Gov’t execs, employees can accept gift of nominal value only -Palace
MANILA, Philippines — Government officials can accept gifts but with nominal value only, Malacanañg said Monday as President Rodrigo Duterte drew a sharp rebuke for saying police could accept gifts out of gratitude.
Presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said Duterte’s pronouncement was not unlawful.
“Unang-una, ang nakalagay talaga sa batas pwede ‘yon. Exception to the rule ‘yon e, exception to the law. Apparently, nakalimutan ng mga lawmakers ’yon,” Panelo told reporters in Malacañang.
But Panelo said the gift should only be nominal.
He, however, could not categorically say what nominal is.
“Siguro you have to use your discretion there. E kung ‘yong nagbigay sayo ng regalo bilyonaryo, e baka naman kahit na para sa iba malaki, hindi malaki sa kanya,” he said.
“But what is important is yung pagbibigay is not in consideration or anticipation of favor or in exchange for a favor. Yun ang pinaka test, that’s the test,” he added.
Panelo, who is also Duterte’s chief legal counsel, said it was OK for government officials to accept gifts as long as it’s not “excessive.”
“Eh kung masyadong malaki nakakahiya namang tumanggap din di ba, hindi mo dapat tatanggapin,” he said.
He even cited an example of officials receiving gifts during their birthdays.
“Basta yong, kumbaga parang ano e, kung may birthday ka, ‘yong mga ganoon. Kung may birthday ka, ‘yong regalo na pambirthday, regalo na pang wedding, ganoom lang. Alam na natin ’yon,” he said.
Asked if government officials could accept house and lot, he said, “E malaki naman masyado yung house and lot.”
“Ngayon kung bilyonaryo ang magbibigay sa iyo, wala sa kanya yun napakaliit na bagay ’yon. Pero what is important is, hindi ’yon binigay in anticipation of a favor or coming from the recipient, or in exchange of favor from that recipient who is a police officer,” he added. “E maliwanag naman ang batas eh, kung masyado nang excessive di ba?”
No need for guidelines
Panelo believed there was no need for guidelines to set a threshold on what is of nominal value or not.
“What do you mean guidelines? Maliwanag naman yung batas e. You don’t need guidelines,” he said.
Pressed about what is of nominal value, he said, “the law does not specify. So you use your discretion na yung tama. May standards naman tayo ng excessive at hindi e.”
The Palace official even cited the Filipino values of having debt of gratitude.
“Kumbaga siguro kaya nilagay doon para like for instance, ang custom kasi ng Pilipino, marunong tumanaw ng utang na loob. And Filipinos feeling nila pag natulungan sila, utang nila loob nila yan and as a matter of act of gratitude, nagbibigay sila. Kaya yun siguro ang nakalagay sa batas,” he said.
Panelo was referring to the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices.
He earlier said that “unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage” are exempted from the anti-graft provisions.
“Alam mo, the fact alone na hindi humingi yung recipient from the very beginning eh alam natin na matino yon,” he said.
“Huwag niyo nang palakihin pa yong nominal. Pag sinabing nominal, nominal,” he said.
“As a general rule hindi dapat tumatanggap. Pero kung halimbawa man na hindi naman humingi, eh out of gratitude pinadalhan ka ng manok. O kaya ng pork and beans ano ba naman yun. Hanggang doon lang,” he added.
He insisted that there was nothing wrong with the statement of the President, saying “there is an exception to the law.”
Asked if the law should be made clear, he said “that is for the lawmakers. That is not ours. We only implement.”
“That’s why it is addressed to the wisdom of the lawmakers. How they will go about it,” he added.
He reiterated that corruption in government would not be tolerated.
“Basta hindi pwede ang corruption, hindi pwede ang padulas. Hindi pupwedeng kaya ka gagawa ng trabaho mo dahil may inaasahan kang darating sayo. O kaya ka lang gumagalaw dahil binigyan ka, yan ang bawal, yan ang klaro,” he said.
“Ang pwede kung hindi ka humingi, at nagtrabaho ka ng trabaho mo faithfully. And then out of generosity nung natulungan mo binigyan ka ng konti,” he added.
He said it is only the court who could decide on what is of nominal value or not.
“Ang court lang makakaano niyan, kung merong kaso at dinemanda mo, then the court can decide whether it is nominal or not,” he said./ac
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