December 3, 2019

#2019SEAGames: Fact-checking Marlon Ramos' Inquirer exposé vs BCDA

Inquirer reporter Marlon Ramos, on the 02 December 2019 article “Deal to construct P13-B gov’t complex, sports hub at New Clark City questioned”, said that based on “documents,” Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) and Malaysian MTD Capital Berhad (MTD) entered into an anomalous deal.

The deal in question is the New Government Administrative Center (NGAC) and Sports Complex project in New Clark City in Tarlac, i.e., the same sports complex used today for the 2019 SEA Games.

Let’s analyze.

BCDA-MTD Agreement OK’d despite OGCC objections

Ramos wrote, "“BCDA… signed a joint-venture agreement with MTD… despite getting an adverse legal opinion issued by the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel (OGCC) in early 2018, records showed.”

Ramos then quoted former OGCC head Rudolf Philip Jurado, who issued a 30 January 2018 legal opinion stating that the NGAC’s Sports Complex segment “as a rule” should both be subject to public bidding. 

former OGCC head Rudolf Jurado
Note that the entire writeup doesn’t contain any direct quote from the supposed records and documents, and the same documents weren’t embedded in the article either, so I cannot check if Ramos understood the document correctly, or if he based his article on flawed understanding.

I have written exposés since 2015, some of which were used as resource material for congressional hearings and police/NBI investigations. As a rule, I provide the source document, especially if it’s publicly available in the first place. That way, readers can verify for themselves the accuracy of my observations.

Ramos didn’t do this, even if the credibility of his entire article depends on what’s in this document.

I suspected that Ramos wasn’t telling the whole story, especially because Jurado used the term “as a rule,” meaning that government projects usually go through to public bidding, but not all the time.

In short, exceptions exist. Hence, Ramos should have checked first if the Sports Complex falls under any of the legal exceptions or not, but he didn’t. Ramos reinforced my suspicion when he wrote, “But [Jurado] said the construction of the NGAC had complied with government rules on joint-venture projects,” with Jurado saying that the sports complex should be a part of the Joint Venture.

Hence, Ramos contradicted his entire hypothesis when the article states that no other than his primary source Jurado said the project is legally compliant.

If Ramos wanted to poke holes on the project and based on Jurado’s statement, Ramos should’ve checked if BCDA made the sports complex part of the BCDA-MTD joint venture.

Ramos even quoted Jurado as saying, “It should be noted that the joint venture should cover the entire project and not only NGAC.”

Did BCDA include the Sports Complex in the joint venture?

That’s what Ramos should have explored, but he didn’t.

Ugh. Marlon.

Differing OGCC opinions

Ramos either misunderstood or worse, totally failed to understand the OGCC opinions.

As explained earlier, Jurado’s January 2018 opinion states that the sports complex project is compliant, with the caveat that it must be made part of the BCDA-MTD Joint Venture. Thus, the question is whether BCDA made it part of the Joint Venture or not.

BCDA President and CEO Vivencio "Vince" Dizon
In a 03 December 2019 press conference, Dizon said BCDA “believed that we already addressed the concerns of the OGCC in the final joint venture agreement that was signed in February 2018….In response to this, BCDA made the business decision, which… [it] is empowered to do under its charter… [to] give due course to this (project).”

In short, BCDA attempted to comply with the January 2018 OGCC opinion, and it believes it did. As to whether it complied, however, is another matter, so hold on to that thought for now.

“After the clarifications were made, GOCC said, ‘BCDA, tama ginawa niyo (you did right),” Dizon said.

In the same presser, Government Corporate Counsel Justice Elpidio Vega seconded Dizon’s statement, when he said OGCC issued an October 2018 opinion affirming that BCDA complied with the conditions set in the earlier January 2018 opinion.

current OGCC head Elpidio Vega
Vega said, “The contract review which was issued way back in January (2018) was indeed not a negative opinion, but in fact, it approved and gave the go signal to BCDA. The only problem then was more on the modality on the procurement, and that was, however, explained expertly well by BCDA in going into the joint venture. We studied it, and we found that the same is a joint venture and has passed the rules and regulations regarding it. That’s why in October (2018), we gave the affirmative opinion. I hereby confirm that the same is above-board, and we found no legal impediment to its execution.”

“The first opinion gave the go signal to BCDA, and in that instance, the BCDA is on the right track,” Vega added.

That is, the January 2018 opinion, on which Ramos’ entire article was anchored, actually allowed BCDA to proceed, but on the condition that the sports facilities be made part of the BCDA-MTD Joint Venture Agreement. BCDA complied with the condition, and months later, OGCC said what BCDA did is correct.

In short, Marlon Ramos completely misunderstood the January 2018 opinion and proceeded to write fake news based on this colossal misunderstanding. 

Time Constraints

Dizon said the government was in a rush to build facilities for the 2019 SEA Games, given that it agreed to host the event only two years before schedule.

