Accountability and reckoning

Published October 20, 2020, 5:46 PM

by Former Vice President Jejomar C. Binay

GOVERNANCE MATTERS

Former Vice President Jejomar Binay

It would be foolhardy for anyone to think that the congressman from Taguig, after being unceremoniously ejected from his once lofty position as speaker of the House,  would suddenly become a paragon of quiet humility and contrition. He is already set in his ways, and no amount of public humiliation at the hands of his colleagues or rebuke from his political benefactor will make him change.

His trademark arrogance and self-righteousness were once again on full display on the same morning that his colleagues installed his successor. In a rambling speech which he aired live on social media, he lambasted the new speaker and his colleagues. He portrayed himself as a victim of betrayal by men who did not honor their word. Except for himself and his hardcore supporters, no one would give credence to this claim. His fall from power, after all, was a result of his own refusal to honor a gentleman’s accord to yield the speakership to his successor at an agreed-upon date.

The  congressman from Taguig is propelled and sustained by an insatiable craving for power and privilege. He does not see these as character flaws. He revels in them. He flaunts them. And it has caused his political unravelling, his drop from the lofty heights of political power.

Political observers and his former colleagues agree that the downfall of the congressman from Taguig started when he generously dispensed billions in infrastructure projects in the 2021 budget to himself and his chosen few. What began as grumblings by legislators who were left holding crumbs snowballed into open insurrection, drawing even the intervention of the President, whose wishes he dared to openly defy.

Senators reviewing the P666.47-billion budget of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) for 2021 questioned the imbalance in fund allocations in favor of local projects. The funds allotted for local projects reportedly increased to P229 billion from the original allocation of P176.15 billion after supposed “consultations” with the former House leadership. This lopsided allocation includes over P8 billion for Taguig, the district of the deposed and disgraced speaker, and over P11 billion for the district of his right-hand man from Camarines Sur.

But lest we forget, this is not the only controversy over government funds that involves the congressman from Taguig.

In November last year, a private foundation chaired by the congressman received a total of P1.5 billion in taxpayers’ money for the 30th Southeast Asian Games (SEA Games). This foundation had no track record in managing sporting activities, yet it was placed in charge of the preparations and management of the Games ostensibly as a way to go around procurement rules mandated by law.

Last week, we came to learn that the congressman’s foundation has failed to pay a total of P387 million to suppliers of the SEA Games. The Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) is now asking the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) for money to settle the foundation’s debts.

Perhaps it is about time for Congress to resume its investigation into the preparations and management of SEA Games. It should ideally focus more sharply on the operations of the congressman’s foundation. How did it spend the P1.5 billion? How much did it actually earn from the event? Recall that Congress had put its public hearings on hold in deference to our country’s hosting of the event. But almost a year has gone by. Now would be the proper time to resume the hearings in light of these recent revelations by PSC and the still unanswered questions surrounding the allegedly overpriced cauldron, athletic gear and equipment.

There is also the questionable P8.51-billion deal between the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Malaysian firm MTD Capital Berhad for the construction of the Games’ sports facilities. The contract has been flagged by the Commission on Audit (COA) for being “prejudicial to the interest of the government.”

The Taguig congressman had once dared the new speaker to investigate his foundation. I see nothing wrong if the speaker convenes an investigation since it would not be seen as being petty or vindictive, but merely accommodating the wishes of his predecessor. It seems that when you scratch the surface of a major controversy involving government funds, you find the imprint of the Taguig congressman on it.

The congressman from Taguig has built a political career by falsely accusing people of misconduct, and in the process destroying names and reputations. It is perhaps time for accountability and reckoning.

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