MANILA, Philippines – Solicitor General Jose Calida is the Duterte administration's "new poster boy [for] corruption," according to opposition senator Leila de Lima.
De Lima said Calida is making it acceptable for public officials to make a profit out of government. She also accused Calida of ensuring that the duration of his term in government would correspond to the wealth he would amass.
"By getting away with millions of pesos in government contracts, Calida is now the role model in government corruption. If we let him get away with it, we are not only normalizing thievery and mainstreaming plunder as a way of life in secret, but out in the open, where enterprising public officials brag about their ill-gotten wealth as the legitimate fruit of being in power, being corrupt, and being shameless about it," De Lima said in a note on Tuesday, June 5.
Calida's security firm Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency Incorporated won more than 10 government contracts worth at least P261.39 million starting August 2016, or after he became solicitor general.
Among the agencies that granted contracts was the Department of Justice (DOJ), where the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is an attached agency. (READ: Gov't database shows additional P110M contracts for Calida firm)
Calida said he resigned as president and chairman of Vigilant in June 2016. But he still holds 60% of company shares, while the remaining 40% are evenly spread out among his wife Milagros and their 3 children.
Despite this, he said there is no conflict of interest because the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, he claimed, only requires him to either resign from the company or divest from it.
But De Lima, a former justice secretary, denounced this. She said the 1987 Constitution states that no Cabinet member or their deputies "shall participate in any business, or be financially interested in any contract with, or in any franchise, or special privilege granted by the Government or any subdivision, agency, or instrumentality thereof."
"By being the majority stockholder of a security agency that has bagged multiple government contracts, Calida is spitting on this constitutional provision. This is already the new normal, of high government officials spitting on the Constitution, after no less than their President proclaimed before troopers of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) that for him, the Constitution is nothing but a mere scrap of paper," De Lima said.
The senator also slammed the Supreme Court (SC) for granting the quo warranto petition filed by Calida, who De Lima said is "maabilidad," "mapamaraan," and "madiskarte" (skillful, systematic, strategic) in terms of accumulating wealth while in government.
"Maybe the Court should be reminded that this is the Solicitor General they are rooting for, one who has no qualms and second thoughts in making a business out of his government position for his own family's personal enrichment while he is in power.... One wonders what the members of the Court have to say about that, after removing a Chief Justice not even for corruption, but for merely failing to locate her SALNs," De Lima said.
"This is the man the SC is telling us to trust with his professionalism and independence, while they crucify their Chief Justice for unfiled SALNs," she added.
President Rodrigo Duterte has said he would not fire Calida and that people should stop "forcing" the issue.
Camille Elemia is Rappler's lead reporter for media, disinformation, and democracy. She won an ILO award in 2017. She received the prestigious Fulbright-Hubert Humphrey fellowship in 2019, allowing her to further study media and politics in the US. Email email@example.com