Zamora-Arceo: On corruption and death penalty

THERE are two things in President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent State of the Nation Address (Sona) that eventually convinced me to give him a second chance.

You see, Duterte and I started on the wrong foot. During the height of his initial war against illegal drugs in 2016 and 2017, I was one of the most vocal people posting criticisms on Facebook against “Tokhang” and the police operations.

And I still do believe that such operations are a direct violation of the Filipino citizen’s basic human rights. Yes, the suspected drug addicts and drug peddlers were not “forced” to surrender, but the mere fact of being identified as a user and a criminal, while barangay officials and police knock at your doorstep, is already a gray area on the definition of right to privacy. And this basic right is protected by the Philippine Constitution.

But after last Monday’s Sona, after the President requested the Congress to prioritize the death penalty bill on drug-related crimes and plunder, I said to myself - it is time to make peace with the President.

I may not like his style or the way he delivers dirty jokes, or how he comfortably utters expletives, but I admire him for taking a firm stand on the death penalty for heinous crimes including drug crimes and plunder.

A politician and a government leader entrusted by people with the taxpayers’ money must not take the money for himself. Duterte was right by saying that corruption must end and all plunderers must be prosecuted with the worst penalty of death if proven guilty.

He said that for 35 years that he has served in the government, he wants to put an end to corruption. A culture that has gradually brought the Republic down in all facets of decency, much created a void that stunted real progress in the country.

He said that at the Bureau of Customs national office alone, 63 are currently facing corruption charges while 61 are being investigated.

And he does not want to see their faces working at the Customs if possible. Kudos to the President for taking concrete action against corrupt government workers. He instructed all of us Filipinos to be assertive as well and slap any government official or employee who will ask for more money rather than what should be paid by law.

Another star for him.

And I am particularly happy that he cited the worst government agencies that have been subjects of complaints by many Pinoys. These agencies are the LTO, SSS, BIR, LRA and Pag-Ibig.

Very true indeed, especially SSS. They are firm in collecting deductions from Filipino workers and employees, but super ultra-slow in delivering benefits and services to beneficiary-claimants.

“Corruption exasperates. It frustrates,” Duterte said. And I agree with him, 100 percent. It is totally understandable why he said that sometimes he thinks it is our blood that should be rinsed because corruption has been very natural in all government offices, from barangay level to the national agencies.

What a shame, but hopefully with the passing of the death penalty soon, we can all dream of a nation that genuinely wants to change.

As for the drug-related crimes, the death penalty is long overdue. The state must not give illegal drug dealers and criminals a chance to pay their way out of courts. Death penalty could be a threat or a dreaded punishment that could fight their smugness and assumption of impunity.

This time, I am with the President.

Again, I may not like him as a person but he is the best President so far who has given us tangible and concrete advocacies and programs in less than three years.

(This is Part I of the columnist’s reaction to President Duterte’s July 22, 2019 Sona)


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