Let’s help Sara Duterte trace how the grand dilemma of her confidential funds began.
Questioned in the senate, she said, “Our work will be much easier if we have the flexibility of confidential funds.”
Easier, flexibility – then and there the Freudian slip stared at the public in the face. Imagine the weight of that boo-boo, despite the fact that close-in confidante of many years Zuleika Lopez was at her side to coach her with answers.
Flexibility has a slew of meanings. It could mean open-endedness, adjustability, freedom, latitude, mobility, variability. Applied to the fiscal management of funds, she implied that the fund could be used on a versatility of uses. And that was her first damning blunder.
Supposedly a lawyer, she made the grave misstep of defying the narrow legal prescription for confidential funds: that these are allowed solely for surveillance activities. Both offices she held were by no means mandated as national security agencies.
Sara tickled the public mind: how did she use her confidential funds when she was Davao city mayor? Flexibility and surveillance when compared are oceans apart. Sara did not miscalculate. She sounded like she was telling the truth: in the Davao city hall, that’s how confidential funds are spent and never mind because there are no grilling legislators like Risa Hontiveros, France Castro or Raoul Manuel in it’s sangguniang bayan.
Quiz the public today on how many ghost employees Davao city hall had under both father and daughter Dutertes. The public has memorized the number – 11,246. That is shamelessly massive by any standards anywhere in the forlorn archipelago. Sara’s I-don’t-care does not work in the national stage. The question on corruption had preceded her to begin with.
The so-called flexibility then came to mind. Did she mean flexibility for corruption? In the intensity of the grilling, she then said: “We can only propose. We are not insisting.”
Days later, she insisted: those who are against her confidential funds are enemies of the state. That was not just another damning boo-boo registering very clearly in the public mind. In the record of Duterte rule in Davao city, “enemies of the state” are to be eliminated by cops in the payroll of “intelligence funds.”
The absence of any coherence from Sara was fantastic. Her answers were as varied as the definition of flexibility and as flexible as flexibility itself. She was stumbling on her own words. She also said she needed confidential funds for matters unrelated to security like free bus rides and tree planting. Say that again? The conundrum was getting hazier and hazier.
By then, the public had no need for another Freudian slip. Sara was botching big with one Himalayan blunder after another. It was scoring big time in stupidity.
Her father came into the picture but his loquaciousness sank her deeper. He said Sara wanted to use those confidential funds for mandatory ROTC. He forgot that college ROTC will be under the supervision of the Commission on Higher Education, not Sara’s Department of Education.
Three months after late August, there is as yet no answer on how she intends to use confidential funds. The answer is still, flexibility. That should explain to the spiteful Dutertes why the public anger persists. It is a rage that was never ever before seen in flexibly obeisant Davao city.
But today, Sara pinpoints the problem. Writing a letter to the senate that she is giving up her confidential funds – how many sleepless nights did she endure before containing her frustration – she said the issue was divisiveness.
What on earth does that mean? To a Duterte, it is a you-and-me-against-the-world thing. They want flexible confidential funds, the public vetoes it. That is a declaration of war against a Duterte whim. That is divisiveness to them.
We do not have a humbled and sober Sara who could have admitted that the problem was transparency, profligacy, morality, and ethics, time-honored virtues that statesmen vow to.
How else could you appease that divisiveness when until now Sara has not answered the ultimate test: how did she spend the P125M in only 11 days? And so the question persists. Her popularity ratings plummet. Public wrath remains unvented.
Divisiveness? Hell no, there is no such thing when it is only her angry trolls in SMNI like Sass Sasot who are pitted against the irate public. Are they angry because their cooking pots will be reversed without the confidential funds? Just asking.
The views in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of VERA Files.