Dizon said, “We were told that we needed to build facilities that we would need for the Southeast Asian Games. Remember that the proponent submitted a proposal without those sports facilities to be built.” 

The New Clark City Athletics Stadium
“It was BCDA who said, ‘We need those sports facilities to be part of this because we will be hosting the 2019 Southeast Asian Games and we need those facilities post-haste. This was 2017, then 2018. You know how long it takes to construct a 20,000-seater stadium?” Dizon added.

Dizon explained that BCDA had to start moving and building the facilities for the Philippines to avoid international embarrassment.

BCDA-MTD’s “Criminal Intent“

Ramos also quoted an anonymous source that alleges criminal intent and intention to defraud the government, which is a pretty loaded accusation for an article containing zero documentary evidence.

Ramos wrote, “The source said MTD used the ‘Filipino people’s money’ to finance the project that would provide profits from three different sources—the original project cost, the ‘reasonable costs and returns,’ and rental fees.”

Ramos quoted the anonymous source as saying that the deal is “certainly disadvantageous to the government.”

New Clark Aquatic Center
“MTD used the ‘Filipino people’s money’” implies unjustly used public funds to finance the project.

We all know that foreign investors who come to Philippine shores are legally allowed to borrow from local banks. That isn’t new.

MTD would have committed an injustice only if it ran away with the money, or if the loan got a sovereign guarantee, i.e., the government told the lender that it'd pay for the loan in case MTD fails to do so.

MTD is still here, and Ramos didn’t provide proof that the loan has a sovereign guarantee.

BCDA President and CEO Vivencio Dizon, in the same presser, said the government did not guarantee the loan.

So how, exactly, was the loan unjust? Ramos didn’t explain that.

That article is bad journalism, Marlon. That is bad journalism.

To make matters worse, the claim that BCDA and MTD are cheating the government is an extraordinary claim, and extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Ramos’ evidence was just an anonymous source. Ramos took a gargantuan leap of logic, possibly out of the need to meet his article’s deadline. Yes, Ramos’ source said the deal is anomalous, but Marlon didn’t even bother to ask the anonymous source HOW EXACTLY it is so.

What does a responsible journalist do when his article is still half-baked and the deadline is at hand? 

A responsible journalist DOES NOT submit that half-baked article and submits something else instead. 

But I guess half-baked articles are good enough for the Inquirer. [ThinkingPinoy]

Follow ThinkingPinoy on Facebook and Twitter!


October 2, 2019


Sabi ni Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano sa profile pic niya noong Marso, siya ay magiging isang "Speaker na Tapat".

Well, tingnan nga natin ang proposed 2020 budget niya.

Note: Sinulat ko 'to in conversational Taglish para mas madaling ma-gets ng mas nakararami.

September 24, 2019


Let's thoroughly dissect the House budget issue and Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano's excruciatingly problematic defense. Nililihis ang istorya e. Akala siguro e makalulusot.

September 14, 2019

#TPonMB: Perception in politics is as important as Reality

Politics is a game of Perception where what’s really taking place may be different from what the public thinks is happening, and anyone who enters the political arena should know this by heart. A public official, whether elective or appointive, should not only be qualified (Reality) but also look qualified (Perception).

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 07 September 2019].

To illustrate, US domestic support for the 2003 war in Iraq was possible after the Bush administration managed to make the public believe that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction (Perception), even if it didn’t (Reality), something that the no less than the Bush administration admitted years later… but not before the US had taken over Iraq, killed Sadam, taken control of the country’s massive oil resources, and in the process left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead.

Form (Perception) is more important than substance (Reality) in the game of political survival, at least in the short- to medium-term. The sad reality in politics is that Perception takes precedence over Reality, and it’s the job of every public official to minimize the gap between the two.

September 7, 2019

#TPonMB: Personal advocacies and the ABCD of politics

The relative political calm in the months after the May, 2019, elections has come to an end: sentence reductions for convicted felons, the SOGIE bill, South China Sea tensions, Death Penalty’s revival, the Communist insurgency…the list goes on and on.

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 31 August 2019].

I have my own take on each of these issues and I have been quite vocal on most of them through my Facebook page ThinkingPinoy. More than just promoting my own views through this column, however, I feel that it’s more important, at least for now, to help everyone get back on track by sharing with my readers the four principles I generally follow when I publicly speak my mind.

Don’t get me wrong: I admit that I oftentimes fail to adhere to them, but I try to stick to them as best as I can. I think I am already done with the days when I approached issues with unbridled anger. After years of being in the public scene, I learned that moderation is key.

I noticed, throughout the years, that my efforts yielded better results whenever I seriously take into consideration the principles that I’m about to list down.

