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Bacolod City, Philippines Friday, October 3, 2014
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TIGHT ROPE
WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY

His pleasure

TIGHT ROPE
WITH MODESTO P. SA-ONOY

The revelations during the Senate hearing last Tuesday indicate clearly that Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima has failed to credibly explain the source of his wealth. As Senator Serge Osmeña keeps on repeating, “I don’t believe you.” Senator Grace Poe also expressed the same view – Purisima is simply not telling the truth. Despite the effort of Senator Antonio Trillanes to divert the issues, the glaring facts of misconduct bordering on graft and corruption cannot be erased or simply glossed over.

There are cases of plunder filed against Purisima and Sen. Poe opines that Purisima ought to at least go on leave. Others demand that he resigns, or the President relieves and investigates him but Purisima will not resign.

President Aquino had earlier said he trusts Purisima and he would not sack him.

As with other top officials of the government who are facing plunder cases, their common response to demands for their resignation is: I serve at the pleasure of the President. Since it is the pleasure of the President to retain them, there is nothing the public can do about it until Aquino leaves the presidency.

And thus to serve the pleasure of the President, the secretaries of Agriculture, Social Welfare and Development, Energy and Transportation and Communications refuse to resign and continue to draw criticisms and inflict harm on the Filipino people.

No investigation is conducted. The word of the President is sufficient to clear them of any and all charges of corruption as if being his secretary makes them incapable of committing graft and are above the rest of the Filipinos.

Compare this with the action of the Supreme Court in the case of Associate Justice Gregory Ong. The court formed a committee to investigate and when the committee recommended Ong’s dismissal, the Court did not blink, but discharged Ong from the Sandigan and stripped him of all his benefits. Ong was one of them, but the Court sends the message that nobody is above the law, and that even justices can commit a crime.

The Supreme Court tells us that people in public service serve at the pleasure of the people and not whoever appointed them.

Take another case of public officials thinking that they serve at the pleasure of the appointing power, that of Reynaldo “Butch” Ebreo of the Bacolod Traffic Authority Office. The drivers and their associations are united in one demand: remove Ebreo. They even dubbed their movement as “Target Ebreo” to show that their demand is not frivolous but a serious one, and that they will persist until Ebreo either resigns or is removed.

The protesters are not content with filing the complaint but want immediate action – never mind the investigation. They want instant action. Pronto!

But Ebreo’s boss, Monico Puentevella said he will not remove Ebreo, categorically and emphatically, although he said he would remove Ebreo if he was not performing well. That he has not dismissed Ebreo tells the protesters that Ebreo is doing well. It means that Ebreo pleases Puentevella.

The anti-Ebro protesters are just as adamant. The BTAO chief may please Puentevella but he definitely does not please the protesters.

Ebreo refuses to let go of his post no matter the rising crescendo of protests.

Who will give in?

The only way out of this stalemate is for Ebreo to resign and save his boss. Or Puentevella can dismiss Ebreo and displease his loyal worker.

The protesters must remember that their accusation about Ebreo collecting money without issuing receipts is not his own. It was with the imprimatur of Puentevella. This deepens the issue beyond Ebreo’s strict enforcement of traffic rules. It raises the question of whether Ebreo’s actuation – collecting money and not issuing official receipts, was a direct order from Puentevella and not Ebreo’s unilateral decision.

The implication of the charge is that Ebreo pocketed the money. So then, if Ebreo took the money for himself, then he should be sacked. But what if he shared the money with someone else that Puentevella cannot refuse or divulge?

Or is it possible that this whole scenario is a drama to provide Puentevella with a reason to send Ebreo packing? What if Puentevella has found Ebreo to be a hot potato but does not have enough cause to dismiss him since Ebreo’s actions were under Puentevella’s orders?

What if Ebreo is dismissed and he sings like the whistleblowers in the Napoles case? Can Puentevella afford that?

We repeat that all public officials must serve at the pleasure of the people.*

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