Generally, the term “culture of impunity and indifference” is used to describe a situation in which repeated human rights violations elicit very little public reaction or where the public outcry is totally ignored. The killing of journalists in the Philippines, with the authorities either unable or unwilling to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice in spite of widespread public outcry here and abroad, would be a case in point.
But the term can just as easily be applied to corruption, or, for that matter, to other sins of omission or commission which are publicized but evoke nothing more than a ho-hum from our authorities, and worse, are justified and defended by them. Two recent examples illustrate the existence of such a culture and serve to show just how large a problem the Filipino people are faced with.
The first is the case in which the House of Representatives, after two committee hearings, cleared three Filipino contractors who had been banned (debarred), along with four Chinese contractors, by the World Bank from bidding for any project which it finances. The House claimed it found no evidence of collusive practices in any of the materials supplied them by the World Bank. And the contractors claimed that they were denied due process. The image conveyed is one of a foreign giant (World Bank) picking on helpless and innocent local firms.
Let’s look at the other side of the picture, as posted on the World Bank website. It turns out that between 2003 and 2006, the World Bank team identified excessive pricing and other signs of possible collusion on the part of the firms during three successive rounds of project bidding.
What process was followed after that? It is called the Sanctions Process, and here’s how it flowed: The team reported its observations to the Department of Institutional Integrity (INT) of the World Bank. The latter then conducted its own investigation, found that there was evidence, and prepared a proposed Notice of Sanctions Proceeding which it submitted to the World Bank’s Evaluation and Suspension Office (OES). The INT, by the way, also sent its investigation report (this, in November 2007, or 14 months ago) to our Department of Finance and the Office of the Ombudsman.
The OES reviewed the evidence, determined that it was sufficient to support a finding that an alleged sanctionable practice occurred. It then issued a Notice of Sanctions Proceedings to the firms/individuals mentioned above (which they received in May 2008), temporarily suspending them pending the final outcome of the proceedings. The latter contested the allegations, and the case went up to the so-called Sanctions Board, which is composed of external legal experts and senior WB officials. It is this board that studied the submissions of all parties concerned; and, had the firms also asked for a hearing, it would have been granted.
In other words, due process was observed, the firms involved given every chance to explain or defend themselves. This is an administrative and not a criminal proceeding.
Look at the time line: 2003-2006, the World Bank team thinks some hanky-panky is going on; from 2005 to 2007, INT conducts an investigation. End of 2007, INT sends its investigation report to the Philippine Ombudsman, and submits it to the OES for evaluation. May 2008, OES sends notice of sanctions proceedings to the firms, giving them opportunity to respond and ask for a hearing. January 2009, Sanctions Board debars the firms.
From end of the INT investigation to the decision of the Sanctions Board, it took 14 months. Does that sound like a kangaroo court to you?
And yet our congressmen, after only two hearings, saw fit to clear the firms of any wrongdoing. My information is that Roger Mercado, chairman of the House of Representatives’ public works and highways committee, was himself a contractor (still is?) before he entered politics, and that six of the committee members are also contractors. (By the way, Mercado’s brother, the governor of Southern Leyte province, is also a contractor.) Culture of impunity? Indifference to public opinion? The World Bank, by the way, is sticking to its guns.
The second case has not gotten the glare of publicity as the World Bank case, but it serves to show that the culture of impunity and indifference permeates everywhere, even in the academe. The case involves Godofredo E. Gallega, president of the Technological University of the Philippines (TUP). A case of sexual harassment was filed against him with the Civil Service by one of his faculty (Prof. Mila Espinosa) sometime in December 2007. It was in the course of the filing of this case that Mila discovered that Gallega had secretly married a member of the faculty, Dr. Evangeline Dayap sometime in May 2006. Dayap was later appointed as a dean, and then later — upon the strong recommendation of Gallega — as vice president for academic affairs. The two did not disclose their relationship until early 2008, after Espinosa filed her case. The Faculty Association of the TUP (headed by Dr. Juliet Catane, an alumna of the University of the Philippines) filed a case of corruption and nepotism against the couple with the Ombudsman last August.
Here’s where the culture of impunity and indifference comes in: The Civil Service placed him under preventive suspension last week, but he ignored it, reporting for work until yesterday. Meanwhile, some members of the faculty, as well as deans and directors, are signing a petition asking for an extension of his term, which ends this October. This, even after they were apprised of his behavior. Shameful.
Author: Solita Collas-Monsod
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer
Date: February 01, 2009
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