How Do You Solve A Problem Like Gloria: Drawing The Line Between Justice and Vendetta
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Special Report: How Do You Solve A Problem Like Gloria: Drawing The Line Between Justice and Vendetta
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How Do You Solve A Problem Like Gloria: Drawing The Line Between Justice and Vendetta
Former President and incumbent Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is now detained under guard in her hospital suite at the St. Luke’s Medical Center Global City in Taguig by virtue of an arrest warrant issued by Judge Jesus Mupas of Branch 112 of the Pasay City Regional Trial Court on November 18, 2011. This is the present stage on the ongoing legal clash between the Justice Department and the Supreme Court, of the Executive and the Judicial branches of the government, laying precedents and threatening the very foundation of the nation’s democratic institutions. The road ahead lies with legal dilemmas and the clear and present danger of a constitutional crisis.
Wise men say that history moves in cycles. Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr., President Ferdinand Marcos’ most formidable opponent and the man most likely to win the Presidency in 1973 if not for Martial Law in 1972, seems to be have become the poster boy of ex-Presidents who claim to be unjustly persecuted by the succeeding administration. Joseph Estrada, before Arroyo granted him executive pardon in January 2001, withdrew his legal defense just like when Ninoy refused to participate in the military trial conducted by the appointees of Marcos in 1975. Meanwhile, the camp of Arroyo cites the time when Ninoy was allowed by Marcos to go to the United States to get an emergency triple-heart bypass operation in 1980 – after Ninoy had a cardiac arrest on his eighth year of detention, mostly in solitary confinement, culminating in a superhuman hunger-strike for 40 days.
Elena Bautista Horn, Arroyo’s spokesperson, says that Ninoy Aquino, who had been sentenced to death by firing squad, had been allowed by Marcos to seek treatment abroad on medical and humanitarian grounds. On the other hand, “GMA has not been convicted yet of any crime so she cannot be compared to Ninoy, who was,” Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay tells the Manila Times. “Ninoy Aquino already was convicted at that time, to death by musketry, by a military kangaroo court, in a mock trial from which the foreign press was barred” because “There was no local press under martial law,” political analyst and broadcast journalist Jarius Bondoc tells Manila Times. “Marcos let Ninoy fly to Boston for heart surgery, not for humanitarian reasons but for political exigency. The world was watching his repressive regime grow more corrupt by the day. For Marcos it was survival, not justice. It was to be able to steal more with no pesky political critic denouncing him.”
Justice vs Closure
The Philippines has a tradition of granting pardon to former Presidents accused of crimes, like what Gloria Arroyo did to Joseph Estrada. Estrada, accused of plunder and culpable violations of the Constitution, is the first Philippine President to be subjected to an impeachment trial – which led to the Edsa 2 mass rally that forced him to step down in January 2001. The then vice president, Arroyo, took over. The supporters of Estrada, a charismatic former movie actor, stormed the presidential palace in a vain – but ferociously violent – attempt to return him to power. Rather than jail or exile Estrada, Arroyo gave him a presidential pardon in the name of national healing and reconciliation – thus avoiding the escalation of political chaos. President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III has already declared that he would not grant pardon to Arroyo. The Philippines also has a tradition of Presidents changing their minds. Should he let Arroyo leave or not? Should the current President throw the former one behind bars in her present condition, or not? Should Aquino, like Arroyo, eventually grant a pardon?
“These are hypothetical questions regarding Pres. Noynoy 's possible action on Arroyo's case,” Rodolfo “Jun Lozada, the prime witness in the NBN-ZTE deal which is now the subject of the sixth plunder case against Arroyo, tells Manila Times. “I usually leave hypothetical questions be answered by unfolding situations. It is out of my belief that it is best to use our time in matters within our circle of influence and just accept those matters outside the circle of our influence.” But on this specific matter: “Let us just accept whatever decision [President Aquino] makes. All I can do is pray that he be guided by the Holy Spirit to make the right one for the good of the Filipino nation.”
The damn-if-you, damn-if-you don’t cliché can unleash serious consequences. But where does one draw the line between justice and closure? “For those who have done terrible wrong to the people,” Lozada continues, “I believe that justice is the closure, without justice there will be no closure!”
