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Rifts of Gifts, Loss of Laws

I was in the 8th Grade classroom, sitting behind the teacher’s table. Then, this student who has a British stepfather and a jetsetter Filipina mother comes up to me and hands me stuff all wrapped up in plastic bag. I was startled and asked him what it was. He tells me that it was chocolates from his parents. I strongly refused and emphasized that receiving gifts was specifically against policy. The student insisted with a worried look, pointing that it was his mother’s instruction to have me receive the sweets; (as if he were to get the beating of his life if he returns home with the toffies still in his possession). That and the thought of how good it would taste to munch on those bars, I took a quick survey of the class which all appeared too busy to notice, and the corridors which was free of any passing supervisor, I pulled the table drawer open, and told the kid, “Drop it here”.

Once again, we’re treated to one of the President’s radical remarks, in the tradition of making wipes of the Constitution and defiance against the Commission on Audit. In case you haven’t heard or read about it, cops are given a presidential go signal to receive gifts and dismissed such cases to be grounds for graft cases. In my then juvenile mind, when I first encountered decrees barring the bearing of gifts for bureaucrats, I initially thought, “what the heck”. What’s the deal? What grudge does the government got against generosity? I thought then that it’s a person’s private call to give gifts if he wants to. But then again, in the dynamics of deception and manipulation, gestures of generosity are potentially good instruments of influence for interest and improvement. It could be an intentional bribe or an unintentional favor which makes a person in authority uncomfortable to give unfavorable decisions to the giver. So, for everyone’s peace and quiet, and for elimination of temptation, collaboration, suspicion and accusation, let’s make gift giving unlawful altogether.

While the Die-hard Duterte Scorners would be all too quick to jump on the opportunity to ridicule and revolt against the President’s anti-legal rhetoric, Senator Bato de la Rosa (yes, the former PNP Chief, better get used to it) explained it interestingly. If I may quote, he said, “Nangyayari naman talaga ‘yan”. Okay, okay, hold your horses before you spew out arguments against tolerance of clearly inscribed illegal activity. I know the free Bicolano mind would rebut that with the reason that the regularity of an event does not revolutionize its retention of its unlawfulness; it would still be wrong in spite of it happening all the time. But you have to admit that such authenticity brings to light a clash between constitution and culture. Yes, there are written laws against it, but they happen all the time. Laws may insist; but practice persists. At least, this new senator has the guts to admit actual state of affairs.

Yes, it’s illegal; but they still happen. Such acts may constitute graft and corruption; but givers don’t care. Pure intentions are what matter. As one lawyer points out, it would be really difficult because it’s in Filipino nature to give out of genuine gratitude; and no graft charge is going to grab that gift away. The barangay tanod passes by, barangay folk would prepare bread and coffee. Teacher’s Day comes; pupils bring foodstuffs or gifts. Police officer hitches a ride; tricycle driver refuses the payment (or the cop just hops out assuming the favor). Yes, these are meager motions, but they are tips of icebergs of grander gestures that are generated among us. The brandy bottle that comes along with a document, the surprise birthday gift for that superior, that patronage for the business of which the person in authority is proprietor; come on, the general turned senator is just telling the truth. It’s all over; and we call it illegal and unlawful.

It’s not just the giving of gifts. How about parents not sending their children to school? What about waste disposal? How about child labor? What about sale of cigarettes and liquor to minors? How about the accessibility of computer shops to students during class hours? What about pornography? Is the public even familiar with the Accessibility Law for Persons with Disability, the Batas Pambansa 344, way back 1983. Just take a look at the inaccessibility of public walkways. The list could go on. They’re illegal, sometimes they would go against common sense, but they persist. Some would say that perpetrators are simply a struggle to stop; or are we just too complacent, or tolerant? Or is it just part of our culture? For the meantime, let me bite some chocolates.

“Do not have two differing measures in your house—one”

Deuteronomy 25:14

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