Command responsibility

Former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla

There is no doubt that the latest Sandiganbayan’s ruling convicting  businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, the mastermind of the multi-billion-peso lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, and acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla surely leaves a bitter taste in the mouth of many Filipinos.

It was not so much that Napoles got nailed, as she had it unmistakably coming, but finding a trusted staff in the person of Richard Cambe blameworthy than Revilla and adjudged equally as guilty as Napoles is simply beyond logic.

Why, what has happened to the popular tenet of command responsibility expected of those in power, position and influence, whether in the military or civilian setting, who has under them loyal subordinates who are now in hot water blindly following the bidding of their superiors?

What I am saying is that if Revilla has the unfortunate Cambe who has been sentenced to ‘reclusion perpetua’ or 40 years imprisonment, so too has former senator Juan Ponce Enrile, also implicated in the same corruption scandal but out on bail, a trusting soul in the person of his chief of staff,  Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, who continues to languish in her detention cell at the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) facility in Taguig City, when her petition for bail was denied by the Sandiganbayan citing strong pieces of evidence about her participation in the so-called PDAF or “pork barrel” scam.

Command responsibility is about leadership and leadership is about being able to admit and accept failure and being able to take the blame for it instead of passing the blame to others. Worse still is being silent about it to save ones skin.

There could not be a better example of who should possess this remarkable trait of a leader than in our public officials, like congressmen and senators, who are tasked to serve the people.

But, alas, public servants they no longer are because instead of teaching and practicing values-based leadership, corruption has become the norm and excellence the exception.

We understand that public officials the likes of a congressman or a senator manages a large workforce and deals with numerous complex problems and so the more they should be vigilant that things won’t get out of control because the repercussion could be detrimental and far reaching.

Congressmen and senators have all the resources in their hands to ensure that plans, programs and projects benefitting the country and its people, especially the poor, will come to fruition.

But the same resources, however, can be used wittingly by unscrupulous public officials who stand to gain vast monetary advantages because of their complicity at the expense of those they promised to serve and without regard to command responsibility simply because they make sure that the dots won’t connect to make them liable and culpable.

Such is the case of this on-going episode of the infamous pork barrel scam by public servants.

 

 

 

 

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The Sandiganbayan’s despairing decision

 

Enrile, Revilla and Estrada, all accused of plunder over the multi-billion PDAF scam are now enjoying freedom.

This is about the latest decision of the anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan, acquitting former senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla of plunder after the latter was accused of surreptitiously pocketing P224.5 million worth of kickbacks in what is now known as the country’s biggest corruption scandal involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a yearly lump sum or discretionary fund that members of Congress use for government programs to benefit the people, most especially the poor.

It used to be that before the Supreme Court nullified the PDAF, after the P10-billion pork barrel scam was uncovered, a senator and a member of the House of Representative were entitled to P200 million and P70 million  in PDAF, respectively.

One can just imagine, therefore, the enormous amount of money that Revilla, together with then senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, have squandered when the Commission on Audit (COA) found out in 2013 that each of their 2007-2009 PDAF went to phony non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with ghost projects masterminded by Janet Lim Napoles, instead of being funneled to a legitimate government organization, as was the intention, to alleviate and improve the quality of lives of the poor Filipinos.

It was on this basis that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) filed plunder cases that ultimately led to their arrest.

But while Enrile was granted freedom for humanitarian reasons in 2015, being sickly and old, and Estrada freed in 2017, after the anti-graft court ruled that “there was no strong evidence” that he was the “main plunderer” in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, Revilla, however, stayed detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center in Camp Crame until the announcement of his acquittal recently.

For many who have been yearning that convicting the three ex-senators for plunder will not only be a moral victory for the Filipino people, but a lesson taught for politicians to truly work for the interest of the people first as they have been sworn to do, the latest Revilla episode is indeed a very despairing decision. It simply means that acquittal also awaits Enrile and Estrada in due time.

We thought lady justice had finally snared the big fishes. Alas, like ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo before them, they three got off the hook cheerfully to the dismay of many.

Yes, despairing, but does this mean giving up hope? Of course not!

You see, Enrile looks hale and hearty again and is in fact running for senator in 2019 elections. So is, Estrada and Revilla, who have always expressed their intentions to make a comeback at the propitious time.

On the part of the aggrieved Filipinos smarting from the seemingly unjust ruling, I could not see a more opportune time than in next year’s senatorial elections for them to exact retribution for Enrille’s, Estrada’s and Revilla’s misdeeds and dubious ambitions. All we have to do now is start talking and convincing other people that this is going to be payback time and not having any of them and their ilk elected to the senate ever again is doing our country a big favor.

This is a collective exercise of poetic justice at its best.

 

 

‘Duterte death squad’

 

Pres. Rodrigo Duterte

The infamous Davao Death Squad, a vigilante group accused by Amnesty International and local human rights advocate for widespread summary executions in Davao City, must have been in the mind of President Rodrigo Duterte when he announced that he would create his own hit squad, if that is what it takes to counter the Sparrow Units employed by the New People’s Army (NPA), the armed wing of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP).