The Cory Aquino presidency in 1986 was the apex of raw emotion, of hearts and souls in deep anguish in the aftermath of the dictatorship. The Filipino people, having gotten their long-denied freedom back, now want justice. The Martial Law regime had summoned nightmares that continue to haunt its victims and the national psyche. Millions of children were left as orphans as the Garrison State systematically tortured and murdered those who dared to stand up in the defense of inalienable human rights. This dark period in the nation’s history is the crucible the shaped the character and changed the destinies of millions of Filipinos. Then why, future generations will inevitably ask, was Ferdinand Marcos and his close associates never brought to court? But it was a Catch-22 proposition for Cory Aquino, Marcos’ successor. If Marcos was not made to account for his alleged crimes, it will be viewed as a lack of leadership and political will. But if Marcos was punished, then Cory’s critics would pounce on her for engaging in political vendetta.
How Sick Is GMA?
Arroyo, 66, is recovering from three rounds of surgery for cervical spondylosis, a degenerative disorder of the bones and cartilage. She is also suffering from a parathyroid disorder and a rare bone mineral disorder. On November 22, Arroyo’s lawyer and legal spokesman Raul Lambino told the media that her bone disorder is spreading down her spine, requiring her to lie at her back for 48 hours straight. Health Secretary Enrique Ona has called on Arroyo’s attending physician to reveal to the public the status of her health. The doctors declined, invoking doctor-patient confidentiality. Senator Francis Pangilinan, on November 23, called for a Senate investigation on Arroyo’s medical condition, summoning the former President’s attending physicians next week. “There’s a desire for them to leave which may hamper and precisely frustrate the efforts of the committee in pursuing its investigation. There’s a pending resolution, it’s being investigated, the investigation will be hampered if she leaves on the basis of her medical condition,” he says.
Was The Warrant Rushed?
The electoral sabotage case was filed by Senator Aquilino Pimental III. “The mere fact that I am now a Senator after four years of struggle and the findings of the Senate Electoral Tribunal on electoral fraud,” he says, “those are already enough proof that there was electoral sabotage.” Pimentel was proclaimed the winner of the 12th slot in the 2007 senatorial midterm elections in August 2011. Juan Miguel Zubiri, who had been initially proclaimed, served in the Senate and resigned last August 3, 2011. Pimentel filed the case before a joint panel of the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Commission On Elections (Comelec) formed in August 2011 to investigate the electoral sabotage case against Arroyo and several other respondents. “This is definitely a major breakthrough in our efforts to end the culture of corruption in this country,” says Akbayan Party-List spokesperson Rissa Hontiveros.
Arroyo lawyer Ferdinand Topacio, who had threatened to cut off one his testicles if Arroyo does not return if she is allowed to go abroad, is questioning the legality of the DoJ-Comelec joint panel. “Malacañang is destroying the independence of the Commission On Elections and turning it into a puppet,” he says, declaring the collaboration of an Executive department and an independent constitutional body is “legally impermissible.” The Arroyo legal team is petitioning the Supreme Court to invalidate the arrest warrant, the electoral sabotage case and the validity of the DoJ-Comelec joint panel. Comelec spokesman James Jimenez denies that the filing of the case has been rushed due to political pressure just to prevent Arroyo from leaving the country to seek medical treatment abroad. “Hindi namin minadali (We didn’t rush it),” he says. “It’s just that nung Friday handa yung kaso (the case has been ready since Friday),” referring to November 18, the day when the arrest warrant for Arroyo had been served. “Priority talaga ‘yan, but as far as political pressure is concerned, that’s a matter of speculation.” But if the Supreme Court voids the joint panel, he says, “then that might have adverse effects” on the Comelec’s case.
How Solid Is The Electoral Sabotage Charge Against GMA?
The 8-page fact-finding report from the joint panel has been turned over to the committee headed by Special Prosecutor General Claro Arellano that will conduct the preliminary investigation, formed in October. Arroyo is being investigated “for giving direct instructions to manipulate the results of the senatorial elections in Maguindanao by ordering Governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr., to implement a 12-0 result in the Province of Maguindanao in favor of Team Unity senatorial candidates, and alter or change the results if necessary,” according to the report. Former Maguindanao provincial administrator Norie Unas had testified before the joint panel hearing that he was personally present when Arroyo allegedly gave the order. Unas had served as an adviser and spokesman of former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. Ampatuan and his sons Andal Jr., Rizaldy and Akhmad are accused of widespread election fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections – and for the multiple murders in the Maguindanao Massacre in 2009, where a convoy of 57 people, including 32 journalists, were murdered in an ambush. The body of photo journalist Reynaldo Momay, believed to be the 58th victim, is still missing. Last November 23 marked the second anniversary of the gruesome event, where five improvised explosive device (IED) was found on the site.
