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Bill aims to stop ‘padrino’ setup

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Bill aims to stop ‘padrino’ setup

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 01:25 AM August 05, 2013

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

In an attempt to curb the “padrino (patron) system” that she says is not exclusive to the customs bureau, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a bill barring politicians from recommending individuals to any position in any government office.

Calling her measure the “Anti-Political Recommendations Bill,” Santiago hopes it will put a stop to the padrino system, a hushed but oft-practiced habit in which appointive or elective officials use influence to force those with hiring and firing powers in the government to employ, if not promote, their protégés and supporters.

The senator said padrinos usually get their minions to occupy “lucrative” posts, hence worsening corruption, as these underlings scrounge for ways to pay back their enablers.

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President Aquino lashed out at Bureau of Customs (BOC) personnel in his State of the Nation Address on July 22 for not collecting about P200 billion a year from goods smuggled into the country.

Santiago said the bill was a reaction to reports about the “three kings” in the BOC, who allegedly enjoy the protection of powerful backers.

The three kings have been identified as Carlos So, supported by Iglesia ni Cristo; Rogel Gatchalian, said to be a protégé of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile; and Ricardo Belmonte, the soon-to-retire brother of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Widely practiced

In a radio interview on Sunday, Santiago noted that the padrino system was widely practiced in government offices.

Apart from the BOC, Santiago said other offices notorious for the heavy presence of padrinos include the Bureau of Internal Revenue, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Bureau of Immigration, which she headed during the administration of the late President Corazon Aquino.

“Why should a senator or congressman meddle and influence how an agency of the executive branch hires its employees? If the person you backed turns out to be corrupt, what does it say about you as a politician?” Santiago asked in Filipino.

“Worse, the padrino system tends to bypass more qualified individuals in government positions in favor of ones with better political connections. They’re corrupt and unqualified, as well. We should bring back meritocracy to the bureaucracy,” the senator complained.

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Santiago echoed an observation made by Deputy Customs Commissioner Danilo Lim, who said “invisible forces” within the agency were hampering the administration’s efforts to address corruption and inefficiency in the BOC.

Black propaganda

The senator said she knew of instances when corrupt BOC officials would launch black propaganda campaigns against those they felt threatened their operations.

Santiago’s bill imposes a P30,000 fine or a one-year jail term on officials who commit “acts of making and soliciting political recommendations from any public official or employee.”

“Passing this bill into law will strengthen our bureaucracy by granting the appointing agencies their rightful discretion over the appointment, promotion, assignment, transfer or designation of their employees,” she said.

Santiago lamented that giving protégés employment in the government was often a politician’s way of paying back the support given to him during the campaign.

She added, however, that a voter or political supporter should be mature enough to choose whom to campaign for without expecting future employment in exchange.

At one point, Santiago singled out Enrile’s protégé during the interview, noting that Gatchalian “is just an ordinary Legal Officer 2, just one of those minor employees” who was suddenly promoted to the rank of Collector 6 “in one of the most lucrative positions as collector in the Port of Manila.”

In a previous interview, Enrile said it was Malacañang’s decision, and not his, to give the post to Gatchalian.

Originally posted: 4:50 pm | Sunday, August 4th, 2013

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TAGS: bill, Bureau of Customs, Legislation, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, News, padrino system, patronage, Philippine Congress, politicians, Politics, Senate
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