TO THE POINT: Foreign Junkets and Lavish Parties Patricio P. Diaz

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GENERAL SANTOS CITY (MindaNews / 16 January) — Through an executive order, President Duterte has banned foreign travels of officials in the executive branch of the government without his personal authority. Abused, these foreign travels are junkets he considers a form of corruption.

We like that.  People will like that. All forms of corruption must be eradicated. Watch his approval rating go up in the next poll surveys.

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Mr. Duterte has already dismissed several top executive officials for excessive foreign travel – more than 12 times. The EO must have been issued to lay down guidelines for foreign travels. That should have been done long ago.

If excessive travel is a form of corruption, then it’s a form of a crime. Let there be a law prohibiting foreign junkets with corresponding penalties.  Dismissing the erring official is not enough.

All government executives and members of the Congress have travel allowances. Should the Budget Department not be faulted also for allocating travel allowances big enough for junkets?

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Mr. Duterte announced his issuance of the EO at the final day, last Friday, of the five-day birthday celebration of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez in Tagum, Davao del Norte. A five-day birthday celebration must be a lavish one.

By gracing the lavish celebration, Mr. Duterte approved of it. Why should foreign junkets be considered a form of corruption while lavish parties by top government officials are not? What’s the difference?

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Granted. Foreign junkets involve government money. Birthday celebration is a private affair and, no matter how lavish, is presumed to involve the celebrant’s personal money. That must be the justification.

Right! And it should not matter so even if Mr. Alvarez did it only now that he is Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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The EO applies only to officials of the executive branch of the government – not to the Congress and the Judiciary. Aside from the President, the biggest travel allowances are those of the members of the Congress.

The ban must be on all officials of the three branches of the government. A law must be passed spelling out what travels, foreign as well as within the country, are prohibited with corresponding legal or criminal liabilities – not just administrative or dismissal.

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Regarding the President’s official foreign visits, a law must be passed prohibiting the tagging along with the presidential entourage of “extra or unnecessary baggage”. That’s when the foreign visit becomes a junket.

So far as we remember, two presidents had been reported in the media as having taken along members of their families. One was President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who took along her children and grandchildren including their yayas in her official visit to China.

The other? In his official visit to Hongkong, this president took along his daughter and treated her at Disneyland.

The explanation that no government money was spent for the “extra baggage” is unacceptable.

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What about lavish parties of top government officials and agencies? There oughta be a law!

(MindaViews is the opinion section of MindaNews. Patriicio P. Diaz was editor in chief of the Mindanao Cross in Cotabato City and later the Mindanao Kris. He is the recipient of a “Lifetime Achievement Award” from the Titus Brandsma for his ‘commitment to education and public information to Mindanawons as Journalist, Educator, and Peace Advocate. You may e-mail your comments to patponcediaz@yahoo.com)

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