Crackpots
FIRST PERSON - Alex Magno (The Philippine Star) - October 13, 2018 - 12:00am

The carnival has come to town. The registration of candidates for next May’s elections has opened.

Despite the Comelec’s pleas to avoid making the filing of certificates of candidacy as carnival, it certainly turned out that way. Candidates want to start out with a bang. They march to the Comelec offices with camp followers in tow, always in the most colorful costumes.

It is hard to ignore this show. Television coverage is constant. Social media is in constant crackle, with breaking news about this or that person filing a certificate of candidacy.

As it happens all the time, in the first few days of registration, the crackpots take the day. They are always more interesting than the mainstream candidates. They say the most outrageous things. They wear the most outrageous costumes.

In due time, most of these crackpots will be weeded out as “nuisance” candidates.  Then the mainstream politicians step in and say exactly the same things the crackpots did. An unnerving conflation of our political reality happens.

In the end, the only difference between those weeded out and those who stay is demonstrable capacity to spend. It is never the stupidity or the alacrity of what they say that differentiates who is excluded and who is included. It is always the imponderable measure of ability to fund a national campaign. This is the first step by which the poor is weeded out of our representative democracy.

After two days of watching potential candidates walk in and out of the Comelec offices, making their respective pitches on why they deserve public office, I have yet to hear one address the disturbing results of the most recent release of the World Bank Human Capital Index.

We know the majority of our children are poorly nourished. Their development is stunted by the high food cost regime we have in place. A great number will be rendered infirm for life. The Human Capital Index puts some dreadful numbers to this.

The report shows the Philippines performing significantly below the regional average for East Asia and the Pacific. Because of many factors including poor diet and high attrition rates in our educational system, Filipino children will fulfill only 55 percent of their potential by age 18. This is below the 61 percent potential average for our region.

Those numbers are made stark by the fact that the countries that had the best ratings in the Human Capital Index are also from our region. They are, according to rank: Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Hong Kong.

There must be a way for our boisterous democracy to save our children.

Refute

Unfortunately this particular complaint for graft was filed close to the onset of the electoral season. It makes it easier for the subject of the complaint to claim this is a political hatchet job.

This is exactly how House Majority Leader Rolando Andaya tried to play down a complaint filed against him at the Ombudsman by Greco Belgica of the Truth and Justice Coalition. Significantly, Belgica is also a commissioner at the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC).

Much as Andaya might want the public to dismiss the filing as a political hack job, the complaint itself is well documented and raises questions that deserve a thorough explanation. This is not one of those sloppy complaints filed with no other intent than harassment.

The Belgica complaint, now under the Ombudsman’s consideration, alleges unexplained wealth. It takes off from observations about Andaya’s 2016 and 2017 SALNs that are virtually duplicates of each other, down to the notarial details. That raises red flags immediately.

The congressman’s cash in the bank remained unchanged through the two years even as he and his family travelled extensively to many countries during the period covered. Apart from his salary as legislator, Andaya reports no other business interests other than ownership of stocks in three corporations.

Belgica, in his complaint, says Andaya failed to declare nine pieces of property: one in Quezon City, seven in Camarines Sur and one in Taguig City. Informatin from the Land Registration Authority database confirms these properties were either in the name of the congressman or his wife.

The complaint claims Andaya failed to declare six more properties registered in the name of his business enterprise, Noy and Ning’s Corporation. The conjugally owned corporation has paid up capital of P31 million and reports no activity in its corporate filings.

Furthermore, the complaint claims Andaya substantially undervalued the vehicles he owned, valued all his cars at P2 million. The combined current value of vehicles registered in his name, according to LTO records, is P12.45 million. In addition, Belgica claims, Andaya and his wife acquired 5 bulletproofed Land Cruisers valued at P5 million each.

According to PNP records, Andaya acquired 16 pieces of firearms in 2016 and another 19 pieces of firearms in 2017. The firearms add up to a substantial sum and are not reported in Andaya’s SALN.

Finally, Belgica claims Andaya “deceitfully” failed to declare his relatives in government service. These include: his sister Maria Belen Andaya Eusebio who served as Pasig City mayor from 2013 to 2016; his first cousin Salvador Senar, Jr. who served as mayor of Magaro, Camarines Sur and is currently provincial board member; and another cousin Warren Senar was served on the Camarines Sur provincial board from 2013 to 2016.

If any of the abovementioned pieces of information are erroneous, Andaya can simply refute them point-by-point rather than casually dismiss the entire complaint as a “hatchet job.”

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