Slippery slope
THAT DOES IT - Korina Sanchez (The Freeman) - August 14, 2019 - 12:00am

Senator Dela Rosa has admitted receiving gifts during his term as the chief of the Philippine National Police. He also calls on everyone to stop being naive since “gift-giving is part of Filipino culture.” He claims that Lacoste shirts, cheese, and fruits are sent to his office during Christmas. How can he stop people from sending him gifts? He adds that if the gift came from a bad person, it would be a bribe. But when it comes from good people, then there is nothing wrong with it.

Dela Rosa adds that it is up to one's conscience if a gift is accepted, especially expensive ones such as a car or a large amount of cash. Based on all his pronouncements, I guess it was all right with his conscience when Senator Manny Pacquiao sent him and his whole family to Las Vegas to watch the fight in 2016. They then went on an all-paid vacation also courtesy of the senator.

Since Senator Pacquiao is a good man then there was nothing wrong in accepting the free trips which surely amounted to, at the very least, thousands of pesos. Nothing has indeed happened with the Ombudsman's investigation of Dela Rosa's acceptance of those gifts from Senator Pacquiao. It so happens there is a new Ombudsman appointed by President Duterte.

The DILG has issued a statement that police officers accepting gifts and money from the public will face criminal and administrative complaints. He also reminded “government workers including the PNP that their services are already paid in full by the people through taxes.”

The belated statement is most likely due to the backlash that occurred after Duterte stated it was okay for police to accept gifts and even operate video-karera machines to augment their income. The law states that gifts of “small or insignificant value offered as a token of gratitude is an exception to graft and corrupt practices.”

But what exactly is the threshold of a small, insignificant value? Food such as cheese and fruits, an expensive branded T-shirt from anonymous givers, or an all-expense paid trip to the US from a known billionaire? Who is to say what is insignificant and what isn't?

This is a slippery slope indeed. Which is why, as a policy of many governments, employees or officials are forbidden to receive any kind of gift or gratuity, whether or not any kind of service has been rendered. DILG Secretary Año disclosed that he himself returns gifts from individuals or local governments.

I would think this is the right thing to do. You may not be able to stop a person from giving gifts but you can always refuse or return them. A gift or token may be innocent until such a time when those tokens are cashed in. What did Senator Lacson say about insatiable greed starting with simple, petty graft?

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