Should Solicitor General Jose Calida get the ax or retain his post as the government’s top counsel?
Following accusations that he had allegedly benefited from the P150.8-million worth of contracts that his family bagged from government agencies through his wife and children’s security agency, an official from the Civil Service Commission (CSC) took up the cudgels for Calida, while two opposition senators urged President Rodrigo Duterte to fire him.
In an interview with dzRH Monday, May 28, Ariel Ronquillo, CSC assistant commissioner for legal concerns, said there would no longer be a problem if Calida had already divested himself of his shares in Vigilant Investigative and Security Agency, Inc. (VISAI).
“Kasi ang requirement lang ng batas natin mag-divest ng interest do’n sa company at the time you enter the government service. Eh kung nag-divest na, that’s it. He can really interpose that as a valid defense,” said Ronquillo.
However, it was learned from Calida’s camp that the solicitor general had not yet divested his shares in VISAI. Nonetheless, a statement from his office insisted that he had followed the law after he stepped down as the firm’s chairman and president before he became solicitor general.
“That he has not yet divested his interest in said enterprise is of no moment since the requirement of the law is either to resign from the management of the enterprise and/or divest himself of his interest in it,” the statement said.
Citing jurisprudence in the 1997 case of Rabe v. Flores, the statement said “the allegation that there is conflict of interest is baseless.”
Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees states in Section 9 that in the event of a conflict of interest, a government official or employee “shall resign from his position in any private business enterprise within thirty (30) days from his assumption of office and/or divest himself of his shareholdings or interest within sixty (60) days from such assumption.”
Meanwhile, senators Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan and Ana Theresia “Risa” Hontiveros urged Duterte to remove Calida from his post.
“Solicitor General Jose Calida, who is the government’s lawyer, should also resign because of the P150-million contract with the [Department of Justice], [National Economic and Development Authority], [Philippine Amusement and Gamign Corp.], etc., that the security guard agency owned by his wife and children bagged,” Pangilinan said in a statement.
“I challenge President Duterte to prove his anti-corruption rhetoric. I challenge him to not only fire Mr. Calida but also to file the necessary charges against him,” Hontiveros said.
“After all, if he can order the solicitor general to file a case against the Supreme Court chief justice, he can do the same to the former. Otherwise, his anti-corruption stance is pure hogwash,” she added.