Integrity is the sum total of character. Thus, when appeals are made not to sully a reputation built through the years, observers would be reminded of the saying, “be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

Note: This column originally appeared in The Manila Times on October 22, 2019.

It has been said that “integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.” Men and women of the old school would know what this saying means because they lived with it, while in the public glare and outside of it, in their retirement years.

Some people in uniform though, despite the so-called Philippine Military Academy (PMA) code, melt under the glare that catches up with them, even when the top guy is about three weeks short of retirement. Such is the case of resigned Philippine national Police (PNP) chief, Oscar “Oca” Albayalde who became PNP head because he showed to all how to be under the glare during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit in Manila and the Resorts World Manila shooting incident. Albayalde was National Capital Region police director under then-PNP chief Ronald “Bato” dela Rosa. Previous to that, he was executive officer of the Directorate for Plans in Camp Crame after a tour of duty as Pampanga provincial police chief. A native of San Fernando City, Pampanga, Albayalde was removed from his post in 2014 over a drug bust operation in Mexico, Pampanga in 2013.

Six years after, it is ironic that the long arm of the law had caught up with Albayalde. Last August, the Senate launched an investigation into the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) Law mainly because a notorious former mayor and convicted rapist and murderer, Antonio Sanchez, was somehow included in a list of prisoners slated for release for good conduct. The ensuing public outcry resulted in Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) head Nicanor Faeldon going out the exit door for the second time; he was earlier booted out of the Customs bureau, over another scandal. Then on September 16, Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) chief Aaron Aquino, during the budget hearing on the agency, hinted that drug recycling remained to be rampant in the PNP.

From GCTA, the Senate hearings pivoted to the subject of “ninja cops,” resulting in the testimonies of former PNP Criminal Investigation and Detention Group (CIDG) chief, now Baguio City Mayor Benjamin “Benjie” Magalong, and PDEA’s Aquino. Magalong revealed during the committee hearings that the police report from the drug buy-bust declared confiscation of only around 38 kilograms of drugs, instead of about 200 kg. The joint Senate panel has recommended that graft charges be filed against the now resigned Albayalde over his alleged involvement in the “monumental cover-up” of a 2013 sale of drugs seized from a buy-bust operation by 13 cops.

The Senate committee report concluded that Albayalde “violated section 3(a) and 3(e) of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the ‘Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act,’ with each prohibited act of ‘persuading, inducing, or influencing another public officer to perform an act constituting a violation of rules and regulations’; and ‘causing undue injury to any party, including the government…’” If found guilty, Agbayalde could face six to 15 years imprisonment; perpetual disqualification from public office and confiscation or forfeiture in favor of the government of any prohibited interest and unexplained wealth. The report further pointed out that Albayalde also allegedly violated Section 27 of RA 9165, or the “Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002,” for profiting from the drug reselling; and Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code for interference in the dismissal of the 13 cops. These violations could sentence him to life imprisonment, fined from P500,000 to P10 million, and “absolute perpetual disqualification from office.”

While the hearings were going on, PRRD appointed controversial Police Col. Gerald Bantag as the new director general of the BuCor in place of Faeldon. Bantag, former warden of the Manila and Parañaque city jails, replaced Faeldon who was removed last September 4 over the GCTA scandal. Bantag immediately destroyed all shelters, or kubol, inside the four quadrants of the maximum security compound, which houses some 18,000 inmates. The cleaning was surgical from the GCTA’s tightening the noose so a pivot was needed to prevent further erosion of support and a potential build up to a crisis, to the actual destruction of the illegal structures to end a potentially damaging scenario for this administration. Along the way, Albayalde was exposed and this led to a decision to resign.

Still, there are many loose ends that need to be looked into: the GCTA list and amendment of the law; strengthening the disciplinary powers over police via a strong CIDG and independent National Police Commission; vetting system to choose the PNP chief; PDEA being the lead agency in the illegal drugs war; purging the PNP of ninja cops; custodial responsibilities of seized evidence and the certainty of punishment among erring men and women in uniform, among others.

Integrity is the sum total of character. Thus, when appeals are made not to sully a reputation built through the years, observers would be reminded of the saying, “be more concerned with your character than your reputation. Your character is what you really are while your reputation is merely what others think you are.”

And when we recognize the contribution of a man known for integrity and probity such as the sum total of the life of Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel Jr., one thinks about what Abraham Lincoln said: “Character is like a tree and reputation like a shadow. The shadow is what we think of it; the tree is the real thing.” And so another chapter closes of great men and women passing and leaving behind a legacy worth emulating. Nene Pimentel, human rights lawyer, arrested four times during the Marcos dictatorship, was a delegate of the constitutional convention of 1973; mayor of Cagayan de Oro and later a member of Integrated Bar of the Philippines; he ran for and gained a seat in the reconvened Senate in 1987 and in 2000 became Senate President. Partnering with then Senate President Jovito “Jovy” Salonga, Tatay, as called by young minds wanting to be mentored by the seasoned advocate of decentralization, autonomy and federalism, ran for vice president under the Salonga ticket in 1992. Those were the days when running for the presidency was not a popularity contest or a fight for the deepest pockets but of dreams, programs and what mattered to Juan; when honor was first and public service records the metrics considered by voters.

How many of the uniformed personnel can stare at power and turn their backs from it? How many can discipline their people and not just suffer a diminution of rank? How many can deal with the elephant in the room and tell the King he has no clothes? How many are Benjies and not Ocas in PNP? How many of the men and women of the PNP can stand tall along with Tatay and remain fearless and principled? And when you analyze reform in the interior sector and why interior was added to the local government department, you will understand why Tatay wanted a professional PNP, civilian in character and why interior was part and parcel of the local government code.

Integrity cannot be bought, it cannot be inherited or earned. It cannot be borrowed or invented. Integrity was Nene Pimentel.

About the Author
Malou Tiqiua is the Founder/General Manager of PUBLiCUS Asia Inc. A noted political management expert in the Philippines and Asia, she brings over 20 years of professional experience in public, private and the academe combined. Author of the comprehensive book on electoral campaigns in the Philippines, "Campaign Politics", Malou is a graduate of the University of the Philippines with a Political Science degree and a Master of Public Administration. She completed her second master's degree (MA in Political Management) from the Graduate School of Political Management, George Washington University.
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