ANTI-crime watchdog Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) on Sunday pushed for the revival of the death penalty for heinous crimes, including plunder, as the group assailed the government for being “inutile” in addressing corruption and in preventing crime.
In an interview with The Manila Times, VACC founding Chairman Dante Jimenez said persistent reports of corruption and the rash of violent crimes should prod Congress to seriously consider reviving capital punishment.
“From a range of 1 to 10, with 10 being the highest, I rate the government’s anti-crime effort at 5. A failure. Congress must return the death penalty for heinous crimes, including plunder,” Jimenez said.
But the anti-crime advocate’s call is likely to fall on deaf ears because many senators and congressmen are themselves facing plunder charges for their alleged involvement in the P10-bilion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams.
Three senators—Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.—have been indicted for plunder and will be tried, along with businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and other co-accused, by the Sandiganbayan soon.
In all likelihood, and if they fail to secure a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, the “pork” respondents may be arrested this week.
In the same interview, Jimenez criticized President Benigno Aquino 3rd, Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas 2nd and Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Alan Purisima for their dismal failure in addressing the worsening crime situation. He noted that Filipinos are left to fend for themselves under a “very dangerous” environment.
“We should wake up President Aquino, Secretary Roxas and General Purisima who are all failures when it comes to peace and order. We live in dangerous times under this government,” Jimenez stressed.
According to him, Roxas is “unfit for the job,” especially since the official is mainly concerned about boosting his chances in the 2016 presidential elections. Roxas is the most likely presidential bet of the Liberal Party headed by the President.
Jimenez said Roxas should be taken out of the Department of Interior and Local Gocernment.
“Roxas is unfit for the job. Let’s try [Davao City] Mayor [Rodrigo] Duterte,” the VACC head said.
Duterte is known for his hard-line stance against crime and criminals in his city.
Jimenez noted that many individuals from the government and the private sector had been killed in recent days. Unless the government pays serious attention to this, the VACC chief fears that the killings may escalate toward the 2016 national and local polls.
He cited the killing of international race car driver Enzo Pastor last week and the killing of a town mayor in Pangasinan the week before.
Jimenez said his group will help get justice for Pastor.
In Malacañang, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they are open to public criticisms because these are used as guides in improving service to the people.
“The President and the government are open to hearing out critiques, proposals and suggestions from the general public and all sectors in our society. It is best to know the sentiments of every Juan and Juana dela Cruz to straighten what’s wrong and improve the flow of public service,” Coloma said over state-run Radyo ng Bayan.
“That is why we continue to follow the flow of public opinion based on the expressions of various sectors,” the Palace official added.
Pass FOI, BICA measures
Meanwhile, a group of reform-minded citizens over the weekend called on Aquino to certify as urgent the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill and the Budget Impoundment Control Act (BICA) as a sincere effort to protect the proposed P2.6-trillion national budget from graft and corruption.
During a recent media forum, Kilos Kaayusan (KK) Chairman Prof. Ben Diokno said now is the time for Aquino to show that he is truly serious in stopping graft and corruption. KK believes that the passage of the two bills is crucial. Grafters, the group said, use secrecy in processing documents that lead to the misuse of public funds.
Diokno noted that if the FOI bill is passed, grafters will think twice before toying with the people’s money.
The BICA is still being debated in Congress ever since Senate Bill 3121 was passed in the last 14th Congress.
“In this regard, the Aquino administration should show its sincerity, policy consistency and objectivity in its fight against corruption by certifying to Congress as urgent two critical reform measures: the Freedom of Information Act and the Budget Impoundment Control Act. The first promotes real transparency while the second limits the power of the President to subvert the congressional power of the purse. The approval of these two measures should not pose a problem for President Aquino. In the past, he supported both measures in order to correct the abuses of the President in the use of public funds. Unless these two measures are passed, there is no guarantee that the fight against corruption will endure,“ KK said in a statement.
The group stressed the need for reforms especially on the way administrations handle the national budget.
Diokno said there is nothing wrong with allocating funds for anti-poverty or other development projects since the country badly needs these as “shots in the arm.” The former Budget secretary added that PDAF allocations especially in education, health, infrastructure and economic safety nets should even be increased for the country not to lag behind its Asian neighbors.
“At this stage of our history [we have to spend more, because we lag behind other Asian countries. We have to spend around P600 billion every year. We spend only around around P200 billion],” he added.