His crime: hiring – take note of the number — 30 ghost employees using fictitious job contracts that he himself had signed, and then collecting P1.109 million from their salaries from July to November 2010 on a general payroll form of the Quezon City treasury that he had also signed.

All of the 30 had neither birth certificates nor clearances from the National Bureau of Investigation, and had unverified addresses on their personal data sheets.

So it is possible after all to jail an elected public official because of ghost employees, but not possible with bigger fishes like Rodrigo and Sara Duterte.

Two crucial questions emerge. How many of our elected officials nationwide use ghost employees to steal? Why are our courts afraid of prosecuting the Dutertes?

But the world had long known what the Dutertes were up to in Davao City. Paulate’s thirty is microscopic compared to the Dutertes’ 11,246 ghost employees, costing their city hall P708 million. That is no peanuts. In 2015, when Rodrigo Duterte was city mayor again, state auditors had already bared the obvious: all 11,246 lacked documents to prove they were working. A complaint was filed before the Ombudsman in 2016, but with the father Duterte sitting as president thereafter, one can expect the expected: nothing happened.

Confronted and red-flagged by the Commission on Audit as early as June 2015, Rodrigo Duterte flashed his arrogance: “So what if there are more than 11,000 contractual workers on Davao City’s payroll? It’s none of your business.” But COA had noted that the Davao city hall had no guidelines whatsoever for the hiring of contractual employees and the identification of the workers appeared fictitious.

Almost a year after in May 2016, COA again revealed that the entries in the daily time records of the fictitious employees were manipulated. The P708 million was disbursed in 2014 alone. How much graft and corruption was taking place in previous years? Duterte gaslighted: he blamed his opponent Benjamin de Guzman for starting the malpractice when the latter was city mayor from 1998 to 2001. In his usual braggadocio of taunting accountability, he implies he started the practice early on his term.

True enough, the COA found that the entries in the fictitious job contracts had been “working in the city government for decades.” The practice has been with them in their more than 20-year rule. Not a single media outfit in Davao City has questioned this, ever. A netizen has remarked how the city that has no working democracy has turned into “Inferior Davao.” It is a wonder how many of our local government units have become potentates of untouchable tyrants. Local government has become our weakest link in our republican system.



The evidence against the Dutertes is not inconsequential. In 2017, Duterte’s favored police hitman confessed about his boss’s role in extrajudicial killings of the Davao Death Squad. This was what retired police officer Arturo Lascañas revealed to Vera Files: His monthly paycheck from the Davao City government (not from the Philippine National Police, take note) was P68,000. “The amount,” he bared, “was pooled from 10 to 12 ghost employees whose salaries ranged from P5,000 to P7,000 a month.” Lascañas also exposed: “We invented the names on the payroll.”

Prior to the Lascañas confession, hitman Edgar Matobato had also revealed that he was on the city’s payroll for his job to kill individuals. These are hard-to-refute evidence from men who are now into hiding because their lives are in danger for exposing the truth.

The office of the Ombudsman said in 2016 that the results of the investigations on Duterte’s ghost employees could be forwarded to the House of Representatives for impeachment proceedings. That was a joke. Each time there is a new president, the House becomes a congress of a supermajority. Everyone kowtows to the new president for self-preservation. If they don’t, they will be toppled in the next polls. Worse, their pork barrel funds that is the source of their unexplained wealth will be cut off, the umbilical cord of which emanates from the Palace.

Daughter Sara preceded (2010-2013) the father’s final term as city mayor (2013-2016). In all likelihood, the ghost employees could have been started under a Duterte. In 2018, when Sara was mayor again, the practice of ghost employees continued. As a matter of fact, the P708 million became loose change under her watch: it jumped to nearly P1 billion. Again, that is no peanuts. The Dutertes are a classic case of untouchability, impunity and recidivism.

Roderick Paulate is a small fry. Does that matter? No. He must go to jail for his crimes. But if his sentence is 62 years maximum prison time for 30 ghost employees over a period of just 5 months, how much more the Dutertes with 11,246 over a period of years?