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Another anti-poor excrescence, on gifts

August 16, 2019

Another anti-poor excrescence, on gifts 1
RENE SAGUISAG

WILLY Dar’s being named secretary of Agriculture has been well-received (not another retiring general with an anti-terrorism background in the continuing militarization of government.) Cheers!

But, boos! Prez Duterte rates as he apparently is not done thrashing our values, this time on gifts to public servants. Yet, his idol, Macoy issued PD 46 banning such gifts even during Christmastime. The Prez has just in effect repealed the decree as to Pulis Patolas.

Gifts are outlawed

The Senate and the House should realize that Digong has become a super-legislator who has just repealed the Penal Code on bribery (Arts. 210-212), PD 46, RA 3019 and RA 6713.

The reported exodus of teachers and nurses to the PNP to become Pulis Patolas, to increase their income, a legitimate aspiration, will go north. And the reportedly reformed and upgraded BIR may again be known to stand for Bigay Ikaw Regalo.

The matter of gift-giving to public servants should be for Congress to tackle and cross-fertilize ideas on. But, our powerful Prez has just effectively repealed PD 46. I call that one a presidential decree, a good one, not Palakol ng Diablo.

Gifts are outlawed by these three laws.

The Bigger House and the Better One should be alarmed at this usurpation of power by our super-executive, super-court (look what happened in the cases of GMA — soon to be in the Cabinet? — and Meilou Sereno; whatever Lolo wants, Lolo gets) and super-legislator. The two houses should be agitated by this latest executive overreach.

Sal Panelo used to be with us in Mabini, our human rights lawyers group in Macoy’s time. Pero nabarkada lang po, ‘di po likas na sanggano (dati na pong sanggwapong tsikboy, from what I’d hear). “Use own discretion,” he advises civil servants. Huh? Obeying the law a matter of discretion? A nation of scofflaws we truly are. Good that Interior Secretary Eduardo Año, not a lawyer, says No! Cheers! But he shoots himself in the foot by asking for the revival of the much-abused anti-subversion law inflicted on constructive critics. Boo!

Three laws

Macoy issued PD 46 making it punishable for public servants to receive, and for private persons to give, gifts on any occasion, including Christmas. Giver and recipient punished. He said that “under existing laws and the civil service rules, it is prohibited to receive, directly or indirectly, any gift, present or any other form of benefit in the course of official duties; and [he believed] it necessary to put more teeth to existing laws and regulations to wipe out all conceivable forms of graft and corruption in the public service, the members of which should not only be honest but above suspicion and reproach; and the stoppage of the practice of gift-giving to government men is a concrete step in the administration’s program of reforms for the development of new moral values in the social structure of the country, one of the main objectives of the New Society.”

He then boomed: “NOW, THEREFORE, I, FERDINAND E. MARCOS, President of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief of all the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and pursuant to Proclamation No. 1081 dated September 21, 1972, and General Order No. 1 dated September 22, 1972, do hereby make it punishable for any public official or employee, whether of the national or local governments, to receive, directly or indirectly, and for private persons to give, or offer to give, any gift, present or other valuable thing to any occasion, including Christmas, when such gift, present or other valuable thing is given by reason of his official position, regardless of whether or not the same is for past favor or favors or the giver hopes or expects to receive a favor or better treatment in the future from the public official or employee concerned in the discharge of his official functions. Included within the prohibition is the throwing of parties or entertainments in honor of the official or employees or his immediate relatives. For violation of this Decree, the penalty of imprisonment for not less than one (1) year nor more than five (5) years and perpetual disqualification from public office shall be imposed. The official or employee concerned shall likewise be subject to administrative disciplinary action and, if found guilty, shall be meted out the penalty of suspension or removal, depending on the seriousness of the offense.”

Any violator, including just hosting a bash, being a party animal, may be prosecuted after Digong’s regime. “Laws are repealed only by subsequent ones, and their violation or non-observance shall not be excused by disuse, or custom or practice to the contrary.” Civil Code, Art. 7. As all good and bad things must, everything has an end.

PD 46 is appended to any penal law collection as living law.

Sec. 2 of RA 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices (the Tolentino Law) Act states: “(c) `Receiving any gift’ includes the act of accepting directly or indirectly a gift from a person other than a member of the public officer’s immediate family, in behalf of himself or of any member of his family or relative within the fourth civil degree, either by consanguinity or affinity, even on the occasion of a family celebration or national festivity like Christmas, if the value of the gift is under the circumstances manifestly excessive.”

Sec. 3 (c) of RA 6713, the Code of Conduct for Public Officers (the Salonga-Saguisag Law) says: “’Gift’ refers to a thing or a right to disposed of gratuitously, or any act or liberality, in favor of another who accepts it, and shall include a simulated sale or an ostensibly onerous disposition thereof. It shall not include an unsolicited gift of nominal or insignificant value not given in anticipation of, or in exchange for, a favor from a public official or employee.”

Anti-poor

Digong, an alpha, fancies himself not only as a super-executive but also a super-legislator. The cuckolded Bigger House and the Better House sleep, or pretend not to notice the usurpation of their power and duty, all betas seemingly scared silly of the man. Do they study our laws on gifts?

Natcherly, the wealthy oligarchs will again gain by this novel anti-poor excrescence. The law is said to represent the biases of the ruling class. The poor kin of a raped maiden cannot begin to imagine matching the gifts an hacendero can and will “legally” give the cops, prosecutors and judges and perjured witnesses to save a rapist-son. So the kin may consider going to Tondo to contract the service of an equalizer for a few thousand pesos or turn to, or even join, the NPA and its Alex Boncayao Brigade.

The gap between the rich and the poor will become ever wider.

I may be guilty of sedition in the sense that Holmes said, every idea is an incitement. But, we have a Senate of Pretenders. Beginning with Manny Pacquiao, as top Senate Absentee, addicted to fame and fortune. Civilian Bong Go is a better fit as Social Welfare Secretary. And Bato dela Rosa, a lawmaker, and now a confessed lawbreaker; he says violating our laws on gifts is part of our culture as a scofflaw nation. Josme! Some weirdo.

What is the Senate ethics panel (assuming there is one), Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice and the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission going to do about this public confession, to arrest our deteriorating values?

My calling the Solicitor General “tuta” is nothing compared to the language of the profane Prez he serves loyally, and who amends our laws on gifts, a legislative function, with an anti-poor consequence.

In my time in government, we returned all gifts, except maybe ice cream. Today, the cream at the top say the wealthy can in effect increase the pay of cops. The poor cannot, as they follow, willy-nilly, the first law of mankind: survival. The development is again so egregiously anti-poor, who worry about their next meal, not the next gift.

Virgil wrote in the Aeneid, fear the Greeks, even if they come bearing gifts. Here, welcome! Rotting and putrefying, we are.

The happiest countries are said to be those strictly observing ethical principles, and do not have anti-poor laws, norms and leaders.

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