Wednesday, 18 February 2009

World Bank has lots of explaining to do in the Philippines

World Bank options
Mary Ann Ll. Reyes

As more “excerpts” from an alleged World Bank report blacklisting three Filipino contractors are leaked to media, more and more Filipinos are demanding that World Bank officials do some explaining. After all, the country’s reputation and future is at stake here.

The WB may want to debunk a growing impression in the business community that its so-called investigations do not adhere to the principles of due process and that some faulty investigative methods may have made its probers highly vulnerable to “unverified information”.

It may also be good for the WB to step on the brakes on what some quarters in the business sector are beginning to suspect is an orchestrated effort to use the controversy to stop the flow of financing into the country and channel them elsewhere.

WB officials in the country may have to address the worries created by the admission of its investigators that they have never meet nor seen the face of their alleged informant who supposedly linked several political personalities to the controversy.

That admission was part of a news story last Saturday which partly detailed the allegations of their “informant” which, it appears, had supplied WB investigators with “information” only through e-mail.

The question being raised by some businessmen is why would the WB investigators put together a “report” that is based significantly on “information” from mysterious sources — a Japanese contractor who failed to bag a public works contract from the Philippine government and anonymous characters whom the investigators themselves admit they do not know nor have they met? How reliable could such “information” be?

Maybe, it should tell its investigators to look for so-called “impartial” sources — those who have no direct financial interest in WB projects. In our country, there are no “losers” in elections or project bidding. Only “cheated” candidates and project bidders.

The WB may have to realize that accusations by losing bidders that the bidding for the project they lost had been rigged is a dime a dozen here. We have begun to look at them with skeptical eyes.

We also suggest the WB tell its mysterious sources to do what the representative of Japanese contractor Suzuka did – appear before the Senate.

Trix Lim, whose Japanese client was supposed to have told the WB about having to bribe local officials in order to win contracts, told a different story. He debunked claims that Suzuka ever met with First Gentlemen Mike Arroyo and the late Senator Robert Barbers when Suzuka was in the Philippines.

Lim also said he was never interviewed by the media, and that he is completely in the dark as to what the basis of the reports are quoting him and his client about the alleged need to bribe local officials.

The WB has placed the Philippines’ international reputation in jeopardy as a result of this “report”. It must protect its own reputation by showing it has a solid case against this country.

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