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EDITORIAL - The other war

With several presidential appointees implicated in questionable transactions, Malacañang has created a special unit that will look into graft cases reported to the Presidential Action Center.

The anti-graft unit was created after employees of the Tourism Promotions Board lodged an administrative complaint against its chief operating officer, actor Cesar Montano. The complainants provided a detailed list of offenses attributed to Montano, who assumed the TPB post only four months ago. Among other things, Montano is accused of appointing his brother, other relatives, friends and even his gardener to the TPB even where there are no vacancies, and of charging expenses in his personal travels to the board.

Asked about the accusations, President Duterte said he trusted Montano and urged the actor’s detractors to file a complaint – something they had already done days earlier, indicating that the Chief Executive had not been properly briefed on the controversy.

To the President’s credit, he had acted quicker in other cases linking his appointees to corruption, including those known to be close to him. Without waiting for guilt to be established in court – which could take forever in this country – the President fired his campaign spokesman Peter Laviña as chief of the National Irrigation Administration. The President also got rid of two of his Lex Talionis law fraternity brothers, deputy immigration commissioners Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who were implicated in the multimillion-peso bribery scandal in the bureau involving casino mogul Jack Lam.

Malacañang officials have said another Duterte appointee, National Food Authority administrator Jason Aquino, is also under investigation for unauthorized rice importations. Now comes the complaint against Montano, whose alleged offenses particularly involving nepotism and misuse of public funds can be easily verified.

In numerous speeches, the President has promised that his government will be clean. He has also warned his friends and supporters that he would not hesitate to dump them and even have them indicted if they engage in corruption. In several cases the President has proven true to his word, and he must sustain his commitment. There can be no sacred cows in this war.

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