Una’s testimonies were bolstered by that of former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol and former provincial poll supervisors Lilian Radam and Yogie Martirizar. Suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Rizaldy Ampatuan, now in maximum security detention in Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, had volunteered himself as a witness about the massive poll cheating, thereby excluding him from the list of those being probed. “If you read the contents of the affidavits, you will know that there is no need to use it because there is nothing substantial in the affidavit provided to us,” says Justice Assistant Secretary and joint panel committee chairman Zabedin Asis.
The Comelec charged Arroyo, Ampatuan Sr., and Bedol with electoral sabotage on November 18. Among those being probed for the preliminary investigation are former Comelec chairman Benjamin Abalos; former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo; former Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo Ferrer; former political adviser Gabriel Claudio; Claudio’s assistant Bong Serrano; former regional election directors Michael Abas, Remlani Tambuang, Ray Sumalipao, Boboy Magbutay and a certain Pobe; elections officers Estelita Orbase, Elisa Gasmin, Elsa Atinen, Saliao Amba, Magsaysay Mohamad, Salonga Edzela, Ragah Ayunan, Susan Cabanban, Russam Mabang, Suncion Corazon Reniedo, Nena Alid, Ma. Susan Albano, Rohaida Khalid, Araw Cao, Jeehan Nur, Alice Lim, Norijean Hangkal, Christina Roan Dalope and Macedo Abo; and election assistant Gani Maliga. Subpoenas have also been sent to Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) officers Col. Reuben Basiao, Major Joey Leaban and Cpt. PeterReyes. Since Miguel Arroyo and Claudio were not charged, the hold-departure oder (HDO) against them have been lifted.
Which Is The Real Mugshot?
Arroyo’s mugshot went viral in social networking sites. Pasay RTC Branch 112 Clerk of Court Joel Pelicano says it was “almost the same” as the one they have, except for the case numbers. The photo was taken and the booking procedure was done by the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), says Southern Police District (SPD) Senior Superintendent James Bucayu, who served the warrant to Arroyo’s lawyer Jose Flaminano in St. Luke’s. The former leader is now under the custody if the SPD, with guards stationed outside her hospital suite.
Philippine National Police (PNP) Chief Nicanor Bartolome has denied that it was the same photo. Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jessie Robredo sys that Arroyo’s alleged mugshot on the Internet, which comes with the caption “Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo,” is different from what the DILG had submitted to the RTC, which bears the caption “Gloria Arroyo y Macapagal.”
Is The DoJ-Comelect Joint Panel Legal?
The first day of the oral arguments at the Supreme Court for Arroyo’s two petitons to the Supreme Court, that of the validity of the DoJ’s Department Order Circular Number 41, or the watchlist order (WLO) againts Arroyo; and that of the validity of the DoJ-Comelec joint panel, was on November 22 Tuesday. “There is no TRO [temporary restraining oder] or a status quo ante order,” Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson Jose Midas Marquez says, referring to Arroyo’s challenges against the watchlist order (WLO)
Justice Secretary Leila De Lima had issued the WLO that barred Arroyo from leaving the country, invoking national interest over individual rights. “My order is a denial of the request for an allow departure order (ADO),” she said in a November 3 press briefing. De Lima indicated Arroyo’s itinerary – United States, Singapore, Austria, Germany. Italy and Switzerland. “If her condition is that bad, why go to several destinations?” De Lima told the media that she received a tip on November 10 through a text message that Arroyo was allegedly applying for political asylum in the Dominican Republic. “There is a real risk here, something I cannot risk to take,” she said, adding that some of the countries in Arroyo’s itinerary have no existing extradition treaties with the Philippines. “There is no compelling or immediate necessity to seek treatment abroad,” De Lima says about Arroyo’s petition to travel. The Justice secretary cited the assesment of Health Secretary Enrique Ona, based on the medical abstracts prepared by Dr. Roberto Mirasol and Dr. Mario Ver of St Luke’s.
The Supreme Court issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the DoJ’s WLO on November 15; that same night, Arroyo, her husband and some of their political allies arrived at the Ninoy Aquino airport, having booked earlier for a DragonAir flight to Singapore. Arroyo rode in an ambulance directly from the hospital, wearing a neck brace as she was wheeled into the terminal. Immigration officials barred them, saying they were under “direct orders” from De Lima. Bureau of Immigration and Deportation (BID) Commissioner Ricardo David Jr., would later say that they had no choice but to obey because the BID is under the Justice department. Bautista-Horn says it was a defiance of the Supreme Court, saying that an immigration official asked for their passports and returned them only after the plane had left. House Minority Leader Edsel Lagman, who came with Arroyo’s convoy, called it “brazen oppression.” Topacio said that De Lima “no legal basis” for stopping them and declared they will file contempt and disbarment charges against De Lima. The Justice Secretary immediately filed a motion for reconsideration against the High Court’s TRO, saying that the WLO is still in effect until their motion has been deliberated. But former Justice Secretary Serafin Cuevas disagreed, saying that a TRO is effective immediately.
