By Genalyn Kabiling
Although he finds nothing wrong with accepting a small token of gratitude, President Duterte has reminded policemen not to demand gifts from the public.
The President maintained that cops could accept food and other gifts with nominal value from kind or grateful benefactors but not excessive presents.
Duterte issued the reminder after drawing criticisms from Vice President Leni Robredo and Senator Panfilo Lacson for his controversial pronouncement on accepting gifts.
“Kasi ang mga pulis, if they are able to solve a crime, ano tayo magpadala ng lechon, pagkain, ‘yung ganun. Or ‘yung mga kidnapped na mga Chinese, they would offer [If policemen are able to solve a crime, we would send lechon, food, and others. Those Chinese who’ve been kidnapped would also offer],” he said during his visit to Bataan last Thursday.
“Sabi ko basta huwag lang mag-thousand-thousand at huwag kayong maghingi. Do not demand. And ‘yon ‘yan as a… Iyan ang wording ng batas eh, “to show gratitude.” Hindi mo mawala sa Pilipino ‘yang utang na loob [I said it’s okay as long as it’s not worth thousands and do not demand. That’s the wording in the law, ‘to show gratitude.’ You can take away debt of gratitude from Filipinos],” he added.
The President earlier saw nothing irregular if policemen accept gifts from people grateful for their service especially after solving a crime. Duterte, a former mayor and prosecutor, claimed accepting such token of gratitude does not constitute bribery.
“Kung bigyan kayo, eh tanggapin ninyo [If you’re given a gift, accept it]. It is not bribery because — it cannot be bribery because it is allowed by law. What I mean if there is generosity in them, sabi ng anti-graft you cannot accept gifts. Kalokohan ‘yan,” he said during the 118th Police Service anniversary celebration in Camp Crame last August.
Robredo and Lacson however disagreed with the President’s view, expressing concern that such “gift-gifting practice might breed corruption in the police.
In his speech in Bataan, the President defended anew his comment about police accepting gifts, saying it was not prohibited by the anti-graft and practices law.
He noted that gifts of nominal value as a token of gratitude according to local customs are exempted from the provisions of Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“You can accept gifts, token, nominal, I was using the words of the law. It is found in the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices. There is an exception there at ginamit ko ang words ng batas [I used the words of the law],” he said.
He told the police that he would never issue an illegal order to them. “I will not order you that is an illegal thing. Remember that,” he said.
Duterte also urged his critics like Robredo and Lacson to brush up on the country’s laws after they claimed his statement on accepting gifts was an unlawful order.
“Tapos I had this flak from Lacson then from Robredo. Sabi ko, ‘Por Diyos, basahin ninyo ang libro’ [Then I had this flak from Lacson, then from Robredo. I said, ‘My goodness, read the books],” he said.
Earlier, Duterte issued a stinging rebuke against Robredo and Lacson for disputing him on the gift policy, saying they were both unaware of the law.
He warned that the country might be in trouble if Robredo becomes president since she was supposedly incompetent.
On Lacson, he said he could forgive the senator for his comment since he was not a lawyer, but criticized him for “trying to be a crusader but ignorant” of the law. He also suspected Lacson might run for president someday due to his penchant to comment on every issue.