THE present occupant of the Palace by the stinking river has always perorated about clean governance — the need to account for every peso of public funds and the imperatives of fighting graft and corruption.
In his last TV address, President Duterte told his children now working in government to “stay clean” just as his deceased father, the former governor of Davao, had advised him a long time ago.
“My father was a governor of Davao noon. He told me, ‘You know what, if you want to go into politics and you want to remain there for a time, stay clean. Stay clean,’” Duterte reminisced on television.
Three of the President’s four children are elected public officials. They are Davao City Rep. Paolo Duterte, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, and Vice Mayor Sebastian Duterte, and it should be incumbent on the people, especially their immediate constituencies, to scrutinize their official actions if they are following the advice of their father.
Noting that inordinate delays in government transactions lead to corruption, the President announced that he will soon write a code –with the help of his legal advisers — to fast-track government operations.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Ombudsman which continues to defend the secrecy of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) from searing eyes and inquisitive noses of media and the public, has lately been active in its work.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires issued on Tuesday a preventive suspension order against Undersecretary Roger Tong-An, Kenneth Ronquillo, Maylene Beltran, Laureano Cruz, and Esperanza Carating of the Department of Health. They were punished with six months without pay due to neglect of duty and inefficiency, specifically for the delay in the release of benefits to health workers during this COVID-19 pandemic.
On the same day, Martires also suspended for six months without pay 44 officials and employees of the Bureau of Immigration linked to the scandalous “pastillas” racket at the airport. The multi-million-peso “pastillas” scheme involved immigration officers who were allegedly collecting grease money to allow the entry of Chinese nationals in the country even without background checks. The National Bureau of Investigation filed in September a criminal complaint against 19 Immigration officers and personnel for their alleged involvement in this illegal activity.
Taking the cue from his boss at the Palace, Speaker Lord Allan Velasco said the House of Representatives will support the Chief Executive’s renewed campaign against corruption. This means Velasco will follow a hands-off policy and maintain his distance, especially if congressmen are the ones under investigation.
We note with guarded praise Duterte’s drive against official corruption, for he said even a whiff of it will prod him to fire any official. Moving this to its logical conclusion, there should be no reason for the President to cover with a veil of secrecy his own SALN now. After all, this document was available to the people in 2017 and 2018.