Magsaysay slammed De Lima’s “open defiance,” saying that the Secretary should follow the law and “it doesn’t matter who the beneficiary of the law is.” Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago told the media she was shocked that a lawyer would defy an order from the Supreme Court. “This is not my world!” she joked, saying she wants to go to another planet where “Everything is comprehensible.” Even first law students know that, she regaled the media. “Last night, I want to commit suicide!” For his part, Senator Francis Escudero, a known critic of Arroyo, says that the Aquino administration is pushing Arroyo to indeed seek political asylum in a foreign country.
Why Is GMA Accused of Plunder?
Former President and incumbent Pampanga Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, 66, is facing two cases of electoral sabotage and six cases of plunder. The Anti-Plunder Law defines plunder as the direct or indirect amassing by a public official of at least P50 million through a combination or a series of acts such as misappropriating public funds and illegal disposition of government assets. “When you steal more than fifty million pesos, it’s plunder,” says Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
The first plunder case against Arroyo was filed by Danilo Lihaylihay, president of the Philippine Association of Revenue Informers Inc., and lead investigator of Vanguard Anti-Graft Task Force Inc, accredited with the Office of the Ombudsman, on August 17, 2010 at the Department of Justice. It began when the international consortium Megaworld Corp., brought the old 54.5-hectare airport in Mandurriao in Iloilo on 2007 for P1.2 billion. Arroyo is accused of allegedly not remitting the capital gains tax to the national government – to the tune of P72 million.
The other respondents were former Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo; former Finance Secretary Margarito Teves; John Sevilla, former chairman of the Privatization Council of the Finance department and Megaworld chairman Andrew Tan.
The second plunder case was filed by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez on April 26, 2011 at the Department of Justice. Chavez said Arroyo and her fellow respondents allegedly committed “predicate crimes” by “purposely and systematically” diverting money from the Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration (OWWA) – which is exclusively for financial assistance to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in distress – and misused it to non-OFW-related activities. “The nature of the OWWA fund is indisputable,” says Chavez. “Therefore, to draw amounts from the OWWA fund for expenditures completely unrelated to the purposes for which it was established constitutes an offense in connection with respondents’ respective official duties.”
The funds went for the support of George W. Bush’ unilateral attack on Iraq, “preparatory activities” for the Philippine post in Kuwait, and for the “stockpiling” and “purchase of vehicle” for the posts in Lebanon, Jordan, Oman, Bahrain, Egypt and Iran. “All of these does not contribute and could never have contributed to the direct and exclusive benefit of overseas Filipino workers,” says Chavez. “It is not a question of whether, in so doing, respondents were in the regular performance of their duties by sourcing the funds of these activities from the OWWA fund.” Among those charged with Arroyo are former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Health Secretary Francisco Duque and former OWWA Director Virgilio Angelo. Reminiscent of Agatha Christie’s famous detective Hercule Poirot, Chavez reveals the mystery at the end of the story.
On March 12, 2003, Romulo handed a memorandum to Arroyo asking for the release P293,500 for the Philippine post in the Middle East. Arroyo approved it immediately and wrote on the margin: “OK charge to OWWA.” Two months later, on May 5, 2003. Romulo gave Arroyo another memorandum, this time for P5 million for the Philippine contingency in Iraq; again, Arroyo approved it and wrote “OK from OWWA” on the margin. The following week, on May 14, Romulo informed Angelo that Arroyo had given the green light to release the money from OWWA. Angelo stopped the agency’s General Financial Assistance Program to OFWs through a memo on June 1, 2003. The amount was P16,510,900, or approximately the Peso equivalent of the amount that Romulo had asked for the Mid-East preparations.
