Gentleman’s agreement?

AS A MATTER OF FACT - Sara Soliven De Guzman (The Philippine Star) - October 5, 2020 - 12:00am

My late father, Max Soliven, in June 2006 wrote a column entitled, “How can there be a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ if one is not a gentleman?” His column is a reminder of a standard etiquette and protocol that our recent public officials have fail to observe.

He wrote,“When Senator Frank Drilon forged a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ with rival Senator Manuel Villar last year that he (Drilon) would first serve as Senate President, then would turn over the Senate Presidency to Villar, this writer objected to the very idea.

“To begin with, the Presidency of the Senate cannot be auctioned off like a fish catch just brought in from the sea. But most pertinently, how could there be a gentleman’s agreement if one of the parties to the deal does not turn out to be a gentleman? However, the ‘deal’ was made. After its announcement, I reminded Manny Villar of what had happened to the late Senator Rene Cayetano (father of Pia). Rene died in disappointment, without the promised Senate Presidency having been turned over to him.

“On Villar’s part, he thought – as per the ‘agreement” with Franklin – that the Senate Presidency would be his this June. It has not come to pass. When he politely inquired of Senator Drilon whether it wasn’t time he inherited the Senate gavel at least in time for the next State of the Nation address, Drilon reportedly didn’t even blink but blandly replied, it was alleged: ‘If you can get enough votes, Manny, I’ll turn the Senate Presidency over to you.’

“Gee whiz. What an answer.

“Don’t you think, if there was an agreement among Gents, that Frank ought to have said: ‘You bet, partner! I’ll cast my vote for you, and help you get elected?’

“Villar has realized, belatedly, that he must fight to win that goal – with his former deal ‘partner’ resisting him all the way. Oh well. I may be wrong, but I hear he is one vote shy of winning. No thanks to you-know-who.”

Will Speaker Alan Peter Cayetano do the very thing his father went through?  Or will he continue to act like a brat to the disgrace of his father’s name and legacy? His father would turn over in his grave.

Speaker Cayetano should be careful. He should not listen to his comrades in Congress who helped him create this super corny drama. He is in a very fragile position which could break him. They can easily drop him like a hot potato if things do not turn out well. Do not forget history, Alan. Do not forget Jose Pidal.

I have not personally met Marinduque Rep. Lord Allan Velasco. I do not really know if he is good or bad, but a deal is a deal and Speaker Cayetano broke the agreement. Even if he is backed up by his cohorts or the so-called bullies in Congress, he should stand his ground and be a principled man. He must do what is right.

After his privilege speech, part of the “script” was to make everyone vote to show Cayetano that majority in Congress do not want him to resign. But the vote is not clear. I think Congress should make this act clear to the public. Cayetano’s camp is using it to show that the majority wants him to keep his position. I think they are deliberately confusing the public. Sanamagan!

By the way, why was 1-PACMAN Rep. Mikee Romero suddenly removed from his Deputy Speaker post? It really looks like Congress today is run by a bunch of kids.

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The recent news on restricting or limiting access to the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of government officials is not only going against transparency but most of all against the Constitution and the implementing law passed in 1989.

Section 1 of the recently released Memorandum Circular No.1 Series of 2020 of the Office of the Ombudsman states: “A copy of the SALN will be furnished to the requester if: 1) He/she is the declarant or the duly authorized representative of the declarant; 2) the request is upon lawful order of the court in relation to a pending case; and 3) the request is made by this Office’s Field Investigation Office/Bureau/Unit for the purpose of conducting fact-finding investigation.

The ombudsman’s memo also states that “no SALN will be furnished to the requester unless he/ she presents a notarized letter of authority from the declarant allowing the release of the requested SALN.” In addition, “all requests to inspect or to take picture of the SALN will be denied.”

The laws are clear that the SALNs shall be disclosed to the public. Why the sudden change? Remember, Section 1, Article 11 of the Philippine Constitution on Accountability of Public Officers states: “Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people…” and Section 17 states, “A public officer or employee shall, upon assumption of office and as often thereafter as may be required by law, submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth…the declaration shall be disclosed in the manner provided by law.” Also supporting SALN public disclosure is Article 3, Section 7 of the Constitution that states: “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject such limitations as may be provided by law.”

In RA 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, which was approved during the Eighth Congress, Section 8 provides that public officials and employees have an obligation to accomplish and submit their SALNs, including those of their spouses and of unmarried children under 18 years of age living in their households but, more importantly, that the public has the right to know.

Dante Jimenez, chair of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC), has called on Ombudsman Samuel Martires to reexamine his memorandum circular as he expressed concern that the public may have lost a “weapon” against corrupt government officials. Jimenez added that the circular caused the public to lose their trust and confidence in the anti-graft body since restricting SALNs “defeats the purpose” of transparency within the government.

Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said that the memorandum circular goes against the anti-graft office’s mandate. She said, “Well it goes against the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust. There is this law which mandates the filing of SALNs and mandates that the public shall be entitled to even photocopy and reproduce the SALN of public officials or employees. No one can refuse the request of anyone to use a SALN or to copy a SALN for as long as it is not against morals or public policy.”

Why should the disclosure of SALN be an issue if there is nothing to hide? Just asking.

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