Pope Francis shaking the hand of an officer of the Vatican Gendarmes Corps during the regiment’s 200th anniversary in September 2015. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
A fraudster is a man who has no faith. The Gospel tells us about him in the parable of the dishonest manager. How did this manager arrive at the point of defrauding and stealing from his master? From one day to the next? No. Bit by bit. Perhaps one day he gave a tip here, a bribe there, and gradually, step by step he arrived at the point of corruption. In the parable. The master praises the manager for his shrewdness. But this is an entirely worldly and sinful shrewdness, which does great harm. There exists, instead, a Christian shrewdness, of doing this in an astute way, but not in a worldly spirit: doing things honestly. And this is good. It is what Jesus says when He invites us to be wise as serpents and harmless as doves: putting these two dimensions together is a grace of the Holy Spirit, a grace we must ask. Today too there are many of these corrupt fraudsters . . . I am struck by how corruption is widespread everywhere.
— Pope Francis, 200th anniversary of the Vatican Gendarmes Corps
BEFORE going on, let me tackle a little issue about alleged corruption in the Department of Education (DepEd).
It appears that the agency, which in effect molds the future of the coming generations of Filipinos, has not escaped the ‘dirt’ in government bidding.
An insider had told us that a contract for more than a billion pesos worth of learning modules had been won—in an obviously ‘rigged’ bidding procedure—by a miniscule company, through the efforts of a congressman who is aspiring to become a senator in next year’s national elections!
Based on documents, JC Palabay Enterprises has actually a very small net financial contracting capacity (NFCC) that doesn’t even reach PhP100 million, but still it was able to corner the PhP1.1 bilion contract for the modules to be supplied in the third and fourth quarter of school year 2021-2022.
With this at the back of our minds, we hope that education Secretary Leonor Briones will somehow realize that “education sector corruption erodes social trust, worsens inequality, and sabotages development.”
GRECO Belgica of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) has downplayed fighting senator Emmanuel ‘Manny’ Pacquiao’s claims that some PhP10.4 billion in the social amelioration program (SAP) funds had gone missing, saying the allegations have yet to be proven since they lack evidence to be proven true.
Last week, the People’s Champ disclosed that out of the 1.8 million SAP beneficiaries, only 500,000 were able to successfully use the Starpay app because there were difficulties in doing so as one needed to download the application to claim the much-needed aid amidst the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its serious impact on the country’s economy.
According to Belgica, they are still awaiting documents that would prove the boxer-senator’s claims, adding that as of present time, Pacquiao’s claims are “not conclusive” since they have not undergone investigation.
But President Rodrigo Duterte has directed concerned government agencies to cooperate in the investigations—that is if there will be investigations conducted on the matter. And to this reaction from the chief executive, former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV had scoffed at.
I recall early this year when I contacted the PACC’s commissioner concerning information about anomalous transactions in the appropriation of funds for needed equipment in the last Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) held in Manila in 2019. I was privy to the contract between a businessman from Makati City, who was tapped to supply millions-worth of equipment for one event of the biennial regional multi-sports meet, particularly sepak takraw, which I discovered was overpriced because the person who had initiated the transaction asked my friend-businessman to provide a way for him to get a big cut from the budget intended for the equipment.
But to make a long story short, nothing happened with the information I wanted to provide Duterte’s trusted man in the PACC, although the good Mr. Belgica—the son of my good friend Butch, whom I know was a no-nonsense guy when it came to corruption—promised to get back to me. The thing is, our respected commissioner never did.
But what can we really expect from government officials who have been appointed in high positions because they are merely “close to the pot” and are, in effect, beholden to the appointing person?
I’m sure most of us would say “they have their hands tied”—out of gratitude.
And the fact is that politicians and those in government are always ineffective to correct what is deemed by the public as wrong because they need to do some ‘ass-licking’ in order to stay in power.
To correct them would be an exercise in futility.
Can’t we see the insights and learn from what is happening now in the Catholic Church itself?
Even so, a prominent Italian cardinal was among 10 people sent to trial in the Vatican after they were charged with financial crimes including embezzlement, money laundering, fraud, extortion, and abuse of office.
Cardinal Angelo Becciu, formerly a senior official in the Vatican administration, as well as two top officials at the Vatican’s Financial Intelligence Unit will go on trial on July 27 over a multi-million euro scandal involving the Vatican’s purchase of a building in one of London’s smartest districts.
The trial will inevitably bring a swirl of media interest to the tiny city-state surrounded by Rome, and appears to underscore Pope Francis’ determination to cure the rot in Vatican finances, even if it involves messy public hearings.
Becciu, 73, was fired by the pope from his senior clerical post last year for alleged nepotism, although the cardinal has always maintained his innocence during a two-year investigation.
Here in the Philippines, Duterte will never ‘do’ such a move like what the pope has done because most people close to the chief executive will be merely transferred to another post where they can do their crimes all over again.
Still, Pacquiao’s revelation of alleged corruption in the Duterte administration has certainly proven to the public that a lefty like Pacman could sometimes be right. (ai/mtvn)