IT IS a pity that President Aquino?s campaign platform, recorded exhaustively in his website during the election period, is no longer available there. What remains is his campaign slogan, his logo, his picture and a short message thanking us and reminding us that we?re all in this together, and that we, the people, are his strength. A great message, but I sincerely hope that the platform be returned, to serve as a constant reminder, to him and to us, of what he intended to do and how he intended to do it.
What can be clearly recalled about that platform are his criteria for choosing his official family?competence and integrity. These were necessary conditions, although apparently (as he disclosed later), not sufficient. There were other qualities?such as familiarity, or similar vibes that would make for a comfortable working relationship?but (hopefully) only to help narrow down the field of those who had passed the first hurdle of competence and integrity.
No one can quarrel with that.
But as the saying goes, between the cup and the lip there?s many a slip. And it is becoming apparent that in some cases, the basic criteria of competence and integrity?remember, this is an ?and? situation, not an ?or? situation?were left by the wayside.
A case in point is that of Angelito A. Alvarez (AAA), who was appointed to the Bureau of Customs presumably upon the recommendation of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima (and/or, maybe, businessman Bert Lina, AAA?s boss?AAA?s membership in Alabang Country Club was as an assignee of one of Lina?s corporations. Lina is one of the Hyatt 10, also closely associated with Purisima).
What is the case about? In a nutshell, AAA was suspended from his membership at the Alabang Country Club for six months, and was banned from playing at the annual Mango Tee Tournament for five years. For cheating, together with the other three players in his flight, during this year?s tournament held last February. The other Alabang member in the flight was meted out the same punishment; and the two guests are now banned for life from the club premises.
I am informed that the original thinking by the ethics committee of the club was to expel and not just suspend the two erring members?but worries about possible resulting expensive law suits prevailed. It is ironic that the Alabang Caddies Association had no such constraints: they expelled two of the caddies (AAA?s and his teammate?s?AAA?s caddy is reportedly married to a driver in the Lina companies) also for dishonesty. The other caddies, who had divulged what happened in their flight during the tournament, were suspended for six months.
In any case, the punishments were not cavalierly imposed: While the two members were immediately disqualified from the tournament?turning in a wrong score card is ground for immediate disqualification, but does not necessarily imply cheating?it took four months for the process to be completed: the ethics committee investigation (which involved asking AAA and the other Alabang member to explain their behavior) and board action.
One would have thought?given the President?s and the country?s desire for competence and integrity?that AAA, after having been found guilty of cheating/dishonesty, would withdraw his name from consideration for public office, to spare the President from embarrassment.
But no, he and his backer, Purisima, seem to have decided to brazen it out?alternately pooh-poohing the seriousness of AAA?s offense and claiming that AAA had no fault?issuing statements that contradicted the findings of the club.
Purisima, for example, was quoted by media as saying: ?He (Lito) explained it and said it was an unfortunate incident. He is an occasional golfer and the one who cheated was his flight mate.? If that is how Purisima makes a judgment, the country is in big trouble. He is a golfer and should know that in a golf tournament, the players score for each other?the player announcing his own score for the caddies to write down. The players then review the scorecards before signing them. So when the whole flight turns in scores that show them all shooting 8 or 9 strokes under their handicaps, that has to be the product of collusion, rather than of only one cheater.
In fact, it was not about an ?unfortunate incident? in one hole; the whistle-blower caddie said that ?karamihan sa hole, nag-gigive ang bawat isa, kahit malayo sa butas.? Or that the caddies were instructed outright to write down scores lower than the actual.
The sound bite used by Purisima?to the effect that ?it is more important to look at his performance scorecard rather than his golf scorecard? is as facetious as any stonewalling statement by the Arroyo administration, which the Hyatt 10 held so much in contempt.
AAA claims that it was he who apprised the tournament committee that he had signed a wrong scorecard because of one ?gimme?; or that he does not really like the game and only plays to entertain clients. These assertions, according to independent sources, are false. Incidentally, his partner was reportedly not a client, but a colleague in the Lina companies.
The best testament to the gravity of the offense is that businessman Ricky Razon fired his executive who was in the flight. AAA, on the other hand, was appointed to head the Bureau of Customs.
It seems to me from the above that we are dealing not only with a cheater but with a liar. This is integrity?