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SEARCH FOR TRUTH - Ernesto P. Maceda Jr. (The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2019 - 12:00am

Its a poker game at the Senate. Bets and bluffs in the currency of accusations and threats. With Generals playing, there is the inevitable acceleration of aggravation. Aquino has confirmed that Albayalde asked him to stay his hand in the dismissal of his men, the so called “ninja” cops. This after receiving death threats directed at his family. We’re no longer at ante bets. And its not just the missing P648 million in drugs and P10 billion in cash in the pot. Its lives and reputations and the legitimacy of the President’s drug war. Everyone has gone all in. 

PRRD has said that he will reserve judgment until the Senate completes its probe in deference to separation of powers. He wanted to be sure. When it comes to “a serious thing as dismissing a top official,” the President says he will require “enough proof”.

Cabinet officials have lost their positions on mere whiffs of corruption. And thousands in the illegal drugs matrix lost their lives on the basis of intelligence from lesser police officials than the brave few who have come forward, under oath, risking all. There is more than a “whiff” here. Its enough to trigger a “general” alarm. 

I don’t get no respect. With meningococcemia, we’re really en route to mirroring the plagues. Dengue, measles and rubella, polio, diphtheria, African swine fever, fall armyworms. But the most pernicious still has to be the epidemic of lying to Congress. 

In this administration alone, “Bikoy” Advincula, Lascanas, Signapan, those involved in the GCTA, Ninja Cops, Customs Magnetic Filters controversies – all were caught lying before the Senate. 

Contempt plus. In response, Senate President Tito Sotto and Senator Ping Lacson propose a review of Article 183 of the Revised Penal Code (RPC), increasing the penalty from the present one to six months to a higher 12- to 20-year range. This is for false testimony in situations other than criminal or civil court cases. It punishes persons who would disregard the oath where required by law. This may be in affidavits or other documents sworn to before administrative agencies and would arguably include testimony before Congressional investigations. 

This explains the rather minimal punishment attached to Art. 183. It merely punishes lying under oath. The purpose of the penal provision is to enhance the respect due from the public to proceedings and the institutions requiring truthful testimony. This calls to mind the impeachment efforts against President Bill Clinton in the US. The Clinton articles of impeachment were for “lying under oath” and “obstruction of justice”. It was not for sexual misconduct in office.

Congressional self defense. This should be the Senators’ focus. Lying to Congress must be a separate felony altogether. There is no dedicated penal provision whether in the RPC or in special laws making it a crime to lie to Congress nor for that matter to the administrative agencies of government. Congressional contempt power is obviously not enough to scare the wits out of witnesses inclined to play with the truth.

In the US,18 USC 1001 makes it punishable for up to five years imprisonment for anyone to lie “in any matter within the jurisdiction of the executive, legislative, or judicial branch”. They needn’t even be under oath.

Greta game changer. Meanwhile, I asked my brother Macky Maceda, sustainability director of Enderun Colleges, to write about Greta Thunberg, the 16-year-old climate activist from Sweden who has taken the world by storm. He shared his thoughts in a surprisingly musical way:

“I believe the children are our future… teach them well and let them lead the way…”Older generations know these words by heart.  Many of us sang it a few times for sure. Greta is now leading the way to a more sustainable future.  Let’s remember the lyrics we sang and not get in her way. It’s “for the Greta good.”

“Everybody’s searching for a hero… people need someone to look up to…”There have been countless heroes for the environment but Greta is the first to successfully rally millions of people, young and old, to the battle. Yes, the warrior is a child and she is our hero.“I decided long ago never to walk in anyone’s shadow…” Older folks who accuse her of being a tool used like a puppet by billionaires pushing their own agendas – are wrong. She has stuck with her message since the day she started protesting alone outside the Swedish parliament building. 

“If I fail, if I succeed, at least I’ll live as I believe…”It was quite refreshing to see her answer Trevor Noah’s questions on The Daily Show when she came to New York a few weeks ago. Trevor asked: “Do you feel a difference in the conversation traveling from Sweden to America, is there a different feeling around climate change?” Her response: “I would say yes because here, it feels like it is being discussed as something you... whether you believe in or not believe in. Where I come from, it’s more like... it’s a fact.”

“No matter what they take from me… they can’t take away my dignity.” Social media bullies attack her age, her look and her Asperger’s syndrome. Goodness gracious, Greta’s under fire! Such is the world we live in now. Not only do we have an ecological crisis and social crisis, we have a moral crisis as well. Yet she calmly addresses her bullies, “When haters go after your looks and differences, they have nowhere left to go. And then you know you’re winning! I have Asperger’s syndrome and that means I’m sometimes a bit different from the norm. And – given the right circumstances – being different is a superpower.”

Hang in there, Greta. Keep dreaming of a better planet. Keep fighting for our future. Know that millions of people love you for what you are and what you are doing. “And if by chance that special place that you’ve been dreaming of… leads you to a lonely place… find your strength in love!”

Happy Birthday to Manila Congressman Edward V.P. Maceda.

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