Ms. Solita Monsod a member of MGG (Movement for Good Government), which releases annual score card on Pnoy’s performance, in her column on Business World Online, last July 3, 2013, “Sizing up the President,” she hinted where the Aquino Administration had blotches which could have affect on MGG’s score. One of the blotches Ms. Monsod spotlighted is on appointment. 517 prosecutor plantilla items in the Department of Justice to go after tax evaders and smugglers filed by BIR and Customs, for example, left unfilled because of party partisan’s jockeying for turf-building purposes. If this partisans’ jockeying occurs in the macro scene, likely, it will occurs also in the micro scene. Case in point is the appointment of Honorary Consul in Winnipeg.
Just in a nick of time, before President Aquino’s, SONA address, the Honorary Consul in Winnipeg was unofficially appointed, but that was after three years that the position had been vacant. Well, better late than never!
On September 17, 2012, the Winnipeg Filipino Breakfast Council, (WFBC) headed by Mr. Fred De Villa sent a Resolution No. 12-9-01 to the Office of the President seeking intercession for the appointment of Honorary Consul in Winnipeg. In November 12, 2012, the Department of Foreign Affairs, acknowledge receipt of the WFBC’s resolution informing that they forwarded the same to the Philippines Consulate General in Toronto, and informed further that a candidate had already been nominated.
Meanwhile, for the three years that the position had been vacant and with too far in-between ‘out-reach services program’ from the Toronto Consulate, the time allotted for consulate services has always come short against the growing population that need services – passport renewal, notarial and legal services, travel document, etc.
With the absence of in home services of the Honorary Consul in Winnipeg, an unwelcome precedent occurred. An enterprising volunteer organization entered the scene to coordinate with the Consulate of Toronto to conduct ‘out-reach services program’ in Manitoba. To avail of the consular services, this volunteer organization asked for “five dollar donation,” euphemism for a “fee” in a way, apart from the official fees that has been collected from people requiring the services. This “five dollar donation” practice has never happened before. For several decades a similar out-reach consular program were being conducted in Winnipeg without the “five dollar donation,” and the Philippine Government shouldered the cost.
There had been questions raised, and the justification offered was, that the “five dollar donation” was to be used to pay ancillary cost that hinges on to the conduct of ‘out-reach services program. Asked about where the excess of the “five dollar donation” go – as there were more than a thousand people lined up for the services in one go – the volunteer organization’s answer was, it went to the account of the church.
One would likely think that this “five dollar donation” has the tacit approval of the Consulate in Toronto, as two times in a row, the Toronto Consulate in tandem with the volunteer organization in Winnipeg, conducted the ‘out-reach services’ with the “five dollar donation.” For people in dire need of consular services, they grudgingly complied, although they knew for a fact that for several decades the consulate ‘out-services program’ was funded by the Philippine government, and that it has been the protocol ever since.
If the party partisan’s jockeying for turf-building purposes had been the cause of the delay in the appointment of the Honorary Consul in Winnipeg thereby allowing an enterprising voluntary organization to push for the “five dollar donation,” to seep in -it reflects a blotch on President Noynoy Aquino’s government. This “five dollar donation” can become an easy seed of corruption among the principal players, while the victims who sorely need the services bite the bullet. And this does not bode well to the “straight path” mantra, the administration espoused. The leader of the voluntary organization claimed that those who will not give donation can avail, too, of the services, but before anyone could go inside the venue, people are screened to drop their “five dollar donation”.
Now that the likelihood of the Honorary Consul of Winnipeg is imminent, the unwelcome precedent of the “five dollar donation” must not continue.
By the way, the unofficially appointed Winnipeg Honorary Consul is the leader of the volunteer organization that pushes the “five dollar donation” scheme.