In a letter to The STAR, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said yesterday his intention was to point out provisions in laws that allow government workers to accept gifts of nominal or insignificant value.
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PACC exec: Gift statement taken out of context
Emmanuel Tupas (The Philippine Star) - August 22, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — A commissioner of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) says his statement on P100,000 being an “insignificant” gift was taken out of context.

In a letter to The STAR, PACC Commissioner Greco Belgica said yesterday his intention was to point out provisions in laws that allow government workers to accept gifts of nominal or insignificant value.

He was referring to Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

During an interview with “The Chiefs” aired on Cignal TV’s One News channel on Aug. 16, Belgica cited as an example a government employee who finds a bag containing P1 million at the airport and returns it to the owner. Belgica explained that the airport worker could not be accused of corruption if he accepts P100,000 as a token of gratitude from the owner.

“Hindi ho hiningi. Hindi iprinamis sa kanya (It was not asked, it was not promised to him), insignificant amount, then that cannot be corruption. Those are tokens of gratitude,” Belgica said.

In a press statement, Belgica said, “I would like to make it clear that my only intention is to point out what the law provides and not to justify bribery or corruption.”

He also stressed that the example he cited was his personal opinion and not an official statement from the PACC, so the STAR headline attributing the statement to the commission was “misleading and incorrect.”

“The PACC as a Commission has not issued any statement that P100K is considered as an insignificant gift. Thus, it is unfair and irresponsible to make it appear that the alleged statement was issued by the Commission as a collegial body,” Belgica said.

In the press statement, he declared: “My statement was clearly taken out of context and was specifically worded in such a way that would draw intrigue at the expense of my name.”

During the TV show, he had a heated exchange with one of the hosts, BusinessWorld editor-in-chief Roby Alampay, who pressed him on his answer that it is OK to accept P100,000 if it was given as a token of gratitude.

Belgica explained: “Under the context that gifts of nominal and insignificant value are allowed, and after a lengthy explanation of the same to the rude and obviously biased news anchor who refused to accept my explanation, I posed a hypothetical and exaggerated question in an attempt to educate him, to wit: What if a government employee finds and returns to the rightful owner a lost bag containing P1 million, of which the latter gives a gift or reward amounting to 100K, will you charge the employee for corruption? What if the token was 1k?”

He denied describing P100,000 as “insignificant,” saying it was the anchor, whom he did not identify, “who was trying to insinuate, in bad faith, that I have issued that statement when in fact there was none. It was part of the story to make me look corrupt.”

However, when another host of the program, TV 5 chief of correspondent Ed Lingao, pointed out to Belgica that P100,000 is not an insignificant amount to other people, the PACC commissioner replied that the amount was his monthly salary and he did not consider it significant: “Kunwari ako, sir, commissioner po ako, ako po na nakakuha. That’s my salary sir eh. So sa akin yung P100,000 is just to get me by, so it’s really not a significant amount to me because that’s how much I get paid a month.”

He said something good that might come out of the incident is a clarification of gray areas in the law.

“The vagueness in the law should be addressed by competent authorities to finally determine what is significant or not. This intellectual discourse will definitely lead to the crafting of better laws that would help suppress if not completely eradicate corruption in the government,” Belgica declared. – Evelyn Macairan

GIFTS PRESIDENTIAL ANTI-CORRUPTION COMMISSION
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