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EDITORIAL: Non-ethical standards

IN THE days prior to the election we have heard of municipal chief executives being ordered suspended, if not axed altogether, due to certain violations involving graft and ethical standards. Such charges were made possible either because of valid causes or ill-intent (as political strategy to shackle an incumbent as foe of a political challenger) but definitely the courts or anti-graft body concerned may have found merit or probable cause in the cases or recommendations filed to order the suspension of an erring public official, even temporarily or preventively.

Historically, however, many of our chief executives (i.e. municipal mayor, governor, provincial board member, and even vice mayor or vice governor) -- especially if they are being challenged by smart and shrewd pretenders to the office -- fall because of their work that are vulnerable to unethical practices. These include personnel hiring and appointments, purchasing practices, awarding of construction and service contracts, enforcement of government rules and regulations, employee relations, use of government property, using inside information, zoning and business direction, awarding of concessions, and other excesses summarized in the code of conduct and ethical standards for all public officials.

Violations may have been ignored, tolerated, or glossed over because the public official is fortunate enough not to have a shrewder political nemesis or that nobody is persistent enough to send an erring chief executive to the gallows, or that the general public simply do not know that such transgressions have been violated.

Suspending an incumbent official who is running for another term is a convenient way for a political challenger to barge his way into the upcoming political fight. And it happens many times, especially in the days that precede an election, where the political contest is expected to be fierce because both camps have the money, power and wherewithal to outlast and crush each other to the pulp. But definitely, violations have been committed, even more as they are public knowledge. Taxpayers must know certain abusers for the latter to be held accountable. But what could be disappointing would be that such suspended official would claim vindicated with his eventual re-election to office. In another way, the case may have eventually been proven to be baseless and false, nothing more than a form of harassment and political persecution.

Other violations are commonplace, which to many of our disgruntled constituents need not be proved. There are for example identified corrupt and unethical practices regarding overpricing work program estimates; invitation to bid limited to certain contractors; collusion among contractors in fixing bid prices; making payment not commensurate to work accomplished; and red tape in collection as part of squeeze play.

Other questionable practices include exclusion of suppliers in canvassing and invitations to bid; non-delivery (“ghost delivery”) of purchased items, overpricing of goods, delivery of inferior or low quality purchases, and riding on government purchases for personal purchases to avail of discounts or tax exemptions.

Unknown to many, the mayor and governor have the power and authority to grant local concessions, including the exploitation of natural resources (sea, government lands, and forests), as well as government properties and buildings. For consideration of bribe money, local concessions could be granted to undeserving groups and individuals.

It is better, however, that these abuses, transgressions, and so-called ethical danger zones be brought to light or exposed during calmer days sans election. That way, the innocent may be given enough time to defend or acquit himself, or be dismissed from office outright without giving him chance to get re-elected.

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