With all these foreign affairs issues, how did someone from the health department go involved? Chavez said that Duque was behind Arroyo’s executive order to transfer a portion of the contributions of OFWs – worth P530 million – from OWWA to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp., (PhilHealth) in February 2004 which have been allegedly used for the re-election campaign of Arroyo in the 2004 polls. “Indeed, not only have they persuaded, induced or influenced each other,” says Chavez, “They have actually institutionalized graft by enacting EO 82 transferring Medicaire funds of OWWA to PhilHealth, despite the clear absence of any consultation with the major stakeholders.” Duque denied that the money that PhilHealth got was for Arroyo’s campaign. “I merely pointed out that it has a bearing on the 2004 elections,” he said. He just gave a “benign note to the President,” he said, warning her that “if the transfer is stormy and full of complications,” then “it may create a political backlash.” He also countered that the transfer has “a legal basis,” citing Republic Act 7875, or the National Health Insurance Program Law, which created PhilHealth.
Duque also added that he can prove that the funds were not used for the 2004 elections, saying the transfer was made through two cheques dated March 2005. “Ito’y malinaw na malinaw na hindi ginamit sa eleksyon o kampanya ng dating Pangulong GMA (It is very clear that it wasn’t used for the election or campaign of former President GMA).” Meanwhile, Angelo said that the transfer is actually advantageous for OFWs. “Tingin ko po ay na-improve pa benepisyo at serbisyo, mas malawak ang network ng PhilHealth kesa OWWA (I think the services and benefits improved, the network of PhilHealth is larger than that of OWWA.)” Duque supports that assertion. “Pinakamagandang nangyari na nalipat ang OWWA Medicaire sa PhilHealth, naiwasan ang leakages (The transfer of OWWA Medicaire to PhilHealth is the best thing that happened, leakages have been avoided).” When OWWA was still handling the Medicaire funds, he said, the agency would pay anywhere from P150,000 to P250,000 in claims. “Pero pag pinapa-validate either wala address or wala tao (but when they validate them, it’s either there is no such address or no one with that name).” He also debunked that the money was used to distribute PhilHealth cards during the campaign because these are released every year, at the same time challenging his critics to audit PhilHealth.
Chavez also included the members of the OWWA Board of Trustees for approving the transfer through a board resolution. They are board chair and former Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas, former Secretary and the then Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) administrator Rosalinda Baldoz; former Labor Undersecretary Manuel Imson. Likewise charged are the representatives of the agency’s various sectors – Mina Figueroa (Finance), Caroline Rogge (Management), Victorino Balais (Labor), Gregorio Oca (Sea-Based) and Virgilio Pasalo (Women’s). A 3-member panel was created by the Department of Justice on May 3, 2011 specifically for the preliminary investigation of the plunder case filed by Chavez. Heading the panel is Senior Deputy State Prosecutor Theodore Villanueva, and the two other members are Elizabeth Inton-Santos and Lilian Doris Alejo. If they find probable cause, they will turn over the case to the Office of the Ombudsman. “This is a silly charge,” Sto. Tomas told reporters when she and Duque attended the preliminary hearing. “I don’t know who concocted this but definitely it’s a waste of people’s money.” Arroyo did not make the July 11 deadline because she was out of the country then, but her then lawyer Benjamin Santos asked for an extension “on or before July 23” to file a counteraffidavit. Alejo set it on July 22 and said that “there will be no more extensions.”
The respondents, according to Chavez, are liable for plunder, malversation, qualified theft and violations of the Omnibus Election Code and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards of Public Officials. The OFW advocate group Migrante International “had first exposed this anomaly with all the supporting documents we have gathered,” said John Leonard Monterona, the group’s regional coordinator for the Middle East. “The transfer of P530 million OWWA fund to PhilHealth was not only illegal but also immoral.”
It was Chavez who also filed the third plunder case at the DoJ for the diversion of P1.59 billion meant for fertilizers and assistance to farmers that allegedly went to the electoral campaigns of Arroyo’s allies in 2004 – which is a separate case from the P728 billion “Fertilizer Fund Scam” that allegedly enriched Arroyo’s war chest in the elections. “And not a single drop of fertilizer reached the farmers,” he said. The former Solicitor General and self-described “Free Agent of The People” said that the P1.59 billion was released from the Budget department on February 10, 2004 through a special allotment release order (SARO) signed by Arroyo.
“This is a story of how our country’s leaders have schemingly and systematically earmarked billions in public funds,” he says in his 31-page affidavit, “which were shamelessly utilized to fund selfish political ambitions.” Because 2004 was an election year, the deadline for moving public funds had been set for February 11, so it was released on the day before, according to Chavez. On the other hand, the P728 billion had been received the week before by Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, the then Agriculture Undersecretary who fled the country before the 2005 Senate inquiry began, said to be the alleged mastermind of the fund scandal.
