Why Bato should not have gone to Vegas

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When PNP Chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa left for Vegas I asked myself a few questions. I wondered how it was that a man with an official salary of just US $32,000 could afford such a trip to the entertainment capital of the world. I wondered how the people of the Philippines, both his detractors and proponents would see this trip. I then wondered who it was that paid for it.

I pretty quickly worked out that it was highly likely that Pacquiao was probably the one who signed the checks. I also wondered why. How is it that this could potentially benefit Manny? Why Bato, why not Duterte? Are Ronald and Manny so close that he would spend such a huge sum of money to provide plane tickets, hotel rooms and even pocket money to the Chief of Police?

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While it is highly likely that there is no impropriety about this transaction and nor am I accusing anyone of being corrupt, these are questions that must be asked. I can see no reason that the chief of police should not have attended the match, I also see no reason that anyone but himself should have picked up the bill.

This administration has swept to power on a wave of promises about not being corrupt and if you come to power on that basis, and you are the divinely appointed right-hand-man of the President elect then you’ve got no choice but to be “whiter than white” when it comes to the potential for impropriety.

There is an extremely good reason that the practise of giving gifts to people in politically important positions is discouraged, pretty much everywhere in the developed world. Especially gifts with a cash component. The question that has to be asked about gifts like this is about motivation. What motivates someone to give the gift, what leverage does it give the giver and what motivated the recipient to accept the present.

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Bato had an opportunity when he was offered that trip, an opportunity to publicly refuse it – even politely, not to accuse Senator Pacquiao of any impropriety, that would not have been necessary. He also had a chance to disclose that he had been offered the opportunity to travel to Las Vegas with Manny at the expense of the Senator but had declined and, as he is such an ardent boxing aficionado, had decided to spend his own money.

One wonders why he didn’t take these options? It’s pretty clear, really. People enjoy good things, they enjoy opportunities to have new experiences, experiences that they cannot afford. I mean, if Manny called me up tomorrow and invited me to Vegas, I’d go. Who wouldn’t? The point about holding a public office is that you are supposed to put the interests of the nation ahead of your own hedonistic desires. This is something that the chief of the PNP clearly chose not to do on this occasion.

While I’m not suggesting that there was anything underhanded about the fact that this happened, the investigation by the ombudsman is clearly the right thing to do. Having Bato on your side, especially as a senator gives you direct access to the president and the potential to influence decisions that are made within your jurisdiction both at a national government and PNP level.

At this point and stage in Philippine history, those are arguably the two most important places to be able to exert your will. In the current climate, responding with “So it was wrong, probe me” is inadequate. If it was wrong, and the recipient understood this, then it never should have been accepted in the first place.

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