POSTSCRIPT / December 23, 2018 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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When admin itself does the bullying…

BULLYING is a systematic aggressive behavior using superior force on random victims or perceived foes through physical or verbal abuse, intimidation, demolition jobs or persecution. When repeated over time, it usually leaves ill effects on those involved and the community.

If students, businessmen, media practitioners, public figures and plain folk who have been victims of bullying as described above were to raise their hands, there would be a forest of “Me too” standing out.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said Friday he wanted the recent bullying at the Ateneo junior high school investigated, implying that his principal, President Duterte, was disturbed by the incident that has gone viral on social media.

He was quoted as saying: “I think we should investigate this. The school should look into the incident and do something about it. You cannot allow bullying inside the classroom and school. Besides, there is a law against that.”

On the viral video: “I watched that. I was bothered by what I saw. I think they should investigate why there was such a one-sided fight, given the fact that the (alleged bully) was much smaller.”

Panelo need not look far. He should, but is not likely to, call the attention of the President about state-sponsored bullying, especially the harassment of critics and political foes, and the demolition jobs on perceived obstacles to the administration’s march.

The interesting part is that in this dark side of town, some of the victims of administration bullying have their own sins to pay for, making them vulnerable and often intimidated into silence.

But in such cases, the straightforward action should be to prosecute, not persecute. If there is probable cause, sue them right away instead of dragging them in the streets in a sadistic display of arrogance of bullying power.

One other problem is that after the charges are filed, there usually follow dilatory tactics resulting in justice delayed for the innocent victim – while the suspect (still presumed innocent) is locked up and subjected to ridicule.

What do we do about this type of official bullying? “Investigate,” as the presidential spokesman remarked about the Ateneo incident, or simply “Express alarm” as some senators did in their press releases?

In his homily in this season’s Simbang Gabi last Sunday, Chito Cardinal Tagle said in Pilipino: “Do not bully anyone. Do not use your power to become rude. Don’t use your power to pressure or coerce others. Do not use your arms to make false accusations. xxx The bullies who use power to humiliate others, they are the most afraid and insecure individuals.”

Asked by the press if he thought the Manila archbishop was alluding to the President, Panelo said: “No, because he (Duterte) doesn’t bully people. xxx He threatens criminals, yes, to make them feel threatened and stop doing their criminal acts.”

Negating that statement, Duterte’s bully tactics include harassing human rights activists criticizing his bloody anti-drug campaign. One them, Sen. Leila de Lima, has been in jail for more than a year on what she denounced as trumped-up charges. Another critic on the receiving end is Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. Also, media outfits that refuse to join the chorus of praise face the specter of being silenced for good.

 GMA, Duterte at odds over road ‘pork’?

THE CAN of worms feeding on pork that was opened by Sen. Panfilo Lacson has apparently spilled into a pit of crocodiles some of whom are salivating for the billions in the Road User’s Fund.

After attacking Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya Jr. is targeting administration allies in the House of Representatives and the public works-highways department to pressure the President into allowing road fund releases before the 2019 election.

Duterte has served notice, however, that he would not release a single peso until the fate of the road tax fund is decided with finality. He and most senators are for abolishing it, with the money going to the national treasury for regular budgeting.

Andaya looks desperate after failing on two fund-raising efforts: congressional insertions, which senator Lacson exposed, and Road User’s Fund releases, which Diokno has stopped on instructions of the President.

In early December, Lacson disclosed that the General Appropriations Bill that the House had submitted to the Senate was loaded with insertions for the districts of allies of Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The senator reported having noticed a pattern of insertions running into billions. He noted that in Arroyo’s second district of Pampanga there were insertions amounting to P2.4 billion, while Andaya’s first district of Camarines Sur got P1.9 billion.

The revelation threatens to derail Senate approval of the insertions, or if approved to run the risk of presidential veto. Duterte has aligned himself with the Senate in its stand for abolishing the Road Board, noting that the Road User’s Fund is “but a depository of money and for corruption at walang ibang purpose iyan (no other purpose).”

It remains to be seen if the issue over pork and corruption would put Duterte on collision course with Speaker Arroyo, who is on her last term, and her House allies.

After failing to gain road fund releases, Andaya has been trying to get Dutere’s attention by embarrassing such colleagues as Rudy Fariñas and Jericho Nograles. Andaya said 42 congressmen had asked for maintenance funds from the Road Board, with the biggest requests from Fariñas and Nograles.

Andaya said Fariñas of Ilocos Norte, now a Duterte ally, had made fund requests to the tune of ₱277,441,211. Jericho Nograles of PBA Party-list is the brother of former Davao Rep. Karlo Nograles, who is secretary of the Cabinet.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of December 23, 2018)

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