There was a time, not too long ago, when the words of Lucas Bersamin were respected as the law of the land. He was, after all, the chief of the “Gods of Padre Faura.”

In 2016, the gods supported the decision of a president to bury dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, ignoring public protests that a plunderer and human rights violator did not deserve a hero’s burial on the hallowed grounds in Taguig.

The gods also favored freeing another politician, who faced plunder charges for allegedly pocketing hundreds of millions of pesos in pork-barrel funds, from detention.

The 98-year-old former senator was resurrected to serve in the present government. He has abandoned his staff to languish in Bicutan jail over the same case.

There were many controversial decisions made by Bersamin and other justices of the Supreme Court but the gods always had the last word.

There were a few times the gods reversed themselves, but these decisions were always respected.

But Bersamin now wears a different hat. He has been appointed executive secretary and one of his roles as the country’s “little president” is to defend Bongbong Marcos Jr.

And he did. Talking to journalists for the first time since his appointment, he said the president was entitled to his private time and it was irrelevant if the funds used for his weekend trip to Singapore came from the government’s coffers or from his own pockets.

“It’s not relevant at all to ask kung sino ang gumastos,” Bersamin said. “You don’t need to be too particular where the funds were sourced because he was still performing his job as president when he was abroad.”

He said the president deserved a break from his hectic schedules.

“Let’s assume na private time niya ‘yun because he chose to go there for a specific purpose, para manood primarily, but he could go there also for other purposes that are equally important.”

Bersamin dismissed criticisms that it was “insensitive, unnecessary and irresponsible” for the president to watch the F1 race while Filipinos back home were reeling from the effects of Typhoon “Karding,” soaring prices, and food shortages.

Marcos Jr is the country’s agriculture secretary. Rice production was affected by the powerful typhoon last month, destroying crops in the country’s rice granary in Central Luzon.

Perhaps, Bersamin should be reminded that Marcos Jr. is not a private citizen who does whatever he wants and spends whatever he likes, like paying nearly P400,000 for a ticket to an elite club to watch the Singapore Grand Prix, which returned after two years of the coronavirus pandemic.

Bersamin was not being honest when he said he did not know if public funds were used for the trip. It was obvious the president, his wife, his son, and his first cousin flew aboard a P2-billion Philippine Air Force executive jet.

The air force paid for the aviation gas and the time of the pilots, crew, and security officers aboard the Gulf Stream 2000 plane. If it was a personal trip, Marcos Jr and his family could have taken a commercial flight to Singapore.

There was a time when former president Rodrigo Duterte took a Philippine Airlines flight to his hometown in Davao City while former vice president Leonor Robredo and her daughters took a commuter bus from Bicol to Manila and vice versa.

Bersamin should stop defending Marcos Jr. It is not even a security issue because throngs of Presidential Security Guard (PSG) are always around the first family wherever they go.

Even on private occasions, the PSG under Colonel Ramon Zagala will always make sure no harm will happen. They will even be there ahead of scheduled events.

So, it was possible Marcos Jr brought his security men to Singapore.

Bersamin should also be reminded that the Office of the President has accountability. A public office is a public trust.

The 1987 Constitution is very clear that “public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

In 1989, Congress enacted Republic Act 6713, which holds all public servants, including the president, to higher standards of code of ethics, “upholding the time-honored principle of public office being a public trust.”

In a democracy, transparency and honesty are valued virtues of a public official. The president does not hide his schedules. His office should always announce his daily schedules, the people he will meet, and the public events he will go to.

He is also entitled to his private time but his office should announce to the public where and what he will do. Of course, there are many ways to hide what he is doing.

In the US when a former president got sick, the White House announced he was going on a fishing trip. When he recovered, he showed up at a public event.

During Duterte’s time, there were a few times he disappeared from the public view. Although there were speculations he flew somewhere to get treatment, no one really knew what happened because his office always showed pictures of him jogging or riding a motorcycle in the palace grounds or eating meals with his assistant.

Of course, the photos could have been fabricated but there was no way these could be verified.

Marcos Jr would have met with billionaires in Singapore but the fruits of that visit remained uncertain. It was a private event and it would have been prudent for Bersamin and the president’s office to say it was a personal trip.

They should not make up stories that deals were made and firmed up with the private sector during the weekend trip. These business deals are not made overnight. There should have been months of negotiations and the president already went to Singapore a month before.

Stop the lies. Marcos could have turned down the invitation to watch the race. He will have plenty of time for the F1 event when the country’s economic conditions are better.