Road to heaven or to hell

COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 -

Two officials in government currently embroiled in high-profile incidents were both caught on camera. The only difference was that one was in a taped video while the other was in a news video caught in live action. Both of them were fully aware they were on camera.

They are none other than Marine Col. Generoso Mariano and Davao City Mayor Sarah Duterte, respectively. The two are currently in hot water because of these incidents.

In Mariano’s case, he was directed to read his prepared statement and be taped on video. His critical statements about how citizens and even men in uniform should exercise their rights and duties to again save the country from mis-governance struck a raw nerve in the incumbent administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

The leaderships of the Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) lost no time to put out the brewing coup jitters and destabilization rumors before it could reach the gates of Malacañang.

Immediately after Mariano’s videotaped statement hit the social networking sites, the soon-to-retire senior military officer found himself restricted to his quarters. He is currently undergoing investigation and in danger of losing his retirement benefits after serving so many years in the military. 

In the case of Duterte, there is yet no formal case filed against the mayor after her infamous punching incident of court sheriff Abe Andres last July 1. Three days after the incident, Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo sent lawyers from his office to investigate the incident. As DILG secretary, Robredo is the immediate supervising official of all heads of local government units (LGUs) in behalf of the Office of the President.

Mayor Duterte was caught on camera angrily confronting and assaulting the sheriff who ignored her request to stay the demolition of the squatter colony in Barangay Soliman in Agdao district where hundreds of families were also affected by the heavy flooding days before the incident. The sheriff up to now has not filed any charges against Duterte.

But the national association of sheriffs has taken up the cudgels for him and filed an assault complaint against the mayor before the Office of the Ombudsman. By the way, she is the daughter of Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, the recognized political kingpin in Davao City.

Like his daughter, the father is also facing possible disciplinary action from the ombudsman. He was required to explain his having flashed a dirty finger on TV last month in response to criticisms on his daughter’s punching incident. The elder Duterte invoked his freedom of expression to justify the act. Unrepentant of his brusque ways, the vice mayor said he would not hesitate to do it again if provoked. Well, obviously, such an attitude runs in the family.

While there was no media around when Mariano delivered his controversial statement, officials were quick to jump on the loose-lipped Marine officer who is now gagged and by his lonesome. Sedition and other charges were filed immediately against him.

On the other hand, Duterte acted on her own, without imprimatur or script directing her to punch and maul the sheriff, aided by her police bodyguards. As of yesterday, there is no official word or action yet taken by the Office of the President on the DILG incident report and recommendations on the Duterte incident submitted last July 19. Robredo said last week the DILG could institute the filing of the administrative complaint against Duterte. But yesterday, the DILG chief has not taken any such initiative.

There is obvious dilly-dallying from both the DILG and the Palace on the blatant conduct unbecoming of the mayor as caught on camera. To the credit of the mayor, she went on voluntary leave of absence two days after the incident when it was announced in Manila that the DILG would investigate the incident.

As the commander-in-chief of the AFP, P-Noy has shown in Mariano’s case his decisiveness to deal with officers and men in uniform going astray from their constitutional duties and mandates. 

As the country’s Chief Executive, it behooves P-Noy to act with dispatch against any erring member of government, whether he or she is an appointive or elective official or employee. P-Noy is expected to act on all cases at all times without partisan considerations.

While she is facing charges of conduct unbecoming of a public official, one can argue Mayor Duterte is not, however, accused of corruption. However, methinks otherwise. As one popular quote says: Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.

This is actually a quotation from John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton, first Baron Acton (1834-1902). The historian and moralist, known simply as Lord Acton, expressed this opinion in a letter to Bishop Mandell Creighton in 1887: “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”

As he had declared in his State of the Nation Address (SONA) last Monday, P-Noy vowed his fight against corruption in whatever form is a “personal” one. And to set the tone of his administration’s war against corruption, P-Noy formally announced his appointment of retired Supreme Court (SC) associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman.

But as fate would have it, the newly sworn in ombudsman happens to be the aunt of Mayor Duterte’s husband, lawyer Mans Carpio, and the brother of Regional Trial Court Branch 16 Judge Emmanuel Carpio who ordered the squatter demolition that got her into trouble in the first place.

As one popular proverb goes: “The road to heaven, or to hell (whichever applies), is paved with good intentions.” Thus, the Filipino nation will wait with bated breath how P-Noy’s “matuwid na daan” will take on Mayor Duterte.

 Whatever P-Noy decides on this will be the test of how he would lead his “personal” campaign against corruption to take the Filipino nation to the proverbial heaven, and not to hell.

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