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What’s wrong with Bello and Robredo?

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“She thought that by discrediting Duterte, the viewing public will consider her as a worthy alternative to the president.”

Labor Secretary Silvestre Bello III and the purported vice president, Leni Robredo, are again in the news.

The news media reported last week that Bello wants to be appointed Ombudsman. If he were to have his way, Bello wishes to succeed the outgoing incumbent, Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is expected to retire from office very soon. There was also the news report that Bello has personally asked President Rodrigo Duterte for the post.

It was revealed, however, that Bello is not qualified for the post of Ombudsman because there are administrative cases currently pending against him in, ironically, the Office of the Ombudsman. Under the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the constitutional body which screens candidates for Ombudsman, one who has pending administrative cases in the Office of the Ombudsman cannot be appointed to that office.

Most certainly, Bello must have been aware that there are pending cases against him in the Office of the Ombudsman when he openly sought appointment as Ombudsman. Being so, he must have also been aware that he was disqualified for the position. So why did he express interest in the post of Ombudsman when he knew he is disqualified? Is Bello certain that before Morales steps down from office soon, the aforesaid cases against him will be dismissed? Does Bello know something the public, the JBC and the President do not know?

Right now, Bello’s quest for appointment as Ombudsman is suspect. Under ideal circumstances, that should be enough reason to disqualify Bello for the post, even if his administrative cases are dismissed, because nobody should be appointed Ombudsman under suspicious circumstances. An Ombudsman with plenty of “baggage,” so to speak, is the last thing the country needs if it wants clean and credible government.

The Ombudsman matter aside, Bello appears to have taken credit for negotiating a bilateral agreement between Manila and Kuwait City, which calls for the safety and the better treatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait, domestic helpers in particular. That agreement prompted President Duterte to lift the total ban he had earlier imposed against the deployment of Filipino domestic helpers to Kuwait after a Filipina domestic helper was murdered in that barbarous Middle East country during Bello’s watch last year. Anyway, the hard work was done not by Bello, but by the president’s adviser on overseas Filipino workers.

By the way, Bello has not yet identified that mysterious, secretive woman who kept on whispering to him while he was answering questions during a congressional hearing held in relation to the treatment of Filipino workers in Kuwait. If Bello wants to be Ombudsman, he cannot surround himself with mysterious, secretive individuals.

Last week, Leni Robredo, the purported vice president of the nation, appeared in a television news program to say that she is alarmed that the Filipino people are no longer shocked about scandals in the government. She went on to insinuate that there are so many anomalies in the Duterte administration, so much so that the people are used to hearing about such anomalies.

Observers noted that Robredo kept on smirking during the interview, and that by doing so, she was unwittingly indicating that she was happy with the scandals and anomalies. Perhaps Robredo was pleased with the scandals and anomalies, because she thought that by discrediting Duterte, the viewing public will consider her as a worthy alternative to the president.

Robredo is grossly mistaken in attributing the anomalies in government to President Duterte. Even assuming for the sake of argument that there are anomalies in the government, it does not necessarily follow that those anomalies are attributable exclusively to the president.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was unseated by the Supreme Court after a finding that Sereno never validly qualified for the post. In resisting her ouster by the highest court of the land, by the very tribunal vested by the Constitution with the exclusive power to state what the provisions of the Constitution mean, and through a time-tested process allowed by law, Sereno did her best to publicly discredit and demean the Supreme Court. Sereno used words that portrayed the justices as stooges of Malacañang — accusations which Sereno should not have used if she were to comport herself within the ethical standards governing the legal profession. Robredo probably forgot that Sereno was an appointee of President Benigno Aquino III, and not of President Duterte.

Robredo also lamented during the interview that public confidence in the Supreme Court was eroded when the Supreme Court unseated Sereno as chief justice. The “vice president” conveniently failed to state, though, that it was Sereno who almost single-handedly discredited the Supreme Court to the people — in violation of legal ethical standards.

During the administration of President Aquino III, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV made several secret trips to Communist China, with the permission of Aquino III, supposedly to discuss the status of islets in the West Philippine Sea which belong to the Philippines but which Beijing insists on taking. It was learned that in 2012, Trillanes advised Aquino III to withdraw all Philippine troops stationed at Panatag Shoal in the disputed islets, on the mistaken assumption that Communist China will reciprocate.

Upon Trillanes’ advice, Aquino III ordered the withdrawal of all Philippine troops from the shoal. Communist China, however, kept its troops in the disputed area. As a consequence, the communist Chinese currently occupy the shoal, in open violation of Philippine sovereignty.

Trillanes is a devoted follower of Aquino III. He is a sworn enemy of President Duterte. That debacle at Panatag Shoal is not the fault of Duterte.

The next time Robredo has plans to attack the Duterte administration on television, she should review the historical record first.

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