‘Live BAC process fine, but not on FB’
Officials of the city’s Bids and Awards Committee have expressed support to the proposal to put its proceedings on a live-stream for further transparency and to erase misconceptions about the bidding process in the procurement and awarding of contracts for infrastructure projects of the city government.
However, the BAC officials, including Mayor Benjamin Magalong, have also expressed reservations about using social media platforms such as Facebook to protect the integrity of the process and avoid malicious comments or misinterpretations on discussions that are highly technical in nature.
The city council invited to its regular session on Feb. 27 City Administrator Bonifacio dela Peña, BAC chair for infrastructure, and City Human Resource Manager Officer Augustin Laban III for their thoughts on the proposed resolution of Councilor Betty Lourdes Tabanda requesting BAC to livestream in social media platforms the proceedings of their procurement meetings in line with the Procurement Act providing for the modernization, standardization and regulation of the procurement activities of the government and for other purposes.
Tabanda said for the sake of transparency, the proceedings of the BAC should be livestreamed in social media, in the same way the city council and other local government units and agencies for that matter make its deliberations public through livestreaming to provide information and for the sake of transparency.
Dela Peña said they do not have anything against the proposal, but is concerned whether it is necessary and since LGUs are not mandated by law to do so.
He stressed the process they undergo is “very transparent”. As mandated by law, they invite a representative from an accredited professional organization to witness the bidding proceedings and who is free to give comments after the bidding, and everybody may also attend the proceedings.
“We don’t have anything against going online. But we also have to review the repercussions of being online. There are advantages and disadvantages because there are some people who might be commenting, since in social media it’s free for all. In the BAC are persons too, and they get insulted also by these comments,” dela Peña said.
He added there will always be a lot of suspicion about how things are being done in BAC, but to those who are questioning and thinking there are wrongdoings in the BAC, he said they are free to witness how they are doing the process.
Laban has also assured the council they have been transparent and open to anybody who would like to observe the proceedings, including the Commission on Audit which so far has not had any adverse observations.
He also said streaming the proceedings in the BAC online is not part of the implementing rules and regulations but is an initiative by other LGUs and government agencies in furtherance of public monitoring and transparency.
Laban said they have to be wary of social media because it at times invites unscrupulous individuals to be joining the discussions with their “wicked ideas and intentions” that might jeopardize the process.
“Once we go to the social media it’s not only Philippines, but that is to be viewed worldwide. So we should look into these things and we hope we study this carefully and really look at our purpose for us to define the purpose we want to achieve,” Laban said.
Laban said their proceedings and the results of the BAC deliberations are open to be viewed in their bulletin boards and the BAC secretariat has always been open to inquiry, but still they support the initiative for further transparency.
“But we also would like to suggest that we define the boundaries. We understand there are so many misconceptions about the BAC and people working there, but rest assured that we are observing the highest level of integrity and honesty as much as we can. We are also observing openness and transparency in our proceedings,” Laban said.
Tabanda clarified the proposed resolution is not a statement there is any anomaly happening in the BAC, but is simply in keeping up with the current trends of digitalization, openness, and transparency.
“I am not saying there is something fishy about your transactions, we are simply saying let’s open it up to everybody. One of the purposes of this is to let the people know what projects you are involved in or being bidded out,” she said.
“On the negative comments, I think we have to get used to it as public officials and public servants, like in the sanggunian where you see also negative comments but we take it with the grain of salt as part of being a public official,” she said.
Magalong, who also attended the council session, reiterated the BAC is transparent, adding he felt insulted about insinuations of rigging in the city’s bidding proceedings but was glad about Tabanda’s clarification.
He suggested making it more public online through other virtual platforms like Zoom and Webex, but not on Facebook, where those interested to observe can register. In this way, Magalong said, they can assure only those of good reputation and objective will join the proceedings, and not those who only intend to sow intrigues.
“It should be understood the BAC process is a bit technical. It can be subject to several interpretations. If it’s open to social media, people would be listening and then suddenly nakita nila ito lowest bidder bakit hindi ito ang nanalo, tapos bigla nalang magco-comment sa social media na bakit ganoon ang nangyari, then some people will react especially those of wicked mind, those very malicious minded individuals na bigla na lang papasukan ng kung anu-anong comment. Masisira ang reputation ng BAC,” the mayor said.
He added livestreaming the BAC proceedings is not a guarantee it would be transparent.
For purposes of “greater transparency”, Tabanda asked the BAC to propose alternative ways other than live streaming so that people would know what city projects are bidded out and to avoid accusations against the city government having ulterior motives in the bidding process. – Hanna C. Lacsamana