MANILA, Philippines – If the case of dismissed Sandiganbayan Justice Gregory Ong were to be used as template, Philippine National Police chief Alan Purisima would have violated 4 laws already when he allowed contractors to build his official residence inside Camp Crame for free and when he purchased a Toyota Land Cruiser at a huge discount.
And those who gave him favors could be liable as well.
Supreme Court Justice Mario Victor Leonen, in his concurring opinion, cited 4 laws that the expelled magistrate transgressed when he accepted favors from Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind behind the illegal diversion of lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund.
These laws, which regulate the act or practice of gift-giving to public officials, are:
- Articles 210-212 of the Revised Penal Code
- Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act)
- Republic Act No. 6713 (Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees)
- Presidential Decree 46 (Making it Punishable for Public Officials and Employees to Receive, and for Private Persons to Give, Gifts on Any Occasion, including Christmas)
And these laws that nailed Ong could be applicable to Purisima as well.
The PNP chief, who is in the eye of the storm for alleged questionable wealth, has been taken to task for receiving favors that raised questions about his integrity.
He has admitted that contractors offered to build his controversial official residence, dubbed as the “White House,” at no cost to government. The construction reportedly amounted to P12 million.
He also admitted purchasing a Toyota Land Cruiser in 2013 for only P1.5 million ($33,406). A brand new Land Cruiser in 2013 would have cost at least P3 million ($66,812).
Yet he also revealed that friends lent him a bullet-proof SUV. (READ: Bulletproof SUV? Lent by friends, says PNP chief)
In justifying these favors, Purisima argued that the White House contractors and the car dealer were never involved in any contracts with the PNP anyway. (READ: Contractors funded PNP chief’s Crame residence)
The Palace has downplayed suggestions that Purisima committed any graft. (READ: Palace defends Purisima despite law banning gifts)
But just like Ong, given Purisima’s high position, he is expected to abide by such laws.
In the case of Ong, Leonen disagreed with the dissenting justices there has to be proof that Ong accepted the favors he got from Napoles in exchange for some consideration. Ong chaired the anti-graft court’s 4th Division which handled the Marines’ Kevlar case where Napoles and several family members were charged. (READ: SC dismisses anti-graft justice linked to Napoles)
Based on the investigation conducted by former justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Ong obtained favors from Napoles – from financial accommodations to having access to the Black Nazarene robe, which supposedly has healing powers.
Ong however defended himself, saying that the favors were offered after the helmet case was resolved.
While it was not established that Ong accepted the favors in direct relation to Napoles’ acquittal in the helmet case, Leonen opined that the “mere receipt” of the favors are “in itself illegal“ because of his position.
As specified in Article 211 of the Revised Penal Code, Leonen said Ong committed indirect bribery when he took the favors “offered to him by reason of his office.”
Leonen said Section 3(b) of RA 3019, in further refining what constitutes indirect bribery, specifically stated that “any favor is considered a corrupt practice if committed by a public official who is in a capacity to intervene under the law,” like obtaining or securing government permits or license.
“The Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act added the prohibition against ‘directly or indirectly requesting’ gifts, presents, shares, percentages and other benefits in connection with the work of a public officer,” Leonen stressed. The ban also includes “soliciting for others, including members of the family of the public officer.”
Act of liberality
The justice also cited RA 6713 which defined what is grossly unlawful and what is legally acceptable as gifts or favors.
A gift “refers to a thing or a right disposed of gratuitously or any act of liberality, in favor of another who accepts it and shall include a simulated sale or an ostensibly onerous disposition.”
Sec. 3 (d) of the law warns that “public officials and employees shall not solicit, or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the court of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.”
The exception to this ban is when the favor or the gift is of nominal or insignificant value and “not given in anticipation of, or in exchange for, a favor from a public official or employee.”
But what if the one giving the gift or favor expected nothing in return, and it was given during an occasion? Corruption still exists, by virtue of the public official’s position alone.
The justice pointed out that PD 46, which was issued during former president Ferdinand Marcos’ time and which remains in effect, expressly prohibited public officials from receiving and private persons from giving “any gift, present or other valuable thing on any occasion, including Christmas, when such gift….is given by reason of his official position.”
This ban is in effect “regardless of whether or not the same is for past favors or the giver hopes or expects to receive a favor or a better treatment in the future from the public official or employee concerned in the discharge of his official function.”
Ticket to dismissal
In arguing for the outright dismissal and perpetual disqualification of Ong from public service, Leonen said the SC had penalized or removed lower court judges for lesser and minor transgressions.
One judge was removed for soliciting money from a litigant for food for his court staff’s Christmas party, while another was fined for receiving contribution to a barangay fiesta. Still, another judge was dismissed for receiving free bus tickets to a litigant bus company. How much more for a justice in a higher position?
What about the gift-giver or the one who provided the favor?
The Revised Penal Code states that same penalties will be imposed “upon any person who shall have made the offers or promises or given the gifts of presents.” Penalty may range from imprisonment of 1 year to 5 years.
If these standards applied to Ong, why shouldn’t they apply to the PNP chief as well? – Rappler.com
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