HomeCommentaryPaper ID cards, narco-generals: More signs of a broken Republic

Paper ID cards, narco-generals: More signs of a broken Republic

Flying to China despite the COVID-19 surge there, Marcos Jr. declared that there’s more in relations with Beijing than maritime disputes

Want more proofs of a broken Republic?

The government contracted an Indian outfit in 2019 for the long-planned National Identification System. For PhP30 billion, tens of millions of adults were to be issued plastic ID cards. The system is to be turned over to the government after five years.

Each card is to show bearer’s color photo, full name, birth date and place, gender, address, civil status, mobile number, email address. An embedded computer chip must store complete fingerprints and iris scan. List-ups commenced in barangays in late 2021. Government said the cards were to be delivered to homes within weeks.

But the first few cards were sent only a year later. They weren’t plastic but mere black and white photocopies on one-half bond paper. No embedded chip. Photo and text smudged. Instructions were to keep these “clean and crumple-free,” better laminated, kanya-kanyang bayad.

Only few got plastic cards. They complained that their color photo and text can be erased. Those who didn’t receive photocopies were told to download their IDs online, again kanya-kanyang color printing and lamination. Easily alterable; very useful for terrorists and criminals.

Government was duped. At PhP5 per plastic card with chip, all 110 million Filipinos, including minors, could have been issued cards for only PhP550 million. Certainly not PhP30 billion.

A diplomat confided that a European state firm had offered to do the job for only US$16 million, or PhP800 million. All Malacañang had to do was authorize it to compile data from SSS, GSIS, PhilHealth, Pag-IBIG, LTO driver’s licenses, and Comelec voter registry.

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But there’s no PhP29-billion kickback there.

The Secretary of Interior and Local Government told all police generals and colonels to file courtesy resignations. It’s his “shortcut” to purge the unnamed narcos among them. A five-man panel is to review each one’s activities, to determine and fire the guilty. Still, he said, it’s alright if some opt to not file.

Many retired generals howled. There’s a proper cleanup process, they said, and that entails not mere intelligence gathering but meticulous investigating and prosecuting. Narco-generals must be imprisoned, not just dismissed from service and let loose on society. Shortcutting breeds favoritism, kowtowing, and demoralization. “Maybe the admin just wants to install gofers in the police hierarchy,” a general remarked.

The previous admin had resorted to shortcutting in its drug war. It linked five generals and several local officials to narco-trade, without evidence and charges. It also killed 7,000 pushers and junkies who supposedly fought back arresting officers.

The SILG should instead demand resignation of crooked local execs, netizens hooted. Then again, he’s a political dynast.

To look busy, the trade department issued “suggested retail prices” of garlic and onion. It claimed that its SRPs, only one-third of skyrocketing costs of the spices, have the force of law. Supposedly they can arrest violators. Garlic and onion disappeared from public markets.

Sucking-up characterizes an aimless admin. More so one whose election is still in question at the Supreme Court. To please the President/secretary of agriculture, the Customs chief offers to donate to Kadiwa rolling stores tons of confiscated smuggled onions. Yet the law states that contraband fresh foods must be destroyed for public health and agricultural biosecurity.

To escape blame for the New Year’s Day forced closure of all airports, the Civil Aviation chief alibied “outdated” airspace traffic management equipment. He wants funds for upgrade. Yet the gear is barely four years old, acquired via Japanese loan still being repaid by government. He knows that because he was the past admin’s Undersecretary for Aviation and Airports.

The real problem is lack of fail-safe mechanisms and technical knowhow. A blower (cooling fan) conked out and there was no backup. An unskilled worker re-plugged it to uninterrupted power supply consoles that also conked out. Obvious mismanagement and neglect by higher-ups who vacationed early.

Flying to China despite the COVID-19 surge there, Marcos Jr. declared that there’s more in relations with Beijing than maritime disputes. That’s the same line predecessor Rody Duterte uttered before allowing Chinese to fish in Philippine waters, no limit on volume, area, and duration.

Back in Manila, Marcos Jr. reported new pacts on joint petroleum exploration in Philippine seas that China illegally claims. The pacts have yet to be disclosed but Beijing insists that Manila forbid “foreign meddling.” China pulled a fast one since that implies departure from the PH-US Mutual Defense Agreement Against Foreign Aggression. Very much like Duterte scrapping the PH-US Visiting Forces Agreement.

Ex-President Gloria Arroyo, who accompanied Marcos. Jr., had signed with Beijing in 2005 a Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking. In breach of the Constitution, JMSU let China survey thousands of square kilometers of Philippine seabed.

Despite Malacañang’s contribution of US$5 million – without congressional knowledge or consent – it never got a copy of the Chinese study. Armed with the results, Beijing in 2009 unilaterally declared a nine-dash line claim over the entire South China Sea.

Two years prior, Arroyo also signed the overpriced National Broadband Network-ZTE contract in Hainan. Subsidiary ZTE International was unconstitutionally granted gold mining rights in Mt. Diwata and North Davao. A whistleblower later testified in the Senate that ZTE bigwigs paid US$10-million bribe.

Any new arrangement may not be of pressing concern to Filipinos. More alarming is if Marcos Jr.’s China entourage brought home COVID-19 infections. The health department today, as in March 2020 when pandemic started, hesitates to screen travelers from China.

Realizing his mistake in 2020, Duterte locked down the country wholesale. The economy collapsed: 19 million lost livelihoods. Marcos Jr. extols Duterte’s admin. What will he do if pandemic resurges in this broken republic?

Jarius Bondoc is an award-winning Filipino journalist and author based in Manila. He writes opinion pieces for The Philippine Star and Pilipino Star Ngayon and hosts a radio program on DWIZ 882 every Saturday. Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8 to 10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM).

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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