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Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 08:51 AM
With the 2013 elections now officially in the history books, it is time to look to 2016, the next major political battle, and as some say, the real battle for the soul of these benighted islands we call the Philippines.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 08:53 AM
Forward to the past

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:22 pm | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Shortly before Election Day, UNA put to the front of people’s minds what has been at the back of them. The 2013 elections were just a prelude to the 2016 presidential election.

During their miting de avance last week, Erap, Juan Ponce Enrile, and several of the UNA candidates introduced Jojo Binay as “the next president of the Philippines.” Migz Zubiri volunteered to be his campaign manager for the Visayas and Mindanao.

“Of course we’re looking at 2016,” said Erap in an interview with the Inquirer. Ernesto Maceda and Toby Tiangco agreed. In fact, they said, local officials were already lining up behind Binay in anticipation of his run.

All of which doesn’t just push the question of the 2016 election at the forefront of people’s minds; it also pushes there the question of: What happens after P-Noy goes? The prospects are not just dim, they’re dark. Hell, they’re not just dark, they’re black. As it stands now, the fight in 2016 is just between Binay and Mar Roxas. It’s been that way for the last three years, since Binay stole the vice presidency from Roxas. Binay contends the “stole” is figurative, Roxas never understood that he merely drew strength from P-Noy. Roxas contends the “stole” is literal, even taking legal action against it, but has pretty much dropped it in practice if not theory.

Of course it’s only Binay who has declared in no uncertain terms he will run. Roxas has in fact said the opposite: He has “no plans” to run for president in 2016. But people who have “no plans” to run can always be “persuaded” to run. Easiest thing in the world to manufacture a “public clamor,” however the clamor comes only from family and friends and however it is too feeble to be heard beyond certain corners of a TV station. Franklin Drilon did suggest a few months ago the Liberal Party was gearing up for a Roxas campaign in 2016. That would have been no small thanks to Roxas himself.

We did have someone who swore ardently before the grave of Rizal she would not run for president. That was shortly before she did. And Roxas shares a great deal of her hunger for power—she out of rebellion at enfeeblement, he out of a sense of entitlement; she out of wanting to get back at the world, he out of wanting to wrest things from the world.

It’s enough to have gotten some people wondering if it would not be a good idea if P-Noy ran for a second term, if a plebiscite could not amend the Constitution to allow him to do so, if a real public clamor out of a people’s instinct for self-preservation could not compel him to do so. Much as I myself find the idea tempting, I do not find it a good one. In the first place, I can’t see how P-Noy will do it; he is too much like his mother who was thrice offered the crown and thrice refused it, to paraphrase Julius Caesar. His mother refused; he will, too.

Quite apart from that, the point is to strengthen the institution, not to weaken it. The point is to improve the system, not to impair it. Democracy will not be the better for making exceptions out of expedience, it will be the worse for it. The road to hell has been known to be spiked with good intentions.

But which leaves us with a horizon that, unless drastically changed over the next three years, offers a horrible choice.

On one side, there’s the current head of UNA, Jojo Binay. It’s a testament to the company he keeps—or kept—that Zubiri was just volunteering last weekend to be his campaign manager in 2016 for the Visayas and Mindanao. Of course that’s not likely to happen now—as of Tuesday, Zubiri was two rungs below the Magic 12. He’s “damaged goods” in more ways than one. He’s just lost the elections in addition to being branded forever as a cheat, the second owing to the first. Or to Koko Pimentel’s efforts to drive the point home.

Zubiri might be gone, but not so Erap and Enrile. Erap has just won Manila, and Enrile has a way of surviving in more ways than one—not just politically but physically. Those who imagine he may not be around by 2016, figuratively or literally, forget that it doesn’t pay to trust in things like lupus. Binay keeps having Erap and Enrile and, who knows, Zubiri, for tea, and he will give whole new meanings to “vice” in vice president.

On the other side, there’s the current head of the Liberal Party, Mar Roxas. It’s a testament as well to the nature of the man that he is the head of the Liberal Party even after he lost his bid as vice president. Even after P-Noy won as president. Even after kapinuhan, graciousness, and good manners and right conduct tell you to cede the headship of your party to your boss, the President of the country. Roxas is currently the second most powerful man in the country despite having lost the elections, owning the Department of Interior and Local Government, the Department of Transportation and Communications, and the Palace Communication Group—oh, yes, all of them. My friends correct me there: He’s not the second most powerful man in the country, he’s the first.

If the presidential election were held today, Binay would win hands down. In the election to be held three years from now, Binay would still win hands down. I’ve always said that, like Jose de Venecia, Roxas has only one way to become boss of this country, and that is by turning it from presidential to parliamentary and running as prime minister. But my friends correct me there, too: Not even so. His own party cannot abide him, his need for power is not unlike Gloria’s.

But that’s no cause for celebration. Binay vs. Roxas: That’s Scylla and Charybdis, that’s a rock and a hard place, that’s the devil and the deep blue sea. We’ve got three years to change things, we’ve got three years to look for an alternative. Otherwise, we won’t be going back to the future.

We’ll be rushing forward to the past.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 08:57 AM
Vote-buying and its deniability

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:21 pm | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

“What do you make of this, Kuya?” my younger brother Ambo, auxiliary bishop of San Fernando, Pampanga, asked me last Monday, as he showed me an envelope addressed to him containing the campaign leaflet of a party-list nominee and a crisp P200 bill. “All the other priests at my parish got the same envelope through the mail,” he said. “I think the sender had no idea we are priests.”

The brazenness of the act riled the good bishop. He is the provincial coordinator for Pampanga of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV). I told him that if it had been sent by someone running for mayor, it was likely to be a clever form of black propaganda concocted by an opponent. But, who would want to do something like this merely to discredit one party-list nominee? More than 100 party-list organizations are vying for seats in the elections.

I felt certain that the envelope could only have come from the person who was explicitly soliciting votes in exchange for a small amount of cash. The question is: Why would anyone be so stupid as to attempt something so patently illegal? By analyzing the possible answers to this question, we might, I think, begin to understand why no one has been jailed for vote-buying.

My hunch is that this crooked and desperate politician (CDP) was acting on the basis of some educated assumptions about our political culture. First, that the average Filipino voter, having no strong preferences for the party-list slot, would be inclined to vote for CDP’s party-list group for taking the trouble to write and attach a token of his gratitude. Second, that the few who might take offense at being offered a bribe would not be inclined to make a big fuss about it. The worst they could do is simply not vote for CDP’s party-list group. And third, that the rare citizen who might feel so outraged at being bribed as to actually decide to file an official complaint would not get very far anyway. CDP could just deny that the envelopes were sent by him. Indeed, he would say precisely that it is stupid for anyone to do anything clearly illegal and leave traces of the deed.

Deniability—that is the crux of this insidious practice of vote-buying. It is almost next to impossible to produce solid evidence that can stand in court. That is why allegations of rampant vote-buying are typically treated as no more than the expected noise from an ongoing political contest.

On Election Day, I had a chance to listen to the detailed account of a voter from my town who claims that she was given a ballot that bore preshaded ovals for the local positions. According to her, a board of election inspectors (BEI) member whom she personally knew handed her a ballot, saying, “Oh, it’s you. I made a mistake; I’ll just give you this ballot.” Then she pulled out a ballot from under the ballot stack and gave it to her in a folder.

The voter then proceeded to fill up the oval spaces for her senatorial and party-list choices. When she turned to the obverse side of the ballot containing the names of the local candidates, she noticed that the ovals across some names had been shaded. She said she didn’t mind that the choices for governor, vice governor, and congressman had been made for her. At first, she thought it was funny that the ballot seemed to have accurately read her mind—until she got to the position of mayor. This was the principal reason she was casting her vote. She had pledged her vote to the candidate of her choice, and was aghast to find that it was the slot for the rival candidate that had been marked.

What she did next is quite interesting, and worth documenting, because it is a predictable reaction. Instead of protesting then and there, she decided to shade the oval for her own choice of mayor. As she stood up to insert the ballot into the PCOS machine, she whispered her anxiety to the person tasked to assist voters. “I’m just wondering why my ballot had been preshaded.” In an equally low voice, the person said: “That’s what she was telling you about earlier,” pointing to the teacher who had given her the marked ballot. Perplexed, the voter dutifully allowed her ballot to be inserted into the machine, half-expecting it to be rejected. The machine accepted it, and displayed a sign congratulating her.

