The Manila Times - Digong’s credibility in his anti-corruption drive badly eroded

News & Interviews
15 September 2020

By Reynaldo O. Arcilla | The Manila Times

PRESIDENT Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte told his Man Friday, Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, now a senator of the Republic, “to act as if you are with the opposition” when it comes to corruption issues.

As one who voted for Digong as president because of, inter alia, his promise to minimize — if not eliminate — corruption in government, my unsolicited advice to Go is to start with trying to convince his boss to let Health Secretary Francisco Duque 3rd go.

Surely, Digong must realize that his apparent “tolerance” of the “whiff” — now a “stench” — of corruption surrounding Duque, especially after the Senate said he “should be held liable for malversation of public funds as defined under Article 217 of the Revised Penal Code,” has badly eroded his credibility in his anti-corruption drive. (Incidentally, what is happening with the probe supposedly being conducted by the Ombudsman on alleged irregularities in the Department of Health?)

Consequently, with barely 19 months left in office, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of those manning sensitive positions in government who are so inclined will now be tempted to make hay while the sun shines, so to speak.

Oh… Digong said, apparently in jest, that he wanted to take a vacation, possibly in the Spratlys and invited Duque to join him. He also said he would invite Americans to join the tour.

That would be a splendid opportunity to make Duque go. Leave him there and, of course, the Americans after their tour. Problem solved… two birds with one stone.

Pemberton for Covid-19 vaccine?
Palace spokesman Harry Roque Jr. believes that the presidential pardon granted to United States Marine John Pemberton, convicted murderer of Jennifer Laude, was dictated by Digong’s desire to ensure that the Philippines will have access to coronavirus vaccines being developed by US drug firms.

Aware of the US’ penchant for quid pro quo arrangements, Roque may just be right, especially considering Digong’s belief in pursuing the greater good for the greatest number of Filipinos, notwithstanding the reported assurance given by China and Russia that we would be in the priority list of countries to receive the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) vaccine to be developed by them. The US has not given us such an assurance.

Digong’s Amboy of a Foreign secretary, Teodoro “Tweeterboy” Locsin Jr., and his Amboy ambassador to Washington, Jose Romualdez, quickly said Roque’s view was way off the mark. They were even ahead of the US Embassy’s denial of such a quid pro quo arrangement.

China-PH relations
A whiff of fresh air may be blowing in the direction of China-Philippine relations, triggered perhaps by the US’ unrelenting criticism of China’s continuing unwelcome activities in the South China (West Philippine) Sea or SCS.

Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana met with his visiting Chinese counterpart, Wei Fenghe, last weekend at Camp Aguinaldo.

Among other things, the two agreed that peace and stability in the SCS should be maintained; discussed how misunderstanding could be avoided when it came to territorial issues, noting that differences must be resolved “amicably”; tackled the early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the SCS; and to revisit the 2004 Philippines-China Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation.

The meeting between Lorenzana and Wei was highlighted by the signing of the implementing guidelines for the implementation of a 13-million-renminbi grant that China is giving to the Armed Forces of the Philippines in the form of equipment, especially for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.

During an earlier courtesy call on President Digong, the Chief Executive told Wei that China and the Philippines should cooperate in maintaining peace and stability in the SCS.

“We must always be guided by our commitments in international law. Any and all disputes must be resolved peacefully in full accord with the Unclos and all relevant international instruments,” Digong said.

1. Is the US back in Subic? — There was a report that the mainstream media here has so far ignored (i.e., that Australian and US companies’ bid to take over Subic Bay will push through).

Australian shipbuilder and US private equity firm Cerberus Capital Management will reportedly soon take over the Subic Bay yard from Hanjin Shipping, a South Korean firm that went bankrupt in 2016.

For the sake of transparency, President Digong should inform the Filipino people what the actual lowdown is on the report, bearing in mind his promise to rid the country of foreign troops and military bases.

2. The notorious Smartmatic — In June last year, President Digong directed the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to search for a replacement for poll technology provider Smartmatic.

Why haven’t the DICT and the Comelec come up with any recommendation up to now as Digong had directed?

I hope Digong has not changed his mind about getting rid of Smartmatic.

3. Electoral protest vs Robredo — What is the present status of the protest filed by former senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. against the “election” of Maria Leonor Robredo as vice president?

Paging the honorable Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta who heads the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

4. Fugitive Andres Bautista — In November last year, Senate President Vicente Sotto 3rd urged the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to serve the arrest warrant issued by the Senate on former Comelec chairman Andres Bautista for contempt for ignoring the Senate hearings into his alleged ill-gotten wealth. It was his wife who blew the whistle on him.

Bautista was earlier impeached by the House of Representatives but resigned and left the country before standing trial in the Senate. It was later found out that he had fled to the US.

What, if any, is Sotto and/or the government doing about seeking his extradition from the US to face the charges against him? Isn’t flight a sign of guilt? Maybe his passport should be cancelled to force his return?