Thursday, June 29, 2006

NBDB's Response to the "Air Conditioner" Issue

Yesterday, Manolo Quezon cited in his blog a Manila Times news article about the National Book Development Board (NBDB) having too many air conditioners. I alerted NBDB Chair Dennis Gonzalez (who is a good friend) and he told me that they have already issued an answer to that issue but it apparently did not see print in Manila Times or in any other publication. So, in the interest of fairness, I am printing NBDB's side on the matter as follows:

29 June 2006
The Editor
Manila Times
371 A. Bonifacio Drive
Port Area, Manila

Dear Mr. de la Rosa,

We protest the very unbalanced article “COA hits book unit’s excessive spending” written by your reporter Jonathan Hicap and which appeared on your paper yesterday, June 28. Mr. Hicap called up the Office of NBDB Chairman Dennis Gonzalez near the close of office hours on June 27, and his story appeared the very next day even though he had not yet gotten the side of NBDB.

Is there anything urgent in the story that Mr. Hicap could not wait to get our side? His story is based on a highly selective use of a COA audit report for 2005 dated April 10, 2006. The COA report is not really new and the NBDB Secretariat has formally and adequately responded to it already. Furthermore, if Mr. Hicap did his homework, he would have known that the NBDB Chairman presides over Board meetings usually once a month, and does not do day-to-day management of the agency. The daily manager is the Executive Officer, the head of the Secretariat, who is the person Mr. Hicap should have tried to reach.

Mr. Hicap makes selective use of the COA report. For example, he writes: “the book board incurred unliquidated cash advances worth P325,930.45.” What he does not mention are the following sentences from the report: “Cash advances granted during the year were all liquidated. Material cash advances pertain to those granted to a former member of the Governing Board of P150,499.00, which is the subject of a pending case at the Sandiganbayan and the P105,280.00 granted also to a former Governor who has not submitted his foreign travel report to date.” The bulk of the unliquidated advances are from former Board members in the late 1990s and not under the current NBDB officials.

For another example, Mr. Hicap wrote that the meal costs for board meetings reached as high as P603.26 per participant. What he does not know and could have easily found out is the fact that the budget for the monthly board meeting, which usually ends at 9 pm, is only P5,000.00, and those who partake of the meal are not only the 8 Board members and the Board Secretary but also 12 members of the Secretariat staff including some drivers. The P5,000.00 is for a meal of 20 persons, and in no way is it P603 per person. The COA has been made aware of this.

There are many other items in Mr. Hicap’s report which could have been placed in proper context if he were diligent enough and less hasty. We are appalled at his lack of competence and professionalism.

Very truly yours,

NBDB Secretariat
Meanwhile in Negros Occidental province, fear and terror engulfs the small town of Toboso where "long-haired, bearded men" (said to be members of a religious cult) have been spotted roaming remote barangays to abduct small boys. See the Visayan Daily Star report by Carla Gomez here.


jef said...

Sir, I appreciate you for dropping by and leaving a note in my site. You are right! We, Filipinos as a whole, should reshape our thinking about issues like Nichole's case. It's more about the substance rather than the face value that we, male in general, should look into.

Anonymous said...

What is Mr. Wilfredo Castillo trying to do here, wiggle out of his responsibilities and passing the buck which just about everyone good at. How does the writer of the article got to know that the EO is supposedly the person he has to keep in touch?? Naturally the Chairman should have referred the writer to the person or have the person answered the inquiry for the Chairman. I read the report, and the writer referred to the COA report on Audit he believe pertainent to the matter, not selective as Dir. Castillo would like it to appear. I believe if everybody own up to his or her responsibility and everyone is acountable for their action, you guys should not be in such a bloody messy situation you're in for a long long time now. Come on, like the Nike slogan 'just do it' stop passing the Buck...