Saturday July 21, 2018

Seares: ‘Political noise’ and PEPs

WOULD criticisms of the administration harm the country’s economy?

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia was reported earlier to have said “political noise” is a “risk” to the economy.


Pernia and other members of the budget coordinating group yesterday (Aug. 16) briefed senators on the proposed P3.767-trillion budget for 2018. Minority Leader Franklin Drilon, veering away from the day’s business, asked Pernia (a) if criticism of the Duterte administration is “political noise” and (b) whether they can’t criticize because they’ll be considered as “causing disunity to the nation.”

Yes to both questions, with the second affirmative implied from Pernia’s explanation: “Well, ideally, to achieve our common goal, we should all be united, right?”

Wrong, Mr. Secretary. “Political noise” is part of the democratic system, the three separate branches, the system of checks and balance, the debate on any issue of national interest. Right to dissent is a vital component of governance under the laws and the Constitution.

Senators caution

Drilon didn’t have to say that. Instead he cautioned Pernia to be careful with his language because “you are a Cabinet secretary and your statement reflects the sentiment of this administration ...and when you say the risk includes political noise, that is very disturbing of the trend of your thinking.”

Pernia, defining “political noise,” had said it is “a very general expression... it can be from any sector of society, like labor, protests, for example, demonstrations...”

Which activities are all protected legally and constitutionally, unless they would breach law and order. Which only then might put the country’s growth at risk.

Special clients

As to “politically exposed people” (PEP), Sen. Francis Escudero wondered why Comelec Chairman Andres Bautista was not flagged by banks where he did business. Aside from the positions he held (from PCGG to Comelec), Bautista reportedly split his money in 32 saving and checking accounts with not more than P500,000 each. Maybe the bank mistook Bautista for an ordinary client but it could’ve watched for the signs from the volume and movement of his money.

Maybe they knew

Pernia misused “political noise” and touched sensitive nerves. Bautista’s bank may have failed to recognize him as a PEP or wasn’t diligently looking.

Know the terms, Drilon cautioned. But maybe they knew but said or did it anyway.