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To lead a modest life

Article XI of the 1987 Constitution on the Accountability of Public Officers provides: “Section 1. Public  office is a public trust… Public officers must at all times be accountable to the people and serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, … AND LEAD MODEST LIVES.” (emphasis provided)

In Republic Act No. 6713,  or “An Act Establishing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees…,” Section 4 (h) says: Public officials and their families shall lead modest lives…. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in ANY form.” (emphasis provided)

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Further, one of the definitions of corruption is “the use of public office for private gain.”

With that as a background, let us now deal with the 60th birthday celebration of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez. From news reports, including one which featured quotes from his chief of staff, it was a weeklong affair—Monday to Friday. Does that sound like a modest life to you, Reader?

We are told, for example, that on Tuesday of that week, there was a free concert for his constituents. And as a grand finale on Friday, there was a big birthday celebration at the Tagum City Hall, which looked like a humongous affair, despite statements by presidential spokesperson Harry Roque reassuring everybody that it was simple, laid back. I know for a fact that there were gigantic fireworks—four minutes worth, at least as shown on YouTube, by the Dragon Fireworks of Cebu. Does that sound simple, and more importantly, does that sound modest? Or does “ostentatious” more likely fill the bill?

Speaker Alvarez is quoted as saying that if anyone can prove that there was use of public funds for his birthday celebration, he would resign.

So maybe the fireworks were donated, and the services of the concert givers and the show biz persons were donated (either directly or indirectly), but that doesn’t let the Speaker off the hook. Do you think those services would be free if he were not the Speaker? That’s where the definition of corruption above becomes relevant.

Further, the big Friday bash was attended by several political luminaries, aside from the President, as reported in the press and as pictured. There was Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, there was Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, there was Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, and of course Roque. Then there were names like Representatives Rodolfo Fariñas, Gwendolyn Garcia, and Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Senate President Koko Pimentel, etc. etc. Question: Did all these public officials, including the President, use private funds to pay for their transport and living expenses? What do you think, Reader? Since all these aforementioned are accountable to the people, maybe we should ask them who paid for their trip. That was surely not an official trip. The Speaker’s 60th birthday is a personal celebration, and his guests were personal, too.

Much is being made of the fact that the celebration was held at the Tagum City Hall, and this was used to show that it was a simple affair. Question: Is there a big hotel in Tagum that could have accommodated all the guests? City Hall was the only place big enough, mayhap. And who paid for all those lights and flowers, and the sound system? All donations?

Maybe an events organizer can estimate, from the pictures taken of the Friday event, what the cost would have been. Then add this to events that took place on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Surely we can come up with a total cost. Don’t you think the Filipino people should know, Reader? Because one way or another, they will end up paying for it.

And one last question. Reportedly, the Floirendos and the Del Rosarios (Alvarez’s erstwhile financial backers) were not invited. Was his wife, Emily, there? There was no mention. But, since she is a businesswoman, maybe it was she who paid for the whole thing. You think?

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