“Take chances, make mistakes. That’s how you grow. Pain nourishes your courage. You have to fail in order to practice being brave.”
–Mary Tyler Moore
By Alex P. Vidal
NEW YORK CITY –– Some public officials facing a case filed by the Office of the Ombudsman in the Philippines, normally refuse to talk to the media for fear of the oft-repeated adage that “more talk more mistakes.”
And if they feel they have an iota of guilt, these public officials would be dissuaded by their lawyers from talking about the merits of the case in public.
They panic and avoid the press like they were hiding from creditors.
In many cases, they cry “political harassment” even before the suit has reached the public attention.
But not Mayor Rosario Mediatrix Fernandez of San Enrique, Iloilo.
Instead of saying “no comment” or “just talk to our lawyers” as we usually hear from any accused in a court case, Fernandez confidently declared that she “will defend myself in court. I will prove that no public funds were stolen.”
Fernandez and former municipal treasurer Imelda Celebrar are facing charges at the Sandiganbayan for the delayed contributions of San Enrique, Iloilo municipal employees to the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF or Pag-IBIG) amounting to P5.96 million.
GSIS contributions that were not paid right away covered the months of January to October 2011, April 2012, and June to October 2012.
Fernandez and Celebrar also failed to remit on time a total of P620,000 to the HDMF, popularly known as Pag-Ibig. The contributions should have been remitted “within 30 days from the time they became due and demandable.”
When the news broke out last month, the lady chief executive gamely allowed the press to get her side and never gave them a hard time.
As long as she did not steal, Fernandez said she is ready to face the case. She declared: “Amo man lang ‘ni ang aton lapse pero ma-assure ko ang akon mga kasimanwa nga wala sang may nadula nga pundo.”
She explained further: “Seguro for some reason seguro negligence man kun kis-a masalig sila (treasurer and accounting office), ma-delay ang mga remittances, not being aware nga may legal impediment ini s’ya gali. Clean and transparent ang governance naton. Ang ini nga lapse is delay sa remittance, not nga gintakaw ang kwarta.”
Fernandez probably is not afraid to be penalized as long as no taxpayer’s money went to her pocket.
This makes her case unique among other cases filed in the Office of the Ombudsman.
In the Philippines today, what President Duterte wants President Duterte gets.
If the president wants congress to “urgently” pass the death penalty bill before his term expires, President Duterte’s wish will surely be granted –barring some unforeseen circumstances like the passionate and aggressive opposition of the church and human rights organizations.
The debate on the restoration of capital punishment in a pre-dominantly Catholic country like the Philippines is expected to explode and produce violent lava that will define the Duterte administration.
The events that will unfold in the next three months are worth watching.