POSTSCRIPT / February 19, 2017 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

Share This

A chance to dump Duterte or Trillanes

IT SHOULD be easy among reasonable men, who we presumably are, to determine if indeed President Rodrigo Duterte has unexplained millions stashed in the bank as alleged by Sen. Antonio Trillanes.

To us bystanders, the simple procedure is to open for examination the President’s bank account/s, which action he has authorized in order to put the guessing game to a quick end. (That was how we understood in good faith his open-the-books declaration.)

After that initial opening step, it should then be easy to determine who between the President and the senator is lying. And we should then see the liar or liars resign as promised. We used the plural “liars” because both of them could be lying or quibbling.

But then, the usual lawyers might enter the picture, if they have not done so already, to muddle up the simple showdown scenario and effectively block the opening of bank records.

They could demand specifics as to which account/s is/are under question, covering what period, what law has been violated? And will the senator first put down in writing his demand for disclosure, plus his promise to resign if his allegations turn out to be wrong?

As we share the desire to rid the government of liars and corrupt officials, the media, civic groups and the general public must continue to pressure the President and the senator to move quickly to a final showdown.

For his part, instead of merely issuing an announcement or a press release, the President as account holder should execute a waiver without adding unreasonable conditions that could make the authorization meaningless or ineffectual.

As things stand, some doubts have been raised on the truthfulness of both parties – which is another reason for going for the final solution of voluntarily opening the Duterte accounts and holding both protagonists to their pledge to resign if proved to have been lying.

Alvarez going after ‘banana king’

SPEAKER Pantaleon Alvarez is showing signs of growing insecurity as top banana of the House of Representatives.

He is now targeting Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo Jr., owner of the banana firm Tagum Agricultural Development Inc. (Tadeco) and reportedly the biggest campaign financier of President Duterte.

Alvarez said Floirendo could face graft and plunder charges over allegations that his banana exporting firm has been shortchanging the government in its profit-sharing scheme. In a radio interview last Thursday, Alvarez sought a congressional inquiry into Tadeco and an audit of its transactions.

Rumors refuse to go away that Alvarez would be replaced soon, which might explain his consolidation moves. One of those being mentioned as his likely successor is former President Gloria Arroyo, who is Deputy Speaker and representative of Pampanga’s 2ndcongressional district.

To get Arroyo out of the way, Alvarez is reportedly pushing her to be appointed governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas when the incumbent governor Amando Tetangco Jr. retires in a few months.

An irony is that Alvarez once served as secretary of transportation and communication under then President Arroyo.

Based on Duterte’s submissions to the Commission on Elections, Floirendo contributed P75 million to the presidential campaign of the former Davao City mayor. That makes the “banana king” his biggest donor.

So, why is Alvarez going after him? This move, he said, shows the resolve of the Duterte administration to investigate even its allies.

The Speaker said he would look into reports of alleged violations of Tadeco’s contract which guarantees the government P26.542 million per year for the use of the Davao Penal Colony’s 5,308 hectares of land, or P5,000 per hectare. The contract expires in 12 more years.

He said the House will coordinate with the justice department in reviewing the Tadeco contract: “We will look at the export declaration, if it jibes. If it does not, the government has been losing a lot. And if it is over P50 million, it’s going to be plunder.”

The chamber will also look into possible graft violations. Alvarez said: “If the contract was renewed when Floirendo was a congressman, that is a clear violation of the anti-graft law. Public officials are barred from entering into contracts with the government.”

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II reportedly ordered a review of the 25-year lease contract between Tadeco and the Bureau of Corrections after receiving reports that the company’s payments for lease and profit sharing are only a fraction of the correct rate.

Du30 better ask Senate on Russia

THE PRESIDENT may be the sole spokesman of the country in foreign affairs, but he must not hog all matters pertaining to international relations and the entering into contracts and agreements binding the Philippines.

In finalizing his announced plan to sign a kind of alliance agreement with Russia, President Duterte should consult senators and other responsible leaders to benefit from their collective wisdom.

Both countries would have reason to look forward to mutually satisfying relations if the proposed deal – said to be a memorandum of understanding, instead of an executive agreement, much less a treaty – is a result of informed consultations.

Under the Constitution, treaties entered into by the President are valid only with Senate concurrence. Although Duterte seems to have in mind only an MoU with Russia, there is still the implied need for consultations.

The existence of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty with the United States, which can pose possible conflicts, is another reason why it may be prudent for Malacañang not to go solo but seek wider and deeper consultations on its planned MoU with Russia.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 19, 2017)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.