When she got home, she told her siblings about her unusual experience. The more she thought about it, the more she felt that she had been taken advantage of by the teacher who gave her the marked ballot. She felt confused, stupid, and violated. By chance, one of her older siblings was a PPCRV volunteer, which is how her misgivings eventually ripened into a sworn statement. I have heard reports that the same pattern of vote-buying had taken place in many other parts of the country, but few people have dared to expose and denounce it.

I suspect that the incident is part of a system of political transaction that is astounding in its simplicity. Households in a given barangay are offered money just before the election. Those who take the money are marked; they are the ones who are given preshaded ballots. Being complicit to the act, they are not expected to complain. Our perplexed voter complained because she wasn’t aware that anyone in her household had accepted money. Unfortunately, her complaint will probably not gain traction. She has no concrete proof to offer. It’s her word against that of the BEI member.

I refuse to think that this practice is rampant since it clearly requires the collusion of the public school teachers who constitute the BEIs. Perhaps, more than the vote-buying itself, it is the thought that the teachers of our children could be corrupted that is disheartening.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 08:59 AM
From the Inquirer's lead editorial - - -

A long way to go

3:32 am | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The counting isn’t over, but this much we know now of the 2013 midterm elections: We didn’t know that much.

The Commission on Elections endured incessant warnings from various civic groups that it was about to stage-manage disastrous, dishonest polls, due mainly to the problematic precinct count optical scan machines it had acquired. Almost up to the eve of the polls, the Comelec was wrangling with watchdog and information-technology groups over the much-delayed release of the source code for the PCOS machines.

True enough, there were many reports of machine breakdowns on Election Day. The poll watchdog Kontra Daya said such cases were “widespread and had a major effect on the conduct of the elections.” But Henrietta de Villa, chair of the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, was more sanguine in her assessment, saying that “the 400 issues or machines that suffered some malfunction is not such a bad percentage against 77,889 machines used for the elections.”

By the end of the day, as the numbers began piling up, the general impression seemed to be that, despite the glitches, the elections had run more or less successfully. Charges of cheating were at a minimum compared to previous polls, and the speed with which the figures were being transmitted and tallied were in line with the similarly fast results that characterized the 2010 presidential election, the first time the Philippines had employed automated polls.

So, credit where credit is due. If the results hold up and the numbers are eventually ratified, the Comelec, and the thousands of teachers, volunteers and sundry personnel across the country who worked hard to ensure that the elections came off as fair, honest and credible, deserve appreciation.

Another surprising development: Grace Poe’s leap to No. 1 in the count. The surveys had invariably shown Loren Legarda as the topnotcher down to the last days of the campaign, even with Alan Peter Cayetano reportedly employing black prop to chip away at her lead. But their squabble was for naught. That Poe outran them both and blind-sided all professional prognoses with her stunning performance is indicative of a couple of things.

One, her father’s magic is still alive. The daughter of Fernando Poe Jr. ran on the strength of his fabled name, even daring to make a pun of it in her TV ads. It irritated the hell out of social media denizens, but in the end, it worked. If we are to take Poe’s numbers as indication of the extent of goodwill still commanded by her father’s memory, then her victory is essentially one more proof of the historic fraud said to have been perpetrated against him by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the 2004 presidential election.

Two, social media, the bastion of the middle and upper classes, had minimal effect on the elections. On Facebook and Twitter, a markedly different landscape reigned from the one that was unveiled last Monday. Poe, for one, was mocked for her homespun TV ads. Nancy Binay was the object of relentless ridicule not only for her lack of qualifications but also for her skin color. But she’s at No. 5 at this writing. Online, the noise was loud for the likes of Risa Hontiveros, Teddy Casiño, and Richard Gordon—all down by the wayside in the latest count.

The fight, it would seem, is not on the Internet, via clever memes and civic-minded shout-outs, but still out there in the hustings, among flesh-and-blood voters, where Binay had applied herself to the exclusion of anything else.

Anyone who’s been hoping that social media and technology will now be a game-changer in Philippine politics will have to wait a bit more, it seems. For all the lamentations online, not only are the usual suspects back, but they’re back with a vengeance: the Marcoses, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, even more celebrities in public office, and, most astoundingly, Joseph Estrada, who was kicked out of Malacañang, who was convicted of plunder—and who has managed a spectacular political resurrection as the newly elected mayor of Manila.

And, despite the automated polls, old-time politics reared its ugly head: 27 killed and 24 wounded in election-related incidents; widespread vote-buying, with boxing champ Manny Pacquiao himself allegedly involved in the mauling of a barangay captain who had objected to it; and the ever-present threat of violence to resolve issues, as in the case of the police standoff with NBI agents at the Cavite home of Sen. Bong Revilla.

One step forward, two steps back. Clearly, we have a long way to go.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 09:04 AM
Unless the poor…

By Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:20 pm | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The late feisty lawyer Haydee Yorac, when approached by distraught persons complaining about their mayor (newly elected or reelected, I don’t remember), stared down the complainants and, with characteristic brusqueness, said: “Bakit, ibinoto ko ba ang mayor nyo (Why, did I vote for your mayor)?”

Ouch. The subtext of her acerbic quip was: You get what you deserve, now you complain? Oh, but don’t we miss her, this frizzy-haired former chair of the Commission on Elections whose fave invocation was “Fiat justitia ruat caelum (Let justice be done though the heavens fall)”?

Here are my postelection ruminations.

With the midterm elections just over and the results out so fast, thanks to automation, grumbles can now be heard on why certain corrupt and undeserving candidates won, or how a perceived cad of a reelectionist could get a new mandate, or how babes in the woods came out victorious simply because they had money to burn.

Self-styled political analysts suddenly emerge from the woodwork with their good two cents, opinion makers hog the airwaves, cafés are abuzz with morning-after discussions. We all have something to say about the conduct of the elections, how TV campaign ads worked or didn’t work, the so-called Catholic vote (if there was or wasn’t), the mounds of trash from candidates, the wanton disregard for election rules, etc., etc.

But an oft-repeated refrain is: The masa kasi. The poor masses are blamed for not voting right, the poor whose votes were bought by candidates with immense power and wealth, the poor who owe the candidates debts of gratitude (utang na loob), the poor who, because of need, fear or ignorance voted wrong, the poor who voted not with their head but with their outstretched palm, the poor who are ignorant and who can see only as far as their next day’s meals.

Sadly, the teeming poor are always perceived as having voted for the wrong people. But are they entirely to blame for their poverty and ignorance? Are they entirely to blame for voting the way they do?

And can you blame the unscrupulous candidates for exploiting the poor so that they can perpetuate themselves in power and beget more wealth because of their power? Ah, the poor must remain poor so that the powerful can remain in power.

In other words, the vote of the teeming poor cannot lift the teeming poor from their poverty. Unless…

It is generally hoped that the poor, by voting for the right candidates, by not selling their votes to corrupt candidates, will eventually have a better life ahead of them. But how can this happen when the vote-buyers can assure meals for tonight? How can the poor see a little farther when they have Vitamin A deficiency?

I presume here that vote-buyers will never do right by the poor people they have bought, that evil deeds will only beget evil. They cannot cheat now and do right later—that is, say that the end justifies the means. Unless the cheats later get thrown off their horses on the way to Damascus.

And so I do not agree with the advice that the poor should accept bribe money from a candidate but vote independently for the one who they think is the good one (hopefully not the briber). Even the late Jaime Cardinal Sin said something to that effect. I would say yes, but only if your life is under threat.

The act of accepting a bribe perpetuates a wrong and unacceptable practice, not only on the part of the receiver but on the part of the giver as well. A journalist who accepts a bribe and says he or she will donate the money to charity anyway is giving the impression that it is okay to consider journalists as commodities. Who is to know that you gave the grease money to charity? Only God and yourself. That is not enough. You have to proclaim from the rooftops that bribery is wrong.

So can the poor be economically emancipated through the sheer power of their own votes? I have my doubts. As long as there are candidates who will exploit the poor to gain votes and win, their poor constituents will remain poor.

Is this a chicken-or-egg situation? The poor vote for the right leaders and they get economic freedom. Or they get economic freedom first so that they can vote freely for the right leaders? I have a sinking feeling that it is the latter.

So whence comes the poor’s economic emancipation if it will not be through their own votes? Can they ever vote right? Should they always be blamed?

