Former Isabela governor Grace Padaca has spoken. The newly appointed Commissioner of the government elections body, has also posted bail for two charges — graft and malversation of public funds. Following Malacanang’s announcement of her appointment, the Sandiganbayan confirmed there was a warrant of arrest for Padaca. Cops had tried – but failed – to serve the warrant.
People raised questions over the propriety of her appointment.
- She was facing graft charges; didn’t these count?
- Why hadn’t she turned herself in?
- Can she be trusted to pass impartial judgment on former rivals?
Padaca’s graft case does NOT disqualify her from becoming Comelec Commissioner. Last I checked, people in this country remain innocent until a court of law hands down a guilty verdict. Padaca must come under that same standard, even if the administration she serves has a penchant for treating people as guilty until proven otherwise. (Except for a list of kaibigan, kamaganak, kaklase)
Is there a difference between evading the law and simply not entrusting yourself to its tender mercies? In previous interviews, Padaca has said refusal to file for bail was a statement, a form of protest against an unjust legal system stacked against her. Nothing unique there. Many have gone before her.
People wanted to understand:
- Why the change of heart?
- What had changed in the system that made her now amenable to filing bail?
- Had the legal system changed that much under the “tuwid na daan” regime?
- What changes singularly applied to her case?
Grace Padaca press con on ANC. “Kung meron kang Secretary Mar and President Noynoy sa tabi mo”. My heart plunged… not begrudging Grace her powerful friends… just thinking of the millions who have to suffer injustice by their lonesome.
And unsolicited advice to Grace: PLEASE DO NOT EVEN TALK OF THE LIBERAL PARTY — WITH MAR ROXAS BESIDE YOU. For god’s sake, you’re joining the COMMISSION ON ELECTIONS!
Mutual friends prodded Grace to answer the questions. Mid-afternoon, Grace posted this reply on my wall – and other walls that had carried my post.
It’s straightforward, brisk, but with a personal touch. Let’s break it down into segments:
“Hi everyone. Sorry hindi agad ako nakasagot. I was busy talking with my lawyers before the posting of the bail. Last week, my lawyers updated me that the prosecution has yet again asked for another extension to comment on our petition for certiorari in the Supreme Court. Ang ibig sabihin, after 4 long months, wala pa palang iniusad ang petisyon ko to dismiss the case, not for any fault of the supreme court, but by “inaction” from the other side. “
I hear her. Four months IS a long time if you’ve got a warrant over your head. (Tens of thousands languish in jail for lack of bail funds. Thousands remain in prison even with orders for their release. How’s that for context?)
Grace chafed for four months. Cagayan de Oro journalist Herbie Gomez has been waiting to be cleared of libel for a decade now. Not a single court hearing after an arrest warrant served in May 2003. No hearing — no acquittal or conviction. Limbo. So, yeah, Grace, di ka nag-iisa.
Four months is also a long time when you’re the one seeking justice. (How long before the darn Ampatuan massacre suspects got arraigned? How far has the quest for justice moved? What d0 we have to show after more than a thousand days?)
THE PERSONAL IS POLITICAL
Grace comes from a personal place… and so do all of us. She is a public official and must realize that all her worlds and actions will be funneled through a million other personal lenses.
While sharing her legal travails, did Grace spare a thought for what could happen if “ordinary” citizens – those without organized groups or powerful folk backing them – fall to the Anti-Cybercrime Law?
I want to believe she did. But she probably can’t talk about this for fear of displeasing her padrone.
“I was advised by my lawyers to just post bail because 4 months is too long to be always under the threat of a warrant of arrest and there seems to be no movement yet. Also, this Comelec appointment happened. Magiging complicated naman yata kung papasok ako sa Comelec na any moment, maaresto ako. That may distract many from the things that the Comelec should concern itself with.”
Reading this for the fourth time. I’m still stumped. It is the Comelec appointment that makes a difference? Without this appointment, would Grace have gone her merry way – interviews and speeches and just keeping a spare bag in the car for when cops finally swoop down?
“As to my statement “with noy and mar by my side…” lets please check the context and see why i said that. But if that was not proper because I am with the Liberal Party joining a body that must be impartial, I will be more cautious next time. “
Thats also one of the reasons why i refused all interviews about the comelec appointment for almost 3 days. Alam niyo naman kung gaano karami at kakulit ang media. I only hastened to answer questions on the court case kasi maraming maling akala. Ang tagal ko na kayang nag-status update sa 3 facebook accounts ko about the court cases, pero syempre dahil hindi naman ako person in the news, hindi masyadong pinansin. If u want, u can check my posts especially last june 2012.
