Moral flexibility vs senatorial prerogative

February 06, 2019

An ecological warrior and lady legislator is sitting uncomfortably on the horns of an ethical dilemma.

PedXing can only imagine her agonizing over the choice of proceeding to protect the economic interest of her son and the more compelling demand of delicadeza or decency in public service.

Family ties and fidelity to the exacting demands of an office of public trust can indeed be astounding, confounding, and sometimes crippling.

Hers is a decidedly an unenviable situation never to be devoutly wished for.

Why? There is no happy middle ground or a comfortable room for compromise—the choice has been cut down to an either and or options.

That is, she greenlights her son’s green energy venture or uphold the higher interest of public service that shuns even the mere hint of extending favors to family, relatives, and friends.

If she decides either way, one party would be extremely pleased while the other left inconsolable upset and thoroughly betrayed.

Of course, there is always a third option: Take the moral high ground by first disclosing to the public her family’s interest in the proposed franchise, then urging her colleagues in the august and honorable  Chamber to not act on the franchise bill until after she has left. Anyway, the next Congress is only a few months away. If the proposed franchise for her son is truly beneficial to the people, her son should not be worried.

This would keep her stature intact and spare her from hurting the feelings and sensibilities of people close to her and the people at large.

Indeed, when offered a menu of culinary and congressional options, a healthy choice is not making a choice at all—a good serving of abstinence.       

The complaint, filed before the Ethics Committee of Sen. Manny Pacquiao, will test his resolve in fighting vested interests behind proposed legislative measures. Just how many rounds, days or weeks will it take him before the Pambansang Kamao knocks out these hidden interests?

Sen. Grace Poe has vowed to continue the legacy of her father, Fernando Poe Jr. as a courageous leader.  Now, will she muster the courage to confront these vested interests?

An anti-graft watchdog has formally asked Malacañang and the Senate Ethics Committee to inquire into alleged intervention by Sen. Loren Legarda and some officials of her staff in facilitating the passage by the House of Representatives of a bill granting a 25-year franchise to a corporation owned by Legarda’s son Leandro Leviste.

The Anti-Trapo Movement Inc. (ATM) filed the complaints following reports that the House Committee on Legislative Franchises has approved House Bill 8179 awarding the controversial franchise to the Solar Para sa Bayan Corp. owned by Leviste.

“An honest-to-goodness inquiry must be undertaken to ensure that the Senate stays clear of this legal and constitutional controversy, as well as clear the names of the lady lawmaker and her staff, ATM founding chair Leon Peralta stressed.

Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission Executive Director Eduardo Bringas, in a letter to Peralta, said his concern was being “acted upon for proper disposition and appropriate action.”

Peralta invoked Section 14, Article V1 of the Constitution banning lawmakers from directly or indirectly exhibiting undue interest in government proceedings pertaining to franchise applications.

The same provision mandated that senators and congressmen “shall not intervene in any matter before any office of the Government for his pecuniary benefit or where he may be called upon to act on account of his office.”

“We firmly believe that meddling by Sen. Legarda on behalf of her son, if proven true, is an infraction of pertinent mandates of the Constitution specifically provisos on conflict of interest, honesty and probity in public office, and transparency,” Peralta said in his letter.

The ATM leader gave weight to an online report saying Legarda’s office allegedly called up a congressman and an officer offering co-authorship of the SPBC bill.

Peralta also questioned the integrity of a press release by Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi saying he backed the award of the franchise to SBPC. The press statement was issued one day after Legarda presided at a hearing of the Senate Committee on Finance of Energy’s proposed budget for 2019.

“Could such sequence of events happen without the financial interest or pecuniary benefit manifested by Senator Legarda?” Peralta asked.

Most industry players vigorously oppose HB 8179 and slammed the franchise committee’s speedy approval of the measure enabling SPBC to set up solar systems in the country.

Existing power distributors dismissed as incredible and unreliable Leviste’s claim that his company could provide sustainable power to the “unserved and undeserved” areas in the country through solar panels.

At least 15 congressmen reportedly questioned the “undue haste” and filed a resolution calling for reversal of the measure to the franchise committee for further deliberations.

Critics also warned that the projected SPBC “super franchise” might give rise to violations of the law, particularly the Charter provisions on equal protection and non-impairment of contracts, as well as the potential emergence of a monopoly.   

Behold God’s glory and seek His mercy.

Pause and pray, people.