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Bacolod City, Philippines Monday, July 18, 2016
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Fools rush in


The lyrics of a song run like this: “Fools rush in where angels fear to tread, where wise men never dared.” This is not new but had been said through the centuries but had to be repeated time and again because people never learn.

It seems that officials of the Monico Puentevella administration of Bacolod did not learn this lesson. They rushed in to pay a supplier even before things were done properly and honestly. I guess they are not angels or wise men and women, because they did rush in and issued a check of over P39 million to meet the deadline when they could no longer legally act. Since they did not learn their nursery lessons, they are now in hot water, destined to go where angels and wise men dare not go.

I guess they had been “processing” payments this way and they have become experts at it, so they thought they could beat the deadline and hope that others are so stupid they could not detect their malevolent attempts.

A television clip showed Bacolod General Services Office head Jerome Solinap explaining that they followed the procedure. He was also the city administrator and concurrently the chairman of the Bids and Awards Committee, and therefore, we can take his word that they indeed followed the procedure.

For this column, let's focus on the purchase of equipment and facilities for a speech laboratory. The details will come out later on when the investigation is completed. At the moment this is only a commentary on the claimed proper procedure. The sordid details, already partly published, will be reinforced later when the inquiry is completed and cases are filed against the city officials and employees and the supplier of the equipment.

The only question is what kind of procedure was followed. By procedure, in the normal sense that an ordinary mind can understand, means that the manner was in accordance with law. Procedure is prescribed in all government transactions in order that the system that public servants must follow in official transactions conforms to the provisions of law, its spirit and intent.

This is where the problem of Solinap is. There are several loopholes in his kind of procedure that contravenes the provisions of the law and its spirit and intent to insure that all government transactions are transparent and honest. Can Solinap swear even over a cup of coffee that the procedure they followed was above question?

Of course, as he replied to questions from media, but his answer cannot pass the acid test, so to speak, of minute scrutiny. The fact-finding committee formed by Mayor Evelio Leonardia and headed by Atty. Joselito Bayatan, the city legal officer, has already unearthed damaging information that points to the inevitable conclusion – they rushed the payment to meet the legal deadline for them to act, and despite the defects of the transactions.

For instance, the Bacolod Department of Education, the beneficiary of the laboratories rejected them outright because they were not in accordance with the specifications in the request. In fact, the Schools Division Superintendent Cynthia Demavivas cited the report of their Information and Communication Technology coordinator and expert consultants who said that the microprocessors of the personal computers are Intel Celeron which, by standards, are low and near obsolete. I would not be surprised if the equipment were discarded by their manufacturers and sold as junk.

This only shows that the Bids and Awards Committee closed its eyes and purchased obsolete equipment and approved them. Did the BAC at least ask DepEd before they accepted the bid? I presume it did not because if they did, the BAC would not be in this dung heap.

So what procedure did Solinap and the BAC follow? Is this not the same as the computer scam and the procedure for which Puentevella is facing graft charges before the Sandigan? The similarities are too obvious, only a jaundiced eye cannot see.

Once more Puentevella and his cohorts are up to their same kind of procedure. They could have at least learned from the lessons of the computer scam and followed the law. Providing the schools with speech laboratories is an important tool in today's world. We had ours as early as 1960 and the speech laboratory taught us skills in oral communication.

But habits seem to die hard with the Puentevella administration, a dangerous trait in a world of transparency and accountability.

Let's continue tomorrow.*




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