Editorial: Public Office is Public Trust... Really?

A little review of the 1987 Constitution tells us that “public office is a public trust, and that public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people.”

This lofty principle implies that there is a certain code of conduct and ethical standard government officials must adhere to. But lo and behold, no less than the son of the President of the Republic and Pampanga 2nd District Representative Mikey Arroyo is being criticized for his questionable Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

Such blatant arrogance and disregard for public trust of an elected government official is, of course, not something new. This may not be news–worthy, considering the recent scandals of graft and corruption that has been associated with the First Family, but this is certainly a cause for outrage from a public who opposes the use of state resources of their personal aggrandizement.

Representative Arroyo has taken oath entering public office holding the trust of the people, whom he sworn to serve. As a trustee, he owes accountability to his constituents by being answerable for his conduct and acting with transparency.

Not meaning to be legalist, but another look at the Constitution should reveal that the right of the public to information is one of the foremost entitlements of every citizen of this country. But he seems to be short of providing the public with the correct information about the state of his true wealth.

True enough, Rep. Arroyo has a lot of explaining to do. His net worth rose from P5 million to P76.9 million in just a span of three years from 2002. Meanwhile, Mikey Arroyo’s 2008 SALN reveals that his net worth has reached P99 million. What gives? But instead of providing an explanation, he passes the buck to his lawyers and challenges everyone who questions him to sue him in court.

The public deserves an answer from him. If he truly believes that he has not done anything wrong, why does he hide beneath the cloak of his legal counsel? It is he who has the burden of proving whatever is wrong with his SALN, not his lawyers, nor the public for that matter.

Mikey Arroyo’s explanations for the sudden ballooning of his net worth are truly absurd. First, he claims to have “forgotten” to declare all his assets, including his California property. Forgotten? Is he that rich to have forgotten that he has P76 million? To say that the sudden increase in his assets was merely the result of failure to include all his other assets due to inexperience is utmost ridiculous.

Second, he says his wealth increased because of campaign contributions and wedding gifts. Would he like us to believe that he did not use his campaign contributions and instead pocketed them? What would his donors say? What about the wedding gifts? Also, how can one amass millions of pesos in wedding gifts?

Representative Arroyo would also like the public to believe that the increase in his wealth was due to investments. In a time of a wealth was due to investments. In a time of a global recession comparable to the Great Depression, this explanation would hardly hold ground as stock prices plummeted across the world. His 2008 SALN shows that the earliest investment he acquired was in 2006. How could such 2006 investments earn him P71 million in 2005 or earlier?

Instead of shedding light to this issue, Mikey’s explanations cast further doubts about his integrity both as a person and as a public official.

One can only wonder how much more the public can take. ▪