'Kung sino ang may pinag-aralan, 'yun pa ang nagko-corrupt'

MANILA, Philippines – What is the business of the Office of the Ombudsman giving salutations to non-public officials? To serve a lesson, best said by one of the awardees, an airport janitor who has returned millions of pesos in several occasions to the owners.

Ronald Gadayan, a janitor at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), returned bundles of cash worth P2.4 million, and in another instance, US$ 5,000, with no regrets.

"Kasi ang iniisip ko pinagpaguran ng kababayan natin yan. Dapat nating isauli kasi nakakaawa, tsaka hindi rin yun eh, hindi ko naman yun pinagpaguran eh," Gadayan said when he was awarded one of the 5 integrity awards given by the Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday, September 19.

(What I was thinking was that the money was the fruit of labor of my fellow Filipino so I have to return it because I feel sorry for them, and more than that, I didn't work for that money.)

Saying that he knows the Ombudsman to be the crusader against corrupt government officials and employees, Gadayan said: "Kung sino ang may pinag-aralan yun pa ang nagko-corrupt. Dapat hindi ganun."

(It's a pity that the educated ones are the ones who are corrupt. It shouldn't be like that.)

The Office of the Ombudsman is tasked with filing corruption charges against public officials, as well as recovering ill-gotten wealth, the most recent being the P124.5 million in plundered money from Senator Bong Revilla and Janet Lim Napoles.

The other 4 awardees are NAIA cleaner Sixto Brillante, who returned a bag which contained P400,000; Clark airport janitor Grace Laxamana, who returned a bag to an Overseas Filipino Worker (OFW) containing US$1,000; 17-year-old Agustin Laude who returned a bag full of cash worth P300,000 when he was 12 years old; and a posthumous award to Marine 1st Lieutenant John Frederick Savellano who turned over to the military almost P80 million worth of stale checks and cash his unit recovered while in the war zone in Marawi.

'Iba ang mabait sa mabuti'

Savellano was 29 years old when he was killed along with 12 other Marines on June 19, 2017, when they attempted to push back enemies at the now symbolic Mapandi Bridge.

Before his death, Savellano made headlines for leading his platoon in recovering millions from Maute bases in Marawi.

Savellano's mother Mercy said other platoon members wanted to divide the money among themselves.

“Actually no’ng na-recover nila ‘yong P80 million na pera sa Marawi, sabi ko sa kanya, don’t do anything that will harm your career. Kasi baka ma-tempt siya. Isa lang ang sinabi niya, ‘Ma, pagkatao ko ang nakasalalay’" said Mercy.

(When they recovered the P80 million in Marawi, I told him to not do anything that will harm his career. Maybe he would be tempted, but he told me one thing, 'Ma, my person and my character are at stake.') 

His father, Federico, said the slain soldier was not only kind, he was good.

“Alam namin na hindi niya gagalawin ‘yong pera na ‘yon. Kilala namin ‘yong anak namin talagang mabuting tao. Iba ‘yong mabait, iba ‘yong mabuti. Siya ay isang mabuting tao,” Federico said.

(We knew he wouldn't touch that money. We knew our son to be a good person. A kind person is different from a good person. Our son was a good person.)

The Office of the Ombudsman gave each of the awardees P50,000.

The awards, called Aguhon ng mga Bagong Bayani, is an effort under Ombudsman Samuel Martires to reintegrate values formation into the government's fight against corruption. (READ: As others improve tech vs corruption, Martires focuses on values formation)

“Ito ‘yong ating mga bagong bayani, mga taong dapat nating tularan, mga taong huwaran. Perfect example of integrity. Sana meron tayo no’n, sana meron tayong pagpapahalaga sa ating sarili, pagmamahal sa ating sarili. Doon nagsisimula ‘yon,” said Martires.

(They are our new heroes, people we should emulate. They are the perfect examples of integrity. I hope we have that too, I hope we give importance to ourselves, love for ourselves. That is where it starts.)


WATCH: Parents of 1/Lt John Frederick Savellano, one of the soldiers who died in the line of duty in Marawi. Lt Savellano recovered and returned P79 million in cash and stale checks at a Maute house pic.twitter.com/Xu1T8RurLm — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) September 19, 2019 Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.