AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star
It didn’t surprise me that President Noynoy Aquino (P-Noy) didn’t bite at the “waiver” gimmick that his political opponents were pressing him to sign after now ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona signed his. Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile (JPE) was right when he called it mere theatre and refused to bite the bait too.
The SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) that every public official is mandated by law to file under oath already has the waiver — except that it has never been used before to pursue investigations. We’ll, we didn’t have an Ombudsman like Conchita Carpio-Morales before. With her at the helm, the SALN waiver is all that’s really needed.
If P-Noy bit into the “waiver” bait of his opponents, that could have sidetracked the main issue during the impeachment trial. The son of Ninoy is too smart to fall into that trap. If P-Noy also accepted the challenge and signed the waiver, that would project him to be in the same category as the trial respondent. That was certainly not the time to sign a waiver even if he wanted to.
People who are buying this cheap “waiver” gimmick forgot that P-Noy isn’t under question and under no obligation to prove a charge that doesn’t exist. Would you post bail for a crime that you didn’t commit and not being been charged? On the contrary, he was quite transparent about his SALN and deserves the presumption of innocence, especially considering his very clean track record.
An enforced signing of an asset disclosure waiver is closer to cheap gimmickry than real reform that ensures complete public disclosure and transparency. Trust our sly politicians to find the loopholes and skirt the pressure to sign an asset disclosure waiver. Instead of wrangling over a waiver, the better remedy is to clarify and strengthen the existing laws that are meant to ensure full public disclosure and transparency on the part of all public officials, whether elected or appointed.
A mere improvement or clarification of the law on foreign currency deposits would compel all public officials to disclose these in their respective SALN under pain of removal and other penalties that may be warranted. The Corona impeachment trial already laid the basis — the law on foreign currency deposits pertains to banks not being compelled to disclose, but it doesn’t provide the public official a loophole not to disclose an asset. The synchronization of the laws on foreign currency deposits and SALN will prevent all that bloodletting that we witnessed during the impeachment trial. The improvements to the AMLA (Anti Money Laundering Act) will give the AMLC (Council) more teeth and capability to track illegal wealth.
Clarifications of the powers of the Ombudsman would also establish clearer parameters and protect public officials from unjust persecution. Not that we question the integrity of current Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales — far from it, she has an admirer in your Chair Wrecker. However, laws should be crafted with the safety measure that prevents abuses by less principled power wielders. These abuses do not happen when the law has plugged all the possible areas where it can be utilized for selfish interest or a partisan agenda.
When P-Noy was still candidate Noy in the 2010 presidential election, he did mention to your Chair Wrecker that his fondest wish, if he became president, is to establish systemic reform that will perpetuate the DAANG MATUWID (Straight Path). DAANG MATUWID eventually became the hallmark of his administration. If you are to track the focus of his two-year track record as president, you’ll see that a lot of effort has been dedicated to systemic reform.
He restored line item budgeting that will remove many opportunities for graft and corruption. Less discretion on the use of public funds limits the opportunities for graft and corruption. He opted to defer infrastructure projects until the leaks have been plugged in the government procurement and spending processes. He took a calculated step back in order to allow the many departments and agencies of the Executive Branch to function on its own and according to its respective mandate.
In less than two years, P-Noy brought us from being regarded as an undesirable investment option to one of the most preferred — according to BusinessWeek, Goldman Sachs, HSBC Research, Morgan Stanley, Bloomberg, among others. Last Thursday, it was announced that the Philippines chalked a 6.4 percent GD growth in the first quarter of 2012, the best in Southeast Asia and next only to China in Asia.
A big corporation’s board of directors would just love to have a CEO like P-Noy. Unfortunately, the majority of Filipinos cannot appreciate the virtues of the effective, diligent, silent worker and are occasionally mesmerized by false messiahs and their predilection to cheap gimmickry. George Bernard Shaw wrote in Saint Joan words to the effect that it is a great fault not to know when you’re already defeated — but a worse fault not to know when you’re already victorious.
It’s not a question of whether we are pro-P-Noy or anti-P-Noy. It’s all about Filipinos knowing when they have a good leader and knowing how to help that leader deliver us all into the Promised Land. We can be pro-P-Noy or anti-P-Noy during elections or other issues needing public decision — but it’s to our great benefit to be able to maximize the usefulness of a good leader when we have one.
In our short history as an independent republic, we’ve had our fair share of good and bad presidents. In several instances, good ones — nationalists like Presidents Elpidio Quirino and Carlos Garcia — weren’t fully appreciated for their gallant efforts to wean us from foreign domination, from which we suffer in this day and age. Our damaged culture even makes us Quislings without even knowing it. Many of our countrymen are more inclined to believe the version of our history according to the Americans over the version of our history as promoted by our nationalists.
Many leaders who already have a complete appreciation of what are wholly desired in order to achieve success still manage to fail because of other variables. Imagine our difficulty considering that many of our countrymen do not really completely appreciate the management that they should prescribe for our country.
We’ve become our worst enemies when we irrationally disable the few good men that we have. We’ve become pathetic when we get the leader that we need and we then become party to that leader’s undoing.
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Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”
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Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: firstname.lastname@example.org and www.chairwrecker.com