09 September 2009

Speaker's Strange Defense of Mikey

House Speaker Prospero Nograles
When the Speaker of House of Representatives shrugged off the failure of Pampanga Representative Mikey Arroyo to declare in his 2007 and 2008 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) a US$ 1.32-million house in the United States, he clearly showed that his loyalties are not with the Filipino people, but to the lawmaker he owed his Speakership position.

This is another classic example of home-grown 'utang-na-loob' behavior that has plagued the country's political landscape for several decades already. These politicians told voters before election that they are out to stop crime and corruption without fear or favor and yet, more than 20 years after Ferdinand Marcos was toppled from power, the same thing is happening again and nobody in Congress had the temerity to stand against it.

It is clear as day that the logic of Speaker Prospero Nograles' defense of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s son sounds strange. Being the highest official of the House of Representatives, Nograles should be among the first to see that the matter is 'substantial' precisely because Arroyo is the son of the President. Regular employees in the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) have been held to more severe scrutiny and accountability for much less. Nograles surely has heard of that centuries-old standard of public service: Like Caesar’s wife, a president’s better half must be above suspicion. It is not enough that a president’s spouse is honest; just as importantly, she or he must be perceived to be honest.

When will someone in authority in realize that indulging nutcase 'clerics', fundamentalist racist firebrands and corrupt presidential sons is counter-productive to the country's economic development? Is it not obvious to Speaker Nograles that Mikey's media pronouncements are ripe with several inconsistencies?

The President’s first-born has said, "I have declared everything I own in my SALN. It is self-explanatory." However, in an interview with Arnold Clavio and Solita Monsod over GMA-7 (and now circulating on YouTube), he explained: The property, a beachfront house on 1655 Beach Park Boulevard in Foster City, San Mateo County, San Francisco, is actually owned by Beach Way Park LLC (Limited Liability Company). His SALN declares his 20-percent interest in Beach Way, of which another 20 percent is owned by his 'family,' with the remaining 60 percent belonging to partners he did not identify out of respect for their privacy or maybe he could not identify because there are none.

Instead of following blindly like an incompetent lawmaker, Speaker Nograles would have fared better in the public's eyes if he answered these questions: Is it proper for the President’s son to receive huge amounts money as gifts? Is it proper to keep excess campaign funds for personal use? Can election fund-raising be used as a strategy for wealth accumulation? What deals did he cut to make his fortune rise during lean times? Or does he share the secret with his mother, whose net worth grew from PhP 66.7 million in 2002 to PhP 171.8 in 2008?

In the future, maybe when another President takes office, he or she could investigate these issues again and bar anybody in government from defending the person in question until all details are properly revealed to the public in order to protect social order and democracy. It is clear that politicians who hide their wealth and fellow politicians who help defend them have no respect for democracy or anybody else, except their own pockets and self-interest. If they are allowed to continue to hold to a public office, they will make a bad example of social cohesion and thereby ultimately imperil democracy itself.

However, there is also a practical solution at hand. If the disillusion that many Filipinos feel is to be dispelled, then it is essential that the widespread perception they hold that corruption is somehow nurtured and encouraged by the authorities to the detriment of honest taxpayers must be addressed, instead of simply being blithely dismissed as a way of life.