President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s talk on ‘gift-giving’ highly-politicized

August 13, 2019

AS expected, President Duterte’s message to the police during the 118th Police Service Anniversary regarding the acceptance of gifts from their generous and thankful benefactors has become a highly-politicized issue with all kinds of hypocrites having a say on the matter.

These were the President’s exact words when he said that police officers may receive gifts from generous and thankful benefactors since he does not consider gift-giving bribery.  “Kung bigyan kayo tanggapin n’yo. It is not bribery... What I mean is if there is generosity in them. Sabi ng anti-graft you cannot accept gifts. Kalokohan.”

The President merely explained that he finds no problem with police receiving gifts especially if from people expressing their gratitude. “You guys from Davao, alam n’yo yan. If you are able to solve a crime  and the family would like to be generous to you or a feeling of gratitude for what you accomplished, by all means accept it.” I would like to add that not only guys from Davao knows that Mayor.

I believe that the President was only being true to himself when he spoke those words before a Filipino nation which is known for its generosity and hospitality. Now tell me, who among our government officials and employees have not received  or have turned down a gift-big or small say a t-shirt, a pancit bilao, lechon or small amount of cash in ‘ampao’ envelope—from a generous friend or people whom they have helped in one way or another.

Can somebody tell me if he knows a priest, a lawmaker, a law enforcer, a barangay captain, ‘kagawad’ or ‘tanod,’  a judge, a prosecutor, a traffic enforcer, an investigator, a government official and  other public servants and even members of the press who returned gifts—either in cash (gift certificates included) or in kind— sent to them during their birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas and other important occasions?

Even ordinary Pinoys  including our young kids expect gift from others during their birthdays, Christmas and other events. Try not to buy any ‘gift’ to your relative or a friend or your kids during important events if you want to remembered in your lifetime as a ‘kuripot.’ That’s our nature as Filipinos, the trait we learned from our elders.

The sad thing here is that those who have been criticizing the President and the police as if they have committed a major sin are those who have the gall to formally solicit gifts in cash or in kind—either thru formal letters or phone calls—to the police force during their anniversaries, Christmas Party and so-called Team-Building or any fund-raising events. Expect these solicitation letters to flood the police organization before Christmas.

This practice in fact has prompted some police units to post huge notices  with the words: “Bawal mag-solicit ang Pulis, Bawal ding mag-solicit sa Pulis” at their entrance doors. That’s police ingenuity at its best.

Back to the gift-giving issue, I  sincerely believe that it’s only wrong when it comes with strings attached, as the President and PNP chief, General Oscar Albayalde have said. It’s 100 percent wrong for a judge, a government investigator or a journalist to receive a gift from persons they are trying or investigating. It’s 100 percent wrong for a police official to receive a gift like free travel abroad complete with hotel stay and allowances from companies trying to sell their products to the force.

As Gen. Albayalde had said, policemen  are bound to follow their code of conduct and ethical standards as they perform their day-to-day activities and can only accept gifts from their offerers without any strings attached.

He particularly cited the need for all police officers and men to follow Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. “Ang sa tingin kong sinasabi ni Pangulo ay siguro ‘yung minsan kapag birthday, may nagpapadala nang pagkain na hindi naman alam o kung merong natulungan. Sa batas natin ‘yung insignificant ‘yung value gaya po ng mga pagkain na consumable na maliit na bagay. Pero ‘yun pong malalaking bagay lalo na kapag may kapalit na pabor, bawal na bawal po ‘yan,” he said.

Under the law, 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 course. However, I believe that even the Church, media organizations and even private companies are also governed by the the same code of ethics, violations of which have cost the career of some in the past.