• Can Duterte’s Cabinet stay honest and clean?

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    WHAT’S the biggest challenge facing the Duterte Cabinet? It is this statement from their chief: “I can assure you they are all men of integrity and honesty.”

    President-elect Rodrigo Duterte’s unequivocal assurance to Filipinos sets a high bar for his appointees, and each one will be sorely tested in the years ahead.

    Not because any of them are predisposed to sleaze, but because, as Lord Acton rightly observed, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely.”

    And there is immense power and profit enticing the men and two women taking the nation’s helm in 28 days: a national budget exceeding P3 trillion, plus even more largesse at state corporations; authority over vast sectors keen to obtain and willing to pay for gain and advantage; plus lawless groups flourishing with the trebling of crime, contraband and corruption in the past six years—and searching out those in the new dispensation willing to let the illicit bonanza continue for hefty slices of it.

    Irresistible mountains of money

    Will Duterte’s alter egos and other appointees resist or succumb to the lure of lucre?
    Before his camp lets out a thunderous yes, get a load of the mountains of illicit money on or rather under the table, judging from reported anomalies in recent years.

    The Priority Development Assistance Fund, better known as pork barrel, surged from about P9 billion a year in the past government to more than P20 billion starting from 2011. PDAF is said to continue even after its 2014 voiding by the Supreme Court, relabeled “bottom-up budgeting” outlays.

    Like PDAF, the P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program was allotted to legislators who supported Aquino’s pet bills and ousted his perceived opponents. It is a pointer to DAP and PDAF enticements that Congress backed DAP’s usurpation of the legislature’s budgeting power—and administration lawmakers quickly flocked to join Duterte’s Congress coalition.

    Anomalous state contracts flagged by state auditors and the Ombudsman include tens of billions of pesos in military aircraft, vehicle license plates, new Metro Rail Transit trains and, most notoriously, the botched MRT maintenance, which burdens millions of Metro Manila commuters daily. And don’t forget the tanim-bala scam extorting tens of thousands of pesos from travelers falsely accused of concealing bullets in their bags.

    The biggest ill-gotten bonanzas, of course, are in drugs, jueteng and smuggling. The narcotics trade feeding millions of addicts would not flourish without police protection; neither would illegal numbers, which Aquino himself abetted by removing the Philippine National Police from the oversight of then-Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, who eradicated jueteng in Naga City. Estimated jueteng revenues: P40 – 60 billion a year.

    And smuggling? It tripled from $7.9 billion in 2009 to $26.6 billion in 2014, based on the difference between exports to the Philippines reported by our trading partners, and imports tallied by the Bureau of Customs. The estimated value of undeclared and underdeclared imports exceeds P4 trillion under Aquino, evading some P760 billion in value-added taxes alone, with even more billions in excise and other levies.

    Keeping Duterte’s Cabinet straight

    Can Duterte’s leading men and women keep their hands off that enticing pile? Not if he treats them with the leniency of his predecessor.

    Aquino constantly defended his clique of classmates, allies, and shooting buddies (KKK by their Filipino initials), never seriously investigating or sanctioning any of them, in stark contrast with his constant excoriation of perceived enemies and rivals.

    Aquino’s abetting of cronies started just months into his rule, with shooting buddy Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno made to oversee the PNP despite Archbishop Oscar Cruz’s revelation that Puno was an “ultimate recipient” of jueteng payoffs, and despite Puno’s failure to carry out Aquino’s orders in the Aug. 2010 Luneta hostage crisis.

    Other KKKs tainted in anomalies, but given staunch presidential backing include:

    • Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa over his alleged P40-million mansion in White Plains, Quezon City

    • Transportation and Communications Secretaries Mar Roxas and Jose Emilio Abaya, spared in the Ombudsman case against the dubious MRT maintenance contract

    • Casino czar Cristino Naguiat, Jr., never probed for P400 million lost to foreign cheats in May 2011, and his family’s Macau junket funded by a firm seeking gaming concessions

    • Bureau of Corrections head Ernesto Diokno, never probed for letting rich inmates go on illegal furloughs, the first of anomalous prison chiefs never held accountable

    • Liberal Party stalwarts Grace Padaca and Nerius Acosta, whose Sandiganbayan bail was paid by Aquino himself

    • Land Transportation Office head Virginia Torres, kept in position for years despite mounting problems with LTO licenses, registration, and plates

    • Dozens of ruling coalition lawmakers never investigated over PDAF anomalies, while opposition legislators were charged and jailed.

