BLIND ITEM: It is simply ironic that in a country where anti-corruption slogans and promises win elections, the home province of a top government official (well, not President Benigno “Pnoy” Aquino as this one supposedly comes from that tiny province) has a very corrupt public work office. The province’s major roads are often scraped open and “reconstructed” by multitude of village boys instead of heavy equipments. Imagine portions of a 3-year old highway (relatively new) being “re-blocked” by manual labor. No wonder the province’s road and highways become “abortion roads” just before the elections. This makes travelers wonder if the province’s public engineers really finished their engineering decrees as they seem not able to design and build roads that can last more than three years. Greatest suspicion is these engineers are in cahoots with everybody- from the high level politicians down to the lowest muscle man who work the highways. They continue to build defective roads (those without provision for drainage or protection from landslides) in partnership with private contractors, for politicians who allegedly get hefty commissions (as much as 25%) while taking advantage of manual labor to beef up their re-election bids (mind you, most of these road re-blocking projects are done just before the elections).
Well, this racket of corrupt politicians, inept engineers and lousy private road contractors is not news. This has been going on for years, if not decades.
What makes it extra disturbing this time is that the present administration used “Matuwid na Daan” as its anti-corruption banner line. In other words, this does battle cry does not go well with the fact that corrupt road builders still go unpunished in the Philippines.
How can this be stopped?
Yes. it can. If only the Philippine government thinks out of the box and changes the way public infrastructures are built. The following are three simple and achievable ways to eradicate corruption from public infrastructure development:
First, the Philippine government should require public work engineers to undergo skill and theoretical examination. This will determine whether they still have strong grasp of basic engineering skills in road building. And in the spirit of transparency, these examinations should be conducted by independent groups – such as from those from the academe (UP, Ateneo and Mapua). Surely, the result of these examinations will reveal the real capability of the country’s engineers.
Second,the government should establish a strict project completion watchdog that will certify to the proper completion of the infrastructure project before final payment is made. This body should be composed of engineering experts from the private sector and should use world engineering standards. A member from the Ombudsman should be a must.
Third, the government should equip the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH) with sufficient construction equipment to do the work themselves. For many decades, the DPWH relied heavily on private contractors to do their job. This is simply ridiculous. This is like the Philippine military relying on private security guards to handle national security. So if the military is currently acquiring multi-million jets and ships to defend our territory, why not give the DPWH the dump trucks, bulldozers and road rollers they need for road repairs. At the very least, it will save them from the expenses of public bidding as they can do the work themselves.
There are several other measures available but the government seems reluctant to consider it. Simply stated, corruption is rooted on efficiency.
What MR. CHEAP JUSTICE really wants to suggest:
If it is really impractical for the government to follow the three suggestions above, it can at least try sure shot infrastructure contractors – those who were able to build enormous world class structures in record time but cost-efficient manner. Who else but the prolific builders of the Philippine private sectors.
Why don’t Pnoy rely on Shoemart Development Corporation (SMDC) or Robinson’s Land to build public highways and bridges following their fast and efficient ways of building their shopping malls?
If SMDC is able to build extraordinary structures (like the mall on stilt SM Marikina or the gargantuan SM Aura Mall in Taguig), building bridges and highways is chicken feed. Furthermore, Pnoy will be assured that Henry Sy or his children will destroy their billion dollar empire over a “tong pats” of let us say 10%.