No word – no honor

CTALK - Cito Beltran (The Philippine Star) - February 2, 2016 - 9:00am

I recently attended the 2nd hearing of the congressional committee on trade and industry regarding the SUA or Sudden Unintended Acceleration issue and I was shocked at what I saw and heard from no less than members of Congress themselves.

It seems that a couple of congressmen had skipped their search for knowledge in order to craft laws and decided to be judge, jury and executioner on the SUA cases. At the very least, they were playing to the audience like candidates in a campaign. They were embarrassingly insulting if not hostile to invited resource persons. In their made-for-TV pronouncements, they effectively pressured officials of the Department of Trade and Industry to disregard laws crafted by past Congress such as the Lemon Law and to do away with an independent third party determination for possible defects that lead to SUA in the Mitsubishi Montero, and judge against Mitsubishi and their future sales without benefit of due process.

While all the sound bytes and TV clips might make the congressmen feel like action stars for a few minutes, hours or days, I wonder if they seriously considered the legal, economic and political impact of their reckless passion or persuasion? For starters, the hearing was “in aid of legislation” not prosecution but, in keeping with congressional tradition, hostility ruled the inquiry.

No matter what the politicians may feel or think, everyone including the complainant are entitled to due process that is objective, fair and balanced. Congressmen may express their sentiment or observations, but when you bully, harass, or pressure officials in the Executive department and insult their abilities or conduct of business, you trespass jurisdiction to say the least. As one observer in the gallery put it, are they men of laws or authors of anarchy? How can they tell the DTI to disregard one law and follow another while telling them to disregard due process that will expose the DTI officials as well as the government to certain lawsuits?

Congress makes and passes laws. The Judiciary or Courts interprets or determines which laws apply and uses such as the basis for making decisions and judgments and not the legislature, certainly not two congressmen. A neutral congressman reassured some people that it was all in the spirit of sound byte but how does one explain that to foreign investors particularly to the Japanese community of investors?

How can we generate investor confidence if the lawmakers themselves are sanctioning breaking of agreements and confidentialities by saying that an NDA or Non-Disclosure Agreement is not legally binding and the content therein can and should be divulged in Congress which they cajoled one party to do in public and in front of the media.

I am no lawyer but I assume that an NDA is a mutually agreed contract, based on trust and word of honor put into paper. When one can no longer keep his word then he has no honor. If as the congressman says an NDA is just a piece of paper, do we likewise throw out all agreements on confidentiality even those required from staff members and security personnel of Congress? What about confidential agreements with banks or records with law enforcers? Do we dismiss the confidentiality of Executive hearings conducted by Congress? Can we now use the invalidity of NDA as a guiding principle in violating the privacy and personal lives of congressmen?

I’m sure that won’t protect us from lawsuits and this may be a problem for people who allow themselves to agree to being led by a congressman and not their own lawyer. I don’t think the person led into divulging the details of his Non-Disclosure Agreement/settlement with Mitsubishi did not realize that appearing and swearing to tell the truth before a Congressional hearing does not automatically buy you immunity from suit. The fact is some who have testified before Congress believing Congress will be their forever guardian angels are reportedly now angels with wings.

* * *

I was quite surprised to hear of the death of our elder leader at the Development Academy of the Philippines: PMDP Chairman Cayetano Paderanga Jr. He was an encourager, an enabler and I will certainly miss his presence:


I hardly knew you but you were one of those who understood and championed the inclusion of communications and media skills training at the Development Academy of the Philippines.

In a world that has taken communications skills for granted and opted to avoid media engagements, you knew that such skills and knowledge went beyond TV and radio interviews or news stories. You understood that the one place government consistently failed in the past was in communicating their plans and programs as well as promoting the many competent men and women who serve in the public sector.

That alone was enough, but like a mischievous Jedi master, you seemed to relish knowing that your many students have suffered the experience of “Shock and Awe” as they went through the Communications course of the PMDP, all intended to first scare them out of their wits, retool and cause a paradigm shift in what a professional public servant is, and then sort out exactly what their business is and how best to communicate these with media and the public.

Rather than question my sanity or challenge my methods you simply made mention of how terrified the poor students must be. It was your way of giving conditional approval, recognition and a subtle reminder of what my role and objective must be as a member of the faculty. I mourn your passing as the passing of a champion, a distant mentor but I thank you for the work that did not feel like work, for the responsibility that was never a burden and leadership that displays itself upon the officers and staff of the Development Academy of the Philippines, who in spite of the seriousness of their mission and their tasks have always done it with your light hearted spirit. Farewell DAP-PMDP Chairman Cayetano Paderanga Jr.

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