IT is always safe to try to put in context what people say, to know even the circumstances obtaining when certain utterances were made. This is especially true, and very helpful indeed, when applied to the pronouncement of a President whose penchant to stop in mid-sentence is congenital.
This is the problem, though petty, faced by Sen. Panfilo Lacson when he tried to comment and debunk President Duterte’s assessment of him as “a crusader but ignorant.”
The presidential comment was elicited by previous criticisms by Lacson and Vice President Leni Robredo hitting Duterte’s go-signal to policemen to accept gifts or cash from grateful citizens whom they have helped. Lacson thinks this simple graft, that if tolerated will lead to even bigger and more serious cases of corruption. VP Robredo, a lawyer, said this is simply wrong, against the Civil Service and other relevant laws.
Duterte, a long-time city prosecutor before entering local politics in Davao City, expects every lawyer to know his/her law, and so he chided Robredo for her interpretation of the law. Obviously, the President had a different one. As for Lacson, Duterte thinks he is just “ignorant (of the law)” just because the senator is a non-lawyer.
Lacson said in his defense: “The President says he is fighting corruption. I also say I am on a crusade in exposing corruption in government. If we are not complementing each other in this regard, there must be a problem somewhere.” Lacson also posted a link to a report on the President’s opinion that policemen could legally accept gifts given to them in gratitude and asked, “Is this not graft, Mr. President? Pray tell, who is ignorant?”
Many people have heard what Mr. Duterte’s exact words on this gift-acceptance thing. The President said he would not mind if policemen get 20 percent or less from the income of the illegal gambling activity called “video karera.” It was as if the President declared the whole country and every day as open season for this scourge of the masses, the poor’s version of the slot machines in the casinos for the rich.
Duterte also cautioned Lacson on speaking about every issue, to be circumspect because he wanted to be President, and his opponents might use his statements against him someday.
The President’s admonition that Lacson should brush up on his law, we believe, is not needed.
Lacson said, “I may not be a lawyer, but I know how to read and understand the law that I read, or ask my lawyer-staff when I don’t.”
Lacson spent 30 years as a law enforcer, and was elected twice as lawmaker. He had tussled with Atty. Sen. Kiko Pangilinan on constitutional issues on the floor, and came out as if he was the lawyer of the two.