Senator Alan Peter Cayetano on Tuesday warned that the procurement of Information Technology (IT) equipment and services could become a new vehicle for government corruption if no proper investigation is made in the Department of Education’s purchase of allegedly overpriced laptops.
“Ang IT, ang information technology equipment at services, ‘yan ang bagong fertilizer. ‘Di ba yung fertilizer kasi, kapag hinaluan mo ng tubig, nilagay mo na sa ilalim ng lupa, hindi mo na ma-monitor,” Cayetano said in an media interview on August 16, 2022.
The senator was referring to the 2004 fertilizer fund scam in which government money intended for the purchase of fertilizers for farmers was allegedly diverted to fund a national political campaign.
Cayetano said since all government agencies require IT equipment, it can become the “new fertilizer” that can be used for massive corruption. “So ito na ang problema sa IT ngayon sa dami na nagrerequest na ahensya ng IT. Kaya importanteng test case ito, na huwag makalusot ito,” he added.
Cayetano had filed Proposed Senate Resolution No. 134 on August 11, 2022 asking the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to conduct an investigation, in aid of legislation, on the education department’s procurement of allegedly overpriced laptops through the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (DBM-PS).
The senator said he hoped that the resolution can be discussed at the Blue Ribbon Committee meeting on Tuesday, saying it is essential for the Senate to get its probe underway as soon as possible.
“Ang katotohanan niyan, kung hindi iimbestigahan ‘to, hindi tutuldukan once and for all. Palalamigin lang ‘to, patutulugin, and ang masama, dahil napakasimple nitong imbestigahan, mauulit ito,” he said.
He said all the Senate has to do is hear from the contractor that the laptops’ specifications justify the high price. “Ang tingin ko sa isyu na ‘to, dahil hindi siya komplikado, dalawa o tatlong hearing, alam mo na e. So kung totoong komplikado y’ung computer kaya hindi siya overpriced, mapapatunayan ‘yan ng contractor,” he said.
Talk about graft
Aside from investigating suspected corruption in the purchase of the laptops, Cayetano also mentioned the need to look at the graft aspect of the case, saying the Senate needs to determine whether there was a failure on the part of DepEd to act quickly upon receiving emergency funding through the Bayanihan to Recover as One Act (Bayanihan II) COVID relief bill.
“Yung graft kailangan din natin tignan e. What is graft: bakit umabot ng nine months? Sa nine months na yun, isang school year na yun, so yung laptop o yung tablet na yun, nawala sa mga teacher attsaka mga estudyante na yan,” the senator said.
“Noong pinasa po namin yang batas na yan, inassure kami ng mga departamento na kaya nila… So yun nga ang precisely ilalabas ng investigation. Kailan ba nilabas ng DepEd yung specs, ano ba y’ung specs, saan ba nila idi-distribute ito, gaano kabagal o kabilis sila,” he said.
Cayetano added that the nine-month delay between the approval of the budget for the laptops and the eventual awarding of the procurement contract to private bidders meant that essential equipment for remote learning did not reach the intended beneficiaries within a school year.
“E bakit pa kami nagmadali at nagpuyat na ipasa yung batas na y’un kung babagal-bagal lang din sila?” he added. ####