Wool over our eyes
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - March 13, 2013 - 12:00am

Macabangkit Lanto may have declined his appointment by President Aquino as commissioner of the Commission on Elections. But that does not automatically make him deserving of praises to his name.

Remember that it took Lanto some time to decide on declining the appointment. In fact he probably wouldn't have declined had there been no uproar over the knowledge that he had once been ousted from Congress in connection with his involvement in some poll anomaly.

Nobody knows this poll anomaly better than Lanto himself. And even if he has proclaimed his innocence on the matter, its being an indelible part of his personal record should have convinced him that it will one day cast doubt not only on his integrity but of Comelec as well.

Thus, it would have been very praiseworth of Lanto if he declined promptly the moment he was told of his appointment. That he did not but instead coasted along to see what happens before finally deciding to decline only when his position became untenable deserves no praises indeed.

Still, it is good that he eventually declined. At least he is not like that other Comelec commissioner appointed by Aquino -- Grace Padaca -- who thickened it out with her appointment despite its reeking with the most malodorous stench of dead and decaying delicadeza.

Padaca, to recall, was facing graft charges at the time of her appointment. In fact, a court order for her arrest was already out when, like a knight in shining armor, Aquino dug into his own personal pocket to pay for her bail.

Okay, since the law only disqualifies Padaca upon conviction, her appointment cannot be considered illegal. She must be allowed to enjoy her right to presumption of innocence, even if, God knows, how that very same right has been abused and raped with regard to Aquino's enemies.

But we are not talking of legality here but of morality and delicadeza. The Philippines is not wanting in skills and talent. For Aquino to insist on Padaca despite the graft charges she faces raises questions on his motives in placing her in a poll body with elections approaching.

By placing someone weighed down by legal baggage in an institution with constitutional immunity, and paying her bail as a signal that she was untouchably close, Aquino transformed an ordinary individual into an “extraordinarily grateful” person.

Padaca is different from Lanto in that, while Lanto took some time to decline his appointment, at least he eventually declined. Padaca did not, which gives way to the assumption that she finds nothing wrong with her appointment.

But there is nothing right about her appointment because her brazen acceptance of it has compromised her independence and integrity as a member of the poll body. Why, she did not even have the scruples to politely decline the bail money paid by Aquino to thwart her arrest.

Her bail was only P70,000 or something. That amount of money is not equivalent to heaven and earth. Certainly she could have raised it herself or her other friends without having to involve the president.

Things become different when the most powerful person in a country does something for ordinary citizens. These citizens become eternally indebted and, short of perhaps laying down their lives for him, may do things they normally would not do for others.

I'm not saying Padaca will be doing anything for Aquino. All I'm saying is she has placed herself in a position of indebtedness that makes questions about her independence and integrity unavoidable.

But even far worse than Lanto and Padaca is Aquino himself. As the self-anointed paragon of all that is good and just, he cannot be accused of just haphazardly making appointments left and right. He has to know what he is doing. He is consciously trying to pull wool over our eyes.

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