Saturday, May 12, 2012

My First Lessons in Ermita

Filipino music icon Freddie Aguilar mentioned the name of this street in his famous song “Magdalena”. Here’s the line of the song: “Kaya ika'y namasukan, doon sa Mabini napadpad/Mula noon, binansagang kalapating mababa ang lipad.” Indeed, Mabini Street in this particular district of Metro Manila called Ermita was once notorious being the red light capital of the country. Today, everything’s been different they say. Commercial buildings are all over sans the old pub houses and flesh trade workers roaming around old Mabini at night, once destination of their usual customers - dirty old men, philandering husbands including sexually adventurous male teenagers. But still, elegant and expensive bars and watering holes can still be found there. Ermita’s image been changed in recent decade, said one of our hosts.

No, no, no. We were not there for such mundane enjoyment or tour. I was with the company of respected ladies and gentlemen in my second hometown. My “we” here pertains to the eight Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) members of LGU-Sablayan. They are all department heads of the municipality. This lowly blogger joined them apparently because they want me in the BAC Secretariat the moment I have already an official appointment from the mayor.

We are sent to Ermita by our local chief executive for a four-day seminar on the Government Procurement Act, otherwise known as Republic Act 9184. He made sure that concerned department heads participate in the regional training-workshop to be armed with knowledge and information that would guide us in our job. I believe that every local chief executive must have a firm information and hand on the Act and I am sure Mayor Ed Gadiano is aware of it. For four days, from May 8, to 11, we are bombarded with letters and intents and details of said legal instruments including its Internal Rules and Regulation or IRR and other matters regarding the execution of duties and functions of the BAC. I nearly collapsed to the ground like the Ruby Tower of old for everything and everyone inside the hall are all Greek to me. Speaking of tower, the activity was held at Citystate Tower Hotel proudly calling itself “A New Landmark in Sunshine Manila”. It was sponsored by the Local Budget Officers Association LBOA-MIMAROPA and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) IV-B. The participants are composed of selected government employees from the provinces of Romblon and the two Mindoros. Majority of them have background either in engineering, law, accountancy and commerce. So, I asked myself what I am doing here. As a consolation, I just convinced myself that the advocacy for good governance and public accountability knows no academic boundaries so I have nothing to be afraid of. Anyway, a pundit was once a neophyte. Besides, DepEd once has this slogan: “Be proud to be a teacher. The Future Depends on You”. I am a teacher by profession, but worked as social communicator and community development in various NGOs in the last 30 years, in case you are interested to know.

Being new to civil service, I have personally learned that in all government procurements shall be in all cases must be governed by the following five major principles: 1.) Transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts. 2.) Competitiveness by extending equal opportunity to enable private contracting parties who are eligible and qualified to participate in public bidding. 3.) Streamlined procurement process that will uniformly apply to all government procurement. The procurement process shall be simple and made adaptable to advances in modern technology in order to ensure an effective and efficient method. 4.) System of accountability where both the public officials directly or indirectly involved in the procurement process as well as in the implementation of procurement contracts and the private parties that deal with government are, when warranted by circumstances, investigated and held liable for their actions relative thereto. 5.) Public monitoring of the procurement process and the implementation of awarded contracts with the end in view of guaranteeing that these contracts are awarded pursuant to the provisions of the Procurement Law and its implementing rules and regulations, and that all these contracts are performed strictly according to specifications. We have terrific and well-versed resource speakers headed by Dir. Renato M. de Vera of DBM Region IV-B.

To reiterate, RA 9184 was designed to cover everything government needs to buy, construct or provide. It set down that procurement along with the rules and regulations around it covered acquisition of goods, consulting services, infrastructure projects. But to tell you, like any other law, this Act is good but the evil is in its true-to-life realization. In the real situation nation-wide, conspiracy, gross negligence of duty, splitting of contracts and other anomalies are experienced. Indeed, representation from the private sector is needed in every BAC and we must all be cultural sensitive to corruption.

That’s what I have learned from present-day Ermita aside from knowing that there is such thing as Pre-bed, err, bid Conference in every bidding transaction. To inject a little Pinoy movie trivia, if I were not mistaken, way back in the 1990s there is also a Filipino film entitled “Mga Birhen ng Ermita” starring then bold starlet Marixi Luna and Philippines’ first Miss Universe Ms. Gloria Diaz ( But Dante Varona’s “Ermitanyo” has nothing to do with Ermita!).

And since Ms. Luna’s flick was sexually oriented, I didn’t watch it but all I can say is it’s surely about that famous night time trade in Ermita then. A predicament I did not dare to experience for I do not belong to any of the category of men I have mentioned in the first paragraph of this blog entry.

A fact that some of my male companions are not aware of…

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