Naming it the ‘Duterte Death Squad’, the president said it will try to match the communist rebel’s “talent in assassinating people.” An eye for an eye, as the saying goes. As if this is what is legally meant by extracting justice from the rebels.

Perhaps tired and exasperated that to this day government soldiers and policemen continue to be sitting ducks of the NPA’s hit men and hopeless that there will ever be peace while Duterte and exiled-CPP head Joma Sison continue to bicker, the former could not help but express his frustrations this way in his speech during the turnover of housing units for the military and police at Camp Rajah Sikatuna in Carmen, Bohol recently. The reality is that the plan is better said than done.

It is bad enough that to this day also there has not been any let up pertaining to killings in the government’s fight against drugs and if we have to believe that the formation of the ‘Duterte Death Squad’ is bound to happen then we simply have to admit that the country will no longer be govern by the rule of law.

But the presidency is so powerful, what with all the intelligence and resources the occupant has at the tip of his fingers that resorting to this foolish plan of creating a death squad is nothing short of being irresponsible.

Besides, Duterte as an astute lawyer and as the president of the country knows what is good for him and what is best for the country, but above all what weighs more for consideration is the legacy he wants to leave behind and how history would judge him.

Suffice to say Duterte’s announcement was just a metaphor and should not be taken seriously.

 

Mockery of justice

 

Imelda Marcos

The much long awaited arm of the law has finally caught Imelda Marcos’s sticky fingers and most Filipinos rejoiced declaring the special anti-graft Sandiganbayan court’s conviction of her on seven counts of graft as victory for the people.

Imelda was found to have made a total of $200-million bank transfers to seven Swiss foundations of her own creation during her incumbency as Metro Manila Governor. Not only that. She and her despot husband were also found deliberately using aliases to hide the crime.

This means that the 89-year old widow now faces a sentence that will keep her incarcerated for over forty years, if indeed the penalty from six to eleven years for each count of graft happens to be the case.

But, is it time for rejoicing really?

By victory the people would have expected that with the conviction immediately thereafter a warrant for her arrest would follow.

Alas, it did not come to that. On the contrary, Imelda, a congress representative from Ilocos Norte, continues to enjoy freedom after she posted bail of P150,000. It said that the Sandiganbayan allowed her to post bail while it is still deciding whether or not to grant her appeal for post-conviction remedies.

If this is not a mockery of justice, I don’t know what is.

This is the same mockery of justice observed when former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, then 92 years old, was freed after spending a year in hospital arrest when he posted P1.45-million bail bond over the multi-billion-peso pork barrel scam.

Certainly among the post-conviction remedies to be discussed is age consideration and if it was able to release Enrile, why would it still send Imelda to jail especially that she is also having health issues?

This would not have been disturbing and frustrating if we knew that there are not old, sickly people languishing in jail as this piece is written, but the reality is that there are plenty and for reasons that some may be inside because of miscarriage of justice.

The same cannot be said, however, of Enrile, and now of Imelda Marcos.

Justice is suppose to be triumph over evil, but in the case of Imelda, and even for Enrile, evil still favors giving mercy to the privileged.

Perhaps Orson Welles was right when he said, “Nobody gets justice. People only get good luck or bad luck.”

Imelda’s guilty verdict

Imelda Marcos

After so much wishing and praying for something to prick the ever ballooning ego of each of the remaining Marcos family starting from the wife down to the three children after a glorious political comeback, the decision of the Sandiganbayan declaring guilty and ordering the arrest of former first lady Imelda Marcos on seven counts of graft committed during the reign of her husband and former dictator Ferdinand Marcos could never have been a more appropriate answer.

The reason for their exceeding arrogance is the fact that they had been going around the country trying to rewrite history by convincing people that the dictatorship was the best thing that ever happened to the country, that there was no crime committed, no human rights violated, and nothing stolen from the coffers of government.

What added even more to the bluster of the Marcos family is the fact that today the despot patriarch is now buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (Heroes’ cemetery) after years of being kept in a crypt.

Imelda has been found guilty of violating R. A. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when she transferred around $200 million to seven Swiss foundations during her term as a member of the defunct Batasang Pambansa, as Metro Manila Governor, and as then Minister of Human Settlements.

The anti-corruption court’s 5th Division ordered Imelda, a congresswoman, to serve six to 11 years in jail for each of the seven counts of graft.

Now it can be said that Imelda did not only have a cabinet full of shoes and expensive jewelry and artworks, but inside and in a more secluded place of the cabinet were Swiss foundation skeletons bearing the names Maler Establishment, Trinidad Foundation, Rayby Foundation, Palmy Foundation, Vibur Foundation, Aguamina Foundation and Avertina Foundation which they allegedly created and managed under the pseudonyms William Saunders and Jane Ryan.

This probably gives credence to the allegations made before by the Philippine Commission on Good Government (PCGG) that the Marcos family’s ill-gotten wealth “is estimated between US$5 billion to US$10 billion, the bulk of it being deposited and hidden abroad”.