Thank God, bad eggs do not always win. And the teeming poor cannot always be bought wholesale. And there are other sectors in the electorate—upright, unselfish, well-motivated—that can spell the difference and tip the balance toward the side of the least and the last. The positive results may come slow, but hope springs as long as these can be sustained.

I now often hear about voter’s education being included early in the school curriculum, the way financial management or sexual health should be, before it is too late. Some will fall through the cracks; we’ve had leaders with impressive academic backgrounds who became rotten. But it is always good to invest in the young. Some of them will someday pleasantly stun us, all because a good seed had been planted in them.

Last year, when I went to Iloilo for our town fiesta and to accept an award, I noticed that the portraits of President Aquino in the municipal hall were missing and had been replaced with several of Vice President Jejomar Binay’s. And this is the bailiwick of Mr. Aquino’s ever loyal Sen. Franklin Drilon. Eeew.

Let me end by saying that I hope Mr. Aquino finds out that not all local leaders who won under Team PNoy are above reproach—and the sooner he realizes there are undesirables who do not tread the daang matuwid, the better.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 09:07 AM
Our Catch-22 politics

By Leandro “DD” Coronel

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:17 pm | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

The Commission on Elections’ odd decision to leave the candidates and the whole nation hanging in suspense with its sudden adjournment as a canvassing body on the night of Election Day “to take a much-needed rest” was a public relations blunder. It again opened the electoral process, particularly the counting, to doubt and speculation.

Then the double-count glitch in the unofficial tallying added more mass to the cloud of doubt, with Comelec debunkers gleefully muttering “I told you so” at their dinner tables.

But once the glitch was fixed and the counting machines started humming correctly again (or so we were told), the big surprise of the evening greeted us all with a bang. Before anyone could say “Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting,” the name and face of Grace Poe were on everyone’s TV screen, having dislodged the presumptive No. 1, Loren Legarda, from her perch on top of the leader board. Which may or may not have proved that the brouhaha over Ms Legarda’s alleged double filing of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth did have a negative impact on her vote total and ranking. The usual analysts will now have one more puzzle to divine.

On the whole, the results have borne out the surveys, with a few ranking switches in the actual tally. Some of us will applaud the outcome, others will rue them. That’s the nature of electoral contests: Some win, others lose.

Advertising blitzes in the campaign homestretch proved effective. Poe’s repetitive invocation of the name of her father, Fernando Poe Jr., and her mom Susan Roces’ tender presence in the “last two minutes” commercials catapulted her to a stunning top spot. Ramon Magsaysay Jr.’s blitz and last-minute, word-of-mouth pleadings for him couldn’t do the trick for him, though.

As for Jamby Madrigal, I wonder why she didn’t saturate the media as an attempt to catch up with the rest of the pack? Even her promised endorsement surprise from a big personality (Ping Lacson?) didn’t materialize. For Magsaysay and Madrigal (and Risa Hontiveros, a near-winner in 2010), being in the final 12-0 wasn’t meant to be.

But, no doubt, media exposure was vital for some of the candidates (Poe, Alan Peter Cayetano, Koko Pimentel). And, conversely, evasive media maneuvers were what, ironically, helped others (like Nancy Binay) win. Binay avoided all the public debates and simply let her name do the talking. Now she’ll have to make good on her pledge to do the debating in the Senate—but not, as it turned out, with Hontiveros.

Meanwhile, no amount of ad blitzkrieg could save Juan Ponce Enrile Jr. as he snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, no doubt due to his controversial past and recent controversies involving his father and namesake, the Senate president. Migz Zubiri, too, paid for his controversial usurpation of Pimentel’s Senate seat for four years. While many Filipino voters are still unsophisticated in their discernment of political nuances, they can sense when people have been treated unfairly and act accordingly.

Again, as in 2010, computerized voting and counting saved the nation the ordeal of an agonizingly slow count. To their chagrin, Garcillano clones in and out of the Comelec lost a vital source of income through alleged tampering of the numbers during the counting. Other means of cheating were attempted, through computer signal-jamming and other creative ways.

But computerized elections are here to say, notwithstanding the attempts of nonbelievers to go back to manual counting. Fast and less-friendly to manipulators, the computers have made the whole process quick as lightning and almost impenetrable by crooks (unless the crooks are the same ones running the elections).

The downside is that the swiftness of the computers also brought us the election-results letdown just as fast. Our dismay over the list of the “usual suspects” running for key positions during the campaign quickly became reality with the speed of light. Look at the names of some of the senatorial winners and you’ll know what I mean. And locally, Joseph Estrada, the luckiest guy in all politics, is back in harness and will soon preside over the further decay of the once proud city of Manila. Many other undeserving or unqualified politicians have won seats all over the country.

Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose, the French say with a shrug to lament the unchanging state of things even as all things change. On the surface, things change—in politics, in society, in life. There’s movement, activity, stirring in society, in public. But, to use a redundant compound word, the end-result is the same. The same political names, affiliations and coalitions prevail. No new blood, only new dynasts.

And even the young blood who tried their luck in the various contests weren’t so hot themselves. One or two newcomers among the senatorial candidates were articulate, but they didn’t really say anything innovative, profound or inspiring.

Ah, well, that’s politics. It’s so sleazy and rotten, good and qualified people are loath to dirty their fingers and reputations with it. The Philippines needs upright people to cleanse politics because it’s dirty, but upright people don’t want to enter politics because it’s dirty. That’s our political Catch-22.

Leandro DD Coronel’s column, Manila Observer, appears in Fil-Am newspapers in Toronto and Washington.

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 09:09 AM
Dead FPJ is the big winner in the Senate race

By Neal H. Cruz

3:29 am | Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

Although long dead, the “King of Philippine movies,” Fernando Poe Jr., is still drawing fans. This is evident in the surprising showing of his daughter, Grace Poe, a political neophyte, in the initial counting of votes for the Senate. Grace is leading all the other candidates in the partial and unofficial count so far.

There is no doubt that the King, even in death, helped Grace get those votes.

She has no experience, no qualifications for her run for the Senate except her parents, FPJ and Susan Roces. In fact, her commercials and ads unabashedly made full use (some say too opportunistically) of her parentage. She used, not her formal surname Llamanzares, but Poe, in bold capital letters. Her ads and commercials shouted that she is the daughter of the great FPJ.

Grace said repeatedly in her campaign speeches, commercials and ads that she wants to continue what her father started—whatever that is, she did not say. And nobody can remember what he started, apart from the very successful (in the box office) action movies. One TV commercial showed her and mother Susan talking about what she is going to do in the Senate and inevitably the talk went to the advocacies of her father. The commercial ended with Susan saying “Promise yan, ha,” and Grace answering, “oPOE.” Another commercial had her saying “Grace POE” and “oPOE” and “Hindi POE.” Her posters show a picture of FPJ hovering beside her like a guardian angel.

Obviously, the masses love the King for the roles he played in the movies—the poor, humble, soft-spoken champion of the oppressed and downtrodden who will erupt into deadly action when the villains get out of bounds. And that love has been transferred to his daughter who, by the way, is taking her amazing spurt with amazing grace.

Many more people now believe that FPJ won the presidential election in 2004 but was cheated by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The same movie persona as the champion of the masses also has catapulted FPJ’s “pare,” Erap Estrada (Erap is “pare” spelled backward), to high positions in the government, first as mayor of San Juan, then senator, then vice president, then president, and now mayor of Manila, making an amazing comeback after being kicked out of Malacañang and going to prison for plunder. Not only that, his popularity as a movie hero has allowed him to establish his own political dynasty. He was able to have his wife Loi and son Jinggoy, and now son JV Ejercito, elected to the Senate, and his mistress Guia Gomez elected, twice, as mayor of San Juan.

It was Erap who convinced FPJ to run for president, and endorsed the candidacy of Grace Poe for the Senate, although he is one of the three founders of the opposition coalition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), and Grace is in the Team PNoy ticket.

It is ironic and saddening that the no-nonsense drive against crime, especially drug pushing and prostitution, by reelectionist Mayor Alfredo Lim, a former police chief, National Bureau of Investigation director, and senator, has backfired against him. Also, the name “Dirty Harry” may have contributed to Lim’s loss although the original Dirty Harry (played by Clint Eastwood) was also a no-nonsense hero, a police detective who took shortcuts to put criminals away.

Nobody can deny that Lim stopped prostitution in the tourist belt and curbed drug pushing in Manila. What will happen now to his plan to build a business center in Manila’s Port Area and to make Escolta a walker’s paradise with new shops and eating places lining this famous, pedestrian-only street?

