President Duterte has made a big deal about how his government is transparent and incorruptible. We have proven the former false. Given a toothless Freedom of Information (FOI), the threats and attacks on media and critics, and the all-around culture and rhetoric of violence and propagation of fear – we all now know that transparency is nothing but a soundbite.
The latter? Well, as with the previous government, we are seeing how sometimes, it’s not even corruption that is the problem as it is selfish interests that serve no one but the elite in government and the oligarchs they protect. Case in point: an anti-people tax reform policy and PUV modernization, an infrastructure program that will bring us “hell” (according to Sec. Ben Diokno) and fatten up our foreign debt, the militarization of Lumad communities, the protection of military and police officials – including those that do wrong.
Ah, but as with Daang Matuwid, President Duterte insists that corruption is one of our biggest problems, and as such, he has said often that just a “whiff of corruption” and a government official would be fired.
One wonders when he’s going to smell the stench of what’s allegedly going on at the Department of Tourism (DoT).
A letter of complaint
The June 6 2017 letter signed by the Concerned Employees of the DoT is actually a pretty damning document, detailed as it is with instances of abuse, unethical practices, and corruption purportedly happening under the leadership of Tourism Secretary Wanda Tulfo Teo.
I first received a draft of this letter via email, soon after my first column on Teo came out. I waited to receive word and proof that it had become an “official” complaint, i.e., that it had been delivered to and received by the Presidential Action Center in Malacañang. That would be June 9 2017, with proper stamp and signature.
The seven-page letter (not counting appendices with attachments), begins by asking for “redress and protection from the tyranny” of one Atty. Arlene Mancao, listed on the DoT website as the Chief of Staff of Teo. It states that employees have no one to run to, as even the undersecretaries and assistant secretaries of the department are either victims, or are in cahoots with the allegedly abusive leadership.
It then lists down various questionable and unethical acts allegedly committed by Mancao, and in effect Teo, all of which paint a grim picture of what’s going on at the DoT, where employees’ morale seems to be at an all-time low.
The list of allegations
The list spans every possible allegation. From Mancao herself purportedly “faking” her CV and concealing her lack of employment for seven years, to Mancao’s personal use of Philippine Airlines tickets allotted for Miss Universe – and even allegedly selling these tickets herself, for a profit.
The letter also alleges that the proper process of employee promotions has been ignored in DoT, bypassing the screening and selection board: a Teo-Mancao ally was promoted from Salary Grade (SG) 11 to SG 22; another who was set to be promoted from SG 22 to 24 was bypassed for another ally’s promotion from SG 18 to 22; another ally was promoted from SG 1 to SG 17.
According to the Civil Service Commission (CSC), the “quantum leap” in government employee promotions is limited to three salary grades, except for “meritorious cases,” for which there is a “deep selection process” that will assess an employee’s “superior qualifications” (CSC Resolution 1600732). It is unclear if this is something that Teo had instituted in the case of these highly extraordinary promotions.
The complaint also alleges the unexplained release of bonuses for employees of the department, happening in the form of gift cheques, as well as fifteen (15) employees who have purportedly been put on “junkets” for no reason other than they are allied with Teo-Mancao. The list of names is interesting as it details specific countries with dates of travel as well as the positions of these employees that will make you wonder about how these people are chosen, based on what qualifications, especially given that these trips happen on taxpayers’ money.
No white paper
Sources tell me that Secretary Teo thinks this official complaint is nothing more than a white paper, and she had called for a general assembly on June 19 where she allegedly defended Mancao and then went on to highlight how she had promised “travel and cash” to rank-and-file employees, but given this letter that would now be more difficult; she also purportedly spoke of the irregular promotions, and said that now she would have to interview each person to be promoted.
Which begs the question: did Teo know WHO she was promoting, and WHY she was giving out cash and trips abroad to employees? Would she, could she even defend these decisions that she has made thus far, given this list of complaints? Because if our sources are correct, she is not denying that those trips and promotions have happened, and in which case that behooves us to ask: why? Why “give away” these perks when you are operating on public funds?
Dismissing this as a white paper also allows Teo to imagine that this is merely from a few disgruntled employees. She purportedly said that since the rank-and-file employees are “happy,” then this must come from those in higher positions at the DoT.
But this statement only proves what Teo thinks of DoT employees: she imagines that freebies and bonuses is enough to make them “happy,” so that they will turn a blind eye to corruption and injustice. But what if they’re merely playing this game, because they fear they will lose their jobs otherwise? What if these are employees who would in fact be fine with a well-run, incorruptible, DoT, as long as it is not under attack for terrible ads and a failure of a Secretary?
What if Teo decided instead to come clean, explain these irregularities (including the blind item about those Ferragamo shoes, and how much we really spent on Miss Universe)? Because her time is better spent responding to allegations than going on a witch hunt for these brave DoT employees who have decided to file this complaint and release these documents to the media.
And when I say documents in the plural, I do mean there’s more to come.***
This was published in The Manila Times, July 9 2017.