When lawmaker becomes lawbreaker

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Tita Valderama

Defeated Cagayan de Oro Rep. Jose Benjamin “Benjo” Benaldo exemplifies a politician who should have no place in public office.

His unsuccessful suicide attempt on Thursday night in the office that he was vacating at the House of Representatives allowed the world to take a peep at his character as a public servant. And what had come out were mostly unpleasant.

For one, Benaldo showed his weakness as a public official, if reports are true that he tried to end his life out of depression for losing in the May 13 elections, and over the spat he was having with his partner, Brazilian model Daiana Menezes. His term as congressman ended only yesterday, June 30.

He was not an ordinary congressman. He was an assistant majority leader of the 15th Congress.

Second, he used a licensed firearm with an expired permit to carry. As a lawmaker, he should know that carrying a firearm outside his residence without permit is unlawful. His permit to carry expired on March 22, 2012 yet.

Reports said records from the Firearms and Explosives Office of the Philippine National Police (PNP) showed Benaldo owned a 9mm Sig Sauer P239 pistol with serial number SA125465.

It was registered in his name with address at Kauswagan, Cagayan de Oro City in Misamis Oriental, and will expire in 2015.

When Benaldo checks out of the hospital, he will have a lot to explain. Carrying the fun without permit to carry is considered illegal possession of firearms. Being in love with a Brazilian beauty cannot be an excuse.

His being a public official does not exempt him from the requirements of the law. As a public official, a lawmaker at that, he is expected to be more circumspect in following the law, and not brazenly break the law.

Under the law, a permit to carry a firearm outside of residence (PTCFOR) is issued to private individuals, government employees, uniformed personnel, elected officials and retired policemen, Armed Forces of the Philippines and senior citizens.

As a matter of policy, the PNP issues PTCFOR to individuals with death threats, verified by local, provincial and regional police units.

A gun license is renewed every two years while the PTCFOR expires yearly.

Benaldo should be well aware of this, not only as a gun owner, but also as a lawmaker.

He is not new in public office. He started his political career as councilor in 1998 under Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Vicente Emano’s PaDayon Pilipino party.

Benaldo lost in his first attempt for a seat in Congress in 2007. In 2010, he ran again and won.

More than the bills he authored, the laws under his name, and the projects he brought to his district using his pork barrel allocation, Benaldo became popular about his relationship with Menezes.

There is nothing wrong about public officials having romantic relationship with beauty queens. It just does not serve a good example to the public they are bound to serve when they bring their personal problems in the limelight. There were insinuations that he was abusing his partner.

Also, it does not serve the public well to have an extravagant lifestyle, driving around in flashy cars, and wearing expensive signature clothes and accessories, particularly when one’s declared wealth is only P30 million. He was derided to have an “imeldific” lifestyle.

Benaldo is known for being a metrosexual, a term coined in the early 1990 that refers to a young man who lives in the urban areas and is especially meticulous about his grooming and appearance, typically spending lavishly on time and money when shopping.

Reports from his district said that when Benaldo’s marriage with his wife Gladys ended, he was seen with several women. He was supposed to have been married with Menezes in Las Vegas, Nevada last December and that he promised to make the marriage official in a church wedding in the country this year.

According to showbiz reports, the unfulfilled promise of a wedding has drawn Menezes to post insinuations of physical abuse by the politician-boyfriend.

Now that the new set of politicians have taken their oath and are starting their official three-year term for congressmen down and six-year term for senators, the bad examples shown by Benaldo as a public official should serve as a lesson on how not to be a politician.

Comments are welcome at tvalderama@yahoo.com

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