I hope the new mayor pushes these projects to fruition, even if they were conceived by his rival.

* * *

It looks like the campaign against political dynasties had no effect on the voters. Only Grace Poe, Loren Legarda and Gringo Honasan among the candidates in the top 15 of the senatorial race are not members of political dynasties.

Names played a big role in the choices of voters. Binay, Villar, Estrada, Cayetano, Aquino, Angara, Pimentel, Gordon and Magsaysay Jr. are all members of political dynasties. Jackie Enrile, son and namesake of JPE, the Senate President, is down in No. 16, far from the winning circle. JPE’s popularity was not enough to pull his son up. Maybe Jackie’s past as a tough guy pulled him down.

There are speculations in the social media that Jackie shot three persons in Cagayan. Jackie denies this; it was his bodyguard who did it, he claims. He says it’s black propaganda.

Speaking of black propaganda, did the black prop against Loren Legarda have any role in her fall from the top spot, a place she had held in all the poll surveys? Maybe.

The black prop said Loren has a property in New York that she did not declare in her earlier statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, an accusation that she vehemently denied and disproved with documents. Still, did it influence some of the voters not to vote for her so that she fell from the No. 1 spot? Or is it because Grace and FPJ just have too many fans?

Loren also claimed that the black prop was instigated by a colleague in the Team PNoy ticket who wants to be No. 1 so he can use the feat for a run for the presidency in 2016. Happily, Alan Peter Cayetano did not move up but moved down from No. 2 in the poll surveys to No. 4 in the actual count. Did the dirty trick boomerang against him? That would be poetic justice and should teach other politicians not to use black propaganda against rivals. After all, if a candidate cannot be loyal to a team mate, how can he be expected to be loyal to his constituents?

Sam Miguel
05-16-2013, 09:13 AM
Unimportant

FIRST PERSON

By Alex Magno

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 16, 2013 - 12:00am

We have just conducted, without much incident, what is very likely one of the more unimportant electoral exercises in our political history.

Being unimportant, there were few surprises in this exercise. Those expected to win won. The hardest thing is not counting the votes; it is finding out what the significances are that would merit the great expense we incur for conducting things like this one.

One analyst is probably correct in describing the last elections as having returned us to the depths of traditional politics. The rule of dynasties tightened. Political parties decayed.

This probably explains why vote-buying was proliferate. So proliferate, in fact, that the Comelec tried burning the house down to rid us of the rats: an ill-fated (and illegal) attempt to close down the economy by banning large cash withdrawals. A great plague of institutionalized stupidity seems to have swept our land.

People tend to sell their votes when they nurse no passion about the politics of the day. Last week, votes were bought openly, flagrantly and cheaply. The choices were so indistinct that votes commanded such low prices. Deflation grips our electoral politics.

When the prices at which votes are sold fall to such lows, this can only be an indicator of the insignificance of choice. It does not matter much if the vote is given to Tweedledee or to Tweedledum. Life remains the same.

The cheapness by which votes were bought signals a depreciation of the electoral process. It indicts the narrow political class that controls public choices for making the exercise entirely meaningless.

It is bad enough that our political party system is seriously deteriorated. It is worse that our elections degraded into a mere parlor game for the political clans to play.

To say that the last elections were entirely personality-driven is to understate the malaise. In Monday’s elections, even the personalities at play were mere proxies of the actual power-players.

This could not be electoral democracy at its best. It is deceptive shadow play at its worst.

Palace mouthpieces try very hard to inflate the significance of the last exercise by vainly describing it a referendum on the present dispensation. How could that be? The present dispensation represents no comprehensive policy package, no clear vision and no unique agenda we might have a referendum on. The last electoral campaign was not a debate on anything. It was a mere popularity contest.

To call the last exercise a referendum on nothing in particular is to further deceive the people. It is bad enough to ask our people to go through the strenuous rituals of voting even if they had no meaningful choices to make. It is contemptuous to impute to our voters choices they never made.

To be sure, there was no dancing in our streets in the wake of Monday’s vote (like there was actual dancing in the streets of Pakistan after Sharif’s party won the elections there this week). Voter turnout was relatively low here last Monday — suggesting enough voters intelligent enough to see through the meaninglessness of it all.

Palace spin doctors court ridicule by claiming that the poll outcomes strengthen the President’s mandate. How could that be?

Midterm elections, in our case, mark the transformation of single-term presidents into lame ducks. They weaken rather than strengthen presidencies as ambitious politicians freely position away from the shadow of a finite chief executive.

The last senatorial elections reduced rather than increased the LP bloc. Bam Aquino, who capitalized on his physical resemblance to his martyred uncle, is the only LP candidate to survive the grist.

It is the NP that now holds the biggest bloc in the Senate. It is the group that will decide the distribution of power in that chamber. It is a bloc full of ambitious men ready to position for the 2016 presidential contest.

The UNA grouping in the Senate, if it is able to reel back in the NPC senators, is actually larger than the NP. Any alliance with the NP bloc will be on its terms clearly.

Historically, the modus operandi of the senators is to make things difficult for the Chief Executive in order to win concessions. The classic illustration of this was when the US bases treaty was on the table for a Senate vote. When Cory Aquino refused to yield to the myriad demands of the senators, the bases were gone.

Under the veil of asserting this chamber’s “independence”, expect the senators to inflict the usual modus operandi on a sunset presidency.

President Aquino invested the prestige of his office and his own popularity on only a few local government aspirants. The two most notable are Alfredo Lim in Manila and Ed Panlilio in Pampanga. Lim lost in a tight race to former president Joseph Estrada. Panlilio was completely creamed by Lilia Pineda.

That does not add an exclamation point to the power of the President’s endorsement.

The only notable development in this election is the emergence of the Catholic “white vote”. This, and the traditional command vote of the INC, are not easily disposed towards supporting Aquino’s 2016 endorsement.

Ironically, the biggest winner in this muddled election is a non-candidate. The Vice President fielded his daughter Nancy Binay to keep his name fresh on voters’ minds and his political machine oiled.

Nancy’s respectable performance, without having to try too hard, certainly solidifies Jojo’s position as the man to beat in the election that will matter.

Joescoundrel
05-19-2013, 08:28 AM
Premature, imprudent and illegal

By Artemio V. Panganiban

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:52 pm | Saturday, May 18th, 2013

With due respect to the Commission on Elections, I find no legal and factual basis for the proclamation in installment of six senatorial candidates (Grace Poe, Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Chiz Escudero, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara) on May 16, and another three (Bam Aquino, Koko Pimentel and Sonny Trillanes) on the next day, May 17.

Rule and exception. The Comelec was reported to be trying to finish the official canvass at a late hour on the third day, yesterday, May 18 (past my deadline for this column), or today, and to proclaim the last three winners (Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and possibly Gringo Honasan). This final canvass may moot the prematurity of the two earlier proclamations, but it will not lessen their baselessness and illegality at their inception.

It merely raises new questions: No one was chasing the Comelec, why the indecent haste? Why rush to proclaim without legal or factual basis? Why not wait for two days, just two days, and then proclaim all 12 legally and unquestionably?

Let us dig deeper. The entrenched legal and commonsensical rule is that winners can be proclaimed only after all ballots have been officially canvassed. The exception to this rule is when the leading candidate(s) posts an insurmountable lead, that is, when the remaining uncanvassed ballots will not adversely affect the results.

The Comelec meticulously and correctly invoked this rule and exception when it instructed the provincial and city boards of canvassers to proclaim the local winners. It should apply the same standard to its own proclamations.

To understand the exception, imagine that a total of 50 million ballots were cast in an election, of which 90 percent or 45 million were canvassed. Imagine further that each of the first nine senatorial candidates obtained more than 20 million votes while each of the other candidates had less than 15 million.

Here, even if the remaining 10 percent (or 5 million) uncanvassed votes were added to each of the other candidates, none of them could overtake the nine. In these imagined facts, the exception applies and the first nine may be proclaimed.

Look now at the real facts. When the six candidates were proclaimed on May 16, the official canvass of the Comelec covered only 72 out of the 304 certificates of canvass (COCs).

These 72 COCs represented just a little more than 13 million of the country’s 52 million registered voters. Definitely, then, the unreported votes are several times more than the canvassed votes. Even if only 70 percent of the registered voters actually voted, still the uncanvassed ballots will easily swamp the canvassed ones. Hence, the exception cannot apply.

