Unmasking a ‘tradition’ of graft

Like Pontius Pilate, Campaigns and Grey washed its hands off the controversy over its humiliating logo design “Pilipinas kay Ganda” for the Department of Tourism.

It was simply because the ad agency claimed that “we did not have a contract nor did we receive a single centavo.”

It was also the DOT that asked its advice on a “new branding exercise.” Yolly Villanueva Ong’s group, at first was hesitant knowing the government’s complex bidding process. They have not been fully paid by the previous administration. But their love for country, it said, prevailed.

What Campaigns and Grey did, it added, was just to establish preliminary strategic directions. “But suddenly, there was a pressing need for exploratory concepts to be shown in some travel industry events.

Again, we warned the client that we were taking too many shortcuts. But it was agreed that there will be a proper market research where multiple concepts will be thoroughly tested among the target market i.e. North America, Korea, Japan, China etc.,” it pointed out.

It’s not really surprising that DOT was in hurry. Imagine, Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim and his gang  claimed their proposed “preview” of the  new logo  was already pre-audited by the Commission on Audit, and they can just splurge the P3,771,355.00 that was allocated for the  one day event at the Mall of Asia.

For food and beverage alone, they spent a total of P734,505, but that included the VAT. The production house that handled overall events management, its crew along with entertainment was to be paid P500,000. Adding to the excitement for the event was  pyrotechnics display, which cost P285,000.

There was 3D animation , which included a mere one-minute video animation, but  Juan de la Cruz was being charged with P995,000. To ensure that it got good coverage, the PR and publicity budget was pegged at P150,000.

Entertainment was provided by the prestigious UP Singing Ambassadors, and they were reportedly paid P56,000 for their services .

For printing and creative requirements, the DOT budgeted P201,250. That covered  concept design, along with the invitations, programs and T-shirts (which I supposed were branded considering the cost, and not just plucked from Divisoria).

Since they were in hurry for the event, they needed a good secretariat and the requirement for it totaled P349,000.

For that scandalous event, the expenses reached P3,771,355, which was approved by Tourism Secretary Alberto Lim. It was Undersecretary Vicente Romano III who recommended its approval, and so he had to go. But not Lim. Anyway, his underling had claimed responsibility for the fiasco.

No, they can’t just say that Campaigns and Grey was part of it. The agency had insisted they had no contract with DOT.

I’m pretty sure former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo felt relieved that she wasn’t alone in the government’s unwritten right to be extravagant, and got away with it. Look at Lim, he’s still the country’s  No. 1 tourism promoter since Mr. Aquino doesn’t want him to resign.

Mrs. Arroyo’s underlings spent a fortune  in New York to satisfy their boss’ craving for good food and wine, while President Aquino’s underlings splurged public funds in pesos right in front of Manila Bay, just to shame government.

President Aquino spared  Mr. Lim and company and so the DOT can now program another high-budgeted event under the guise of promoting the country’s tourism to the world.

This is perhaps the Philippine version of “identity politics,” which, according to  American writer George Will,  defines individuals by the groups into which  they can be lumped.

Embarrassing, but the government is again being laughed at, not only as plagiarist, but having continued a tradition of graft and corruption.

President Aquino should not let this happen. Joel Paredes


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