The question now is, would the children, especially politicians Imee and Bongbong, still have the arrogance to deny this conviction of Imelda after it took decades to decide it or will this decision get them grounded with humility in tow?

Wasn’t this writing on the wall when President Rodrigo Duterte himself admitted that Imelda offered to return a portion of their ill-gotten wealth, including a few gold bars, for whatever help it can do to the country’s economy?

While this may be a victory of sorts for all the people who have experienced the dark days of martial law, the moral fight against the Marcoses continue since they can still make an appeal at the Supreme Court for a reversal of the conviction.

But what the aggrieved Filipinos are asking at least is that Imelda be arrested just like any ordinary citizen in the country that has been declared guilty and are praying once more that Duterte won’t pardon her. Let the verdict of the law fall where it may and without regard to age.

Imelda, who is on her last term as Ilocos Norte representative and has already filed a certificate of candidacy for the province’s gubernatorial race in 2019 is sane enough, therefore, to understand that she has committed a crime and answerable for it and that neither age nor stature should make her feel she is above the law.

 

Santo Rodrigo

President Rodrigo Duterte

Time and again the nation, nay the whole world, gets dumbfounded every time President Rodrigo Duterte utters outrageous or ridiculous comments which many deem unpresidential.

But when was Duterte ever presidential – from the way he wears formal clothes, like the barong tagalog or coat and tie, or even in the way he delivers impromptu speeches and interacts with his audience, what with his ever ready vulgar words to run off at the mouth?

Fortunately we are not bound by rules of electing president based on being dapper or silver-tongued and, thus, Duterte was elected overwhelmingly by many who identified with him as a simple, unpretentious and inarticulate person, but whose leadership has been the envy of every politician in the country the way he transformed Davao City from bedlam to a peaceful and livable place.

It is no surprise therefore that what people see in Duterte is what they get, warts and all, even as our president, because as the old cliché goes, “you cannot teach old dogs new tricks”, especially a stubborn ‘dog’ like Duterte.

And so we tolerate and accept, and even laugh, at the banter that Duterte dishes out when he senses that he has connected with the audience, like when he cursed the Pope and called God “stupid”.

Duterte’s latest caper was when he questioned the celebration of All Saints’ Day alleging that the saints Filipinos were worshiping were fools and drunkards and to be sure that they are venerating the real deal Duterte suggested that they get a picture of his and idolize him instead by calling him Santo Rodrigo.

Clearly this is a joke and no one should lose sleep over it. Had Duterte been a natural born comic and knew how to deliver his punch lines, nobody would be questioning his act.

But because he is the president known for delivering uncouth language, the simon-pure in us insists and expects Duterte to show an exemplary demeanor befitting his position.

Duterte may be unpresidential when compared to those before him, but what he lacks in style he compensates it with important traits of a president which is to have not only the knowledge and acumen of his job but also the political will to go after the problems plaguing the country no matter how controversial, unpopular and deadly it may be. This is what makes him stand out from the others.

At the end of the day the reality is that a well-intentioned sitting president is the person who could lead us to salvation from our long agonizing woes and not the veneration we offer the saints who many believe helps in assuaging man’s suffering soul.

So, Santo Rodrigo, any one?

Of course I am joking!

Preserving our sanity

 

Every time elections are held in this country we always find ourselves at the crossroads where our sanity is being tested to the limit.

It used to be that there were only two political parties to choose from where its respective leaders running it and endorsing their candidates share common values and ideals about the party and the same mission and vision for the interest of the nation and its people.

Election was never a complicated process then as those selected as candidates on both sides were competent and able and had no other motivation but to serve the people in earnest.

It was always fulfilling to have exercised ones freedom of suffrage then knowing that whoever wins will perform to the best of his ability and according to the moral beliefs of the party he represents, which translates to the aspirations of the people.

Alas, elections today have become a political circus of sorts – entertaining, yet confusing and unnerving not only because of the numerous political parties coalescing/aligning with one another but more so because of the wide differences in the nature, character and notoriety of candidates running for office.

There is need therefore for every Filipino to be convinced that in order to preserve ones sanity in the upcoming 2019 elections we have to examine our own consciences and determine the best candidates who will be able to help Pres. Rodrigo Duterte accomplish the programs he has set forth for the country during his term of office.

It is still a long time until Duterte’s presidency expires in 2022 and there is nothing more important than to ensure that there are no personal or political hindrances in the country’s march to progress.

There is no doubt that Duterte’s popularity comes from his out-of-the-box type of governance that is being recognized and accepted by the people as what is propelling the country forward and the only way to keep it moving positively is to have newly elected people in government that could contribute fresh and doable ideas for what the president has envisioned for the country.

What is harmful to our sanity is when we allow ourselves to be suckers of pretentious candidates – young, old and very old – who because of their seeming closeness to Duterte are making a pitch of their usefulness, but in reality have continuing hidden agenda of their own.

For sanity sake, let us vote in the coming 2019 elections intelligently and judiciously.