Philippines: Clamor for waivers from government officials
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Philippines: Clamor for waivers from government officials

Senator Franklin Drilon, a partymate of President Noynoy Aquino, and the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Renato Corona, have snubbed the challenge from the accused that they sign individual waivers authorizing the release to the public of any and all information about their foreign currency deposits.

Corona’s signing of a conditional waiver and his challenge to his accusers were among the highlights of his dramatic and action-packed testimony today before the Senate impeachment court.

A ray of hope emerged from the House of Representatives, with ACT Teachers Rep. Tonchi Tinio agreeing to sign the waiver.

Under the law, the secrecy of foreign currency deposits is absolutely protected. It is this fact that has trumped the prosecution in its vain efforts, and which perhaps led the Ombudsman to present unverified information before the court.

Some say Corona’s gambit should be rejected for what it is. But saying so would unduly limit the crusade for good governance and accountability. Looking at it anew and against the backdrop of our long-running complaints towards a corrupt state populated by corrupt officials, Corona’s challenge is sensible and should open the floodgates to holding all these officials accountable to the public.

President Aquino, who has styled himself as a paragon of virtue and champion of integrity, should take up Corona’s challenge. Corona’s challenge opens opportunities to a top-to-bottom shaking down of government corruption. Who knows, there may be a legislator or two out there with more than 82 dollar accounts and with balances of more than 12 million dollars.

As President Aquino and his supporters say, they themselves have nothing to lose if they have nothing to hide. But more than this, the public have a right to such information in order to make and keep these officials accountable in exchange for the public office they occupy and enjoy, and to show the world that the real boss in the Philippines is not the president but the people.

Whether or not Corona submits his signed waiver to the Senate, many of us feel rightly that our public officials should sign their own waivers.

Now more than ever, we have to fight for our right as citizens to information from our government and from our government officials.