Belatedly, the Comelec alleges that its two earlier proclamations are justified by so-called “group canvass reports.” In my long years as a lawyer, this is my first time to hear of these electoral instruments. In any event, law and settled jurisprudence require official COCs, not any other documents, as bases of senatorial proclamations.

If the Comelec wants to change its rules of proclamation even at the risk of offending jurisprudence, it is required by law to first publish its new rules and wait for the mandatory lapse of seven days after publication before it can use the new rules.

Legal enigma. Clearly, then, the first two proclamations were premature and illegal. Worse, if the final canvass did not confirm their victory, not even the Comelec or the Supreme Court could unseat them. Because once proclamation is made, “the sole judge,” says the Constitution, “of all contests relating to the election, returns and qualifications” of senators is the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) composed of six senators and three Supreme Court justices.

The SET can act only after the Senate is convened in late July. By that time, the nine would be sitting in the Senate. On the other hand, not all those who obtained enough votes can sit because the Senate has only 24 members. Then, the country would be faced with an undeserved legal enigma.

At this point, I hope readers realize that the prematurity and illegality of the two earlier proclamations, unless upheld and cured by the final canvass, could bring unwarranted and unnecessary legal consequences. Baseless and premature proclamations should never be repeated, especially during the presidential election in 2016. Otherwise, they could destabilize and bring unintended consequences on our democracy.

Shining moment. If and when the proclamation of the nine is confirmed by the final canvass, I believe they should be given new certificates of proclamation, containing the legal justification for their victory—namely, the correct number of votes and rank they garnered to avoid giving them the dubious distinction of being the only senators in our country’s history with premature, imprudent and illegal proclamations.

I cannot close this piece without applauding the courage and wisdom of Nancy Binay and Koko Pimentel in refusing to participate in the tainted proclamation rites. Pimentel labeled the proclamation rites as improper, arguing that candidates should not only win the elections fairly but also strictly observe the law.

Kudos also to Romulo Macalintal for calling public attention to this legal impasse and for asking the proclaimed senators to “return or surrender their certificates of proclamation … as a shining moment… of the democratic process.” And I dare say that Macalintal’s exemplary advocacy is his own shining moment for the rule of law and democracy.

* * *

Joescoundrel
05-19-2013, 08:33 AM
It’s final: 9-3 for Team PNoy

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:55 am | Sunday, May 19th, 2013

It’s 9-3 in favor of the administration coalition as the final three winning senators—Cynthia Villar, JV Ejercito and Gregorio Honasan—were finally proclaimed Saturday night as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) completed the canvassing of all locally cast votes in the senatorial race.

Five days after the voting ended, the Comelec, sitting as the national board of canvassers (NBOC), proclaimed as winners Villar, Ejercito and Honasan, after the last local certificate of canvass (COC) from Lanao del Norte arrived at 5.33 p.m.

Honasan successfully hung on to 12th place, beating Richard Gordon by a margin of more than 700,000 votes.

With the proclamation of all the winners, the scorecard of the mid-term senatorial election was 9-3, with the administration-backed Team PNoy winning nine slots. Only Nancy Binay, Ejercito and Honasan belong to the opposition United Nationalist Alliance.

After snubbing the Comelec’s previous proclamation ceremonies, winning candidates Binay and Aquilino Pimentel III showed up at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC) Saturday night, receiving their certificates of proclamation together with Villar, Ejercito and Honasan.

Pimentel said he decided to show up Tuesday night after Comelec officials addressed the concerns that he raised on Friday.

“The proclamation [on Friday] was premature [but] I asked a lot of questions and I think the system is secure enough, and it’s now more difficult to manipulate than the one we used during the manual [voting],” he told reporters.

He was wearing a barong Tagalog when he arrived at the PICC about an hour after Comelec Chair Sixto Brillantes Jr. announced that the last three winning senators would be proclaimed Saturday night.

“They showed me that 100 percent of [the local votes] are in and that they’re just waiting for the OAV [overseas absentee vote]. If you sum it all up, the overseas vote, even theoretically speaking, it will no longer change the results,” he said.

Binay’s parents, Vice President Jojo Binay and Elenita Binay, were at the proclamation as were Ejercito’s parents, Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and San Juan Mayor Guia Gomez.

Villar’s husband, Sen. Manuel Villar, and their two children were also at the ceremony where the Comelec commissioners took turns reading out the certificates of proclamation for Binay, Pimentel, Villar, Ejercito and Honasan.

The Comelec on Saturday finished the tabulation of 129 COCs out of a total of 304, with only the overseas votes left uncounted.

Spontaneous applause broke out in the national canvassing center at 5:30 p.m. at the announcement that the last locally drawn COC from Lanao del Norte had been received electronically at the PICC.

The 129 COCs represent 39,898,992 Filipino voters out of a voting population of 52 million.

All the COCs from 106 cities and provinces in the Philippines had been canvassed, and the only ones left uncounted came from overseas absentee voting centers, many of which yielded only a few votes. Of the 304 COCs, 198 COCs are international, while 106 are local.

Brillantes said the NBOC would go on recess after the proclamation and would resume the canvassing of the party-list polls on Monday.

The ranking of the first nine senatorial winners, who were proclaimed in batches on Thursday and Friday, was unchanged, with Grace Poe, the surprise top vote-getter, leading the pack.

She was followed by Loren Legarda, Alan Peter Cayetano, Francis Escudero, Nancy Binay and Sonny Angara. The six were officially proclaimed on Thursday night in alphabetical order.

The seventh to ninth placers, who were proclaimed on Friday night, were Bam Aquino, Pimentel and Antonio Trillanes IV.

In the final three places were Villar, Ejercito and Honasan, with Gordon in 13th place behind Honasan by more than 700,000 votes in the partial official tally.

Joescoundrel
05-19-2013, 08:35 AM
Poe seen as viable 2016 bet vs Binay

By Doris C. Dumlao

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:08 am | Saturday, May 18th, 2013

SAY ‘GRACE’ Newly proclaimed Sen. Grace Poe holds her certificate of proclamation as she poses with mother Susan Roces, husband Neil Llamanzares and daughters Hanna and Nika and son Brian during the proclamation of six senators-elect at the PICC in Pasay City on Thursday. JOAN BONDOC

As investors and analysts ponder whether the Philippines would remain in a sweet spot beyond 2016 when the country elects its next President, New York-based think tank Global Source listed four “viable” presidential contenders from the administration party who could challenge incumbent Vice President Jejomar Binay.

Binay has been touted by his political party, United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), as the man to beat in 2016. “I’m saying he will be the next President,” UNA campaign manager Toby Tiangco told the Inquirer this week.

In a May 16 commentary on the midterm elections titled “Vote of Confidence,” Global Source named Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano and recent senatorial race topnotcher Grace Poe as the four potential standard-bearers within the Liberal Party (LP).

“We agree with the prognosis that the results are a vote of confidence on a highly popular President, which means that President Aquino will continue to have tremendous political capital going forward,” said the report written by economists Romeo Bernardo and Marie-Christine Tang.

“This will be very important as [President Aquino] will need to hit the ground running when the next Congress starts and show results quickly, to enable the economy to build on current momentum and translate the high business optimism into investments in hard assets that will sustain growth,” the commentary added.

Election clout

Global Source said key pieces of legislation—such as the fiscal incentives reform that affects all sectors—would still be difficult to pass, but may stand a better chance with [Mr. Aquino’s] election clout still fresh in the winners’ minds.

“We also think there is very little risk of President Aquino’s becoming a lame duck executive in the near-term,” the report said. “The administration likely has a two-year window to initiate priority reforms before uncertainty and nervousness creep in with the approach of 2016,” it added.

Global Source added that President Aquino’s ability to influence the outcome of the 2016 election would hinge on the economy. The report said everyone would be looking for solid signs that the President was delivering on his promise of more jobs, investments and a sustained high economic growth.

Fifth-place win

“On the other hand, failure to bring the economy forward will hurt the President’s party in the final year, resulting in handing over [the] reins [of government] to the opposition led by the Vice President, who has demonstrated his own clout with his daughter’s fifth-place win in the Senate race,” the report said.

“In the meantime, the conduct of the election, as orderly and peaceful as the first automated one in 2010, has itself been a confidence booster,” the commentary said.

