The Palace on Sunday defended President Rodrigo Duterte for saying that policemen can ignore the anti-graft law when receiving gifts as long as donors gave it out of “generosity.”
Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said receiving “rewards” does not go against police officers’ code of conduct and will even “inspire” them to do their job better.
“If you were given a reward, that will even inspire you because you received something without asking for it. You will become more hard working because you are appreciated,” Panelo said in a radio interview.
In a separate statement, Panelo said gift giving is “simply an appreciation by a thankful community for a job well done performed by the law enforcers
whose lives flirt with death every time they step out of their homes.”
“Certainly it is not given in anticipation of—or in exchange for—a favor from the members of the police force. The gift giving in fact inspires them to do their work faithfully and efficiently as their toil is not left unnoticed and unappreciated,” he said in a statement.
In a speech addressed to PNP officials in the 118th Police Anniversary in Camp Crame Friday, President Duterte said he will not stop police officers from receiving gifts.
“I will not stop you. If you are given, take it. It is not bribery. It cannot be bribery because it is allowed by law. What I mean, if there’s generosity in them, according to the anti-graft law, you cannot accept gifts? Foolishness,” he said.
For its part, the PNP said it respects the President’s remarks in accepting gifts, but the entire organization was still bound by law.
“We submit to the better wisdom of our lawyer-president that it is harmless to receive gifts so long as there is no element of corruption involved and no oppression or abuse of authority is committed,” the PNP said in a statement.
Panelo said Republic Act No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act speaks of “unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as a mere ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage.”
He said this provision is an exemption from the anti-graft provisions.
But Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former national police chief, chided Duterte for his remarks.
“Mr. President, insatiable greed starts with simple, petty graft. It could be more addicting than drugs. There is no detox, nor is there rehab facility available for addiction to money,” Lacson said in a tweet posted Saturday.
Civil Service Commission Commissioner Aileen Lizada on Sunday said there are laws that should be followed.
She added that the Department of the Interior and Local Government should decide how to respond the Duterte pronouncement, since the PNP is under its jurisdiction.
Vice President Leni Robredo said on Sunday that allowing public officials and employees to accept gifts—whether directly or indirectly—is against the law and will contribute to corruption in government.
Opposition Senator Francis Pangilinan said allowing police to accept gifts would make them more abusive and corrupt.
He warned that there will come a time when policemen will not act if there is no grease. He also cautioned against police siding only with the rich who can afford a lot of grease.
But Duterte’s former PNP chief, Senator Ronald dela Rosa, defended the President.
“Let us be truthful. Let us not give bad meaning to what the President said,” he said.
“For me, it’s okay, let us not put it out of context… For example, if the family of a rescued kidnap victim who was happy brought lechon to be eaten by policemen, so what’s wrong with that? “ Dela Rosa said.