    • Masterminds and perpetrators of the diversion of more than 2,000 cargo containers in 2011, skirting billions of pesos in taxes and duties.

    If that crony coddling continues under Duterte, then his Cabinet may go the way of Aquino’s KKK, and continue the explosion of crime, contraband, corruption, and narcotics rending the nation.

    Thankfully, the tough Davao mayor looks set to keep his alter egos on a tight leash. After all, the man who said he would kill his offspring if they deal in drugs should not spare his official family if they betray his and the people’s trust.

    Let’s have no more KKKs after June 30.

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    13 Comments

    1. It definitely is a VERY tall order considering that corruption and dishonesty has become so so systemic in the Philippines that honesty is simply a relative term. Corruption at all level of government has become a tax that everyone pays. If factored in, I wouldn’t be surprised if, Filipinos turn out to be some of the most heavily taxed citizens. Ironically, it is a “trickle down” economic manisfestation where the poorest ultimately pays the most.

    2. tony de leon on

      he also need to build more new prisons for white collar criminals. separate from the violent criminals. as many will be arrested in the near future.

    3. Roralidrakkonis on

      Aquino’s bizarre logic for sticking by his KKKs was that he acted like the problems ascribed to their respective agencies took root on their own, thus whomever was the head of that agency was the most qualified to handle it. Now Duterte talks a big game, but then again, don’t they all? We had Erap with his ‘Walang Kamaganak, etc. spiel and Aquino with his Daang Matuwid, both of which were hardly howling successes. Let us see if Digong can scare people inside his cabinet as well as he does those outside it.

    4. Duterte likened himself to the philosopher who went around in the market place carrying a lamp at noon time because he was looking for an honest man. Has he found enough honest men in the marketplace for his official family?

    5. That remains to be seen coz i believe corruption is a social cancer and it cannot be eradicated with just a twist of a finger. sactifices entails a person who would like to enter and serve in the government. Remember the famous line of a former president walang kamaganak kaibigan at kumpare but what happen next.

    6. Leodegardo Pruna on

      ABAD was not mentioned and ABAD is the worst of A BAD man in the cabinet of P-Noy. But, who is really on top? God save the Philippines.

    7. All we can do is wait and see how the New Cabinet would perform their respective duties as prescribed by President Duterte. Given his election pronouncements of “punishing” criminals, he surely would not tolerate corruption much less by his own Cabinet Members.

      Unlike his immediate predecessor who made practically a mockery of Philippine Laws, President Duterte is a Lawyer and formerly a State Prosecutor before dipping his fingers into politics. He is fully aware of the decision made by the Supreme Court on the unconstitutionality of the PDAF releases. No doubt he has full understanding of SC judicial decisions. So nothing to fear in this regard. Unless of course if the outgoing Budget Secretary would be given a second chance to map out a new uncanny means of diverting budgetary appropriations.

    8. ernie del rosario on

      No problem. He will just “gun” down those who at the slightest sign have turned corrupt. With a water pistol and tons of invectives embellishing his shout of “GET OUT !”, that is. Remember there are 16 million plus Filipinos (definitely more sans cheating which reduced his should be 67% votes) who will be watching this new crop of his alter egos every minute of each 24-hour day given that there are millions of OFW watchers covering the entire 24 hours. So they will most likely remain honest.

    9. I support the President Elect, however, with his pick of Cabinet, I seriously doubt the if the Philippines can really move forward instead of backward

      • You are a typical Filipino with a crab mentality! Don’t be incredulous and judgmental as you have not seen his cabinet performed yet. Just wait and see how they will do their job under the leadership of Duterte.

      • He is just doubting not judging. I hope this is clear. From our history, corruption is always present . Again, Duterte might be the exception.

    10. I think they can stay honest. Duterte has to raise their yearly salary and give them some perks like a new vehicle and provide them also with security men. These cabinet men if they show their ability in managing the government agencies, it will be their ticket to high paying jobs in the private sector.