Within the LP, the research said Interior Secretary Roxas, who yielded to Mr. Aquino as the party’s nominee for the presidency in 2010, was “currently the likely anointed one.” But if, for some reason, Roxas drops out of the race, Global Source said the other “viable” candidates included reelected Senators Escudero and Cayetano.

Surprise topnotcher

The report noted that “one cannot rule out the surprise topnotcher in the senatorial contest, political neophyte Grace Poe,” daughter of the late action star Fernando Poe Jr. who, many believe, won the controversial 2004 election against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Based on the results of Monday’s midterm polls, the administration’s senatorial candidates are expected to bag most of the 12 senatorial seats in contention. Global Source said members of the President’s coalition party were also likely to have won the majority of the congressional and local elective posts.

“Political observers are starting to place bets on the leadership of the two houses of Congress, with Sen. Franklin Drilon seen as the likely Senate President, and incumbent Speaker of the House, Feliciano Belmonte, holding on to his post. Both are staunch allies of the President and high-ranking members of his Liberal Party,” Global Source said.

Reform agenda

The report noted that supporters of the administration saw President Aquino’s control of both houses as positive for the government’s reform agenda and greatly increased the chances of passing “big ticket” political and economic legislation, among them the rationalization of fiscal incentives, a new mining law, the amendment to the 20-year Bangko Sentral charter, as well as the build-operate-transfer law and the Bangsamoro basic law.

Crucial factor

With the President’s endorsement described as a crucial factor in winning the recent election, Global Source said he was expected to continue to hold sway in the next three years which would enable him, like his mother, to handpick a suitable successor to continue his reform program.

“Naysayers, on the other hand, claim that the administration’s numbers, especially in the Senate, are of no consequence, not only because the Upper House has traditionally acted more independently of the executive branch, but also because the numbers reflect a coalition of parties that came together solely for the elections,” the report said. “The latter implies that the President’s legislative initiatives would continue to face uphill battles and, if the past were any guide, that there is no guarantee that the coalition will stay in place through 2016, much less beyond,” the think tank added.

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:14 AM
Drilon vs Cayetano in Senate

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, TJ A. Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:11 am | Monday, May 20th, 2013

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago sees in her crystal ball the fight for the Senate presidency of the 16th Congress turning into a toss-up between Sen. Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP) and Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party (NP).

Drilon served as campaign manager of the administration-backed Team PNoy senatorial slate, while Cayetano ran as an NP senatorial candidate who got the biggest number of votes among colleagues from the party who ran under the Team PNoy coalition.

In a radio interview, Santiago said Drilon could be expecting the Senate presidency as his “reward” for his efforts in ensuring Team PNoy’s smooth-running campaign.

Team PNoy—the coalition forged by LP, NP, Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC), Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino (LDP), a member of PDP-Laban and independent candidates—won nine of the 12 Senate seats up for grabs in the midterm elections. Drilon attended more provincial sorties during the 90-day national campaign than most of the slate’s candidates.

Observers note that while President Aquino has not openly stated his preference for Drilon as the successor of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, the former’s allies have referred to Drilon as the next Senate President.

“The Senate presidency is the will of the majority in the 16th Congress. In the coming weeks, we will carefully listen to the views of my colleagues on the Senate leadership,” Drilon said on Sunday. Cayetano could not be contacted for comment.

For now, Enrile can rest easy.

The administration won’t force any change in Senate leadership when senators resume sessions briefly in early June to close the 15th Congress, a senior Malacañang official said Sunday.

“Numerically [we have it], but what for?” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said of the 13 votes needed to elect a new Senate President. “I think the senators would prefer to end the 15th Congress in a friendly, amicable tone, rather than make it a point for division.”

No need to rock boat

Besides, Abad added, there was no need to rock the boat since administration senators would still be working with Enrile, and Senators Vicente Sotto III, Jinggoy Estrada and Gregorio Honasan II in the coming 16th Congress.

“Why do you create rancor when you don’t need to?” Abad, a senior political adviser to Aquino, said by phone.

After adjourning in early February for the May 13 midterm elections, lawmakers will resume sessions on June 5 and 6. They’ll adjourn sine die from June 7 to July 21.

Although the President “always holds his cards close to his chest,” he would have to make his choice known at some point and pick someone who will sustain his legislative agenda, said Santiago, whose term ends in 2016.

As it is, Aquino should not worry about his pick being acceptable to other senators, she said.

Vote of confidence

According to Santiago, the vote of confidence the President earned following the victory of a majority of his senatorial candidates is enough proof that he continues to have the support of the people.

“But the obvious effect of the last political exercise is that President Aquino’s leadership has even strengthened and he could use this development to further his projects…. He will have more confidence to assert his leadership,” Santiago said.

The LP would have only four senators in the 16th Congress, including Drilon, Ralph Recto, Teofisto “TG” Guingona III and neophyte Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV.

The NP, on the other hand, has five—Cayetano, Antonio Trillanes IV, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., Pia Cayetano and neophyte Cynthia Villar.

Santiago, an independent, is usually counted among the NP senators given her closeness to most of them. She said that while the LP was outnumbered, no senator at this point would dare antagonize the President’s political party.

It is more likely that all senators friendly to the administration would support Aquino’s chosen one. [These may include Francis Escudero and Grace Poe, independents who won under the Team PNoy banner; Sonny Angara of LDP; and Koko Pimentel of PDP-Laban—all of whom won in the Senate race as candidates of Team PNoy; and Senators Kiko Pangilinan and Serge Osmeña.

Santiago does not discount, however, that Cayetano would consider putting up a fight for the Senate presidency. “Cynthia is the most senior among the NP senators. She could have a chance given that the NP members outnumber those from the LP but she is very shy,” she noted.

“Alan may try to seek the (Senate presidency),” Santiago added.

Santiago declared that the new membership of the Senate would spell the death knell for Enrile’s continued stay as its head.

As it is, Enrile could only rely on himself and his loyal followers including Estrada, Sotto and Honasan.

The four senators are fondly referred to as the “macho bloc” of the chamber.

“Enrile’s ambition to stay as Senate President is dead,” Santiago said tersely.

Apart from the macho bloc, Santiago said there was no one else that Enrile could rely on for support.

Santiago dismissed expectations that Jinggoy’s brother, Senator-elect JV Ejercito of the opposition United Nationalist Alliance (UNA), would automatically vote for Enrile.

“JV would go for whoever is supported by his father, former President Joseph Estrada. But remember that the situation is not static, just because Enrile and his father are allies now doesn’t mean they would stay that way forever,” she said.

How about Nancy Binay who, like JV, won her Senate seat under UNA?

Santiago pointed out that Nancy’s father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, “is a member of the Cabinet of President Aquino. It’s not automatic that just because she ran under UNA, she is immediately pro-Enrile.”

“I would place a question mark beside (Nancy’s) name,” the senator added.

Enrile, former President Estrada and Vice President Binay are regarded as the “three kings” of UNA.

Nancy and JV are expected to support Enrile in case he decides to make another go for the Senate presidency.

Abad said a leadership change during the 16th Congress would be the natural consequence of having a bigger administration majority following the victory of nine administration coalition candidates.

He said Aquino campaigned aggressively for his 12 handpicked Team PNoy candidates precisely to achieve this goal.

“The President would like to see the majority in both chambers, and would like to see this reflected in the leadership,” he said.

At least 16 Aquino allies

Going into the 16th Congress opening in late July, Abad has counted at least 16 administration allies, more than enough to elect a new leader from their ranks and push the President’s legislative agenda.

Based on Abad’s list, the new majority would consist of Loren Legarda, Escudero, Cayetano, Pimentel and Trillanes; new senators Poe, Aquino, Villar and Angara; veterans Drilon, Recto and Guingona, all of LP; Osmeña, Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano and Santiago.

“We will have a bigger majority, compared with the 15th Congress,” Abad said. But he said they would have to decide among themselves whom to elect to the Senate presidency.

Abad ruled out the possibility of Aquino calling Enrile about the leadership change.

“I don’t think that’s appropriate. The election of the leadership in Congress is a matter that is internal to the senators and House members. And knowing this President, he will not want to intervene in that process,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, who won a fresh term, is expected to coast to another term as Speaker in the 16th Congress, Abad said.

“It’s his to turn down. But I think he (Belmonte) will continue on. He did very well; there’s no reason he should not. Members of the House will appeal to him to continue on,” he said.

Talk things over

Santiago said the best strategy for Aquino’s allies in the Senate was to talk things over among themselves to strengthen their hold on the majority.

