IN case you didn’t hear it, PNP chief, General Ronald ‘Bato’ de la Rosa last Friday went on live radio to apologize to the entire Filipino nation for going on official leave last week to watch Senator Manny Pacquiao beat American fighter Jessie Vargas in Las Vegas.
Coming also from a poor family and a father to two daughters, I can feel how my fellow Visayan ‘Bato’ feels while being ridiculed by some for accepting Sen. Pacquiao’s invitation for him and his family to join him in his Las Vegas trip ‘all-expenses paid.’
Many have scored ‘Bato’ for accepting the great boxer’s offer but as he explained it, he did it since it was a ‘once in a lifetime chance’ to bring his family to the United States and watch Pacquiao fight for free. The general said he’s not a well-off government official who could afford to bring his family to the U.S. unlike other public officials and millionaire Filipinos too.
Many PNP critics ––mostly coming from rich families–– are now using de la Rosa’s U.S. trip to malign him. The Ombudsman even said ‘Bato’ will be probed for violation of Presidential Decree No. 46 which punishes public officials for receiving gifts “on any occasion,” as well as Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Now why question why ‘Bato’ was in the U.S. last week. Is it illegal for the Chief,PNP or other police and military generals to file a leave of absence to go on a foreign trip unless there is brewing trouble in the country, say an armed revolt or a terror attack? Remember that the top cop went on official leave with the knowledge of President Duterte and DILG Secretary Mike Sueno. Is it wrong for a PNP chief like de la Rosa to have his ‘own private time’ with his family abroad?
Second, why single out the PNP chief? It’s a common knowledge that Sen. Pacquiao usually pays for the air ticket and accommodation of some friends in the government who watch him fight live abroad. Pacquiao said that he even bought some P1.5 million worth of tickets to his fight and gave them to his friends. Will the Ombudsman also investigate these officials for violation of the code of conduct for public officials?
Lastly, will we be removing Gen. de la Rosa from office for simply watching Pacquiao’s fight for free? At present, many generals-both active and retired-have been telling me that only ‘Bato’ has the might, influence and moral ascendancy to fight drugs and corruption in the country and that President Duterte won’t allow such minor infraction to affect his top cop’s programs.
As ‘Bato’ had said this week, he is ready to be jailed for not using Filipino taxpayers’ money and preferring to accept an invitation by Sen. Pacquiao to go to Las Vegas. “Sige lang imbestigahan ako. Makulong ako dahil sa imbitasyon,” the sharpshooting nemesis of criminals said when he welcomed the Ombudsman investigation.
The top cop also maintained that what was important was that he did not use government money in his U.S. trip. He really said it all: “Ang importante dili tayo kurakot kwarta,” (What’s important is that I did not steal the people’s money.”
The PNP chief said that Sen. Pacquiao happened to be a very close friend who shouldered his air fare and accommodation in order for him to watch the boxing icon fight Americans Floyd Mayweather, Timothy Bradley and Vargas. He said he took a leave of absence on all occasions to honor the invitation of his boxing idol and ‘compadre,’ their friendship forged when Pacquiao was still not that world-famous.
Poor Pinoys will always smile and be inspired when they hear the life story of both Pacquiao and ‘Bato.’ Pacquiao and his siblings worked hard under the guidance of their mother Dionisia until he became what he is known today-a world-class boxer, a senator and a figure known all over the world.
On the other hand, de la Rosa also belonged to a poor family forced to abandon their home in Davao del Sur after the New People’s Army learned that he enrolled at the Philippine Military Academy and asked his father to tell him to leave Fort del Pilar and join the underground movement. De la Rosa had many hardship assignments until he rose to become the country’s top cop and as they always say, the rest is history.
‘Hypocrites’ will always see something negative on Sen. Pacquiao and Gen. de la Rosa’s friendship but what the heck. Sen. Pacquiao has defended his decision to foot the bill for the PNP chief’s trip saying it is better to treat others than do illegal activities.
Many supporters of the PNP chief also have told me that ‘hypocrites’ questioning his ‘all-expense paid’ should also examine their conscience since they are sure that many of them also traveled abroad for free courtesy of friends and even people doing business with government or private offices in the past but were not investigated.
Many have been talking about the word ‘propriety’ or impropriety.’ However, de la Rosa, himself a former amateur boxer who idolized the Sarangani native said he never had official transactions with Pacquiao and that there was no reason to think there would be strings attached in Pacquiao’s freebies.
“What’s wrong with going there to show my support? It’s a rare thing to be able to witness the achievements of a Filipino senator in world boxing history. It was an honor for me and family to be invited, “he said. He added that for Visayans like him and Pacquiao, giving treats was considered better than being involved in shenanigans. “Alam mo kaming mga Bisaya, OK lang ’yang ilibre, kaysa gumawa ng kalokohan,” he said.
So those thinking of removing de la Rosa from office and citing his offense as an act which is punishable by removal or dismissal of an official employee even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against him, should better think twice. Also, those criticizing ‘Bato’ should be ready to prove that you also did not commit a similar light offense—getting an all-expenses paid trip abroad— in the past. Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.