A Whiff of Pure Air
It seems to appear as comic despair whenever President Digong delivers his usual harangue against irrepressible corruption in the government. His bilious and notorious ranting against it usually predicates his monotonous pronouncement against illicit drugs, which enlivens his loyal listeners, speech after speech. He promised then to eradicate both in 3-6 months time during the campaign period otherwise he will resign the presidency if he wins it, he declared. “Promises made, promises kept” was his traditional victory roar.
Years past, corruption and illicit drugs appear to grow and thrive well instead according to independent reports. The president is singing a different tune as of late. He said it is impossible—he can’t lick both drugs and corruption, and admits they won’t end under his watch especially at this time where his main focus, conceivably, is Covid-19. What a joke!
Early on, he promised that he would fire any government official on “just a whiff of corruption”. In the beginning of his administration, everyone was easily overawed, including his now labeled “yellowtard” critics as he fired the opening salvo—kicking out his DILG Secretary Ismael Sueno over his Fire Trucks deal from Austria found to be overpriced. Prior to this, the head of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA), Peter Lavina was also fired for corruption allegations. Both are important front liners during Duterte’s run for presidency. He followed this up with more firings of minor government officials for same corruption related activities—the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission Executive Director, PACC and OCD officials, among others.
These summary dismissals “served as a warning that Mr. Duterte would not countenance any questionable or legally untenable decisions“ by any government officials, his mouthpiece firmly affirmed.
Well and good!
In between this laudable cleansing of corrupt government officials by the president, VP Leni Robredo who was performing her duties above board and who had never been involved in any wrong doings was surprisingly and promptly fired as well from her Cabinet post. The reason given was owing to certain derangement and diversity of inconsequential political opinion in contrast to the president’s, but arguably rife with anxious ruminations because her popularity was starting to soar.
Recently, a sudden shift is observed on the president’s stance on his claimed time-honored “just a whiff of corruption you are out” pledge. He started covering his eyes, ears and nose incessantly like the three wise monkeys whenever corruption is unearthed in his administration—the BIG ones especially. Take the case of former Bureau of Custom Chiefs Nicanor Faeldon and Isidro Lapena—both are supposedly liable for the disappearance of the smuggled multi-billion Peso shabu, but instead of being fired, they were just transferred to another lucrative jobs, ha,ha!
In a similar way, both Offices that Secretary Francisco Duque heads—the DOH and PhilHealth are mired in a multi-billion Peso controversies. The former for the overpriced purchases of PPE’s and the latter for the illegal funds disbursements. In the Senate hearing on PhilHealth issues, the whistleblower straightforwardly and unequivocally tagged Sec. Doque as the “godfather of the mafia” in that institution. In spite of the stench of corruption, he remains at the helm in both offices because the president obviously wore a “facemask” that prevents him from sniffing the rotten rats? (Is Pres. Glory the “facemask”—whom Pres. Digong owes considerable gratitude for her all out support during his run for presidency, and who endorsed Doque as DOH Secretary in his Cabinet—that prevents him from firing Doque?) Whatever the president’s logical inference in putting his “trust and confidence” on the “damaged” Doque is beyond comprehension. Doque’s whiff of corruption reeks like a smelly butt that spans miles away, come on!
The latest bombshell dropped by PhilHealth’s Regional VP Dennis Adre in the Senate hearing renaming Doque as the mastermind (during his first stint as Health Secretary) in the previous illegal release of five (5) million PhilHealth insurance cards worth Five Hundred (P500M) Million Pesos distributed during the term and campaign for reelection of President Glory in 2004, is next in order of demerit. It happened in the past administration, but enough if just a “whiff of corruption” is used as the basis for his ouster.
Further, Doque’s family reportedly owns the building PhilHealth rents in Pangasinan. Sen. Lacson presented this with full documentation as evidence—the law explicitly prohibits this kind of transaction. He is oozing with corruption any which way you look at it, according to the good Senator. He has been vigorously asking the president for Doque’s head ever since, but to no avail.
Tito Soto, Senate President and one of the members of the popular three stooges—Tito, Vic and Joey of the long lasting Eat Bulaga noontime TV show and an avid supporter of the president, has finally stood up and challenged the President to keep his word on corruption and fire Doque. Still nothing happened.
It is impossible not to doubt that Doque’s continued stay as Secretary of DOH and Chairman of PhilHealth’s BOD can be viewed as President Digong’s repayment of debt to his benefactor. In an interview on May 21, 2016 in Davao City, then as the In-coming president, he boldly said; ”Let me be clear: my friendship with my friends ends, where the interest of the country begins”. In other words, the interest of the people is paramount to any of his personal consideration. Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque would surely assert: “the president is only joking, the public should know better—Joke only” if one ever asks him about this particular pronouncement of the president.
The newly appointed PhilHealth President & CEO, Dante Gierran, hopefully is the right person to stir that institution. Nonetheless, it does not change the fact that Doque lost all moral ascendancy to remain, even for a minute, in any of the two important positions he holds.
This is not to denigrate whatever good intention of the president who previously belabored to rid the government of unscrupulous government officials. But, in the face of this apparent multi-billion Peso embezzlements expose’ in PhilHealth, and other fresh criticism and misdeeds that bedevil Doque, this presidential dictum of “just a whiff of corruption and you are out” has reached such truly abject lows and is likened today to nothing but just a nauseating fart and pure air!