PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona), as in all his other speeches, blares yet again another call against corruption.
It’s that ever present mantra in every Sona. In 2016, he said those who betrayed the people’s trust should not go unpunished. In 2017, he said the dismissal of several high-ranking officials should serve to warn everyone, that he will “never back down on my own commitment to cleanse this government.” In 2018, he likened corruption to a “leech that bleeds the government of funds.”
In the recent Sona, the President said he had confronted the enemy, and the enemy is us. “Make a scene,” he instructs those who experience attempts of corruption first hand. He’ll get wind of it somehow. Well, that’s what he said Sonas ago, that he’d gladly react to even a “whiff” of irregularity. In the last three years, however, it seems like it’s the President who needed to take heed of his own instruction, and there must have been a squall of corruption even in his own circle. The scene the public wants is the one that takes place in the legal front.
Reports said Duterte had fired 151 government officials and employees for reasons of corruption. This year alone, at least 19 were fired or had resigned following allegations of graft.
He had fired Food and Drug Administration Director General Nela Charade Puno, Government Service Insurance System President and General Manager Jesus Clint Aranas. He had also sacked the members of the Nayong Filipino Foundation and a number of Department of Agriculture officials.
Recently, when news on the “ghost” Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) claims in a clinic over dialysis treatment, the President fired officials of the agency. Legal charges against these officials are yet to be filed.
Meanwhile, Nicanor Faeldon is reappointed as Deputy Administrator of the Office of Civil Defense, he who was Bureau of Customs commissioner who was linked to a P6.4-billion shabu smuggling case. He was then with fellow BOC officials Gerardo Gambala and Milo Maestrecampo. The “whiff” it seemed ferried them to islands just as sunny—Gambala is now director in the Office of Transportation Security and Maestecampo is assistant director general in the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
Solicitor General Jose Calida is also something else. The Ombudsman filed graft cases against him for being a major stockholder of a security services provider that bagged several government contracts. Calida said he had divested his shares from the family-owned business, but yet again, the President shoved him into the seat.
So it isn’t just the firing, but the real filing of graft raps that will give credence to the President’s anti-corruption rhetoric. The public will find it hard to internalize his instruction to “make a scene” in the face of corruption without Duterte’s real cue-in.