#TPonMB: Duterte Youth’s Cardema vs Comelec’s Guanzon

Over the past several weeks, we’ve been witness to the word war between former National Youth Commission and Duterte Youth party-list nominee Ronald Cardema and Comelec commissioner Rowena Guanzon, with the core issue being Cardema’s eligibility as Duterte Youth’s first nominee.

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 24 August 2019.]

#TPonMB: Policy suggestions to prevent the recruitment of Filipino youth into rebel groups

Several parents of senior high school students testified in a series of Senate hearings that leftist groups believed to fronts for the communist insurgent New People’s Army (NPA) are recruiting their children. And true enough, some of kids really went to the mountains and have become combatants for the rebel group.

I disagree with Leftist ideologies (I consider myself a Centrist) but I recognize every person’s right to have her own political views. Advocacy of leftist ideologies is not by itself illegal, but it should stop when it’s about to lead our youth, most especially our very impressionable minors, into a life of violence.

Whenever I point out a problem, I always try to propose a solution.

Thus, here are several policy recommendations in relation to the issue:

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 17 August 2019].

#TPonMB: Health Sec. Duque, let’s respect FDA’s independence

Department of Health (DOH) Secretary Francisco Duque recently announced that he’ll consult with the UP-PGH Dengvaxia Task Force regarding the possible reintroduction of the controversial anti-dengue vaccine Dengvaxia, saying he wants a decision on Dengvaxia’s fate through a consensus among all sectors “because a lot of groups have varying positions about this.”

But before we go any further, here’s some context.
[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 10 August 2019].

#TPonMB: What, exactly, is a ‘legitimate journalist’?

As I write my first column piece, I think it’s best to introduce myself first.

[NOTE: This piece was first published in the Manila Bulletin on 03 August 2019].

August 15, 2019

Speaker Cayetano's "Dolphy Situation": a super typhoon's brewing in the House?

The entire thing started with the bloody speakership race involving Marinduque’s Lord Allan Velasco, Leyte’s Martin Romualdez, and Taguig’s Alan Peter Cayetano. For two straight months, media bombarded the public ad nauseam with blow-by-blow reports, as if nothing else matters to the Common Tao.

Taguig 1st District Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano emerged victorious, but not without great cost.

How much political capital does he have left, and is it enough for him to survive for 15 months?

June 24, 2019

ex-DFA Sec. del Rosario, China, the Fishermen, the Incident and Reed Bank's Oil

If I were in Albert del Rosario's shoes...

June 7, 2019

After Statement on Bikoy: Caloocan Bishop David either a hypocrite or a liar?

Caloocan Bishop Pablo Virgilio David's statement denying complicity in the now-discredited Bikoy Videos show glaring inconsistencies, suggesting that the bishop is either a hypocrite or a liar... or is he something else?

Let's discuss.

June 5, 2019

On Bulacan Int'l Aiport, Duterte Finance Secretary's personal interests against Common Good?

Massive congestion in NAIA during the August 2018 Xiamen Air Incident, where a plane skidded off the runway, causing the cancellations of numerous flights as NAIA effectively lone runway is blocked.
Instead of allowing a new world-class airport, why does Finance Sec. Sonny Dominguez insist on us using an ultra congested airport and another one that's a bajillion miles away? Are Sonny's personal interests getting in the way of his decision-making? Is Dominguez, like the terminated ICT Secretary Rodolfo Salalima, another poster boy for regulatory capture?

Let's talk about that in greater detail.

May 30, 2019

Hey Karen Davila, here's my reply to your complaint

Dear Karen Davila,

My manager spoke to me recently and he relayed to me what you had to say. It's funny that this is the second time you've tried to reach me through channels, even if you can very easily get hold of my phone number by calling our common friends.

Anyhow, here's what I've got to say in return.

May 26, 2019


There's a win-win solution, actually.

May 23, 2019

Angel Locsin v. Jimmy Bondoc: THINK, ANGEL, THINK!

Angel Locsin's retort to Jimmy Bondoc's post is disappointing, to say the least.

May 10, 2019

The Bikoy Saga: Will Gretchen Ho dare to bite the American hand that fed her?

Are Gretchen Ho and Hidilyn Diaz as innocent as innocent goes?

May 7, 2019

NBI Cybercrime, you may have missed this BIGGER Bikoy-linked fake news website

NBI Cybercrime, you may have overlooked a website that could have caused even more damage than any of the five websites you mentioned in your Bikoy report.

And here I am to help.

May 3, 2019

Hey NBI, here’s a new lead for your Bikoy Video investigation

Hey NBI guys, I heard you're looking for other people, so let me humbly give you a few leads that you may have overlooked.
Note to Mr. Rodel Jayme: for your own sake, better spill the beans ASAP so you can still become a state witness.  Your would-be testimony may become unnecessary very soon.

April 30, 2019

Fact-checking the fact-checker: Over 50% of Vera Files funding from CIA-linked orgs

Why don't we fact-check the fact-checker?