“It’s not opinion polls that determine the outcome of elections, it’s votes in ballot boxes.”
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY — An Ilonggo architect who lost five times in as many attempts in the race for city councilor once ribbed members of the Fourth Estate in Iloilo City in the Philippines “for not doing your homework.”
Salvador “Jun” Tavarro, Jr. said if reporters were only diligent and sharp in doing investigative reporting, “there would be dozens of public officials hauled off to court for graft and corruption every week.”
He pointed to the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) as “the No. 1 source of graft and corruption in the country.”
Tavarro, an urban planner, also rebuked the Bureau of Customs, the Bureau of Internal Revenue, and the Armed Forces of the Philippines as “among the most corrupt agencies”.
A part-time instructor in the University of San Agustin, Tavarro exhorted members of the press to study engineering and law.
“Even if you are the best investigative reporter (he was referring to a radio anchorman who blasted him for being a “nuisance” candidate) in your station, you are useless if all you can do is go to the DPWH and interview contractors with ax to grind against the regional director and other department heads.”
Tavarro lamented that many reporters “missed” the opportunity to “hit it big” (expose) because “they don’t understand the engineering terminologies and how the road and infrastructure projects are manipulated by corrupt DPWH officials.”
Millions of taxpayers’ money are being wasted and pocketed by grafters in government because they know how to manipulate public works projects and the public bidding; they know the language in the system; they are familiar and experts in the technicalities and the ins and outs of certain projects, thus they find it easy to confuse the public “while the so-called investigative reporters only interview employees and disgruntled bidders, review and xerox bundles of documents that mostly they don’t understand,” bemoaned the Ilonggo architect.
Graft and corruption in the DPWH, among other agencies, starts in the public bidding process, he said.
The words “ten percent” or sometimes “fifteen percent” are reportedly “normal bywords” and are part of the SOP (standard operating procedure) in graft-ridden government agencies.
“It’s impossible to curb graft and corruption with the kind of system we have. Many grafters in government are getting rich while some infrastructure projects suffer from sub-standard materials and sub-standard implementation,” said Tavarro.
“That’s why members of the press must walk an extra mile by studying the technical terms in every government agency that they cover so they can easily spot the anomalies.”
If a reporter is assigned by his editor or station manager to cover the Hall of Justice beat, for instance, Tavarro stressed, “it is imperative that he knows some legal terms and how the cases are filed in court; and why the accused sometimes face the People of the Philippines in a criminal case.”
Had Tavarro won in all his failed struggles to be elected in the local elections, he would pass a resolution, he said, asking government agencies to explain in simple terms–or in words to be understood by ordinary taxpayers–how government projects are undertaken from start to finish.
Anyone in the hearing distance could understand Tavarro’s sentiments, but they also noticed strikingly that he was apparently concealing a “hard feeling” toward some “more popular” radiomen who ran and won for the same position in every election, thus preventing him from landing in the “Magic 12.”
“I am probably the most qualified candidate in Iloilo City. No one can question my competence and educational background. But, how can I win against (the more popular) the media people?” Tavarro, who always ran as independent, sobbed.