Sunday, October 5, 2008

Dodoy Perez’s dilemma: where to work if dismissed

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

Ka katapusan it imahinasyon

Nakabalik ako sa Odiongan it kag usang dominggo matapos ka kuyang-kuyang nak pitong tuig na waya ako nabisita.

Kag pagbabag-o it gi-udahan it kapitolyong komersyal it Romblon ay marako ag masyado’t halata. Sa ako pangmuyat, nag-uswag ka Odiongan. Kag lugar it dating merkado ay naglimpyo.
It has turned into a public space.

Nagrasig ag nagtigson ka ekonomiya. Karamo iy ka nagtitinra ag nagni-negosyo. Halos kumpletoy ka pasilidad it pagbabangko, telekomunikasyon, ag edukasyon. Nagramo ka tawo, nak ka mga balati-on ay pay nagkapag-asa.

Mahabang panahon ka pitong tuig. Kung mas marasig, siguro ay mas mayado pa ka naabot it Odiongan. Reli gi susuyor ka ‘intervention’ it gobyerno sa pag-uswag it usang banwa. Ka pag-uswag ay ging aanak it matadlong nak pagpapanguyo ag matibay nak gobyerno.

Kada kung moderno’y ka Odiongan, siguradong ka gobyerno ay inggwa it nahuman.


Yes, but only partly. The history of modernity is a history of a people coming together to promote and act for the common good. The government may claim credit for uplifting people’s lives, but only partly. In the end, it is still the common people who should get credit for moving forward.

Kaling kaisipong kali ay nagyutaw it kag magbisita ako sa Odiongan. Nakaabot ako sa Brgy. Tabing Dagat. Reli ay nakahilera ka mga konkretong posteng sa kahahadag ka iwag; nak sa sobrang hadag ay siguradong masabo ka isra pag taob ag maruyom ka buyan. Ugaling ay siguradong pagsabo it isra ay kaibahan ka sayabay, dahil ka hadag ay waya it ging pipiling a-iwagan. Basaha kag istorya it nanay ni Jose Rizal sa “The Lamp and the Moth”.

What’s the point I am driving at? That a lighted public place both repels and attracts. It repels criminals who shun the light. It attracts visitors and encourages leisurely activities. The only problem when I visited the “baywalk” along Brgy. Tabing Dagat was that there was not a single promenader. The place was silent as a tomb.

Nagsawa-iy sa hadag ka taga-Odiongan?

No. They might have just other important things to do than killing time under the bright lights of the “baywalk”, such as, perhaps, working to earn a living, or taking a rest after a hard day’s work.

This is not to disparage the Tabing Dagat lampposts. They are beautiful and serve a purpose. This is, however, to question the priorities of those who put it up. Whoever did it lacked imagination.

I was told the lampposts, 100 pieces in all, cost P3.5 million. That is P35,000 per. I was also told there are similar lampposts in Calatrava, put up by Mayor Bong Fabella, and they cost only P17,000 per. What mathematical corruption was committed in erecting the Tabing Dagat promenade lights? Ask Gov. Natalio Beltran, Jr. Most probably, he will say, “None”.

But that’s exactly my point. The P3.5 million is not peanuts. And nobody might have benefited financially from the lampposts’ construction. Yet, it is taxpayers’ money and should have been wisely spent.

I have not seen P3.5 million in my whole life and—argue with me on this—so have 95 percent of all Romblomanons. We are a poor province pretending to be rich. We are dark, but the pockets of bright spots, whether they are in Tabing Dagat or somewhere else, do not shine equally on all of us. Get that?

In other words, if you are the governor, why would you prioritize spending P3.5 million on lampposts if P3.5 million can build 12 concrete classrooms, or buy 5,384 fifty-kilo sacks of NFA rice, or used to dig up 20 deep wells in areas where there is no safe water for residents? I calculated that the P3.5 million can also be used to buy 583,000 Neozep tablets, more than enough to prevent all Romblomanons from contracting common colds.

Come on, I am not being simplistic. In these times when a ganta of rice in Sibale is about P80, there is no time to kid each other how we could possibly survive the economic crunch that majority of Romblomanons is suffering from. We all have to be practical and to do it is to call on our leaders to set aright their priorities.

Alas, Gov. Beltran’s priority—which is the beautification of Romblon (go to Romblon’s website to see this)—clashes with reality. Beautify Romblon when Romblomanons are hungry? You must be joking. Why should we install bright lights in streets with less traffic—human and vehicular—when there are families in the mountains who don’t have electricity connection? Pray, tell, where is the sense of practicality and commonsense in this?

Another thing. Romblon is pristinely, naturally beautiful as it already is. There is no need to “beautify” it some more, if the governor’s beautification projects are aimed at papering over Romblon’s face with cosmetics to attract tourists.

We are sick—our provincial government is sick—with incrementalism. The solution that we think and implement for our monumental problems are always incremental and superficial. Small and short-term and cyclical. We plod. We muddle from one election to another. A paved road here, an artesian well there, a lamppost over there, a basketball court here, a waiting shed there, etc. In doing so, we try to please a small number and leave the majority hanging high and dry. Result? Problem unsolved.

We do not appreciate the big picture and we do not do the practical, incredibly big things for the long-term benefit of our people. Government is not rocket science. It requires only commonsense and a good heart. It also requires honesty and hard work.

I call this incremental attitude, this distorted sense of priority, the end of imagination, a quote from Nadine Gordimer, one of my favorite writers. Many elected government officials have reached this end.

You need not have proof. Just go to Tabing Dagat and see the lights. After that, visit Sibuyan where the poor are pressing their empty stomachs with their calloused hands and staring blankly into nowhere.

Who pays for the electric bills, anyway, Gov. Beltran? The barangay? Nakakahilak si kapitan. Nabawasan kag ida internal revenue allotment.

Sometime ago, I wrote that MMDA chair Bayani Fernando had reached the end of his imagination because he painted the EDSA toilets pink.

Now, it’s Gov. Beltran’s turn to reach that end. But I am not even sure that he has the imagination, so we ask: How could he reach its end?