A farmer by the name of “Emilio Aguinaldo” was the person that then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte said was his major campaign donor. This was broadcasted on TV during one presidential debate in the last presidential elections in the country.
But that was probably a mere joke, as Duterte often claims some of his controversial statements are in fact mere jokes.
But what is not a joke is his statement of contributions and expenditures he submitted to the COMELEC, as per requirement of the electoral agency from each presidential candidate. Retrieved by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ), data shows that some Duterte donors are now placed in key positions in the government.
For instance, Dennis Uy, Phoenix Petroleum president, donated P31 million to Duterte’s campaign. He’s now presidential adviser for sports. Carlos Dominguez donated 3 million pesos. He is now finance secretary. Salvador Medialdea and wife Ma. Bertola donated P1.5 million, and he is now executive secretary of the president.
Smaller amounts were donated by Ismael Sueno, who gave P21,600, and Jesus Hinlo, Jr., who gave P576. Sueno is now secretary of interior and local government (DILG) while Hinlo is undersecretary.
Political analyst and UP Professor Dr. Jean Franco says this practice could arouse suspicions in Duterte’s critics and detractors.
“Halimbawa ako, kumpanya ako, at me interes ako sa isang kontrata sa gubyerno, at nag-donate ako para sa isang particular candidate na alam kong mananalo, syempre babalikan ko yung kandidatong yun kapag nanalo siya, at ‘maniningil’ ako,” Franco said in an interview with ABS CBN News.
[For instance, if I am a company and I have a contract with government—and I donated to a particular candidate I know would win—I’d surely go back to that candidate and ask for “payment”].
Moreover, the PCIJ said, some Duterte campaign donors are in fact suppliers of government today. Felix Ang, Cats Asian Corps., donated P10 million and got a big chunk of P1.24 million in the form of an SSS contract last October, an ABS CBN report said.
However, Franco said these are all permitted by law. The president can appoint donors who supported him in his election campaigns to whatever government position he sees fit.
“Hindi naman siya unlawful, pero it may be actually unethical. At syempre suspetsahan mo nang kung anong maaaring vested interests nitong mga taong ito nung nag-donate palang sila para sa kampanya,” Franco opined.
[It’s not unlawful, but it may actually be unethical. And of course, you may suspect them of whatever possible vested interest these people may have when they donated during the campaign.]
What’s really needed, Franco added, is government transparency in all its dealings and make sure no one would be particularly favored due to its indebtedness.
For its part, the Civil Service Commission (CSC) clarified that the president has a reason for appointing people to certain positions.
“You won’t just appoint anybody you don’t know. You will appoint those you’re comfortable with because these are the people who will help you deliver the promises that you made during the campaign—to deliver the services that you want to deliver to the people,” Ariel Ronquillo, assistant commissioner at the CSC said.