The case was first filed by Chavez in 2004 before the Office of The Ombudsman, the constitutional body tasked to prosecute government officials implicated in crimes, which was then headed by Simeon Marcelo. “This story,” says Chavez, “like other stories of graft and corruption in government, fell on the predictably deaf ears.” He was referring to the ears of Marcelo and Merceditas Gutierrez, his successor. Gutierrez was designated by Arrroyo on December 2005 and resigned amidst public pressure on May 6, 2011, shortly after Noynoy Aquino assumed the Presidency on June 30, 2011. Chavez said he withdrew the original complaint and re-filed it at the Department of Justice. “I am hopeful that after the DoJ shall have found probable cause,” he says, “then it will endorse this to a new Ombudsman and all of us can hope for change.” The new Ombudsman, Conchita Carpio-Morales, a former Supreme Court Justice, was appointed by Aquino and took office on July 28, 2011.
“Easy To Liquidate”
The fourth plunder case was filed by Party-List group Bayan Muna on July 12, 2011 at the Office of The Ombudsman. Arroyo is accused of allegedly diverting and misusing P325 million from the intelligence fund of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO), the agency that handles the earnings from state-sponsored lottery games. “While some legal experts consider the use of PCSO intel funds to non-intel operations as malversation of government funds, which is also a serious crime which carries a lifetime imprisonment,” says Bayan Muna Representative Teodoro Casiño, “we want the Ombudsman to look deeper and discover that Arroyo had amassed these funds for herself.”
Charged with Arroyo was former PCSO general manager Rosario Uriarte, who had testified at the Senate inquiry the week before that Arroyo had signed or initialed the requests for additional funds from April 2008 to February 25, 2010. “It implicates the former President in this whole mystery,” says Guingona. “It makes her a co-conspirator.” In her testimony, Uriarte said that P130 million was used againts the operators of jueteng, the illegal numbers game, and for the “roll-out” of the small-town lottery (STL) and for the “intelligence assets” meant to prevent the possible rigging of the government’s new numbers game in various provinces. Uriarte, however, failed to give specifics.
“I only have advocacy and development work,” she said when questioned about her background in intelligence operations.” “The project was meant to combat the illegal numbers game and ongoing projects to benefit the people.” Senator Panfilo Lacson, a former police general, said that “an intelligence project is not run that way.” When asked for documents, Uriarte replied she had already turned them over to Arroyo. “But it is not a national security problem,” countered Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, a former Minister of Defense. “You made the report just for the sake of the PCSO. Your answers indicate you don’t understand intelligence operations and I don’t believe you are an intelligence officer, sorry to tell you.”
The figure of P325 million, according to Guingona’s slide presentation, represents the total amount of intelligence funds controlled by Uriarte from 2008 to 2010. Uriarte explained the additional requests for intelligence budget is for operations againts unauthorized use of PCSO ambulances, againts lottery scams and game fixers, and monitoring the illegal sale of PCSO-donated medicines to commercial drug stores. “That means,” countered Enrile, “you’re using the disbursement as intelligence fund because it’s easy to liquidate.” Uriarte also added that part of the intelligence funds went to relief operations for typhoon victims and P20 million was given to Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Esteban Conejos to pay blood money to save four OFWs on trial in Saudi Arabia. “I think there is reasonable basis that this was used for purposes other than intelligence gathering,” said Senator Franklin Drilon, “and since it was during the election, there is basis for the suspicion that it was used during the election.”
Uriarte’s Senate testimony, says Bayan Muna Representative Neri Colmenares, virtually gave them “the criminal elements of malversation on a silver platter.” Both Arroyo and Uriarte, he charges, had the intent “to realign the funds to bypass restrictive procedures for the release and disbursements of funds, and worse, to avoid the accounting and liquidation procedures of the Commission On Audit (COA).”
The fifth plunder case, also in connnection with the P325 million PCSO fund scandal but with more repsondents, was filed by retired Brigadier General and incumbent Customs Assistant Commissioner For Intelligence Danilo Lim, Akbayan Party-List spokesperson Rissa Hontiveros and Jimmy Regalario of the government accountability watchdog Kilusang Makabayan Ekonomiya (Patriotic Economy Movement), on July 26, 2011 at the Ombudsman. “We warmly receive the appointment of Carpio-Morales as the new Ombudsman,” says Hontiveros. “I hope she doesn’t mind that even as we welcome her appointment we already filed this case.” They were accompanied by former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio and lawyer Lorna Kapunan in filing.
