POSTSCRIPT / January 5, 2014 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Opinion Columnist

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Gov’t can save P3.4B on LTO infotech setup

SAVING BILLIONS: With billions in public funds being stolen with impunity in high places, the administration may want to explore as a kind of New Year’s resolution how to save money.

Here is an idea: Instead of wasting the people’s money by bidding out the infotech contract of the Land Transportation Office, why not just renew the zero-cost deal with the Stradcom Corp. that built up its IT system from scratch and operated it at no expense to the government?

The Department of Transportation and Communications has announced after two failed biddings its decision to slash the cost of the LTO information technology system project to P3.44 billion from the original P8.2 billion.

The better thing to do, we think, is for the DoTC to sign up Stradcom into staying – thereby saving the P3.44 billion right off and then spending nothing for the further upgrading of the LTO infotech system.

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STRADCOM OFFER: With the current setup using the Build-Operate-Own (BOO) business model with Stradcom, the government did not spend a single centavo for the full computerization of the LTO nationwide system and the maintenance of its database.

In contrast, under the new business model the DoTC has in mind, the government would pay P3.44 billion to the winning bidder, who would start all over again and whose track record nobody is sure about.

The transportation department has announced it would hold a pre-bid conference on Jan. 20 and open the bid documents on Feb. 18 for the DoTC Road Transportation IT Infrastructure project.

If the DoTC would only refrain from fixing what ain’t broke and simply renewed Stradcom’s contract, it would save the P3.44 billion intended for a new IT provider and benefit from the system upgrades that Stradcom had offered at zero cost to the government.

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GOV’T OWES BIG: Stradcom marks tomorrow its anniversary as LTO partner. One is surprised how the firm, led by its president/CEO Cezar Quiambao, has survived over three years without being able to collect payment from the government.

To date, there is still P3.1 billion that the government owes Stradcom for services that have already been rendered.

That covers only the period until the expiration of its contract last February 2013. Since its anniversary last year, as it continued to service the LTO even without being paid, the government now owes Stradcom another P1.9 billion.

With a simple letter from the DoTC, Stradcom continued its services when the LTO failed to get a new IT provider. Stradcom spokesperson Margaux Salcedo explained that Quiambao is determined to prevent chaos from setting in if LTO computerized services stopped.

She said Quiambao, who has been dealing with government for over 20 years, believes that as its private partner, “the corporation works not only as a business, but ultimately to be a tool in national development and help serve the people.”

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HUMAN CULTURE: In the season’s spirit, we echo these words of Deacon Keith Fournier writing in Catholic Online: “We cannot abandon the call to be leaven in the loaf of human culture — and that culture includes politics.”

He answers with a “Yes” the question of whether Christians should involve themselves and their faith in politics. He stamps with a “No” a “culture that kills its own children and calls such evil a legal right.”

Today being a Sunday, we share excerpts (below) from Fournier’s article because of their uncanny relevance to the leadership crisis in the Philippines and other nations similarly searching for peace and plenty when what in fact they want and need is a return to morality.

(FDP: Whenever space permits, we will share more relevant excerpts from the article.)

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LOVE THE PEOPLE: Fournier said: “In his homily of Sept. 16, 2013, Pope Francis used the account of the Roman Centurion to dabble in politics. (Luke 7:1-10) He spoke to those in public office. He also addressed the question of whether Christians should participate in politics.

“Using the Old Testament leader David as an example for political leaders, he was blunt. He reminded them they must love the people whom they serve, noting ‘a leader who doesn’t love cannot govern — at best they can discipline, they can give a little bit of order, but they can’t govern’.

“You can’t govern without loving the people and without humility! And every man, every woman who has to take up the service of government, must ask themselves two questions: ‘Do I love my people in order to serve them better? Am I humble and do I listen to everybody, to diverse opinions in order to choose the best path.’”

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PRAY FOR THE LEADER!: “The Holy Father also had words for those indifferent to politics or who simply blame political leaders for all our problems.

“None of us can say, ‘I have nothing to do with this, they govern.’ No, I am responsible for their governance, and I have to do the best so that they govern well, and I have to do my best by participating in politics according to my ability.

“Politics, according to the Social Doctrine of the Church, is one of the highest forms of charity, because it serves the common good. I cannot wash my hands, eh? We all have to give something!

“Finally, he used the expression ’A good Catholic doesn’t meddle in politics.’ That’s not true. That is not a good path. A good Catholic meddles in politics, offering the best of himself — so that those who govern can govern. But what is the best that we can offer to those who govern? Prayer!

“That’s what Paul says: ‘Pray for all people, and for the king and for all in authority.’ ‘But Father, that person is wicked, he should go to hell….’ Pray for him, pray for her, that they can govern well, that they can love their people, that they can serve their people, that they can be humble. A Christian who does not pray for those who govern is not a good Christian!”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of January 5, 2014)

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