SOMETHING is amiss in President Duterte’s announcements involving the sacking of certain officials of the executive department. While the firing of an official, especially under the corruption-ridden Duterte administration, has a huge impact on the individual concerned and perhaps also on the clientele transacting with that official, Malacanang had nothing but general, even generic, explanation for what happened.
Take the case of Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC) Executive Director Jose Antonio Goitia. Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo said the sacking of Goitia is part of “the President’s continuing mandate to eradicate graft and corruption, and to ensure that public officials and employees conduct themselves in a manner worthy of public trust.”
Secretary Panelo made the announcement a week after Duterte ordered the transfer of PRRC chairmanship from the Department of Budget and Management to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
As part of regular government turnover, the presidential spokesman and chief legal counsel instructed Goitia to give all official documents and properties in his possession to the Office of the Deputy Executive Director for Finance and Administrative Services of the PRRC.
Panelo concluded with another motherhood statement that he hopes will boost the image of this dispensation: “We hope that this shall serve as another example that this Administration does not — and will never — tolerate corrupt practices in the bureaucracy and in public service.”
After hearing so many words, the people along with mediamen who are the usual audience of Panelo, are left with still unclear facts about what had happened, with many questions still in their mind. One of these questions obviously is this: what infraction of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Law did the executive director of PRRC commit? Was is just a charge or did the Palace conduct a full-scale and intensive investigation and found out that a wrongdoing indeed occurred, with Goitia the most guilty among the perpetrators?
We do not — and cannot — question the President’s power to reorganize the offices under him, or to fire and hire people. Just that attached to this prerogative is the innate need for transparency and good faith. The public needs to know the reasons for an official’s sacking, because other officials are clearly untouchable while still others, found to be incompetent and corrupt on many occasions and in several positions, still manage to get “recycled” or appointed again.
President Duterte is fond of casually exonerating his favorite officials like Nicanor Faeldon a day or two after serious accusations against them emerged in official investigations, yet little-known officials like Goitia and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) chief Harold Clavite are dismissed without benefit of explanation. Clavite’s case is worse because while he claimed he did not write a resignation letter, such resignation was accepted by the President. The Executive Secretary just told him so.