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Editorial

Explanation wanted

/ 09:08 AM April 10, 2019

It may occur to attentive observers how badly served President Duterte is by his lieutenants. For its report on the incomes of the President and two of his children while they were in office, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) said it had sent out formal requests for comments or interviews in two batches by courier, fax and e-mail in October 2018 and last January.

But these were, though duly received, largely not acted upon, and the award-winning organization completed its work on official documents — the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) of the President, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte and former vice mayor Paolo Duterte, corporate papers, and asset records that were, it said, authenticated as certified true copies.

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After the report saw print, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea could do no more than say that the requested SALNs were not being held by the Office of the President, and that Mr. Duterte’s “critics and detractors had been nitpicking on [his] SALN.” Mr. Duterte’s spokesperson Salvador Panelo said his principal had not committed any violation, and that those who believe his wealth was ill-gotten should take him to court.

Such lame lip service from his lieutenants would hardly patch in the public mind the chink in the President’s touted armor of incorruptibility and mop up the taint on his heirs. (But then Sara Duterte has said she’s not big on honesty.)

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And it did not help that the President himself flew into a rage over the report, swore at the PCIJ (though unnamed) and the “yellows” for poking their nose into what he and his progeny earn outside the government, and accused journalists of taking bribes.

Among the PCIJ’s findings were that:

The net worth from 2007 to 2017 of the President rose 195 percent from P9.69 million to P28.54 million; of Sara Duterte, 518 percent from P7.25 million to P44.83 million; and of Paolo Duterte, 233 percent from P8.34 million to P27.74 million.

The law firm Carpio and Duterte Lawyers, in which Sara Duterte and her husband Mans Carpio are partners, has not been registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission since it was put up a decade ago.

The law firm “is a hugely opaque matter in the Dutertes’ wealth records particularly because it has recently shown an appetite for big corporations with big controversial cases before government regulatory agencies,” the PCIJ said.

It also said that the President’s “disclosures in his asset records across 20 years are woefully inconsistent,” and that his daughter and son “are similarly ambiguous in the declarations they have made under oath” in their SALNs across 11 years.

It is clear why the faithful accomplishment and filing of SALNs are required of everyone in the government starting from the President down. It is a requirement based on the Constitution and on Republic Act No. 6713, or an act establishing “a code of conduct and ethical standards for public officials and employees to uphold the time-honored principle of public office being a public trust…”

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Based on this document, to which any Filipino can gain access for the purpose of information, the behavior of any government official or employee can be assessed if he or she is adhering to the law or the lofty ideals of public service.

As has been made clear, more people than can be accurately counted have made of public office the greenest of pastures. It wasn’t too long ago when details of then President Joseph Estrada’s hidden wealth surfaced, startling those still reeling from the Marcos plunder.

Per the private prosecutors involved in Estrada’s abbreviated impeachment trial, his wealth covered cash deposits in practically every bank in the country as well as prime real estate, including the notorious “Boracay mansion” in Quezon City that was purchased for P142 million for his favorite mistress—all unsurprisingly not reflected on his SALNs.

Even lesser officials are remembered for how their fortunes soared when they entered government service.

The luxury mansion of a senator who could otherwise have been mistaken for a toadstool, so silent was he during his incumbency, can be freely seen online; his wife was once stopped at a US airport for attempting to smuggle in tens of thousands of dollars.

A former military comptroller and his family were found to have amassed more than P300 million in unexplained wealth; the big unraveling occurred when the wife and son were stopped at another US airport with scads of dollars on their persons. (“Gratitude money” for the comptroller, the wife claimed.)

The spouses of the Ampatuan dynasts of Maguindanao are said to be top clients of luxury shops in Makati. Etc.

All these stories of excess and thievery, all the massive drains on taxpayer money… It’s time things changed. If not now, when?

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TAGS: corruption, Duterte's wealth, Inquirer editorial, Paolo Duterte, PCIJ, Rodrigo Duterte, Sara Duterte-Carpio
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