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Palace to those in government: Don’t accept expensive gifts
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Palace to those in government: Don’t accept expensive gifts

MANILA, Philippines, August 13 ------ How much is too much? Malacañang yesterday clarified that government personnel should not accept gifts that are of “excessive” value, but could not give a definition of the term. President Duterte stirred controversy on Friday when he said it was OK for policemen to accept gifts given out of generosity or gratitude. Critics disputed his statement, saying the law bars government personnel from accepting gifts or anything of monetary value from anyone in the course of their official duties, in connection with any operation being regulated by or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office.

Presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo defended Duterte’s remarks, saying unsolicited gifts or presents of small or insignificant value offered or given as an ordinary token of gratitude or friendship according to local customs or usage are exempted from anti-graft provisions. Panelo added that such gifts are different from bribes, which are given to convince a government worker to do something that would benefit the giver.

Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, Panelo argued, exempts unsolicited gifts of “nominal or insignificant value” not given in anticipation of or in exchange for a favor from a public official or employee. Other laws that expressly prohibit receiving of gifts among public officials are Presidential Decree 46, which makes it “punishable for public officials and employees to receive, and for a private persons to give, gifts on any occasion, including Christmas;” RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and the Revised Penal Code’s Articles 210, 211 and 212, which deal with direct and indirect bribery.

Asked in an interview yesterday if public servants should return gifts of significant value, Panelo replied, “Dapat hindi nila tatanggapin kung masyado namang malaki (They should not accept if its value is too high).” The spokesman, however, could not provide specifics on the threshold amount of a gift considered unacceptable. “Perhaps, you have to use your discretion there. If a billionaire gives you a gift, it may be expensive for others, but not for him. But what is important is the giving is not in consideration or anticipation of a favor or in exchange of a favor. That’s the test,” he added.

Pressed if a gift of significant value should be returned if the giver is not seeking something in return, Panelo replied, “Kung masyadong malaki, nakakahiya namang tumanggap din ’di ba, hindi mo dapat tatanggapin (If it’s too expensive, it may be embarassing to accept it. You should not accept it).”

Source: philstar.com