An ill omen and scandal is streaking through the skies of Philippine politics.
With bated breath, we await action and result. Is the people’s patience once more being pushed towards a burst in what heretofore has been reluctant but simmering outrage? When will the breach occur?
Oh, well. Just another scandal? Is it just a passing ‘flavor’ of the month? But the omen is hanging fire.
Jose Callangan Calida is the current Solicitor General of the country. He has brought unequalled notoriety to the Office of the Solicitor General of the Philippines and, of course, upon himself, like no other. And that is why we talk about him, concerned and beset by his continued stay in office. I personally doubt that his reputation will ever be repaired. Even under a consenting and abetting regime to which he is an apparently well-rewarded servant.
That Malacanang is now circling the wagons in defense of obvious skullduggery and impunity is indicative of public morality and ethics being vandalized by the very gatekeepers themselves. Signs of Duterte times? You bet! Something has just got to give!
The Calida scandal involves conflict of interest. But the usual inveterate coffee shop jokesters have headlined it as “the Solicitor General caught moonlighting as a Security Guard!” Actually, here is what happened.
There is a business entity, Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc., owned and controlled by the Solicitor General and his family. Calida himself holds 60% of equity. Calida’s company has been exposed to have landed more than Ph260 million pesos in contracts with some 14 government agencies. Perhaps, the justification easily available is that when you are useful as an indispensable tool of President Duterte, there has got to be perquisites that you can award yourself. Now, does that amount to criminal impropriety?
Both the President and his spokesman have come to the defense of Calida. “No conflict of interest,” the spokesman says. And the President: “Why should I fire him? He is good!” It is apparent that Malacanang might even attempt to hijack law and jurisprudence once more. I guess the vain attempt will be to prove that ownership of corporate shares is not a financial interest!
Conflict of interest is “a circumstance of a public officeholder whose personal interest benefits from his official action or influence.” Therefore, the no-nonsense litmus test is simple. Even a Duterte can understand it! If Calida were not Solicitor General, would his Vigilant Investigative Security Agency, Inc. have been able to land a business contract with any government institution?
Before we call it a day, let me backtrack a bit.
In June 30, 2016, a certain lawyer from Davao, struggling out of obscurity, was sworn in as the Republic’s Solicitor General (OSG). No doubt about it, Jose C. Calida is a political crony of the brand new President. Rodrigo R. Duterte, himself sworn into the nation’s most exalted office just a few hours earlier.
Such urgency of appointment must have some yet unexplained meaning and objectives. What calculated nefarious intent may have been behind this appointment, we may never fully know. But the behavior of the Solicitor General and the use to which the Duterte administration has already unleashed the OSG, including the “Quo Warranto” petition filed by Calida that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, provide evidence of evil exactions.
The Solicitor General is the “principal law officer and legal defender of the Republic.” Where government is a party, he determines the government’s legal position. The Solicitor General is the President’s lawyer and alter ego. The very least that can be expected of the Government’s top attorney, therefore, is for him to know the law.
What does the law say? There is a precise prohibition found in the Constitution, Article VII, Sec. 13, referring to an enumeration of government officials that include the President and the Solicitor General. To briefly paraphrase: “They shall not…directly or indirectly…be financially interested in any contract…granted by the Government, agency or government-owned or controlled corporations or subsidiaries…They shall strictly avoid conflict of interest in the conduct of their office.”
Having been able to bend the Constitution once, towards upholding their skewed interpretation and be rid of a conscientious critic, the lady Chief Justice, may embolden another assignment for the eight supine sycophants among the Supremes. Maybe they can also mess around with the constitutional meaning of “conflict of interest.”
By the way, Calida’s political party affiliation is recorded as: “Citizens’ Battle Against Corruption.” And until his appointment, he was the secretary-general of the infamous “Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.”
The Office of the Solicitor General’s motto is: “Integrity in advocacy. Social justice through advocacy.”
It will only hurt, when you laugh!
Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.