio O. Reyes of the Department of Transportation & Communicatons (DoTC) suddenly resigned in December 1989 when he was convinced that President Cory Aquino was no longer giving him the support that he direly needed.
The oligarchy has remained entrenched with their vested interests. They were even able to advance their selfish interests after the EDSA 1 People Power Revolt with the new 1987 Constitution that contained restrictive provisions to deter Foreign Direct Investments (FDIs). Our neighbours like Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam have left us behind in Southeast Asia primarily due to the low level of FDIs in our country.
In the past five years, the President has consistently maintained his position that he is against the removal of the restrictive economic provisions in our Constitution. Either he is really super-stupid not to understand and appreciate the value of FDIs in our economy such as employment generation or he is super-smart to protect the interests of his class.
The business sector, composed of the business and management organizations and foreign chambers of commerce, has publicly clamored for the lifting of these provisions. Even the House of Representatives under the leadership of Speaker Sonny Belmonte has supported the amendments in the Constitution to attract badly needed foreign investors. However, President Aquino still remains adamant in his misguided position.
Last month, there was a Joint Resolution in the House of Representative and the Philippine Senate for an amendment on the two provisions of the Constitutions to entice FDIs. For a while, it seemed that it would be approved because the Joint Resolution has been approved in the Second Reading. All it needed was for the vote in the plenary session.
Unfortunately, Speaker Belmonte pulled it out at the last minute saying that he did not have the numbers for it to be approved. However, it is widely believed that the House Speaker received a call from Malacañang that made him change his mind. Later on in July, it was revealed in a press interview that Mr. Belmonte did not push for the constitutional amendment because he was unable to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL).
In short, the Speaker of the House did not want to offend the puerile president by approving the constitutional amendments and yet not passing the BBL last June, which President Aquino desperately wanted to have. The other possibility is that the Office of the President called Speaker Belmonte with a message not to pass the direly needed amendments to the Constitution for a reason. The President can exercise his veto powers.
Going back to vested interests, road-users are paying a higher toll rate for the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway (TPLEX) than the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEX). Why? Because TPLEX has become a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project instead of a government-funded project like the SCTEX. Same thing happened to the Muntinlupa-Cavite Expressway (MCX) of President B. S. Aquino 3rd.
The toll rate of SCTEX is only P2.50 per km. while TPLEX is charging P1.0 per km more at P3.50 per km. The toll rate of TPLEX would only be P2.50 per km like SXTEX if only the original plan was followed. The extension of SCTEX, which became TPLEX, could have tapped Japan BIC for funding like the SCTEX. However, vested interests successfully STOPPED it during the administration of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Speaking of the SCTEX, the Cojuangco family of President Aquino managed to receive the payment for its land expropriated by the BCDA at TWICE the price that the other landowners were paid. This issue was raised during the 2010 presidential elections. They even originally wanted the value of P200.00 per sqm. (Four Times!) that was allegedly promised to them by someone who is now the favorite secretary of PNoy.
Rick B. Ramos email@example.com