EDITORIAL - Gift-giving
(The Philippine Star) - August 12, 2019 - 12:00am

Sen. Ronald dela Rosa said President Duterte was just being pragmatic in saying it’s OK for police personnel to receive gifts if no favors are given in return. It makes you wonder what types of gifts Dela Rosa pragmatically received from the public when he was chief of the Philippine National Police.

Dela Rosa was probably just being realistic about a society where people in fact give gifts for all types of occasions, whether in celebration or in gratitude.

There’s a thin line, however, between gift-giving and bribery. Favors in exchange for a lavish gift may not be given immediately by the recipient government official, but it can have a persuasive role in future decision making. There is also the inherent difficulty of telling when a “gift” is given wholeheartedly and when it is offered under subtle pressure.

This is what laws against graft and corruption intend to prevent. Yes, there are several laws that expressly prohibit all government officials and employees, including police personnel and elective officials, from receiving gifts from the public.

There’s Presidential Decree 46, dated Nov. 10. 1972, whose long title is self-explanatory: “Making it punishable for public officials and employees to receive, and for private persons to give, gifts on any occasion, including Christmas.”

There’s Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officers and Employees. There’s RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, plus Articles 210, 211 and 212 of the Revised Penal Code on direct and indirect bribery.

RA 3019 does provide an exception. Section 14 states: “Unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage, shall be excepted from the provisions of this Act.” Cited as an example of a “small” gift is a plaque of appreciation.

Perhaps President Duterte, a former city prosecutor, was referring to this provision. The rest of the laws set no monetary value on the prohibited “gifts.” In any case, the president of the republic does not define the law, but is merely sworn to uphold it.

Cops – and all other government officials and employees for that matter – should be warned: accept gifts at your own risk.

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