Duterte’s unconstitutional generosity
Any law student knows it’s unconstitutional to appropriate public funds for a private or religious purpose. The millions of such funds doled out by President Duterte, himself a lawyer, for a monthlong religious pilgrimage of some Muslims to Mecca (for their round-trip airfare, pocket money, board and lodging) is a textbook illustration of that prohibition.
He and his minions have justified such generosity with taxpayer money by saying, in so many wishy-washy words, that it’s a small price to pay to avoid trouble.
Just asking: Would the President be so generous with public money as well if it were poor Christians wishing to do a pilgrimage to Jerusalem? Given his bias against the Christian God being “stupid,” what are the chances of that ever happening?
Even his spokesperson, lawyer Salvador Panelo, who usually couldn’t tell right from wrong about what his boss is saying or doing, has raised a red flag on that gesture and called it “technical malversation.” But with Mr. Duterte insisting he is willing to go to jail for it, we expect to see Panelo shove his foot in his own mouth.
But Mr. Duterte should never have to go to jail for it; P5 million is just peanuts to him. He himself has said he has millions more in surplus campaign funds. Why couldn’t he have used some of that personal stash for some nonpublic expenditure to avoid violating the Constitution?
Panelo, his “chief legal counsel,” dresses more like a clown and is good only for public entertainment. Ever wonder why the President ignores his opinions?
JEREMIAS H. TOBIAS
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