“If it’s going to be Drilon and Alan (as contenders), they must first resolve their intramural. Otherwise, the coalition would break and it would fall in the hands of Enrile. He will do everything he can to destroy the coalition of the LP, NP and NPC,” Santiago said.

Asked about Marcos’ role in the majority, Santiago said the senator would be ready to talk to the LP, the people in Malacañang and even President Aquino.

“Both know that in politics, you cannot be inflexible. You have to be flexible, you cannot fight with everyone like what I do,” she said in jest.

“If I may not be so imprudent, I think both are willing to come to terms with each other and refuse to fight. Politics is addition. I don’t think they would dwell on the past because to do so is counterproductive,” she added.

Santiago said she was not dismissing the possibility that Marcos was also looking forward to a higher position in 2016.

Marcos’ father, the late dictator and his namesake, was the chief tormentor of President Aquino’s father, a former senator and namesake as well. It is still widely believed that the late Marcos may have played a role in the assassination of the late senator.

Sam Miguel
05-20-2013, 09:17 AM
Game changer

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:18 pm | Sunday, May 19th, 2013

But of course Grace Poe topping the senatorial race is the one dramatic, phenomenal, game-changing feature of the last elections.

I’ve been saying since early this year that all Grace needed was to raise her awareness level and she would break into the top five. With any luck, I said, she’d land in the top three. By awareness, I meant that she needed to get more people to know she was running. That wasn’t the case until about four months ago when she became more active in Team PNoy activities. It reached its peak during the last few weeks of the campaign when her ads tumbled in.

By awareness, I also meant that she needed to get more people to know she was the daughter of Fernando Poe Jr., a fact that might have been blurred by “Llamanzares.” Grace I knew to be her own person, which was why I’ve also kept insisting that she, like Bam and Jun Magsaysay, did not reflect “dynastic politics.” I thought she ran the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board very well, making well thought-out decisions and standing pat on them afterward. Such as when she suspended the Tulfo brothers from Channel 5 for making threatening statements on TV against Raymart Santiago and Claudine Barreto. She wasn’t borrowed light, but it didn’t hurt to exploit her strengths. Her ads that turned “po” into “poe” did the trick.

I did think Grace was going to do very well, but I never thought she’d top the field. I was bowled over by it when the first results burst in. My surprise soon turned into elation as the significance of it dawned on me. A game-changing event had just taken place in our midst. From out of the blue, from out of nowhere, from out of heaven, if you believe in these things, which Grace does.

It hit me that way especially because I had just written a column that said that after this election we would be faced with a presidential one that looked pretty bleak. The way things had been shaping out, it would only be a fight between Jojo Binay, who had already announced his bid, and Mar Roxas, who hadn’t but whom most people expected to. Either one of them coming in after P-Noy would be the paralytic following the sublime.

Then came Grace.

The first thing I thought of was that this country has had more than its share of amazing graces. Enough to make you believe in divine intervention, deus ex machina, and miracles. Or enough to make you believe, like Paulo Coelho’s “Alchemist,” that if you want something badly enough, the universe will conspire to make it happen.

Four years ago, the horizon seemed even bleaker. There was no real alternative to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, a presidential candidate who would be the opposite to her. Worse, we didn’t even know if we’d have elections at all. There were a few things Arroyo wasn’t prepared to dare: extending her rule wasn’t one of them. But after she wangled an invitation to visit from Barack Obama and “drumbeat” the triumph in the local media, holding a bacchanalia in Le Cirque by way of celebration, it seemed more than likely that she would think the unthinkable, she would dare the “un-dare-able.”

Then Cory died, then Aquino lived. And the rest is history.

On a minor note, Grace’s victory gives a sense of that too. My first thought actually was not of Grace per se but of the significance of her victory. People had been asking me some time before the election if I thought there could be an alternative to a Binay-Roxas fight, if I thought we could find a third force, or way, or candidate to reshape or reconfigure that fight. I said hope springs eternal, though a Aquino happened only once in a blue moon. But I said I myself would go into that search mode after the elections.

Grace’s victory showed the voters were thinking along similar lines. Or at least that they were thinking out of the box. The surveys fell flat on this one, they completely misread the public pulse, or mood. People were prepared for change, people wanted change. If a Grace Poe could emerge from out of the blue, somebody else could do the same thing before 2016 came along.

Then I thought: Why not Grace Poe herself?

Of course as friends have been telling me, she will have to prove herself over the next three years first. But I’ve little doubt she’ll do very well in the Senate. Some friends of mine who started out being a little aloof toward her told me before the elections: “I’m voting for her. I saw her in the debates (or I heard her in a rally, or I heard her give a talk), and she’s smart. She’s got the head—and the heart. She’s just won me over.” Three years should give her ample opportunity to replicate that reaction, to multiply that reaction. One thing she has over the others: She straddles the social classes, she’s acceptable from A to E.

Which also means that this early, the two presidential wannabes, quite apart from all the others, deluded or sensible, who contemplate contesting the presidency three years from now, will be making a beeline for her doorstep, determined to woo her to become their running mate. Which is looking at the world through a rearview mirror. That was what happened too in 2010. Up till the 11th hour, several Liberals were still trying to convince me that the magic formula was Roxas-Aquino and not Aquino-Roxas. And I kept telling them that was a formula only for disaster. You made it Roxas-Aquino and you trashed the larger-than-life, mythological, good-versus-evil resonance of the Noynoy phenomenon.

Like Aquino in 2010, Grace will be courted by the presidential wannabes to be their vice in 2016. Like Aquino, why in hell should she agree?

Too early, as Grace herself says, to be talking about these things? Maybe. But the game has changed and, not altogether subtly, it and that has made me one very happy camper.

It’s one truly amazing grace.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:16 AM
House to push Charter change

More jobs, foreign equity limit on agenda

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

With a firmer grip on Congress, President Aquino is expected to push for changes in foreign equity restrictions to attract more capital in order to create more jobs and reduce poverty incidence.

But his political leaders are divided on how to initiate the changes.

On one hand, Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte Jr., who is expected to retain the speakership, prefers Charter change (Cha-cha).

On the other hand, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr. wants to focus the modifications on the “negative list” of investment areas that are off limits to foreigners under the 22-year-old Foreign Investments Act (FIA).

“Many of the restrictions are just executive or legislative issuances that can be amended. But I continue to believe in amending the economic restrictions in the Constitution,” Belmonte said in a text message.

Among the 1987 Constitution’s economic provisions that proponents of Cha-cha want amended are those that restrict foreign ownership of public utilities to just 40 percent and ban aliens from owning land in the country.

Three modes

There are three ways to amend the Constitution—via Congress acting as a constituent assembly (Con-ass), a constitutional convention whose delegates are elected, and a people’s initiative.

Administration lawmakers may be able to muster the numbers to convene a Con-ass and proceed with Cha-cha should they get the green light from Malacañang.

Belmonte expects the ruling Liberal Party (LP) to have at least 105 members, or roughly a third of the House of Representatives, as well as to further cement its coalition with the Nationalist People’s Coalition, National Unity Party, Nacionalista Party and administration-friendly party-list groups.

With at least 16 allies of Aquino in the Senate, Sen. Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of the administration-backed Team PNoy in last week’s midterm elections, is expected to wrest control of the Senate leadership from Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile of the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

Belmonte’s view was shared by another ally of Aquino in the Senate.

Sen. Ralph Recto said: “I prefer constitutional amendments. The Foreign Investment Act is [the] next best option.”

Recto said though that the President was not too keen on Cha-cha. “But he knows we must allow more FDI (foreign direct investments) to create jobs and modernize our economy. It can be done by liberalizing the investment policy through amendments to the Foreign Investment Act.”

Past Cha-cha efforts

Efforts to amend the Constitution were mounted during the previous administrations of Fidel V. Ramos, Joseph Estrada and Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, but these did not prosper. The Church and civil society opposed these moves on the grounds that these were aimed at lifting the term limits of public officials, including the President’s.

“Instead of Cha-cha, the Department of Finance has been reviewing the ‘negative list’ with the objective of opening up previously restricted areas of investment,” Abad said in a text message.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima did not reply to the Inquirer’s query.

Aside from anticorruption, good governance and sustainability of reforms, Abad said Congress’ main priority was inclusive growth, which could be addressed by making investment areas more accessible to foreign investors.

