Saturday, January 31, 2009


Philippine Daily Inquirer
Close this In the Laundromat known as congressional investigations, influential individuals suspected of wrongdoing usually come up smelling like roses while their accusers end up stinking like filthy sewage water. The concurrent investigations being conducted by the Senate and the House of Representatives into the blacklisting of three Filipino construction firms by the World Bank are destined to end in the same way: with the contractors being cleared and the World Bank being dismissed as little more than a weaver of fanciful tales, playing loose with the facts and quick to malign some poor, innocent Filipino companies with sterling reputations for fair-dealing and integrity. In fact this appears to have already come to pass in the House edition of the probe, which Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has fittingly labeled as “a comic opera.”

In 2007, the chief of the World Bank’s Integrity Vice Presidency uncovered evidence that a cartel, composed of several Filipino and Chinese firms, was trying to rig the bidding for contracts for the first phase of the National Road Improvement and Management Program (NRIMP 1), worth $33 million. The bank’s Sanctions Board, composed of senior officials and external legal experts, later determined that three Filipino firms — E.C. de Luna Construction Corp., Cavite Ideal International Co. Ltd. and CM Pancho Construction Inc. — and four Chinese construction companies colluded to set bid prices at “artificial, noncompetitive levels.” The bank then cancelled the funding for the project, and permanently barred E.C. de Luna from bidding in any World Bank projects and suspended the six other firms for varying lengths of time. Leonard McCarthy, World Bank Integrity vice president, said, “This is one of our most important and far-reaching cases, and it highlights the effectiveness of the World Bank’s investigative and sanctions process.”

Not so, the affected contractors protested. Ernesto de Luna told the senators he had been “interviewed” only once and no documents were sought from him by World Bank officials. Lamberto Lee of Cavite Ideal International told the congressmen that World Bank investigators merely relied on the testimony of one of the confidential witnesses to find his company guilty, while disregarding the testimony of 29 non-confidential witnesses who cleared his firm. What they were trying to say was that the World Bank didn’t do a fair and thorough investigation, a conclusion supported by a public works official.

“We cannot fathom the thinking of the bank in this process,” Undersecretary Manuel Bonoan said. “We have no reason to believe there was collusion.” He said the three Filipino firms banned by the World Bank were “the most reliable contractors in the country.” So reliable, in fact, that the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has continued to award them contracts, regardless of the World Bank’s findings and sanctions. E.C. de Luna, for example, won a P100-million road building contract in Negros that was one of the components of NRIMP 1, but now funded by the Philippine government. And it is working on 25 other government projects worth a total of P3.7 billion.

So why would the World Bank single out these three companies? That logical question was never asked by the congressmen as they rushed to exonerate the contractors.

“There was no sufficient proof of collusion,” said the chairman of the House committee on public works and highways, Rep. Roger Mercado of Southern Leyte province.

“The DPWH based its findings on hard facts, the World Bank based its findings on the account of an anonymous person,” said Rep. Milagros Magsaysay of Zambales, who probably doesn’t read newspapers, because otherwise she would have known that the DPWH did absolutely nothing after the World Bank came up with its findings. Rep. Elpidio Barzaga of Cavite said it was the World Bank and other multilateral lending institutions that allowed bidders to go over the estimated budget for a project, unlike the DPWH, which stuck to its ceiling.

So now it is the World Bank that is guilty — of padding budgets and unjustly penalizing Filipino firms. But we are not surprised. First, because it seems to be the fate of whistle-blowers always to end up in the dock. And second, because lawmakers will never be interested in proving collusion among contractors or suppliers. That is how their favorites end up bagging contracts for their own pork barrel projects. And to expose them is to kill the golden goose that allows them to recover their election expenses, with interest that would be the envy of Ponzi scammers.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Really no matteг if someone dοesn't be aware of then its up to other people that they will help, so here it takes place.

Review my page - easy loans for bad credit