Published in the Manila Standard Today newspaper on /2012/June/02 by Elizabeth Angsioco
MY COFFEE tasted even more bitter when I saw the headline: PNoy won’t sign waiver.
The call for transparency and accountability in governance has been on for many years. These are reasons why the Filipino people turned their backs on previous Presidents Ferdinand Marcos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
The first two were ousted when citizens trooped to the streets to reclaim what was theirs in the first place—the choice of the President who will lead the country out of the quagmire we have been in for decades. The last, who benefited from the Estrada’s ouster, is ironically, detained and facing several cases for acts many feel betrayed public trust.
The people’s quest for transparency and accountability was not lost on then-presidential aspirant Noynoy Aquino. This led to his campaign promise to waive his rights to bank secrecy should he win.
Two years after occupying Malacanang and after successfully unseating the former chief justice in the name of, yes, transparency and accountability, the Palace is now singing a different tune. And this is making a lot of people doubt the President’s word.
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte rationalized this by saying that the context was the Corona challenge for high government officials to waive their secrecy rights. She said that since Aquino was not accused of the charges the ousted CJ faced, there was no need to sign the waiver.
How can the Palace miss the context? The context is the people’s clamor. The context is the President’s promise. The Corona case happened because of that context—as what has been repeatedly said during the trial by no less than PNoy.
The context is our quest for transparent and accountable governance —the “tuwid na daan”. And the standards should be the same for everyone, ESPECIALLY the President who should lead as the country traverses the path of righteousness.
The best thing that came out of the former chief justice’s impeachment is this golden opportunity to demand full transparency from public servants.
Now we know that Statements of Assets and Liabilities are PUBLIC documents AND can be scrutinized. Because of Corona’s precedent-setting (though late for his own good) waiver, we now can and should call on our officials to issue the same so that in the event that complaints are filed against them, their financial transactions may be looked into by proper authorities.
Some even demand that like the SALN, the waiver should be made a requisite for everyone assuming public office. Why not? As the impeachment prosecution was fond of saying, “Kung walang itinatago, hindi dapat matakot.”
The funny thing is that many of those who refuse to sign or are eerily quiet about signing bank secrecy waivers are those who have, during the trial, been at the forefront of the “quest for transparency and accountability.”
Lead prosecutor Rep. Niel Tupas reportedly said that those calling for him to sign the waiver are only after “pogi” points and that he would not dignify such calls. Tupas cannot be more wrong. The people demanding this of him are not politicians who, like him, need to be “pogi” especially after his nationwide display of incompetence and dirty tactics during the trial. If anything, the waiver can help save Tupas’ reputation.
But all is not lost. A number of politicians have risen to the challenge. Some of the 188 House complainants against Corona have said that they are willing to sign waivers. These include prosecution spokespersons Deputy Speaker Erin Tanada and Rep. Sonny Angara.
Senators Chiz Escudero and Allan Peter Cayetano are supposed to have already submitted their waivers to the Senate.
The House minority and the Makabayan block have actually signed theirs. I just do not know those waivers’ contents.
To my knowledge, the very first to sign was complainant and Liberal Party member Ifugao Representative Teddy Brawner Baguilat whose duly notarized waiver was dated 28 May. I quote Rep. Baguilat’s waiver because this may be used as a model for transparency:
“I, … do hereby waive my right of confidentiality and secrecy of bank deposits under RA 1405, as amended, and RA 6426. I also hereby authorize all banking institutions to disclose to the public all bank documents, pertaining to all peso and foreign currency accounts under my name.
I authorize the Bureau of Internal Revenue, the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Securities and Exchange Commission and Land Registration Authority to disclose to the public any and all information that may show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections.”
In a statement, Rep. Baguilat said, “… I am open to Ifugaos knowing the financial situation of their representative now and for the years to come and also to show the country that representatives take accountability and transparency seriously…”
Baguilat is a neophyte. But already, he is showing more senior representatives how politics should be practiced. This is the kind of politician we need, the kind people should support.
It is not yet late for the President. He should sign his soon.
Stop wavering on the waiver.
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