Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay ‘corners’ Sec. Ricky Carandang in HouseBy Cynthia D. Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer
’Twas the worst and best place to be for a former journalist. But it wasn’t prime time for Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang.
Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay finally had a chance to corner Carandang following their word war in the media over the purchase of laptop computers and other equipment for his Malacañang staff.
Magsaysay on Thursday called Carandang, a former ABS-CBN anchor and reporter, a “spoiled brat, arrogant and immature” during a House committee hearing on the proposed budget of the Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office.
The most explosive episode came when she wondered whether Palace communicators like Carandang may have something to do with President Aquino’s falling numbers in opinion surveys. Even the President’s celebrity sister Kris once shared this view, she said.
To this, Carandang said somewhat nonchalantly: “Was that a rhetorical question or do you want me to answer that?”
“Don’t be arrogant! I’m warning you,” Magsaysay shot back. “You’re not in ABS-CBN (anymore). If before you had the temerity to insult elected members of the House when you were in ABS-CBN, sad to say you are on the other side of the shoe right now (sic) and you’re the one being questioned by legislators. If you’re going to be arrogant, don’t be in public service.”
“Didn’t I ask you what can you say? How can you be (so) arrogant to say that? You have a long way to go as far as maturity and wisdom are concerned. Your breed … has no place in public service,” she stressed.
Magsaysay went on to remind Carandang that congressmen got their mandate from the people, whereas “appointed official ka lang (you are only an appointee).”
“Ano karapatan mo maging arogante? Iwan mo pagiging spoiled brat mo sa bahay mo. Matuto ka maging humble! (What gave you the right to be arrogant? Leave your being a spoiled brat in your house. You should learn to be humble),” she said.
Calm before storm
Magsaysay, the first lawmaker to throw questions at Carandang, took about half an hour grilling him and had to be interrupted twice by colleagues to defuse the tension.
Earlier in the hearing, the congresswoman still appeared calm when she asked Carandang how his functions differed with that of three other Palace aides—Undersecretary Manolo Quezon, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda and deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.
Carandang explained that Lacierda and Valte worked in collaboration with his office, while Quezon served as his deputy who also managed the Official Gazette.
Then things started getting hot when Magsaysay wondered if Carandang was familiar with the procurement law, particularly its provisions calling for transparency in the purchase of government supplies through public bidding.
Carandang explained that not all items had to go through bidding and Commission on Audit regulations exempted certain items.
Are mobile phones covered by those rules? she asked. It depends on the volume, Carandang replied, and went on to state that he had 40 staff members under him.
Magsaysay saw this as an opening and asked why Carandang’s office had as many as 24 units of BlackBerry phones. “Congress doesn’t buy us 6210s (another cell-phone model). I want to know why you have BlackBerrys,” the lawmaker said.
Carandang explained that the Office of the President preferred BlackBerry phones because their messaging features were supposedly more secure.
But he said the congresswoman got her facts wrong: The phones were given to his office under a contract with the telecommunications company “at no cost to the taxpayer.”
Carandang also said he would do his best to furnish Magsaysay with a list of his 24 employees with BlackBerry phones.
But an unimpressed Magsaysay said: “You can ask your staff who are behind you. You can ask for a suspension (of the hearing). I want the names before this hearing ends. If you can’t give information as simple as this, how do you expect me to trust you?”
Magsaysay also questioned the purchase of seven LCD TV sets, an electronic billboard, paper shredders, several air-conditioning units, an oven toaster, a time recorder and fax machines for Carandang’s office.
She also wondered why his office bought 46 swivel chairs, four executive chairs, six desktop chairs, printers and other devices.
Carandang maintained that the purchases, except for the smaller items, went through a bidding.
‘Out of line’
On its acquisition of laptop computers, Carandang said, his office published invitations to bid in a tabloid but that no one participated. Magsaysay remained skeptical when Carandang said he had no idea why there were no bidders.
Carandang also said that since the purchase value was below P2 million, there was actually no need to publish the bidding invitation.
“Your answer is out of line, Mr. Carandang,” Magsaysay said, raising her voice. Then turning to other congressmen, she said Carandang actually wanted a negotiated bid but ended up buying Apple Mac Pros.
Carandang explained that the purchased laptops were chosen because they were not susceptible to viruses, had a long battery life and were very portable.
Not convinced, Magsaysay asked Carandang if his office even tried looking for other computer models that would likely have the same features.
“The problem is many of you came from the private sector. In your case, instead of buying a laptop that can do the same function at P46,000, you decided to buy Apple Mac Pro at P66,000. You’re now known as the Imelda Marcos of laptop computers. Is that the kind of message you want?” she asked.