Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The waivers at PCSO

AROUND the last week of May this year, Bayan Muna party-list Representative Neri Javier Colmenares submitted for investigation in the House of Representatives a P50-billion worth of transactions involving the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) with TMA, an Australian company that supplies PCSO with thermal paper in a signed contract that has a lifespan of 50 years. Among others, he also disclosed that in 2010 or close to last national elections about P7.2 billion were spent in advertizing, public relations and intelligence work. That was more than a smoking gun that, if pursued, forebodes a major catastrophe for those involved.

Barely a month later, or about June 29, PCSO Chair Margarita Juico leaks to the media that some Catholic bishops were recipients of expensive Pajero cars. Instantly, that caught a wild fire. Obviously, the bombshell was professionally handled in that the release of news stories was done piecemeal and protracted in order to last longer in satisfying the daily craving of the media. First there were no names. Then names were given in response to the clamor to name names. But then there were no Pajeros, only SUVs. Were the donations to the bishops within the framework of the constitution? Are the bishops criminally liable? And so on and so forth.

The orchestration continued and every day the professional spinners were waiving the news stories that would provoke doubts and more questions against the bishops and, consequently, the Catholic Church. In social networks, wolf packs, especially those from the camp of supporters of the Reproductive Health bill and those with pint up hatred against the bishops and the Catholic Church unleashed an unprecedented volley of attacks.

But at the senate hearing (at least the two sessions covered at press time) the focus seem to be shifting to where it should be—the PCSO. The hunches that were in the mind of Colmenares begun to take form—from no less than the Juico and former PCSO General Manager Rosario Uriarte themselves. From the horse’s mouth, now there is a P325 million in intelligence fund and a couple of billions of pesos for advertizing and public relations were used for other purposes—which, of course, should not be too hard to connect with the patronage, if not survival, politics of the past administration.

The whole brouhaha about the seven or so cars donated to the dioceses through the bishops appears now to be a demolition job. The total cost of the cars which was a little over six million pesos is not even a drop in a PCSO bucket of worms that swells into billions of pesos. The only rub is, the itinerary of the demolition may boomerang on the PCSO. The bishops have suffered so much. But their suffering may not be wasted if this exercise will trigger a new path towards addressing the endemic corruption in this country.

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