There is this public perception, which is wrong, that corruption is perpetuated only by people in the public sector; by officials in government who occupy high positions of power.
There is also this public perception, which is untrue, that lower-level government officials—the backbone of the bureaucracy—are not capable of any wrong doing.
And then, there is this public belief, which is absurd, that there is no corruption in the interstices of the private sector, in business; that private citizens are incapable of evil deeds and misconduct.
The fact is, corruption, as a crime, does not choose its terrain. It is committed in the name of selfish personal interest, in low and high places, public or private. Corruption is a disease and it does not distinguish those whom it infects. It has even succeeded in tempting Judas, who betrayed Jesus for a bribe of thirty pieces of silver.
Why is it, therefore, that only incidents of corruption in public office often get in the news? Are we as a people selective in our treatment of the corrupt, or do we employ double standards when judging criminal behavior? Aided by a vigilant media which always highlights corruption in the public terrain, this seems to be so.
OK. Wrong-doing in government is fodder for the media because the perpetrators are in public service, which is a public trust.
The standards of behavior applied to public officials are much more different and stricter than the standards applied to people in the private sector precisely because public officials must be accountable to the people who pay their salaries through their taxes.
Thus, public officials who are criticized for their conduct should not be onion-skinned. It’s part of the territory.
The news last week, that the Ombudsman has ordered the dismissal of DPWH district engineer Rolindo “Dodoy” Perez, along with 15 other officials, demonstrates in vivid color the cancer of corruption that has been gnawing at our system for years.
Perez, along with Vicente Vargas, also an OIC district engineer; Engrs. Mayo Pelagio and Dennis Geduspan; Bernardo Yparosa, an accountant; Jose Javier, Jr., a property custodian; and Pio Gareza, Jr., a supply officer—all of the DPWH’s 4thth sub-engineering office in Bago, Negros Occidental—were dismissed for grave misconduct in connection with irregularities in two projects involving the improvement of the Camingawan-Pandan Road in Pontevedra.
The Ombudsman said a special audit of the two projects revealed a discrepancy of P8.12 million representing cost of materials and labor paid but not delivered or accomplished. The special audit also found out a discrepancy of P2.97 million representing cost of materials and labor which were utilized or applied in the projects, but which were not included among the paid items.
Overall Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro wrote the dismissal order, asking DPWH Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Perez’s boss, to immediately implement the dismissal and to submit a report of compliance on the same.
The guessing game is on whether or not Ebdane will quickly act. It can be recalled it was only last August 8, 2007 that Ebdane re-assigned Perez from the Masbate 2nd District Engineering Office to Romblon. It could be that he had not yet warmed up his seat in the province.
The news of Perez’s dismissal circulated like wildfire, with public opinion divided between those who are not Perez’s fans and those who are barking up in defense of the beleaguered engineer.
One of his staunchest defenders, I was told, was Raffy Molino, a member of the Romblon media community, who was said to have belittled the order because the case that caused Perez’s removal did not happen in Romblon.
In short, Molino was implying the Romblomanons did not suffer from Perez’s official conduct. “Don’t worry, be happy”.
It is exactly this kind of tolerance, this response to official sanction—such as the Ombudsman’s order—that perpetuates our culture of corruption. This shallow justification—that we were not harmed anyway—would lead to the thinking that one can commit wrongdoing without fear of censure or penalty. Shall we wait for Romblon to suffer before we complain?
Molino, according to the source, has warned Perez’s critics over the radio not to “provoke” the engineer because he might run for a political office in 2010. Molino allegedly have said that if this happens, “walang kalaban-laban ang kalaban” or words to that effect.
So, the cat is out of the bag. Perez’s has dreams of becoming a political animal in 2010.
That’s his right. The question is: Will Perez’s dismissal be good for the province? I don’t know. Ask Engr. Nicanor Marcelo, Perez’s assistant.
I myself don’t know Perez, but according to an informant, the Masbatenos allegedly heaved a sigh of relief when he was re-assigned to Romblon. That only meant one thing. Perez’s must have been a very unlikeable person in Masbate.
The political grapevine has this in relation to what Molino had said: Perez would like to run for governor in 2010 under lawyer Bernie Fondevilla, an undersecretary in the department of agriculture. Watch out, Rep. Budoy! Watch out, Gov. Jojo. You have now willing opponents.
What these politicians don’t know is that there may not be a 2010. In the meantime, I have a question which many Romblomanons may have after the news came out: What is Rep. Budoy’s comment about the dismissal of his erstwhile ally?
And before I forget, let me ask, too: What will be Perez’s next job if he is dismissed? Call in your answers at 0927-911-6280. You can also email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.