CEBU

Seares: LTO-7 chief's private wealth is no direct evidence of corruption -- or innocence. But a lifestyle check may help the ombudsman see which.

The Short of It

AT A GLANCE:

[1] 'RICH DON'T STEAL.' Director Victor Caindec uses that as argument against the charge of corruption. But President Rodrigo Duterte uses the same defense of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III against charges of being involved in the PhilHealth fraud. Even as Caindec hurls at Harry Roque possible conflict of interest violation.

[2] PHYSICAL DISTANCING IN PUBLIC VEHICLES. From one meter, commuters may soon sit 0.3m apart from one another.

[3] NUMBERS "7" AND "5". The 10 Commandments and the Five Ts in public transport. Check out what are listed.

[4] BEAT THE VIRUS? That may not be the goal anymore. Some sectors now talk of "coexistence" with coronavirus.

Back to you, Harry

Tossing the charge of corruption to the motorcycle dealers and, obliquely, back to Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, LTO-7 Director Victor Caindec reportedly asked, "who is corrupt now?"

Caindec accused the vehicle dealers of offering him a bribe to stop his investigation and Roque of intervening for the lawyer of the dealers with whom, Caindec said, were associates of Roque in the law practice.

Caindec had said in his defense of the charge of corruption that he was already wealthy, a millionaire, when he joined government service.

The charge of corruption was first raised last July by his father, with whom he had been estranged. This week, Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque flatly accused him of corruption by allegedly extorting money from motorcycle dealers.

Others used it too

The argument that the rich cannot or will not steal is not new, here or abroad.

Besides Caindec, Health Secretary Francisco Duque II has been defended by President Duterte in similar fashion. Last June, before IATF, the national task force on Covid, Duterte said: "I am very sure that no theft happened. Hindi niya kayang gawin. He cannot do it, kasi mayaman siya. Itaya ang reputasyon ko as President."Duterte earlier also staked his reputation for then senator-wannabe Bong Go. "Bong Go has billions," he said.

The same shield is used by Trump supporters and partisans defending a South African president.

Being filthy rich is no proof of a government official's innocence of theft or looting. Just as it is no direct evidence that one has stolen or raided the treasury.

Affluence does not "translate" into corruption, as Ombudsman Samuel Martires famously said. Privately acquired wealth may be used by the accused to explain his rich possessions after a lifestyle check. If the wealth cannot be explained, the official might go to jail. But Martires has done away with lifestyle check, which broadcaster Bobby Nalzaro suggested on Caindec.

'Millionaires, don't steal'

The quote attributed to a woman senator who came from a very rich family in Manila was accused of irregularities over public funds in the Department of Social Welfare that she headed.

An anecdote, published by a veteran Manila-based columnist, said that her colleague in the Senate, Claro M. Recto (1890-1960), told media she should've said, "Millionaires, don't steal."

Perhaps Recto was not preaching. He merely showed news reporters how the meaning of a sentence can change when the lowly comma is moved around.

***

From 1m. to 0.3m

Fourteen business and professional groups have banded and come out to push the rule on physical distancing in public vehicles to below one meter.

The one meter rule between passengers was reduced to 0.75 meter starting September 14 and may be reduced further to 0.5 meter starting September 28 and 0.3 meter starting October 12.

The aim is obviously to increase the capacity of public transport to ferry commuters and step up business activity. Livelihoods, severely struck by Covid-19, have to be revived. And people move around to work, do essential errands and help the "vulnerable sector."

From 1 meter to, eventually, 0.3 meter, depending upon how the evolving policy on physical distance in buses, jeepneys and taxicabs would affect the rate of infection.

***

Downsizing goal on virus

Have you noticed the change of "battle" goal in the campaign against the coronavirus? It's no longer, "Atong buntogon ang kaaway nga di makita," as many mayors used to say about the "invisible enemy."

Some people and groups, including those in government, now think the end goal is no longer to strike down and beat the virus.

They now talk of "coexisting" with it, keeping it at bay but living with it, with each individual on guard but primarily on his own. Something like the way we treat flu or measles.


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