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Resistance Coalition vs Calida Featured

LAST week, I wrote about the emerging Resistance Coalition, a reinvention of the Yellow Army, led by their generals in Congress, Senators Pangilinan and Hontiveros and several talking heads at the House of Representatives. Apparently, they see Solicitor General Jose Calida as an appropriate and easy target, after the shellacking they got at the Supreme Court. The high-profile quo warranto case projected Calida as the “second most powerful man” in government after The Deegong. And I thought that this honorific belongs properly to the “little president,” Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea.

Calida was a marked man from the time he assumed the role of presidential avatar in a series of legal battles, winning cases and accumulating enemies—the drug cases against Sen. Leila de Lima, handmaiden to PNoy and the yellow mob; booting out the Prietos from Mile Long; the decision to bury the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos among Filipino heroes. And the biggest prize was the quo warranto petition that took out CJ Sereno. The last was particularly bad for PNoy as Sereno had been purportedly placed there to protect him from the coming deluge of plunder cases that could very well condemn him to play digital and video games for years within the confines of a prison cell.

To recaptulate, the SolGen is facing a complaint filed by a certain Jocelyn Acosta accusing him of graft and corruption for owning a security agency company that did business with several government departments and bureaucracies. Apparently the SolGen retained his 60 percent ownership although he resigned from the company prior to his government appointment. Totaling P260 millions, the contracts are not exactly peanuts; although the SolGen admitted most of these go to the salaries and wages of security guards, staffing and other costs.

Calida has denied violating any existing laws, explaining that “…the law only prohibits a government official from owning or having shares in a private firm with any transaction that requires the approval of his government office or a company that is regulated or licensed by the same office”. The contracts are not with his office, nor does he have any say in the awarding of those contracts.

The first salvo of attacks came from the opposition in the Senate, now more emboldened since Koko Pimentel, the President’s loyal and trusted but meek lieutenant, gave up his cushy seat.

“Senator Risa Hontiveros said Section 3(i) of Republic Act 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, spelled out conflict of interest as a situation where a public official ‘is a member of a board, an officer or a substantial stockholder of a private corporation or owner or has a substantial interest in a business, and the interest of such corporation or business, or his rights or duties therein, may be opposed to or affected by the faithful performance of official duty.’”

“By saying that he has not divested himself of his majority shares from a family business that has snared millions of pesos worth of government contracts, Mr. Calida has virtually admitted to allegations of corrupt practices and conflict of interest. Case closed. Game over,” Hontiveros said. (Philippine Star, May 31, 2018)

I don’t think so. The game has just begun. Hontiveros who is not a lawyer decidedly is at a disadvantage pitted against a sharp legal mind like the SolGen. But she is not a spring chicken in political infighting. Together with her allies in the Senate, she will bring the issue to a not exactly level playing field– the Senate hearing. Here the SolGen will be out of his element, thrown into a den of wolves whose primary purpose even among DU30’s allies are to preen before the TV cameras. The campaign for re-election indeed has begun.

Another somewhat irrelevant issue is the allegation that Calida is having an extramarital affair with a 22-year-old law student. So, what! On this he will have the grudging but jealous support of the “macho” Filipino male who sees nothing wrong with public servants having extra-marital affairs: witness the House speaker and even the pronouncements of our President.

But the Resistance Coalition’s primary target in such hearings is not Calida. He will be used as a political sandpaper, merely an abrasive tool to eat away at the enormous prestige of the presidency. Even now, other attacks are coming from within the bureaucracy: “COA flags P10-M excess allowances paid to OSG,” screamed a Philippine Star headline (June 2, 2018).

And the Deegong, ever loyal to his chosen people took the bait and jumped into the fray:

“Calida, his security firm has been around for a long time. Why should I fire him? He is good, he is also from Davao but he is an Ilocano…Why? Don’t we have the right to own a business?” he added, referring to the Calida family’s Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Inc. (VISAI).”

“Duterte said it’s all right for officials to be owners of businesses with contracts with government “as long as you do not participate” directly. “The fact that you have divested, you have retired… So why do you have to impute or attribute malice there?”

“The president claimed that Calida is just lucky and that being in government service does not mean one cannot make money on the side.” (Philippine Star, May 31, 2018)

Yes indeed, money can be made on the side as bureaucrat or even as Cabinet member. On the same day, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said at a confirmation hearing: “Nobody has come up with allegations, now that there’s sort of questions about the validity (of the contract), the DOJ will take a look now that it’s brought to the fore already. To satisfy everyone, we’ll just take a look,” he said. (Philippine Star, May 31,2018)

The President virtually cleared Calida, who is yet to be investigated by the justice secretary. This nuance apparently escaped the President who as always, commits faux pas when he does things off-the-cuff.

We will know in the next few days what other worms will come out of the woodwork, but one thing is clear. The Resistance Coalition of the yellow cohorts are now in full play, flexing their muscles to engage the Deegong. In a blog from John Rana, an avid supporter of DU30, he revealed a similar group, Silent No More Movement. From its name, this could be composed of the allies of the old regime still occupying government positions, the holdovers ensconced in the cracks and crannies of this administration. Now, the yellows have activated their own quislings within.

The swords on both sides are drawn. The muckraking has begun. SolGen Calida’s carcass is conveniently thrown in. I hope my Davao friend will survive this.000
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