Conflict of interest

The interest and welfare of the sovereign people shall always supersede the interest of the few - moreso, when the named “few” hold public office. The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act or Republic Act 3019 was created precisely to penalize public officials who abuse their power to accumulate wealth or benefit themselves and their families.

Pampanga 3rd District Representative Aurelio “Dong” D. Gonzales Jr. is currently facing anti-graft raps filed by Terrence Napao, barangay chairman of Santo Cristo and president of the Association of Barangay Chairmen (ABC) in Mexico.

Napao alleged that Gonzales’ family-owned construction company, A.D. Gonzales Jr. Construction & Trading Co. Inc., was awarded civil works contracts worth P611 million. The flood-control projects are all located in the province’s third district where Gonzales serves as a congressman. Other respondents in the case are City of San Fernando Councilor Aurelio Brenz Gonzales, Aurelio Gonzales III, Board Member Alyssa Michaela Gonzales, Aurelio Michaeline Gonzales, Zenaida Quiambao, DPWH Region 3 Dir. Roseller Tolentino, Ignacio Evangelista, Anna Marie Tayag, and Arthur Santos.

Whether or not Gonzales used his authority as a congressman to influence the bidding of the projects at the DPWH Region 3 office remains to be investigated and proven. Being a member of the Lower House and a lawmaker, Gonzales can always argue that he has no direct authority over the bidding procedures done by any executive agency. The accuser, Napao, needs concrete evidence proving that Gonzales’ family-business won the contracts by prejudicial preference or by illegal use of power.

Here is a question: Is the construction firm a registered and legitimate business qualified to join government biddings?

Another question: If a company is owned by politicians in active duty, is it prohibited to participate in any bid for government projects?

Third question: If, for example, a company owned and operated by politicians in active duty is allowed by law to participate in any government bidding, is it ethical for the public officials to pursue the bid even if it insinuates conflict of interest?

As my media law professor said before, the great debates in court include arguments between acts that could be constitutional and legal but unethical. In some states of the United States of America, abortion is legal. And though it is legal and constitutional, others find it unethical.

Smoking, for example, could be legal in some areas designated by the government but other people still find it unethical to smoke especially when there are non-smokers around.

I am not trying to discuss the merits of the Gonzales case as I am not saying who has the bullets to win it or not. I am simply laying down the reality of the way our government works. Most of the time, public officials use legal technicalities to cover their true motives or agenda.

Complacency is one of the bad traits of Filipinos. In most cases, the general public’s lack of attention to details and double-standard help abusive public officials to repeat their crimes - at times even in the guise of “public service”.

What we need is conviction. Reflect on what is utmostly important to help the nation grow and prosper. Fighting corruption is not easy and thus, there must be clarity on what we identify as right or wrong.

A political candidate for example distributes goodies, relief goods, valuable items and not money, do we tag it as “vote-buying”? Or do we receive these items as we praise the candidate for being charitable?

On the other hand, a politician in active duty caps a government project, not directly under his authority of approval, but most likely within the bounds or sphere of his influence, how do we respond?

Just a thought.


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