[Opinion] Check and balance: An evil for corruption

It continues to intrigue me, this phenomenon of otherwise unrelated social events falling into place, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Or – since I have been accustomed to it anyway – like all those various scenarios of montage coming together in one amazingly cohesive whole you call cinema.

The Office of the Ombudsman upholds its decision finding merit in the graft case that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez filed against Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Floirendo. Alvarez alleges in his complaint that Floirendo violates Section 3 (h) of RA 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, for continuing to be baoard member of Tagum Agricultural Development Company (Tadeco) despite his election as congressman. Shortly after, the Speaker throws a party quite reminiscent of the one Nero in 64 AD indulged in, fiddling, as the story goes, while Rome burned. Was this a celebration already, too, of that decision approved by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on January 15?

At any rate, for that Alvarez earns the flak of certain quarters of the media, like this one from Solita Collas-Monsod, who in her characteristic vibrant vitriolic vibe wrote in “To lead a modest life” Inquirerdotnet (January 27, 2018), citing among others:

“Article XI of the 1987 Constitution on the Accountability of Public Officers provides: Section 1. Public office is a public trust… Public officers must at all times be accountable to the people and serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, … and lead modest lives.’ (emphasis provided)

“In Republic Act 6713, or ‘An Act Establishing the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees…,’ Section 4 (h) says: Public officials and their families shall lead modest lives…. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.’ (emphasis provided) Further, one of the definitions of corruption is ‘the use of public office for private gain.’

Solita, of course, is referring to the grand features of the much-ballyhooed 60th birthday celebration of the House Speaker: food and drinks galore all that week long, a free concert on Tuesday with top-rate showbiz performers, spectacular fireworks in the Friday finale event, and a coterie of political luminaries led by President Rodrigo Duterte no less and counting Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre, Presidential spokesman Harry Roque, Senate President Koko Pimentel, Representatives Rodolfo Fariñas, Feliciano Belmonte, Jr., Gwendolyn Garcia, etc.

Read the full original article at The Manila Times.

 

Antigraft Agency Charges Jambi Governor With Bribery

Indonesia's Corruption Eradication Commission, or KPK, announced on Friday (02/02) that Jambi governor Zumi Zola has been charged with bribery.

"KPK has found enough evidence to charge two suspects in a bribery case related to government projects in Jambi — ZZ, the governor of Jambi, and ARM, the head of Jambi's road operator Bina Marga, who is also the head of the local public works and housing department," commissioner Basaria Pandjaitan said, referring to the suspects by their initials, as reported by BeritaSatu TV.

ARM, or Arfan, was declared a suspect earlier in another bribery case related to Jambi's 2018 budget.

Zumi is now thought to have received Rp 6 billion ($445,000) in kickbacks for various infrastructure projects, Basaria said.

"Either on his own or in the company of others, he had received as much as Rp 6 billion [in bribes]," Basaria said.

Read the full original article at Jakarta Globe.

Polls tell Prawit it's time to go

Deputy Prime Minister Prawit Wongsuwon has come under renewed pressure over his luxury watch collection as petitions and online polls have been launched asking people if they think he should resign.

This follows his comment in a widely shared video on Wednesday that, " If the people don’t want me, I’m ready to leave."

Huge majorities of respondents said or voted that they wanted Gen Prawit to quit.

Human rights activist Thicha Nanakorn on Wednesday evening started a petition on Change.org.

Ms Thicha, a director of the Kanjanapisek Juvenile Vocational Training Centre for Boys, previously launched a petition calling on Gen Prawit, also defence minister, to resign over the mysterious death of cadet Pakapong "Moei" Tanyakan at the Armed Forces Academies Preparatory School on Oct 17 last year.

The CSI LA Facebook page, which published pictures of 25 luxury watches worn by Gen Prawit, and the Teenee ThaiPBS Facebook page for a programme on the ThaiPBS television channel, conducted polls.

Other polls on the same issue included one on the Drama-addict Facebook page, which has over 1.8 million followers.

As of press time, its poll launched at 3pm on Wednesday saw 95% of 73,500 respondents saying they wanted Gen Prawit to step down.

Read the full original article at Bangkok Post.

Former key Keppel execs arrested in corruption probe

Several former key executives of Keppel Corp and its offshore and marine units have been arrested in connection with the Singapore authorities' investigation into the corruption scandal involving Keppel Offshore & Marine (Keppel O&M).

The Straits Times understands that they include Mr Tay Kim Hock, former president and chief executive of Keppel Fels Brasil, a wholly owned unit of Keppel O&M. He was arrested by the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) and is currently out on bail.

It is understood that more than five others connected with the case are also out on bail.

Mr Tay was president and chief executive of Keppel Fels Brasil from June 2000 to October 2007.

The Straits Times understands that the former executives had been called in by the Singapore authorities to assist with investigations into the scandal, which saw the government-linked company paying US$422.2 million (S$554 million) in fines to the United States, Brazil and Singapore.

Some of the individuals had given statements to the CPIB as recently as last week and have appointed lawyers to represent them. The lawyers are from firms including WongPartnership and Withers KhattarWong.

Read the full original article at The Straits Times.

Kit Siang: Will new MACC advisors urge probe on Dzulkifli? 1MDB?

DAP supremo Lim Kit Siang has called upon the MACC’s four new honorary advisors to prove their worth by demanding a probe into commission chief Dzulkifli Ahmad and national investment fund 1MDB.

It was reported yesterday that the appointees are Mahsa Universiti chancellor Zaki Mohamed Azmi, Indah Water Konsortium Sdn Bhd chairperson Abu Zahar Ujang, Asian Strategy and Leadership Institute (Asli) director Ramon Navaratnam and Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation senior vice-chairperson Lee Lam Thye.

Lim proposed subjecting four of them to three tests to prove they would serve “credible and effective” roles in combating graft, and not be used to “camouflage the weaponisation of MACC to harass and persecute opposition leaders”.

“Firstly, whether they are allowed to discuss and decide on whether Dzulkifli should resign from the top MACC post.

“As his credibility and effectiveness had been gravely undermined by a scandal which had caused him to suddenly disappear from the public scene,” he said, referring to how the chief commissioner was previously accused of having an extramarital affair with a married woman.

The police are presently investigating the case. It is considered an offence under Malaysian law to entice a married woman.

Read the full original article at malaysiakini.

Prawit pledges to resign ‘if people don’t want him’

The defiant Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister General Prawit Wongsuwan has promised to quit if people do not want him to stay.

“I have served the country for 50 years [as a military officer and minister]. Do you think if I have done anything to ruin the country? I want to work for the country. If people don’t want me to, I’m ready to leave my post,” he said during a luncheon with Defence Ministry officials, Armed Forces officials and journalists at the ministry in a New Year celebration.

Prawit has been seen as a lightning rod for Prime Minister General Prayut Chan-o-cha’s government. Prayut, who is Prawit’s junior military classmate, has been pressured to suspend his right-hand man from the post after the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) initiated an investigation of Prawit’s possession of about 25 luxury watches, some of which reportedly cost Bt3 million.

Prawit declared assets of about Bt83 million to the NACC when he joined Prayut’s government in 2014, but failed to declare the watches he has been seen wearing since late last year.

In the course of the investigation, he told the anti-graft agency that friends had lent him the watches, although the explanation was widely criticised by regime critics and the general public. At present, it appears that the NACC will accept the excuse, which would mean that Prawit was not obligated to declare the watches.

Read the full original artcile at The Nation.

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