IN A POMPOUS ceremony last Friday in Malacañang, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was smiling ear-to-ear as he handed over to President Benigno AquinoIII checks of P29 billion representing dividends of government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) turned over to the National Treasury.
In his speech, the President claimed that these were the result of his administration’s hard work. “As you can see, we are working overtime to bolster our abilities to give back to the Filipino people what they have given us,” he said.
He even insinuated that the huge remittances could not have been made under the previous administration since the GOCCs at that time were “the milking cows of politicians and their wards.”
Mr. Aquino was totally clueless about the fact that the P29-billion remittances were generated from revenues generated by GOCCs during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s term—some even for the years 2003 to 2006. The GOCCs’ performance that generated the dividends had nothing to do with his administration.
Take the bulk of the remittances: the P14.3 billion that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas remitted, or nearly half of the P28.5 billion turned over. Out of this, P4.9 billion were dividends on the BSP’s income for 2009, the monetary authority’s representatives explained. The bulk of these or P9.3 billion were dividends on the BSP’s income from 2003 to 2006. The BSP remitted this income to the Treasury after the Commission on Audit concluded after nearly a year’s study that the dividends the bank had remitted were smaller than required by law.
The dividends from the other state firms could not have been made on revenues made under Aquino’s watch simply because the GOCCs, like most corporations, are still waiting either for the Commission on Audit to approve their 2010 second-semester books or for their finance men to complete their reports. None of the GOCC boards have even met to declare dividends for the second half of 2010.
An official of the Development Bank of the Philippines pointed out that out of the P2.8 billion Purisima reported as the bank’s dividends, P500 million were revenues in 2009 and P1.3 billion were for the first half of 2010, or before Aquino assumed power. “We haven’t remitted the remaining P1 billion, since the COA still has not approved our books,” the DBP official said.
Either Purisima was too eager to boast to the President that he was an effective finance secretary, or this fledgling administration is desperate to claim accomplishments.
It would have been a magnanimous gesture for Mr. Aquino, and a boost to the morale of the GOCCs’ professional staff, if he congratulated them for running their corporations well enough to generate dividends that his government could use now to help alleviate poverty. Unfortunately, the President is sticking to his erroneous belief, probably because of his feeling of insecurity, that his legitimacy depends on how black he paints his predecessor.
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Seeing Heidi Mendoza pursuing her crusade against corruption, which she put on high gear nine years ago, certainly uplifted my spirit.
It was retired Brig Gen. Victor Corpus, former ISAFP chief, who had recommended Mendoza to join our small anti-corruption unit, Transparency Group, headed by a young lawyer, Nicanor Conti, which I had set up as presidential chief of staff in 2003. (She always worked with a quiet tall lady and a young man, whose names I regret forgetting.)
Mendoza was worried that her team’s findings regarding corruption in certain municipalities and cities in Metro Manila would just gather dust in some Commission on Audit library. Fortunately, her immediate supervisor at the COA then encouraged her idealism, and agreed to second her to our office.
While we initially wanted her team’s accounting expertise for the life-style checks the Transparency Group was undertaking, we decided to assign her to work on cases of corruption she had uncovered in her years as auditor.
COA auditors are actually uniquely placed to uncover corruption, as they not only have the accounting expertise to see the actual flow of funds, but their work requires evaluating the validity of each and every financial document a government agency generates, such as receipts and bank books. Unfortunately, the COA is not mandated by law to investigate corruption, not even to recommend prosecution of graft cases it uncovers.
With the evidence Mendoza’s team gathered, the Transparency Group succeeded in stopping lease payments amounting to hundreds of millions of pesos yearly by a Metro Manila municipality for a non-existent property, with the proceeds pocketed by corrupt municipal officials. Her team’s next target was corruption in a prominent city in Metro Manila, and it was able to collect hundreds of incriminating documents, for instance, receipts for the purchase of medical supplies, which were tampered to inflate the actual costs.
Because they had been in the COA unit which audited the military before, Mendoza and her team were keen on exposing what they believed to be massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines’ procurement system. An opportunity for her to pursue her crusade opened up when Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo zeroed in on Carlos Garcia’s corruption case. Mendoza and her team were seconded to Marcelo’s group.
The last time I talked to her was when she suddenly asked for a meeting sometime in 2004 to report that she believed military-looking men were tailing her car and casing her residence. It was either the ISAFP or the Presidential Security Group which provided her security for a while.
We certainly need more Filipinos like Mendoza and the unsung heroes that were her unnamed comrades in the anti-corruption crusade.
From the Philippine Daily Inquirer