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Smells fishy

As early as Sept. 16, a highly informed source had already told me that Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) chief Rudy Salalima was going to resign.

I have known Rudy Salalima for years when he was head of Globe Telecom’s corporate and regulatory affairs office. He was also the bar examiner in labor when I took the bar examinations in 2007, a fact which I learned only after the exams. He could have told me, he could have even given me pointers, but he didn’t. He was so strict in checking the exams that initially, only one percent of the more than 6,000 examinees passed the labor exam. This was later adjusted upwards, together with the total passing percentage, following deliberations by the Supreme Court.

Later on, he would tell me that he read each and every answer of each examinee, something which I cannot say for sure about other bar examiners.

All through my five years in law school, he was always there to lend a helping hand, making available the law books at Globe’s library, including the Supreme Court Reports Annotated, for my studies.

After I left the telecom beat in 2011, I saw him only once, at an event of the ASEAN Law Association Philippines, where we were both members. Later on, we would exchange a few text messages about his plans at the DICT, in particular the national broadband plan. But that was it.

And then a week later, media reported that Salalima had offered to resign. Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Salalima sent his resignation letter citing personal and work-related reasons.

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Days later, Salalima told DICT employees that he resigned due to corruption, interference, and pressure, but did not elaborate and that the President had not accepted his resignation. He said he would only explain after the President accepts. I texted him, but he did not respond.

I then checked with a source close to the powers-that-be last Sept. 25 and he said Salalima was asked to resign over corruption issues and that National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) chief Gamaliel Gordoba would replace Salalima.

About four days ago, media reported that President Duterte said he had asked Salalima to resign as DICT secretary following complaints that Salalima was being partial to a private company because he used to be a top executive of Globe and that he failed to act on the entry of other telecom players in the country.

The President said that while he is not saying that Salalima is protecting someone, the resigned  DICT chief has not taken action on the other giant telecom companies of China and Singapore.

What action is the President talking about? Probably he was referring to offers to take on the P77.9-billion national broadband project that aims to provide high-speed internet especially to unserved and underserved areas in the country.

Last year, it was reported that two Chinese technology suppliers are interested in partnering with government for the National Broadband Network (NBN) project. When asked if ZTE Corporation, which was earlier involved in corruption allegations over the awarding of the NBN contract during the Arroyo administration (Arroyo cancelled the project in 2007), was one of them, Salalima said “your guess is as good as mine.”

But isn’t it too early for Salalima to “act” on these proposals, especially since our government has not yet finalized its NBN plans?

The President explained that he had asked Salalima to resign for favoring Globe, and that there were a number of people complaining that he was being partial. He said Salalima never mentioned the fact about corruption and interference to him, so the DICT secretary lied.

Duterte and Salalima were schoolmates at San Beda College School of Law, but Salalima was never part of the “inner circles,” (because there was more than one circle) whose members were either the President’s classmates and close friends in San Beda, or had Davao connections to Duterte, either directly or through Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez, or Bong Go.

There is definitely more here than meets the eye.

Back to work

It is back to work for Commission on Elections (Comelec) chief Andres Bautista after the House justice committee dismissed the impeachment complaint against him for being insufficient in form.

Bautista said the dismissal of the complaint is a significant step in clearing his name from the malicious accusations by his estranged wife.

According to observers, Bautista simply took things as a sign to get back to work, unhampered by allegations. No gloating, no petty attempts at asserting a moral ascendancy over his opponent. They said that right after the dismissal of the impeachment complaint, he went to the National Printing Office to check on the ballots that will be used for the barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections.

The Constitution itself limits the number of impeachment complaints that can be filed against an impeachable officer to one per year so that public officers will not waste their time defending themselves against harassment suits.

 But then, Bautista’s woes do not end here. His ex-wife Patricia and her lawyer Lorna Kapunan earlier have filed before the Supreme Court a disbarment complaint against University of Santo Tomas (UST) Faculty of Civil Law Dean Nilo Divina, together with 20 other members of his law firm.

Patricia also asked the high court to dissolve what is now referred to as “The Firm.” Tisha earlier accused her husband of receiving money from Divina in exchange for referring clients, some of who do business with the Comelec.

According to the complaint, Divina and 20 of his colleagues at the Divina Law office violated the Code of Professional Responsibility for lawyers over their alleged corrupt ties to Bautista.

Bautista, who is also a lawyer, was not included in the complaint, being an impeachable official.

According to Divina, they are probably sour that their impeachment complaint was dismissed.

Only time will tell whose story holds water. In the meantime, let Bautista do his job.

For comments, e-mail at mareyes@philstarmedia.com

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