MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida will hold on to his share of 60% of his family-owned security firm that has bagged P261.39 million in government contracts since July 2016 or when he took office as the country’s top lawyer.
“The law says that if conflict of interest arises, then you have 2 choices, resign or divest. I chose one,” Calida said on Tuesday, June 19, on the sidelines of the Supreme Court oral arguments on same-sex marriage.
Calida was referring to Section 6 of the Code of Conduct of Public Officials which states that if a conflict of interest arises, the official “shall resign and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within sixty (60) days from such assumption.”
The use of the word “or” gave him an option to choose only one, Calida said. Calida resigned from Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Incorporated (Vigilant) in 2016.
However, Rule IX of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of the Code of Conduct says that if certain conditions are met, “divestment shall be mandatory for any official or employee even if he has resigned from his position in any private business enterprise.”
The conditions are: the official is a substantial stockholder or a member of the board or an owner or a partner. Calida owns majority shares of his company, while the rest is evenly shared among his wife and their 3 children.
“Sino ba ang kuwan, the law or the IRR, it’s the law (Which is [superior], the law or the IRR, it's the law),” Calida said.
Calida said that the statement of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales deals with a hypothetical situation, and therefore not an actual case of conflict of interest.
Morales, whose office is handling the complaint against Calida, said that investigators are considering potential conflict of interest because the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) could end up representing the government agencies that Vigilant has contracts with.
“If there’s a conflict of interest, meaning to say there’s an actual interest, hindi pwede yung potential or hypothetical conflict (it's not enough that there's a potential or hypothetical conflict), that’s what the law says,” Calida said.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said that he will not fire Calida because “he’s good.” Calida has won all cases which are of interest to Duterte, including martial law in Mindanao, the continued detention of staunch administration critic Senator Leila De Lima, and the hero’s burial given to the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos Sr. – Rappler.com