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Kris-Crossing Mindanao

The corrupt Rodrigo Duterte

President Duterte made two policy statements lately defining conduct on corruption. In fact, both can be considered as stratagems because they proposed concrete courses of action.

Policy No. 1. Police can accept cash or gifts, and even engage in earning extra income from video-karera (horse racing video machine games) operations. Admitting that accepting cash or gifts was prohibited under the antigraft law, he lambasted the law instead. Note also that nowhere in that policy speech did he use the self-explanatory term “bribe.”

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Policy No. 2. Speaking before the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Duterte laid out his solution to corruption involving infrastructure projects. Private contractors, he said, should pad project costs by 10-50 percent over the actual cost of public works like roads and bridges. By padding it, not only would contractors cover their own profits but also have sufficient amount to cover kickbacks to government officials. He said this formula prevents the contractor from shortchanging government. But does it prevent thievery of public money?

That policy speech never mentioned the P700 billion, or 20 percent of the government’s total budget appropriation that we lose to corruption annually, ranking us the sixth most corrupt among Asia-Pacific countries, reminds the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman.

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This is the chief law enforcer of the land talking, the man sworn before us to follow the Constitution and the laws. Has he become the chief lawbreaker?

A mere perusal of the law answers that. From Republic Act No. 6713 (Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees) Section 7 (D): “Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.” Then, there is RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. In addition, the Department of the Interior and Local Government’s memorandum circular in 2016 calls receiving gifts in the course of official work “a grave misconduct.”

Mr. Duterte admits he is Exhibit No. 1. When he was mayor of Davao City, church leader Apollo Quiboloy of the claim he is the “appointed son of god,” gifted him with three properties at Woodridge Park, a Nissan Safari, a Ford Expedition, a medical trip to the United States, and “so many things.”

Days after, the new senator of the 7-hour glitch, Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa, admits he is Exhibit No. 2. He says he has received Lacoste shirts, fruits, balled cheese and ham during Christmases. Asked if his subordinates also received gifts, he said that was discretionary. “The law is ideal, but not practical.” And then the shocker: “There is no limit to receiving gifts.” We now wonder if he can define what “petty graft” means. While he is at it, he can also look up “use of office for private gain.”

We have laid this predicate previously: lawbreaking begins in local governments where at times the mayor’s word is the law. Mr. Duterte is simply a microcosm, but a worst-case scenario in fact, of that reality in our body politic. He is the exact caricature of a man who pretends he has political will by barking the loudest. Barks instill fear but do not systematize substantial change. The barker can go into monkey business unconstrained; under a climate of fear, no one dares a check and balance, a central rotor of democracy.

Those yet unconverted about Mr. Duterte’s “I hate corruption” are merely happy-go-lucky spectators of what all along was a clown show. Sooner than later, the curtains will close on the antics of the clown. The entertainment value on its audience will just be ephemeral. The daily grind of life, where corruption in government affects us the greatest, hits the gut the most. And the gut pangs tell us Rodrigo Duterte is not the man.

On Twitter: @AntonioJMontal2. Email: [email protected]

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TAGS: Antonio Montalvan II, corruption, gifts, Kris-Crossing Mindanao, Rodrigo Duterte
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