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Tuesday, March 31, 2020
Home Op-Ed Columns Opinion on Page One A true friend is never a sycophant

A true friend is never a sycophant


A PALACE memorandum that orders the rejection of loans and grants from countries that support a United Nations (UN) resolution to investigate the Duterte government’s war on drugs is unfortunate.

“Unfortunate,” I say, because Executive Secretary Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea, who’s probably the most incompetent presidential chief of staff in Philippine history, apparently signed it for the President without consulting the Big Boss.

At least three of Medialdea’s fellow Cabinet members— Foreign Secretary Teodoro “Teddy Boy” Locsin Jr., Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana and Palace spokesman Salvador Panelo — have contradicted the order.

Locsin said the President’s order did not reject but only suspended (underscoring mine) negotiations for loans or grantz pending evaluation.

Lorenzana said the memo should not have been issued at all since Australia, one of the countries that signed the UN resolution, has a defense cooperation agreement with this country and one of its largest sources of official development assistance.

Panelo made the same clarification as Locsin’s.

President Digong is better advised not to entrust Medialdea with signing executive orders in his behalf without first consulting him.

Important decisions affecting the nation should not be entrusted to a single individual, much more so if that individual is not so bright.

If there is no time for the President to be consulted and there is urgency to pass an executive order, the opinions of other Cabinet officials should be heard.

Medialdea may be primus inter pares among all Cabinet officials but they are also his equal.

If Bingbong doesn’t understand that Latin phrase, it means “first among equals.”

* * *

This is not the first time that Medialdea has arrogated unto himself the power of presidential imprimatur by affixing his signature to it.

The other one involved his issuing a memo enjoining all government agencies to support the Phisgoc Foundation, a private entity.

There was no need for that memo as the government already has the Philippine Southeast Asian Games Organizational Committee (Phisgoc) that funds the preparations for the games to the tune of P6 billion.

Because of that memo, Phisgoc Foundation — which, I repeat, is a private entity — was able to collect close to P1 billion from private corporations.

When DU30 learned that a private entity was collecting money for the games, he said that only the government should take care of the preparations for the Southeast Asian Games.

Supalpal si Bingbong. His memo has been countermanded by no less than the President himself.

* * *

I know that with this latest tirade against him, Bingbong will retaliate by filing another libel case against this columnist with the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office.

So far, he has filed three libel cases against me.

Doesn’t he ever get tired of doing that?

Aside wasting his time that should be spent on official pursuits, his health suffers doing that.

Every time he goes to the Manila City Prosecutor’s Office, he does so on government time. Bingbong is escorted by Palace guards and other sycophants who work under him at the Office of the President.

He huffs and puffs, lumbering toward the Assistant Prosecutor’s Office to sign his affidavit.

One of my assistant prosecutor-friends told me, “Hirap na hirap maglakad si Sir Medialdea (He labors in his walk)” — apparently because of his corpulent frame.

When he takes the elevator to go up to the Manila City Hall’s third floor, where the prosecutors’ offices are, he rides alone as the ancient lift can accommodate only four passengers. Bingbong has the weight of three persons.

* * *

Taking a cue from Medialdea, other government functionaries — Sandra Cam of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office, Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Caesar Dulay, Immigration Officer Erwin Ortañez, BIR Executive Assistant Don Samson — have followed suit.

Former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd, who was dismissed for incompetence, has also slapped me with several libel charges on my series of exposés about him.

I would be a hypocrite if I said that I’m not affected by the numerous libel cases.

Affected but not deterred.

I am doing my duty as a journalist, who exposes the warts and imperfections of society, and as a taxpayer.

When DU30, in his modest home in Davao City before he was inducted into office on June 30, 2016, asked me to join his Cabinet, I courteously turned him down.

I told him I was more useful to the country as a columnist than as a Cabinet member; aside from the fact, I told him, that I was not qualified to be one.

I told then-President-elect Digong I would be more effective as an outsider looking in, a fiscalizer rather than an alter ego.

But I would continue to be his real friend, I told Digong, as only a genuine friend can tell him frankly when he’s wrong and praise him when he’s right.

A true friend is never a sycophant, as he has no personal or vested interest to protect.

I am that kind of friend to the President.

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