By Lito Rulona
COUNCILOR Alvin Calingin has called on public officials to live decent and simple lives even as he stressed the need for people in government to be accountable to citizens.
Calingin said this in the wake of The Gold Star Daily stories that exposed what has been seen as the lavish lifestyle of Rep. Jose Benjamin Benaldo of the city’s 1st District.
Calingin and Benaldo are members of the Padayon Pilipino; both are known defenders of the Emano administration.
He was reluctant at first but decided to speak in general terms and did not mention Benaldo’s name.
Calingin, a lawyer by profession, cited Section I, Article XI of the 1987 Constitution which provides that “public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency; act with patriotism and lead modest lives.”
“Kung mahimo simple lang atong panginabuhi as public officials. Unya kinahanglan ehemplo sa publiko. These are mandatory provisions under the law. Kung imong supakon then you cannot be in public service. All public officials and employees should follow what is provided under the Constitution,” he said.
He said that even if a public official belongs to a wealthy family, he or she should not live lavishly in the public eye.
“Public office is a public trust. Officers and employees are accountable to the people and kinahanglan ang atong mga public official kinahanglan nga mahimo og ehemplo sa katawhan, dili mahimo nga imong i-display ang imong unsa diha,” Calingin said.
Calingin said public officials who have lavish lifestyles could be charged with violation of Section 4 of Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
He said the law provides that “‘public officials and employees and their families shall lead modest lives appropriate to their positions and income. They shall not indulge in extravagant or ostentatious display of wealth in any form.’
“Kung duna kay butang nga hilas kaayo tan-awon ayaw na i-display. Under the Civil Code, anybody can file a complaint against any public official for [too much] display of wealth––kanang bang hilas na kaayo.”
Opposition Councilors Edgar Cabanlas and Roger Abaday and at least one civil society group asked Benaldo to explain his wealth.
Serious questions have been raised about the congressman’s frequent travels abroad and his expensive wardrobe and accessories.
Benaldo has reportedly declared a net worth of over P30 million as of 2011.
Cabanlas said Benaldo should go easy on his lifestyle and show some finesse.
Benaldo has requested this paper to keep his statements off the record. But in another paper, he was quoted as saying that he was single and therefore, free to date anyone. He also claimed to have over 80 projects since he became a congressman two years ago and he should be judged based on his performance.