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Dengvaxia, MRT-3, e-passports: The worst cases of corruption in PH history

NEVER again!
The P3.5-billion purchase of and mass inoculation with the defective Dengvaxia vaccine; the turnover of the P5-billion maintenance contract for MRT-3 to favored cronies; and the P38-billion passport-printing monopoly given to a private firm.

In just six years of the Yellow regime, undertaken were the worst and most despicable cases of corruption in Philippine history. The Yellows’ villain Ferdinand Marcos ruled for 20 years, 13 of that with absolute powers. Yet not a single case of corruption on the scale of these three during Benigno Aquino 3rd’s administration has been proven, nor really even charged.

The so-called “coco levy fund scam”? (Wikipedia entry.) The P83 billion fund is intact, its aim to modernize the coconut industry aborted, and the money is now kept in the National Treasury, its disposition awaiting a law to be passed by Congress.

The Bataan Nuclear Power plant commissions? Incompetent or whatever, lawyers of two Aquino and the Ramos regimes, couldn’t get the supposed broker and crony Herminio Disini convicted until he passed away in 2014.

In any case, the alleged $1-million commission he received is worth (accounting for inflation) just P105 million today — loose change compared to the P500 million to P11 billion revenues of firms and individuals that benefited or will benefit from the three biggest corruption cases in Philippine history. And 20 years after the project was suspended, studies by several groups of experts have concluded that nothing was wrong in its design nor even its location. Some even think it makes sense to renovate it to operate in this era of dwindling oil reserves.

While there were huge amounts of money involved in these scams, it is not just this that makes these three cases of corruption during Aquino’s watch the most abhorrent in our history

It is also the fact that Aquino and his officials were so willing to risk the lives of more than a million Filipinos.

Dengvaxia debacle
In the case of the Dengvaxia debacle, a million Filipino children were to be vaccinated — 700,000 actually — with a new vaccine that the World Health Organization had very categorically warned cannot be used on a mass scale, but only in tightly doctor-monitored protocols, as its effect is still being evaluated. Indeed it turned out that Dengvaxia makes the onset of dengue worse for a child who had never been sick with the disease before.

The Public Attorney’s Office in fact has claimed that over 100 deaths were directly or indirectly due to inoculation with Dengvaxia involving children who had never been infected with dengue before.

Why did Aquino and his gang risk the lives of Filipino children? The price for the defective Dengvaxia was P3.5 billion. How much would a 10 percent commission be? P350 million.

The other day, the committees on good government and health voted 14 to 4 that graft, technical malversation and grave misconduct charges be brought against Aquino, former Health secretary Janette Garin, former Budget secretary Florencio Abad and others held responsible for the P3.5-billion vaccination program. Abad of course arrogantly claimed that the recommendation would be reversed by a plenary session of the House of Representatives.

MRT-3 mess
In the case of the MRT-3 mess, Aquino and his officials played Russian roulette with the lives of over 500,000 commuters using the mass transit system, again ironically planned by the Yellows’ villain Marcos.

MRT-3 had run smoothly since it started operations in 1999, built and maintained by the Japanese Sumitomo Corp., which made it out as one of its prime “sample” for its capability in the globally competitive rapid transit industry.

When the Sumitomo maintenance contract ended in 2012, the Department of Transport and Communications under Mar Roxas — who has the gall to run again as senator despite his complicity in the MRT-3 mess — maneuvered to get the P5 billion contract awarded to two firms which allegedly had close ties with President Aquino’s political allies.

The two firms PH Trams and then APT-Global, turned out either to be bumbling amateurs in light-rail vehicle maintenance field, or decided to skimp on the necessary spare parts to keep the trains running efficiently in order to increase their profits. They didn’t import and stockpile the high-quality spare parts needed for the light-rail vehicles and the replacements for the tracks. Parts were instead cannibalized from other cars that were put out of operation, so that only 50 out of the 73 cars operating in 2011 are running now.

The result: fewer trains have been running, requiring commuters to queue for hours to ride the jampacked, not to mention, dangerous trains. There were scores of breakdowns in which commuters had to go down in the middle of the route and walk the dangerous rail tracks to get to the exits.

The MRT-3 mess made 500,000 Filipinos’ daily commute to work a hell on earth. The exodus from MRT-3 because of its unreliability worsened traffic on EDSA, costing the economy billions of pesos. How much would the 10 percent commission be for the P5 billion contract given to the two firms close to the Yellows regime? P500 million.

The e-passport monopoly
It will be very, very fishy if Congress doesn’t recommend similar criminal cases, as it did in the Dengvaxia debacle and the MRT-3 mess, to be filed in the recently exposed printing monopoly de facto given to a private firm.

The contract to print 45 million new machine-readable passports at a cost of P38 billion was maneuvered — as in the case of the Dengvaxia contract — just in time before Aquino stepped down in July 2016. Instead of awarding it to the three entities authorized to print high-security documents (the Bangko Sentral, the National Printing Office, and the APO Production Unit), it was given essentially to a private firm United Graphic Expressions Corp. (UEGC), which will earn P11 billion from it in 10 years, at least P2.5 billion of which it has already gotten from 2016 to 2018.

Other than the fact that the P400 increase in passport fees will be UGEC’s profits and will be borne by 45 million Filipinos, what makes this case of corruption so contemptible is the following:

The passport is our ID to the world what we are a citizen of the Philippine Republic. Yet this UGEC deal has made it a symbol of corruption. The Aquino officials responsible for this and the private firm are spitting on a prime symbol of our nation. As that Tagalog condemnation would put it: “Pinagkitaan pa.”

Involved here were two “luminaries” of the Aquino administration and a Coryite: Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo who started the events that led to the awarding of the contract to the UGEC; Presidential Communications Operation head and occasional spokesman Herminio Coloma; and a press assistant secretary, said to be close to Cory herself at the time, Milagros Alora.

In the Dengvaxia deal, involved were Aquino himself, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Health Secretary Janette Garin. In the MRT-3 mess, Mar Roxas and his successor at the DOTC, Joseph Emilio Abaya.

With the names of the pillars of the Yellow regime cropping up in the three worst and most abominable cases of corruption in our country, I am astonished that Yellow supporters like Vice President Leonor Robredo, Senators Franklin Drilon, Risa Hontiveros, and Bam Aquino don’t denounce their former (or current) cult, with such overwhelming evidence of its corruption.

We should all confront these Yellows, and especially the ridiculous “ocho derecho” candidates who are deluded that they can become senators; the Ateneo de Manila which is campaigning for them; and the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, to ask them why they aren’t denouncing these three most despicable cases of corruption ever.

How many Filipinos were adversely or will be adversely affected by these three graft schemes? Tens of millions.

“Never again” is a shout most appropriately directed at the Yellow regime.



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