POSTSCRIPT / October 29, 2020 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter
Twitter

A master defense vs corruption raps

FAIR warning to the menfolk who have difficulty finding their way home at the end of the day.

The Supreme Court has just affirmed a ruling of a lower court that a man who lives with a woman other than his wife could be guilty of psychological violence against her and must suffer the punishments imposed by the law.

In its decision dated Sept. 8, 2020, on the case Araza v. People, GR No. 247429, the SC said that under Sec. 5(i) of Violence Against Women/Children Act, a man who leaves his family to cohabit with another woman could be guilty of psychological violence against his wife and jailed for six to eight years.

Pursued to its logical conclusion, the new jurisprudence uploaded Oct. 21 in the Supreme Court website, could depopulate the higher echelons of the government and trigger a stampede for conversion to Islam to gain religious and legal cover for having more than one wife under certain conditions.

Short of formally converting to the other faith, some officials lay the basis of their legal and psychological defense by mentioning now and then their supposedly having traces of ancestral Muslim blood, subliminally advertising that they qualify to have multiple wives.

On a related point, some government officials on their way to amassing dirty millions also weave tales of their allegedly being from wealthy families, and try to convince gullible listeners that since they are already rich they are not interested in enriching themselves in office.

In the 2016 election campaign, President Duterte would point to his favorite senatorial bet and say (although nobody was asking) that he comes from a very rich family. We noticed that early that his niño bonito was being vaccinated against unexplained wealth issues.

On another occasion recently, Duterte tried shielding a health official by saying: “Ang pera wala, wala, sigurado ako. I am very sure, and I place my reputation na walang pagnanakaw na nangyari… Hindi niya magagawa ‘yan kasi mayaman siya.” (Translation: He won’t steal because he’s already rich.)

Days ago, the President was talking of another Cabinet secretary who is handling billions in huge government projects. He said the official comes from a wealthy family and, therefore, could not be collecting kickbacks from juicy deals however tempting.

We are disturbed by this Duterte dictum that an official is incapable of corruption on the convenient claim that he is already wealthy. He pretends not to know that some leeches do not stop sucking blood even when already bloated.

In his case, Duterte seems not quite decided yet if he comes from an affluent or an above-average family. Depending on what group he is addressing, he would sometimes say they were not well-off while at other times he would grant that his family had some measure of wealth.

But whether rich or poor, or in-between, the President who is sworn to uphold the law can help clear the air by disclosing his Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs), as required by law, by decency, and by the demands of accountability under the Constitution.

Why is Duterte suddenly refusing to let the public examine his 2018 and 2019 SALNs when all Presidents from Cory Aquino up to him (until 2017) have allowed access to the sworn financial statements?

In our Postscript of Dec. 18, 2008, we recalled among other things how a wealthy senator in the sixties defended herself against corruption charges by declaring on the Senate floor that ‘Millionaires don’t steal!’. At that time, a million was already a dazzling sum.

One of the elder senators interjected that, in the minutes, a comma must be inserted after the word  ‘Millionaires’ to make more factual the senadora’s statement that ‘Millionaires don’t steal!’

That admonition should echo from the past to remind our lawmakers and other high officials that just because they are now wallowing in wealth does not mean that they have become incorruptible or should be immune from investigation and prosecution.

Du30 orders another drive vs corruption

FAST-FORWARDING to the present, President Duterte emerged Tuesday from his remote location to announce on TV that he has ordered Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to make a sweeping investigation of the bureaucracy to rid it of corruption once and for all.

Duterte told Guevarra, who also led the investigation into corruption in the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth), to start with the Department of Public Works and Highways. But, strangely, even before the inquiry began, Duterte cleared DPWH Secretary Mark Villar of any wrongdoing.

We said in this space on Sept. 22: “If Duterte has nothing to hide, he should not be afraid to disclose his meticulously prepared SALNs. He should not hide behind his fraternity brother and appointee, Ombudsman Samuel R. Martires, who warns that SALNs were being ‘weaponized’ and used for harassment.

“Enabled by the law to act motu proprio, the Ombudsman should be the shining vanguard in the campaign against corruption and unethical practices in government. But he is the one blocking the public scrutiny of SALNs filed freely under oath.” More at https://tinyurl.com/y5jkxy5m

Hearing again this tired line of weeding out corruption, we tweeted: “Duterte vows again to fight corruption? He can use SALNs and lifestyle checks to ferret out big grafters. He should tell Ombudsman Martires that they better stop coddling gov’t crooks who are their allies.”

With the need to observe due process, the justice secretary may not be able to make heads roll in the remaining two years of the administration. Duterte might then make up for his zero conviction by shaming the suspects.

The President’s spokesman gave a hint of this option in an e-briefing to media. He warned corrupt officials that “it’s their families and loved ones who would ultimately suffer shame and humiliation”. What a crude way to conduct a cleanup drive.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 29, 2020)

* * *

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.