A CONGRESSMAN from Pennsylvania was convicted Tuesday of 29 counts of bribery, racketeering, money laundering and fraud. Those activities are par for the course among Filipino politicians, even during the self-righteous administration of BS Aquino The Last. Why have there been no such convictions in the country?
A wire report said Rep. Chaka Fattah (D-PA), was found guilty of the charges by a Philadelphia jury. Each of the 29 convictions carries a possible sentence of 20 years in prison. US congressmen led by Speaker Paul Ryan forced him to resign from the House immediately.
According to the Associated Press, the racketeering case against Chattah centered largely on his efforts to repay an illegal $1-million campaign loan. It’s this item on campaign funding that caught my attention. It showed the great importance Americans place on the proper accounting of campaign contributions and expenditures. This is in great contrast to the cavalier attitude that the Liberal Party has shown in meeting its obligations under existing election laws.
Chattah had wanted to resign from the House effective Oct. 3, but Ryan convinced him that he should resign immediately.
A related report said former US House Speaker Dennis Hastert started last Wednesday his 15-month jail term in a Minnesota federal prison. Hastert, described as one of the highest-ranking US politicians to be jailed, was found guilty of giving hush money to mute revelations that he had sexually abused at least four boys while he was a wrestling coach in Illinois.
Going back to campaign contributions, American politicians are not allowed to use them for other purposes, especially personal ones. In Aug. 2013, Rep. Jesse Jackson, Jr., of Illinois, son of the famous human-rights leader, was convicted for misusing campaign funds totaling $750,000 on luxuries, including a Rolex watch and expensive memorabilia
involving Martin Luther King, Malcolm X, Bruce Lee and Michael Jackson.
Jackson and his wife also used campaign funds to buy jewelry, electronic goods, fur capes and parkas.
There’s no obligation among Filipino politicians to use campaign expenses only for intended purposes. In fact, all unspent contributions are generally treated as “income,” which could be included in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth should the candidate win.
It’s not only in being faithful to the reason for the contribution that all politicians must give an accounting after an election campaign. A Manila Times editorial had stressed that a statement on contributions and expenditures is needed to make sure that no dirty money was used to finance a campaign. It’s well known that many gambling and drug lords give campaign contributions to candidates who could facilitate their nefarious operations.
Then, there’s the need to ascertain that no government fund is used to support candidates.
This is especially true among administration candidates. Public funds and government employees are regularly used to enhance the chances of these candidates. Such expenditures couldn’t be mentioned in the SOCE, of course, so this could be a reason why the ruling party generally finds it difficult to meet deadlines.
Short notes on Manong Ernie
It was my first day at the Senate. I was surprised when I received this note from Sen. Ernesto (Manong or Mr. Expose) Maceda: “Welcome to the Senate. If you need any help, just call me.” The note was handed to me by Manong’s Man Friday, Jimmy “Jimpol” Policarpio.
With that simple note, Manong made me feel important. I learned later that he made all Senate reporters feel important with the help of Jimpol—that he almost always had good stories for them to write about. I also learned that he was one senator who hated being pressured on any bill. A veteran Senate reporter said that the easiest way for a bill or an issue to be ignored is for its main supporters to stage rallies at the Senate.
It’s noteworthy that even when he was no longer a senator, Manong could still remember the names of reporters he had briefly met years before.
He was one man who didn’t hesitate to speak his mind—even during an election campaign.
He was then running for the Senate and was taking his breakfast along with other teammates at a secluded hotel in Lucena City when an elderly man approached him. The man had a doctor’s prescription, yellowed with age, and asked Manong for help, as he couldn’t afford the prescribed medicine.
I was seated near Manong and I heard him scold the man instead of giving financial assistance.
“Siguro professional na manghihingi ka, ano. Paano mo nalaman na nandito kami? (Perhaps you’re a professional solicitor. How did you know we are here?” he almost shouted.
He was one politician who’d rather lose votes than be taken for a fool!