POSTSCRIPT / November 23, 2021 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Don’t vote for bets hiding SALNs, ITRs

WE, the sovereign Filipino people, must lay down basic enforceable requirements for those who presume to solicit our votes in the May 2022 national elections.

One strict rule should be: All candidates must show that they have been (1) paying income tax like the rest of us citizens, (2) complying with court orders to return public funds they have plundered, and (3) making amends to the families of persons summarily tortured or killed under their direction.

This rule, which should be added to such imperatives as (4) making public officials’ sworn statements of assets, liabilities and net worth [SALN], shall be on top of the minimum requirements as to age, residence, etc., of candidates for public office.

There is no point in trying to legislate this rule since the politicians running our lives will not pass it into law anyway. Witness how they have dribbled the ball, or dropped it altogether, on the constitutional mandate to pass a law against political dynasties.

The people can simply take it upon themselves to impose the proposed rule. The target effectivity date is May 9, 2022, when registered voters rise as one to wield the power to choose who would lead them.

Election Day comes only once every three or six years. Before the national polls, whose significance could be shrouded by distractions scattered by politicians, we should have this proposed guideline embedded in our minds.

Who will enforce the rule and other requirements that an awakened electorate may require of candidates – especially of those aspiring for the presidency, the vice presidency, and congressional seats?

We the sovereign voters will, or should, enforce it individually through our ballot and collectively with civic groups organized as early as tomorrow to protect the vote. We should not vote for candidates who do not follow the rule.

With all due respect, we do not have to wait for the Commission on Elections, the courts, or the police to ensure free and fair voting. Working with the authorities, the people can command compliance.

We already know who are the unrepentant, corrupt, brutal and dynastic proxies running for office. Let us campaign against them. Otherwise, we will reap more of the same bad management that crooked and incompetent officials have been inflicting on us.

Some of us have been desensitized by overexposure to the massive corruption and the senseless extrajudicial executions so that we now tend to gloss over these horrible crimes as long as the direct victims are neither kith nor kin.

The irony is that instead of the perpetrators answering for their transgressions, the victims sometimes end up absorbing more abuse. The guilty parties are allowed to walk free and even rewarded by being elected to office – in a weird act of political condonation of a crime.

To recap, we urge fellow Filipinos NOT to vote for candidates who have (1) refused to publish their SALNs of the past two years, (2) failed repeatedly to pay income taxes, (3) not returned ill-gotten wealth as ordered by the court, or (4) refused to make amends to the families of persons summarily tortured or killed under their direction.

We urge civic groups to collate and publish data on violators of the proposed rule, and name names, so voters may know whom to reject at the polls.

 PSG also guards the presidency

AMID talk of cocaine and fentanyl addiction in high places, we confess that one vice we have developed in these covidous times is chatting online with media colleagues on current issues.

Our Viber chat focused lately on the presidency, spiced with the recollection of those who had spent decades covering Malacañang, defense, politics and related beats.

With President Duterte seemingly unaware at times that he was veering toward the cliff with a wayward statement, one wonders why his security, the men physically closest to him at any time, do not leap and pluck him from a situation that could be demeaning to the presidency.

That looks like an undue intrusion into what may be mostly a political situation. But many of us agree that the job of the Presidential Security Group is not only to look after the physical safety of the Chief but also to protect his reputation and the institution of the presidency.

Colleague Nonnie Pelayo recalled an incident years ago when the PSG deputy commander attended a party where the president got tipsy and started slurring his words.

Upon delivery of another round of brandy, the officer literally snatched the goblet from the president’s hand, drank it straight and said, “Mr. President, you have an early meeting tomorrow.” The officer forthwith led him out to his car.

Will the present close-in security consider doing something like that when they sense that the President is about to blurt out things unpresidential or potentially damaging? That involves quick political processing.

During the time of Fidel Ramos, according to a colleague who had covered him, there was a plan to institutionalize presidential security much like the US Secret Service.

Under the plan, PSG personnel stay with the unit whoever the president is, with only the commander and a few other officers to be handpicked by the president. However, time ran out on the proponents to carry out the idea.

When Erap Estrada took over, a reporter close to him said, the PSG acted much like a detachment of the San Juan police, ever ready to carry him home if he had downed a shot too many. At least they knew how to get the president out of a messy situation.

The presidential security of Gloria Arroyo fared better, a columnist said, but was usually unable to curb certain activities of the Arroyos père et fils that reportedly threatened at times to be scandalously damaging to the presidency.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 23, 2021)

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