A question of integrity

By Robert B. Roque, Jr.

The respect and trust that each member of Congress or government official deserves comes into question when they themselves start accusing each other of crimes like common criminals or petty thieves.

An example comes to mind when Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin filed a complaint of theft, backed by photos and CCTV footage, against former congressman and now Labor Undersecretary Jacinto “Jing” Paras at the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office last week.

Villarin said he was at a hearing of the House Committee on Labor when he was approached by Paras who mentioned that he (Villarin) is together with Senator Risa Hontiveros, a statement that supposedly hinted malice. Villarin said he looked at Paras and, after a few seconds, was surprised to learn that his cell phone was gone.

He reported the matter House security. The missing phone was found in another room a few hours later. The House chose not to release the CCTV footage of the incident to the media. However, Villarin said Paras was seen holding two cell phones in one of the photos he attached to his complaint.

A photo was released quickly on social media, showing Paras with a group that included Villarin and Hontiveros. The caption was written in capital letters punctuated with exclamation points, exposing the alleged relationship between Hontiveros and Villarin. If you click on the post, however, there was nothing to see but Villarin’s press conference.

This was really nothing but a clear example of fake news.

For his part, Paras did not deny taking Villarin’s cell phone but refused to accept the term “steal”. He said that he placed his phone on the table while talking to the congressman and must have accidentally lifted the phone of Villarin as well when he took his phone and proceeded to another hearing. The security may have found the missing cell phone there and turned it over to the lawmaker’s staff. Paras asked: How could he gain access to Villarin’s phone when it is password-protected?

A word of advice from Firing Line: Paras, like any Duterte appointee, should be cautious of his actions since anything he does reflects on the President himself and adds to the negative image that he has already earned for himself.

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