First posted 23:11:37 (Mla time) January 30, 2009
Philippine Daily Inquirer
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...