By Joe Espiritu
">Bohol Sunday Post</a>
While politicians in Bohol are going their way in making the province a better place to live in, those whom we had elected to run our country are starting to make a mess. First of all, while it took the Ombudsman and the Sandigang Bayan six years to render judgment on the charges of perjury and plunder of an ex President, a known womanizer and wheeler dealer, a move has already started to grant him executive clemency. If there had been an intention of letting him go free after his conviction, why has he been brought to court in the first place?
For the sake of national unity, they say, Erap should be pardoned. How then could the government justly keep Atong Ang in prison when Erap is set free? Would the cases against co accused Yolanda Ricaforte, Jaime Dichaves, Dante Tan and the rest be dropped? Erap insists that he would accept a presidential pardon if there are no conditions attached. Which means he does not have to return the dirty millions he had amassed during his term. Contrary to biblical sayings, crime does pay after all.
The "Hello Garci" scandal surfaced after the last presidential elections. The conversation between the then presidential candidate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Comelec Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano was surreptitiously recorded when the technicians of the Intelligence Service Armed Forces of the Philippines wiretapped the telephone lines of the Commission on Election. The taped conversation was presented in a Senate hearing and took the elected president to task for calling a Comelec commissioner while the votes are counted.
When the "Mother of all Tapes" meaning the whole tape recorded conversation between Comelec commissioner and his callers were brought out, it turned out that it was not only President GMA who called but including a host of others.
According to law, wire-tapping is illegal. According to the laws of evidence, any evidence illegally obtained cannot be used. Why then is the Hello Garci tape and the Mother of all Tapes used in a Senate hearing? Can a law making body twist the law? This leaves us ordinary citizenry confused. It seems as if we had elected a wrong set of legislators.
In trying to keep up with the times, the government intended to put up sophisticated communication lines that would allow face to face contact when important orders or vital information is sent or exchanged with every government offices in the country. This would be made possible with a countrywide broadband network. When the President went to Mainland China on official visit, someone clinched the deal with ZTE Corporation to build the system. Immediately after the contract was signed the papers disappeared. News said the contract was overpriced.
To start, was there any plan to establish a broadband network before the President left for China? To acquire such a costly system, it is but natural that a project study is done to at least to ascertain the project costs. If there was, the NEDA should be aware of the proposed project. Is the broadband network be used in a computerized election, system? If it could not be, why does the broadband network take precedence before the automated election system, which we sorely need so there will be no more "Hello Garcis"?
We in the barangays have to go through the motions of drafting resolutions, making program of works, detailing the expenditure and going through the bidding and awarding process. News says that the ZTE project did not follow such moves.
There are accusations that there are other companies, which can provide the same services a lesser costs. There is an accusation that the ZTE deal had been brokered by the Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos. The name of the First Gentleman was dragged into the mess. The accuser is no less that Jose de Venecia III. Strange.
Jose de Venecia III is a son of the Speaker of the House of Representatives. He is the head of Amsterdam Corporation, which also builds broadband networks. It is not possible the deVenecia III is not aware that the government is intending to establish a broadband system all over the country. Is he is not, then he is sleeping on the job or we can assume that he is not in talking terms with his father. There must be something wrong somewhere.
The Hello Garci case and the broadband deal have all the intentions of shooting down the Arroyo administration. The Erap pardon has the intents of earning pogi points for the administration. All those tend to move the country backwards or sideways, never forward. We do not know whether to condemn or applaud those maneuvers. We do know that we have enough of politics. It is high time to shift the system to a parliamentary or federal parliamentary one where politicians can be changed or forced to resign at the first hint of scandal.