Filipino Cabinet Investigates Two Secretaries

By YENA SEO, THE WALL STREET JOURNAL (Expository)

The Cabinet of the Philippines has been rocked by scandals involving two of its secretaries. General Ricardo David, the Chief of Staff of the Philippine Armed Forces, and Bai Omera D. Dianalan-Lucman, the Commissioner and Secretary of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), have both been charged with corruption and are the subject of various investigation initiatives led by other cabinet members.

The cabinet has introduced a number of directives to investigate the secretaries, all of which supported such inquiries but differed on the specific mechanisms and structures to be used for the investigation. Two directives, “Benevolence” and “Stop Corruption,” were introduced to be passed in conjunction, while another directive, “Trust,” was also introduced and emphasized the use of a third-party organization to conduct the investigation.

The “Benevolence” and “Stop Corruption” directives supported the establishment of the Anti-Corruption Task Force, which would monitor government relations with businesses and lead an investigation into the personal finances of General David and Dianalan-Lucman. If an investigation led to a conclusion that the two secretaries were guilty of corruption charges, they would be forced to leave the cabinet. Additionally, “Benevolence” would schedule regular, annual audits from independent boards, which would report to the Secretary of Finance, Cesar Purisima.

Leila de Lima, the Secretary of Justice, expressed support for the “Benevolence” directive, noting that it was effective by using already-existing resources at the disposal of the cabinet, such as the FBI and the CIA.

Other delegates protested the “Benevolence” and “Stop Corruption” directives, arguing that an investigation by a third-party agency would yield the best results. Jose Rene Almendras, the Secretary of Energy, stated that the directives had “zero specifications” on the creation, funding and implementation of the Anti-Corruption Task Force.

As an alternative, the “Trust” directive supported the idea of using Transparency International to investigate David and Dianalan-Lucman. Its sponsors noted that Transparency International is a non-governmental organization that is committed to eliminating corruption in governments around the world.

“‘Stop Corruption would establish an investigation that would be led by the Secretary of Finance,” Lucman said. “This is just opportunism for him and could be argued as a form of corruption.”

Secretary of Finance Purisima rebutted the criticisms of his directive, contending that as a non-governmental organization, Transparency International did not have the authority to prosecute the two secretaries, and would not be able to use the formal documents needed for a thorough audit. Purisima asserted that the best approach would be to work within the Filipino government and its structures.

To balance out the cabinet’s building tensions, Rosalinda Baldoz, the Secretary of Labor and Employment, noted that the succeeding directive must be careful to respect the two secretaries, who have been charged but not convicted.

“We must ensure the integrity of our actions,” Baldoz said. “Any directive that restricts the rights of the two secretaries is a threat to our democracy and our national security.”

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A member of the Cabinet of the Philippines expresses concern over the “Stop Corruption” and “Benevolence” directives.

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