Jean Pierre Debono understandably vented his fury at Malta Today for reporting this morning that he had forged signatures as part of the PN leadership election process. Malta Today was reporting on a redacted leaked report of the electoral commission. The commission reprimanded him but it did not accuse him of, let alone found, he had committed fraud.

Since then Malta Today deleted the original story and replaced it with a mellower version saying Jean Pierre Debono was “chided for proxy votes for falsified signatures”.

This version too is incorrect.

There was no proxy voting in the PN leadership elections.

Proxies were permitted to collect voting identity documents on behalf of others but votes could only be cast in person and no proxies, whether with forged or authentic proxy documents, were allowed to vote on anyone else’s behalf.

The PN electoral commission did not accuse Jean Pierre Debono of forging signatures on proxy votes. They did not accuse him of forging signatures on anything frankly.

As he is wont to do, he cut corners by handing out blank proxy documents to helpers who were supposed to collect signatures from people who wanted to authorise him to collect their voting identity documents on their behalf.

In doing so he exposed the important documents to fraudulent signatures possibly made by him (though there is no evidence of this) but likely filled out by some of his helpers who followed his example of cutting corners by cutting them even shorter.

There never was any risk that anyone fraudulently voted on behalf of someone else.

To report the full picture, the law provides for identical punishments to the forger and to anyone else using a document carrying a forgery, whoever did the forging. So this may not be quite the end of the story.

Cutting corners and compromising with due care to procedure is a popular attitude these days. To an extent it is a bit of a novelty for the PN where people now seem to have gained a new enthusiasm for breaking with a reputation of looking for rules to refuse people’s requests rather than find ways of helping them. All leadership candidates – not just Adrian Delia – promised a more accommodating culture.

There’s a nobility in seeking to help whenever help can be given. But it is a dangerous game when rules are bent for convenience and leniency is confused with disregard for the rules.

We lose the rules, we lose everything. We lose the ability to distinguish between right and wrong even as we please people in front of us with a newly acquired ability to accommodate.

Malta Today, I should like to think equally incorrectly, two days ago reported MP Ivan Bartolo was promised monetary reward in exchange for giving up his seat by people acting for the new party leader. Unlike Jean Pierre Debono’s case today, no one has as yet denied that story. I wrote on this two days ago.

If true that is not a case of cutting corners. It is a criminal offence to promise a monetary gift to an MP in exchange for any action, and resignation is an action. There are prison terms contemplated by the law for those who make the promise even if the MP does not accept it.

A denial is very much overdue now.