Sunday, August 01, 2021

Espina: Nearer my nose to thee

WHO can count the times Rodrigo Duterte has promised to wipe out corruption in government?

I bet no one can since he’s made that vow too many times to keep track of. We all remember just “one whiff of corruption,” right?

Okay, so who can tell me how many officials have been prosecuted, convicted and jailed for corruption under his watch?

Again, I bet no one can. Right, because there has been none.

But hasn’t he fired several of them, some among his closest allies and friends, such as former Interior secretary Ismael Sueno, his campaign spokesman and former National Irrigation Administration chief Peter Laviña, and former Justice secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II?

For sure, he has. But again, firing is not accountability.

It is all too easy to say, “I will let you go, you need to resign, so people will say, ‘Look that is political will. He says he will fire the corrupt and he has.’ But don’t worry I’ll take care of you. Just take it easy.”

That, of course, is speculation, but inevitable for why for heaven’s sake do you sack someone for graft and then not file charges? And that isn’t even the worst of it.

Not only have no charges been filed, at least 11 ranking government officials who resigned or were fired by Duterte after allegations of corruption were raised against them have been reappointed to other posts.

Among these is Jose Gabriel “Pompee” Laviña, a cousin of Peter, who was sacked as Social Security System commissioner along with former SSS chair Amado Aldez after Duterte claimed they had “abused” public funds. Pompee was named undersecretary of, first, Tourism, then, Agriculture.

And who can forget former Customs commissioner Nicanor Faeldon, the former military rebel who quit after being linked to the P6.4-billion shabu smuggling scandal, who was then recycled as deputy administrator of the Office of Civil Defense.

Three former members of the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor, including a cousin of Duterte’s partner Honeylet Avanceña, sacked for supposedly excessive travel, have also been reappointed to other posts.

Don’t even get me started on former Tourism secretary Wanda Teo and the sweet deal struck with the production outfit of her brother Ben, who has since insisted he is not returning the P60 million he made even if all our eyes turn white, a defiance Malacañang found to be merely “unfortunate.”

In contrast, when a government official tasked to weed out corruption actually does his job, he is found guilty of graft and corruption and betrayal of public trust by the office whose occupant he sought to investigate.

Such was the fate of Overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, who was ordered dismissed by the Office of the President on Tuesday.

What terrible deed could Carandang have done? The mortal sin of seeking to investigate Duterte’s bank records after Senator Antonio Trillanes IV accused him of amassing ill-gotten wealth.

Then again, they who live in a cesspool do get used to the stench.

Just one man’s opinion.


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