THE Palace maintains that there was no conflict of interest when a security agency owned by Solicitor-General Jose Calida bagged at least P150 million in government contracts.
In his own defense, Calida said he had already resigned as chairman and president of his family owned Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc. before he was appointed solicitor-general on July 1, 2106.
His resignation, however, was not accompanied by a divestment of his interests in the company.
Submissions to the Securities and Exchange Commission show that Calida maintained a 60-percent interest, while his wife and three children owned the remaining 40 percent.
The Palace and Calida say this is perfectly legal.
Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, says, in Section 9, the following:
“A public official or employee shall avoid conflicts of interest at all times. When a conflict of interest arises, he shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within thirty (30) days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within sixty (60) days from such assumption.”
The conjunction “and/or” in this provision, Calida and the Palace say, suggests that divestment is optional.
Elsewhere in the code, Section 7 also prohibits public officials and employees from having directly or indirectly, any financial or material interest in any transaction requiring the approval of their office.
Calida points out that the Office of the Solicitor General had no role in approving the contracts granted to his company by any of the agencies involved.
Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, meanwhile, bars any public official from having a direct or indirect “financing or pecuniary interest in any business, contract or transaction in connection with which he intervenes or takes part in his official capacity, or in which he is prohibited by the Constitution or by any law from having any interest.”
Again, Calida and the Palace say the solicitor-general has not intervened or taken part in his official capacity in any of the questioned transactions.
These arguments are legalistic, however, and suggest no laws were broken—but they do not say the solicitor general acted ethically.
While it may be true that the solicitor general had no official say in granting the government contracts to his company, how can the public be assured that no unofficial action was taken to better his company’s chances? The mere knowledge among the government agencies involved that the solicitor-general was a major stockholder in the security agency could easily have given his company an unfair advantage over other bidders for the same contracts.
Laws set down what a person may or may not do; ethics tell us what the person should do. The solicitor general, in following the letter of the law, may have been acting legally, but that is a far cry from our ideal that he also act ethically. Aren’t we supposed to demand this of our public officials? / posted June 04, 2018 at 12:01 am
ASEANEWS EDITORIAL CARTOONS:.
7.1. The Daily Tribune ( WEBSITE CLOSED)
7.2 The Manila Bulletin – This could one day be our problem, too
7.3. The Manila Standard – Acting ethically
7.5. The Philippine Daily Inquirer –Timely law
7. Contractualization pinapraktis pa rin -– Pilipino Star Ngayon –- Sister Fox!
8.1. For The Straits Times – Russia and the West
Jonathan Eyal – Europe Correspondent
Jonathan Eyal was born in Romania, but has lived most of his life in Britain. Educated at Oxford and London universities, his initial training was in international law and relations, in which he obtained both his first degree and his Master’s with a Distinction. His doctorate, completed at Oxford in 1987, analysed relations between ethnic minorities in Eastern Europe. After teaching at Oxford for three years, Dr Eyal was appointed a researcher at the Royal United Services Institute for Defence Studies in London. Since 1990, Dr Eyal has been Director of Studies at the Institute. Dr Eyal has authored books on military relations in the Balkans and Eastern Europe, and became a regular commentator for The Guardian newspaper in London. He started writing for The Straits Times in 2001, and is currently the paper’s Europe Correspondent. He is fluent in French, Romanian, Italian, Hungarian and German.