Plugging leaks

How the documents came to light is of lesser importance than their content. Their being factual and their being imbued with public interest were enough for the media to take on the issue.


September 20, 2022

The group Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption or VACC has come up with a befuddling statement calling for a probe into the alleged leak of the draft Administrative Order creating the post of the Presidential Chief of Staff, as well as the outing of the accompanying Special Order that sought to give that office immense powers.

VACC said the “leak of the draft AO and the alleged memorandum from the Chief Presidential Legal Counsel should be thoroughly investigated because of the very serious implications involved.” It added that “these documents are in the nature of privileged communications between the Office of the President and its support offices and units.”

The way it comes across, VACC now wants former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile investigated after the Palace heeded his legal advice thumbing down the draft Special Order so as not to cloak the CoS with powers that would overlap and usurp the authority of the Executive Secretary.

Is this investigation being sought by the VACC in any way connected with the embarrassing fact that the draft AO and SO were apparently prepared for the signature of then-ES Victor Rodriguez? Is this a proxy move from someone whose ego had been badly bruised after not getting what he wanted?

As we all know by now, Rodriguez has been reassigned to CoS after supposedly resigning as “little president” or ES, following the brouhaha over the foiled unauthorized importation of 300,000 metric tons of sugar that had his paws all over it, judging by revelations made before Congress by resigned Agriculture undersecretary Leocadio Sebastian.

At any rate, good luck to Rodriguez on his new posting. He’ll need it.

Going back to Secretary Enrile, he has always turned down efforts by the media to solicit comments from him on legal matters brought before him by the President. As such, anyone even slightly inferring that he has anything to do with the “leak” is barking up the wrong tree. Not that Enrile would balk at any probe; he’d just likely say, “Bring it on!”

Likewise, VACC should be reminded that it’s supposed to be a nonstock, nonprofit and nongovernmental organization; thus, its latest call is so out of touch with the image that its founder tried hard to cultivate, that of being more like media than government in exposing corruption and its other main concern — criminality.

Granting without conceding the validity of the group’s argument that the unsigned AO and SO and Enrile’s legal comments were privileged communication, that doesn’t change the fact that those were subject to fair commentaries the moment they became public.

How the documents came to light is of lesser importance than their content. Their being factual and their being imbued with public interest were enough for the media to take on the issue. Self-censorship as what VACC seemed to be suggesting would be unacceptable for news organizations on an issue that impacts on the President and his men.

Many governments had fallen and risen from media bombshells, and news organizations will never shirk on its responsibility to serve as the people’s advocate for transparency in government in all of its actions, including those covering AOs and SOs, whether they be already signed or are mere drafts.

It was in this spirit that “Deep Throat,” the Washington Post’s source within the United States government, provided journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein with information about the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon.

“Deep Throat” turned out to be former Federal Bureau of Investigation deputy director Mark Felt. The source of the Watergate Scandal leaks was of secondary importance than the leaks themselves. This is true then and remains true now.

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