POSTSCRIPT / November 15, 2007 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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If I were Among Ed, I'd return the P.5-M

IF I WERE HIM: I am not a priest, nor a politician, and I certainly do not know how priest-turned-governor Ed Panlilio of Pampanga thinks.

But if I were Among Ed, I would hesitate to participate in another of those Senate inquiries that trail off to nothing of legislative substance. I would refuse to be used by publicity-seekers and presidential wannabes projecting themselves.

In fact, if I were Among Ed, I would have returned at the earliest opportunity the P500,000 given to me after that Oct. 11 meeting in Malacanang.

The governor said early on that he did not think the money was a bribe. But it must be uncomfortable holding money enveloped in the intrigue and indecency of massive Palace doles to congressmen and local officials.

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BACK TO WHOM?: There are some problems, I understand, about returning the suspected bribe money.

First is that the source is not clear, except that it was Bulacan Gov. Joselito Mendoza who handed the bag of money to Among Ed’s chief of staff on their way out of Malacanang. So, to whom should it be returned?

Second is that the bundled bills will be evidence in the event a case, as of bribery, arises from the incident. Evidence must be preserved. Returning it, bag and all, would be bidding goodbye to it.

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NAIVETE: Malacanang has replied to the query of Among Ed about the fund source. The short and simple answer from the Palace was that it was not the source, and that they do not ladle out public funds in that informal manner.

Would Among Ed then return it to the organization of provincial executives that claimed to have been the source of the funds intended, it said, to help local officials pursue their projects for their constituents?

Returning it to the group would be the height of naiveté. Surrendering it could even mean that the 53-year-old former parish priest of Betis was accepting as gospel truth the group’s claim of being the source.

* * *

WHAT TO DO?: If I were Among Ed, I would have the capitolio issue a check for P500,000 to Governor Mendoza, leaving it to him to retrace the trail of the money. The voucher and an accompanying letter to Mendoza will explain the move.

As Among Ed, I would preserve the money in its original bundling, with the bag and the stamping of the drawee-bank untouched. I would put it in a safety deposit box, to be taken out later if there is any legal or other need for it.

Those steps, I think, will address the problem of returning the money to its source while preserving it as evidence.

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PITFALLS: Having jumped into the murky estero of politics, Among Ed must be fully aware now of the pitfalls around him, as well as the forces ceaselessly plotting to discredit and unseat him.

Many people in Pampanga, long in the clutches of corrupt operators, have been deprived of their sources of dirty money. They just have to punish Among Ed for it, and replace him with somebody who would bring back the bad old days.

His situation is akin to the predicament of President Arroyo, who must grapple with the obstructionism of those displaced with her succeeding to the presidency and those who think that their presidential prospects would rise by their pulling down the President.

* * *

DEAD: In the House, the committee on justice buried yesterday the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Roel Pulido by mustering the pro-administration members to rule that although it was sufficient in form, the complaint was not so in substance.

The Pulido complaint is anchored on the doctrine that a “public office is a public trust.” For the first time, the Constitution has included “betrayal of the public trust” as a ground for impeachment.

Thus, if a citizen believes that an impeachable officer or any public official for that matter has “betrayed the public trust,” it is incumbent upon him to bring the official to the proper forum to account for the perceived misdeed.

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DISAPPOINTMENT: Any citizen availing himself of this recourse must be granted good faith. It is unfortunate that ill motives were ascribed to Pulido and the propriety of the filing and endorsement of his complaint questioned on nebulous grounds.

Impeachment provides the means to ferret out the truth and penalize official misdeeds. But by merely doing his civic duty, Pulido found himself the target of character assassination.

No wonder, Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis who endorsed the impeachment complaint took to the floor to express his disappointment with the manner by which the House leadership has conducted itself on the matter.

* * *

TRANSACTIONAL: In a pained speech, San Luis said that the House under Speaker Jose de Venecia has fallen into disrepute. Instead of leading, its leaders have been dealing, he said.

The House leadership, he said, has become the prime proponents of “trapo politics” of the worst transactional kind. It has misused the House and the goodwill of its members, he added, to promote personal agenda.

He cited the questioned Chinese-funded projects, such as the National Broadband Network and the NorthRail deals, that the Speaker and his businessman-son Joey have pursued using the influence of the Speaker’s office.

“It is time to put a stop to this system of blackmail and transactional politics,” San Luis said as he linked the De Venecia transactions to the impeachment problem of President Arroyo.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 15, 2007)

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