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ABANTE: HEAVY PENALTIES FOR CORRUPTION AMID CRISIS

Extraordinary times demand extraordinary measures.

This is the rationale behind a proposed law that if passed would levy heavier penalties on public officials found guilty of negligence or corruption while the country is under a State of Public Health Emergency.

We now live in extraordinary times, and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Kaya po ang tinututukan po nito ay ang negligence at corruption during a State of Public Health Emergency.

According to Deputy Speaker Benny Abante Jr., the proposed Public Health Emergency Anti-Negligent and Corrupt Practices Act would cover acts of corruption and negligence in the implementation of essential and priority government public health response programs, projects, and activities as specified by list to be issued by Congress.

Principal authors of the measure include CIBAC Party-list Reps. Eddie Villanueva and Domingo Rivera; Deputy Speaker and 1-PACMAN Party-list Rep. Mikee Romero; and Deputy Speaker and BH Party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy.

“We now live in extraordinary times, and extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. Kaya po ang tinututukan po nito ay ang negligence at corruption during a State of Public Health Emergency. When we are in a State of Public Health Emergency, there is a high probability of a large number of deaths or a large number of serious injuries or long-term disabilities in our country,” explained Abante in an interview on Tuesday.

The lawmaker pointed out that in such a scenario, “the consequences of negligence and corruption during a crisis such as this pandemic are magnified exponentially because lives are at stake.”

“Buhay na po ng tao ang nakasalalay. The price we pay for negligence and corruption is much, much, steeper. Negligence could result in our countrymen not receiving timely aid or medical assistance; delays could lead to deaths. Corruption, on the other hand, could result in the government paying more for medicines or vaccines––and when you pay more, that means you can procure less.”

Under the bill, those found guilty of “directly or indirectly requesting or receiving any gift, present, share, percentage, commission or other pecuniary or material benefit, for himself/herself or for another, in connection with any contract or transaction with the government” could be be penalized with perpetual disqualification from holding public office and with death––as may be provided by law––if the aggregate amount or total value of the said gifts, presents, shares, percentages, commissions, or other pecuniary or material benefits are greater than 50 million pesos.

Abante clarified that the death penalty was included among the penalties so that the penalty could be imposed if a law allowing for capital punishment passes in Congress.

If the aggregate value of the gifts and other benefits is less than P50 million but more than P1 million, the penalty is lowered to reclusion perpetua.

Abante clarified that the death penalty was included among the penalties so that the penalty could be imposed if a law allowing for capital punishment passes in Congress.

The legislator justified the imposition of the death penalty and stressed that “if many people die because of the greed of one person, then that person deserves nothing less than death.”

The measure also penalizes the following acts with imprisonment of not less than five years nor more than twenty years, perpetual disqualification from public office, and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth manifestly out of proportion to his salary and other lawful income:

  • Negligence in crafting the necessary government response to the public health emergency
  • Neglecting or refusing, after due demand or request, without sufficient justification, to act within a reasonable time on any matter pending before him/her relative to any issue on public health threat
  • Negligence in the performance of duty relative to securing needed medicines, vaccines, supplies or facilities necessary in the containment or eradication of public health threat
  • Delay or causing the delay in the disbursement of public funds intended for public health emergency response of the government
  • Tampering or non-disclosure of full and complete epidemiological data with the purpose of downplaying the real situation of the state of public health emergency
  • Gross violation of standard health protocols promulgated by the government
  • Entering, on behalf of the government, into any contract or transaction manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the same, whether or not the public officer profited or will profit thereby

Under the measure, offenses punishable under the Public Health Emergency Anti-Negligent and Corrupt Practices Act shall prescribe in ten years.

“Marami na kaming nababalitaan na  sumasablay at kumikita ngayon są pandemya. Hindi natin pwede hayaan ito. May namamatay at may nagkakasakit sa ating mga kababayan, tapos pagkakakitaan pa ito? Our people deserve accountability, they demand accountability––and we believe this measure will ensure it.”

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