The respondents were charged with violating the legal procedures for disbursing and auditing intelligence funds, with some of the money allegedly diverted illegally to non-intelligence expenditures and a large portion unaccounted for. That Arroyo would approve Uriarte’s “template” requests and that Uriarte would receive the money through cheques issued to her were clear violations of COA rules, according to the complaint. “The evidence is very strong in this area that Gloria has abused public office to amass wealth,” says Hontiveros. “She led the creation of intelligence funds that are beyond the mandate of the PCSO, and she authorized the anomalous disbursement of millions of charity money through this fund, with the paper trail largely inconsistent or incomplete.”
Charged with Arroyo and Uriarte were former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, former PCSO chairmen Manuel Morato and Sergio Valencia, former PCSO directors Jose R. Taruc V, Raymundo T. Roquero and Ma. Fatima A.S. Valdez, and former COA chair Reynaldo Villar, who was included for his alleged failure to issue a credit advice despite the absence of liquidation reports.
Series of Allegations
Arroyo’s sixth plunder case is in connection with the $329 milion NBN-ZTE deal. Filing the complain on September 8, 2011 at the Ombudsman were Bayan Muna Party-List Representative Teodoro Casiño, former Gabriela Party-List Representative Liza Maza and Bayan Muna chair Carol Araullo. The Arroyo administration had signed a project contract for $329 million with the China-based telecommunications company Zhongxing Telecommunication Equipment (ZTE) Corporation on April 20, 2007 to build a National Broadband Network (NBN) in the Philippines. Then came a series of allegations of bribery and anomalous transactions involving former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former Commission On Election chairman Benjamin Abalos, former Transportaton and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza, and former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Romulo Neri. At the height of the controversy, Arroyo cancelled the contract on October 2007.
"The NBN-ZTE contract was cancelled by Arroyo and there was no damage incurred by the government in that aborted transaction,” says Arroyo’s lawyer Raul Lambino. “Again, this is another political grandstanding by said groups to keep on persecuting the Arroyos in media to advance their respective agenda." Casiño says the Arroyo couple and two other officials had already received bribes even if the deal had been cancelled, citing the testimonies of witnesses. “Totoong na-cancel ‘yung project, pero ‘yung P1.4 billion kasi, binayad ‘yan para mapirmahan ang kontrata, Mismong si Mrs. Arroyo ay nagpunta sa China para i-witness niya ang signing dahil ito ay yung condition ng China,(it’s true that the project was canceled, but the P1.4 billion was paid for the contract to be signed. It was Mrs. Arroyo herself who went to China to witness the signing because it was the condition of China),” says Casino
What’s Your Favorite Hollywood Movie?
Roger is a struggling musician who is still hurting from his girlfriend’s death from AIDS. Mark in a struggling filmmaker whose girlfriend Maureen dumps him for the lawyer Joanne. They can’t pay the rent to their landlord Benny. Mimi is a club dancer who lives next door and tries to seduce Roger. Collins is a teacher who visits Roger and Mark in their New York City apartment then gets mugged and is rescued by Angel, a crossdresser who later dies of AIDS. This is the story of Rent, Huggybear’s favorite Hollywod movie of all time. This is the film version of the Broadway musical from Jonathan Larson, winner of the Pulitzer and the Tony. December is World AIDS Day. Watch Rent
What Are We Without Heroes?
Andres Bonifacio is one of the founders of the Katipunan, the group of Filipino guerillas who staged a mutiny against The Spaniards during the colonial period in the 19th century. He did not live to see the proclamation of the first revolutionary government of the Philippines on June 12, 1898 led by Emilio Aguinaldo, his best friend and paradoxically his political rival (and some say his executioner) who became the country’s first President. It is heroes like Bonifacio who kept the flame of freedom alive, who inspire people to go beyond themselves to serve a higher purpose. November 30 is Bonifacio Day in the Philippines, also celebrated as National Heroes Day. Happy Heroes Day!
Philippines: A Place Where Compassion Is A Crime
A 13-year old boy shot his 16-year old male lover, then shot himself in the SM Pampanga mall last September in front of dozens of witnesses. It was a crime of passion, and the alleged third party is also a teenage boy. I have friends who go for same-sex relationships so the gay angle is not an issue to me. I make no judgments of any kind. But I find it sad because I believe that love is about letting go, because the one meant for you will find you, will return. I believe, as sure as God made yellow mangoes, that love always finds a way.
One of the most depressing scenes I ever saw was its aftermath. One of the boys was still alive – and the security personnel and the kibitzers just stood by, taking souvenir photos.
If somebody came to their rescue, he or she would have been arrested. The police declared that crime scenes should not be disturbed – even if the victims are still alive.
In the Philippines, heroism is a crime.