Maraming salamat, ramdam ko na pume-preno kayo sa pagbatikos sa akin because u are giving me the benefit of the doubt. I deeply appreciate it. Sana, sa mga darating na panahon at pagkakataon, makikita niyo sa mga desisyon ko ang aking hindi pagkiling sa kung sinoman kung hindi sa tama lang at katotohanan. As a broadcast journalist for 14 years, i had a lot of practice practising fairness, neutrality and yes, integrity. As governor, kahit mga political opponents ko na mayors at kapitan na dating ayaw sa akin, nakipagtulungan din dahil nakita nilang objective ako sa pagtrato sa kanila.
The comelec mission will be very hard , i know, but extremely important, too. Please pray for me and support me, both by uplifting me when im down and whipping me (ouch!) when i become careless and un-Grace…
CONFLICT OF INTEREST
It’s a really nice reply. I do not doubt you mean well, Grace. But I also hope you understand the discomfort we feel, knowing you accepted P70,000 for bail from a man who appointed you to the Comelec; a man who has been telling the people that, to cement the gains of tuwid na daan, they must vote for his choices.
I understand you’re not rich. You were like the millions of other people charged for lesser crimes languishing in jail for lack of bail funds. But, yes, you must forget your Liberal Party friends once you start Comelec duties. Sabi nga sa radio ad, di na kailangan pang imemorize yan.
Here’s more on the PNOY money.
“Ako po’y nagpapasalamat sa Pangulo. Hindi lang po yung halaga ng pera ang importante dun kundi yung ibig sabihin yung isang katulad ni Noynoy, isang katulad ni Mar,ay nandito at mas naniniwala ako’y hindi kurakot at walang ninakaw sa mamamayan,” she added.
Oh, we got the context, Grace. The context is what raises worries. Maybe you didn’t see the pattern.
Having someone believe in you is a powerful source of motivation when energies and courage flag in the fight for justice. But when your actions begin to hinge on the opinions and decisions of powerful backers, you face a slippery slope.
In case you’ve forgotten, there is this inconvenient thing called the law. There is little that is ambiguous about Republic Act No. 6713, the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards For Public Officials. It’s surprising that the three of you — Aquino and Roxas included – and your lawyers, thought context held you above this provision:
(d) Solicitation or acceptance of gifts. – 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 of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office. (boldface mine)
Kung pinahiram ka ng pera four months ago, noong “ordinaryong” mamamayan ka lang tulad namin, mas madaling maintindihan yan. Pero ang paghintay ng pag-bigay ng pera – at pag-pyansa – at pag-timing nito pagkatapos kang ma-appoint na Comelec Commissioner, malaki ang problema dyan, Grace.
No President of this country has ever been neutral in electoral politics. President Aquino has told Filipinos they should vote for his candidates if they believe in “tuwid na daan”. He and his motley crew of allies are determined to fill government elective posts with their people that they’re forcing local rivals to fall in line. That’s not illegal. It just makes more mind-boggling your belief that taking the President’s personal funds does not constitute conflict of interest.
TIES THAT BIND
Interior Secretary Mar Roxas should also give a full list of other donors – for money, he says, going to a legal defense fund. These people may be innocent, ‘ordinary’ citizens – or they may be officials of a political party or candidates.
Grace, ako may problema talaga sa nakikita ko. I see patrician gentlemen treating you as their personal ward. And you’re about to take your seat in an agency mandated to be independent and above the political fray.
Many of us believe in your record of integrity. However, the rules of public service are clear: it is not enough to invoke pure motives for one’s actions. Heck, all dictators believe they’re pure.
Your reputation as broadcaster was the springboard to public office. But we cannot view you through that prism anymore. You chose to be a public servant and must be weighed on that scale.
Some friends say, “see, they didn’t even hide the fact that PNOY gave her the money! That’s transparency!”
Yeah, or it can just be one more sign of arrogance. Astig kami. Heto! Ano gagawin nyo ngayon? Walang urungan! Walang uubra sa tuwid na daan! Kami lang ang nakakaalam kung ano ang tuwid na daan! And there is silence from friends who ought to know better. That is why we ended up with this cybercrime controversy, Grace. Because everyone fears being struck down by the PNOY lightning bolt. Panahon ni George W Bush, patriotism and war on terror were the incantations. Ngayon sa atin, tuwid na daan.
The morning after… wrong remains wrong. I’ll pray for your success. I’ll praise every right move. But I will not denigrate those who challenge your appointment. I cannot, knowing the facts you laid down.