Weeks after the tragedy come the viral video of the young girl in China, a victim of hit-and-run. She lay in the street, dying, ignored by her fellowmen. They don’t want to get involved.
Thank You, Steve Jobs!
I wrote about Steve Jobs’ game-changing achievements and unparalleled achievements even when he was still chief of Apple, published in Philippine Panorama (see Are You Ready To Live An Unlimited Life?).
Steve Job’s life is an shining example of how an unconventional genius can change the lives of each and every person on the planet – of how a headstrong maverick can make the world an infinitely better and more elegant place.
Thanks for the mouse and GUI, Steve, among other things.
“Stay hungry, stay foolish,” as you said in Stanford. That graduation speech heartens me and I will follow your advice. Metaphorically, yes.
The day will come when I, too, will connect my dots.
Marie Osmond On My Mind
You know how it is to have an LSS, right? Last song syndrome? Kinda like siomai sauce; it sticks to you. There’s this song. I remember it playing on the FX radio while slowly moving through Roosevelt Avenue in Quezon City sometime ago when I was visiting a classmate. It was night, raining, with just me beside the driver and a couple of passengers meditating at the back. I was wearing a white polo shirt tucked in (so 90’s!) light cream-colored pants. Smart casual, then blue rubber shoes! I just learned the other week from 92.3 NewsFM that it was Marie Osmond. Until I Fall In Love Again. I’m so corny but I have lots of cute memories. See the video
Huggybear The DzMM Baby
I remember many late nights when I’m writing while tuned in to the radio. I am a DzMM baby, been listening the ABS-CBN AM radio station even when broadcast icon Kuya Cesar was still alive, about 5 years ago. That was before their broadcasts were televised in the cable channels Teleradyo and The Filipino Channel.
That was when Roselle Manahan has a midnight call-in show Miss M; Tina Monzon-Palma has a prime-time public affairs program Talk Back; and the host of the sci-tech program Bago Yan Ah! was Angelo Palmones – the then station manager who is now Agham Party-List Representative.
My text messages have been read on air at various times: by Jaime Licauco in his paranormal-oriented show Inner Mind On Radio;
Bro. Jun Banaag, O.P., in the counseling program Doctor Love; Stargazer in her self-titled meditation program; and Bobby Yan in Ka-Date, the midnight call-in show now hosted by Richard Steele.
So it was really sad when I heard that Vic Jose has died. He was Radyo Patrol Number 4, one of the pioneers. While surfing the radio, I heard broadcast stalwarts Johnny Midnight of DzRJ and Jimmy Gil of DzBB pay their tributes.
I wrote about Vic Jose, some months before he died, in two articles about Koko Pimentel and Isko Moreno
Vic Jose was a nationalist. His program, Pintig Balita, always begin with Peter Musngi’s reading of the Preamble of the Constitution, followed by Ako Ay Pilipino, the patriotic anthem by Kuh Ledesma.
Godspeed Tatang Vic, sorry for the late eulogy.
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Rock And Roll Is Forever
Odie (Jason Abalos) is a young songwriting genius who grew up heavily influenced by rock and roll. He falls in love with his best friend Irene (Glaiza de Casto) who shares his musical passion. They recruit the ex-punk guitarist Mo (Ketchup Eusebio) and the warfreak drummer Junfour (Alwyn Uytingco) to form a band – Hapipaks. Then Irene was wooed by the hunky and notorious rock superstar Jacci Rocha (Diether Ocampo).
This is the story of the long-anticipated, widely celebrated rocking film Rakenrol, directed by Quark Henares and written by Diego Castillo – the guitarist and co-founder of the Awit- Awardwinning band Sandwich.
Huggybear was tuned in to Raffy Reyes’s talkshow Heard On Thursdays on Monster Radio RX 93.1 last September 22 when Diego was featured as a guest promoting the commercial run of Rakenrol. The film was just a personal project, he says, but it was a super fun experience. I’m glad Raffy read my message through the Text Jock: “From Jonathan Huggybear Aquino: Just curious, how do you guys join international film fests? Do you have to pay them or something?”
Diego’s exact words were “Very good question!” Apparently, program directors would invite you to show your movie if they like it; oftentimes they would just post invitation through their websites. “And yes,” he says, “there is a fee.”
I sent an interview proposal to Diego Castillo because I want to feature him in the Sunday Times Magazine of The Manila Times but he ignored it. Sayang
Artists of The Week
OPM English: Ray An Fuentes
OPM Tagalog: Sampaguita
International: Seals & Crofts