No trickle-down effect

While the economy has soared during President Aquino’s first three years—the stock market has zoomed to historic highs, the peso has become robust, and the country has achieved investment grade status (from Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor’s)—this has not translated into an increase in employment opportunities and reduction in poverty.

Portfolio investments, or hot money, have surged, but FDI has remained abysmal at $1.5 billion this year, 50 percent down from its 2007 level.

Last year, the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines issued a statement lobbying the government to shorten the foreign negative list in its next biannual listing in 2014.

“Despite continuous advocacy over almost a decade, responsible public sector leaders have yet to assign priority to shortening the list, with the exception of the economic provisions of the Constitution.

“Amending these constitutional restrictions has been advocated by congressional leaders and a study was reportedly prepared at the request of President Aquino but not publicly released. However, little attention has been paid to removing other restrictions from the list,” the foreign chambers said.

Overdue

The chambers said a review was overdue. “This could be done by an interagency team instructed to review various restrictions on foreign equity investment … taking into consideration whether restrictions impede investment, job creation and competitiveness. A report with specific proposed amendments could be ready by the time the 16th Congress is convened,” they added.

They pointed out that since the FIA was enacted in 1991, there had been only two major changes made: the Retail Trade Liberalization Act (2000), which opened retail trade to foreign investors bringing in at least $2.5 million; and Executive Order No. 158 issued in 2010, which allowed 100-percent foreign equity in gambling in economic zones (by presidential proclamation).

The foreign chambers noted the Philippines’ miniscule 3-percent share of net FDI inflows into Southeast Asian region last year.

“While many factors explain this situation and there is good reason to expect the amounts to rise in 2013 and thereafter, a negative list that is too negative is one of the factors effecting FDI that can be further liberalized,” they said.

Foreign investments in the country are limited to zero percent in media; 40 percent in mining, oil and gas, agriculture and forestry, telecommunications and transportation; 60 percent in banking; 65 percent in power; and 75 percent in light manufacturing.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:31 AM
^^^

What Went Before: Past Charter-change attempts

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:00 am | Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

The 1987 Constitution provides three modes for proposing amendments or revisions: by Congress upon three-fourths vote of all its members; by constitutional convention where delegates are elected; or through a people’s initiative upon direct petition of the required number of voters.

Attempts at amending the Charter have been made since the Ramos administration, but these never took off.

In 1997, the People’s Initiative for Reform Modernization and Action (Pirma) pushed for Charter change by way of a signature campaign or people’s initiative. It proposed a shift to a parliamentary system of government and the lifting of term limits on elected officials, including then President Fidel V. Ramos. The opposition charged Ramos of being behind the campaign, but he denied this.

The Supreme Court en banc unanimously shot down Pirma’s initiative, with eight justices saying there was no enabling law for it, and six others citing that the group’s petition was defective.

Then President Joseph Estrada also pushed for Charter change, which he called Concord, or Constitutional Correction for Development. Estrada sought to allow foreigners to own land, public utilities and media outfits, but this met strong opposition from the Catholic Church and other sectors, leading him to shelve the proposal in January 2000.

Under her administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo created a Consultative Commission led by Jose Abueva that recommended a unicameral parliamentary form of government, decentralization of the national government and more powers to local government units.

A people’s initiative called Sigaw ng Bayan was also launched during her administration, but this was rejected by the Supreme Court in October 2006, citing its failure to comply with the basic requirement that the “initiative must be directly proposed by the people.” Voting

8-7, the high court noted that the proponents did not show the people the full text of the proposed amendments before asking them to sign the “signature sheet.” The tribunal said the “omission” was “fatal.”

Two months later, then Speaker Jose de Venecia began moves to convene the House into a constituent assembly, but it was met with heavy opposition. In December 2006, in the face of a firestorm of protests, Arroyo dropped her support for the proposal, saying, in a statement, “Philippine democracy will always find the proper time and opportunity for Charter reform at a time when the people deem it ripe and needful and in the manner they deem proper.”

In November 2008, then Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. drafted Senate Resolution No. 10 convening Congress into a constituent assembly to establish a federal system of government. It was backed by 16 senators but never took off.

In September 2011, Sen. Franklin Drilon said both Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte had concurred with his proposal to have both chambers vote separately on bills involving Charter change, which would only touch on economic provisions.

President Aquino, however, reiterated his position that constitutional amendments were not a priority of his administration.—Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:35 AM
To those who say Filipinos are stupid

By Benjamin Pimentel

2:30 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — Perhaps the stupidest reaction to the last Philippine elections came from people who concluded that, based on the outcome, Filipinos are really stupid.

Someone even came up with a faux Time magazine cover making that argument. In an ironic twist, a few who embrace the stupidity claim believed the spoof was for real.

Then there’s the Philippine Star columnist who argued that, “In the present system no matter how hard we try, the numbers are against an intelligent vote. … It is inevitable that the huge majority of unintelligent voting will always overwhelm a small intelligent vote. So it is not about making clueless voters more intelligent to achieve better elections alone. It is also about restructuring our politics and governance so that the selection of leaders does not depend on money and popularity.”

Carmen Pedrosa’s statements about “restructuring our politics” and the need to neutralize the role played by “money and popularity” in elections certainly make sense.

That’s not just a problem in the Philippines. You can hear that complaint in most electoral democracies, even in older, presumably more established, ones like the United States where the fight to reform the way elections are financed has been raging for decades.

But in a country that very recently had a disastrous encounter with dictatorship, what she said can easily be twisted around by forces with a much narrower view of elections and who probably don’t even believe in democracy.

You can almost hear some of these forces declaring: “Well, clearly, the people are stupid and unintelligent. So it’s time for those of us who are not stupid and unintelligent to take charge.”

Yes, some of the big winners aren’t exactly paragons of democratic governance.

As an Associated Press report said, “From Imelda Marcos to Manny Pacquiao, familiar names of political clans and celebrities dominated the ballots in the Philippines’ congressional and local elections Monday, making them a contest of popularity first and reform second.”

It would have been great to see Risa Hontiveros and Teddy Casiño on the list of winners and to have them inject more progressive ideas and discussions into the Senate. (It would also be fascinating given that they belong to rival segments of Philippine progressive politics. But that’s another story.)

But the results aren’t as “unintelligent” as some would think.

As columnist Rina Jimenez-David pointed out, the number of women in the Senate just doubled – a big deal in a political culture notorious for narrowminded machismo.

The top-notcher Grace Poe has quickly come across as intelligent, thoughtful and eloquent. She clearly has no delusions about why she won. She knows it’s because of her ties to a revered cultural icon and was quick to acknowledge the hard work ahead to really earn the people’s trust and respect.

Meanwhile, Nancy Binay has quickly emerged as the most ridiculed political newcomer in the history of Philippine politics. Some of the criticisms and fears may be justified. But many of the attacks have been so over-the-top and unfair.

There’s an important point in the elections that I haven’t heard much about. And it has to do with those whom the supposedly “unintelligent” masses rejected.

There’s the son of the one-time guardian of fascist rule in the country, the veteran trapo now also known for a new literary genre we could probably call ‘extremely creative memoir writing.’ (“I was ambushed. … No, that was a hoax. … Just kidding, I was really ambushed.”)

His son will not be joining the Senate because enough people apparently were not impressed with Jackie Enrile’s ‘I didn’t kill anyone and I really wanted to be a missionary’ narrative.

And Filipinos won’t have to read or hear about Senator Migz “This-time-I-didn’t-cheat’ Zubiri. That’s apparently because enough people didn’t buy into the former non-senator’s ‘Believe me, I didn’t know my votes were stolen” tale.

Then there are the other signs of cracks, even small ones, in the elite political machine on the local level. Why can’t we celebrate the victory of Leni Robredo who just won a congressional seat in Camarines Sur by beating the powerful Villafuerte clan?

But the biggest win is this: Filipinos yet again were able to engage in this crazy exercise. For there was a time when elections were a far more dangerous political activity in the Philippines.

This year marks the 35th anniversary of one of the dirtiest elections in Philippine history.

The year was 1978. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos was in power and thought that he should prove to the world that the people really love him. So he called for elections for a new legislature.

Big mistake.

A broad opposition coalition, led by the likes of Ninoy Aquino and Nene Pimentel, took him on. They waged a spirited, courageous campaign, winning the support of Filipinos who had grown tired of the regime.

The dictator hit back by cheating his way to victory. The cheating was so massive and so brazen it stunned even Marcos’s key ally, the United States.

Journalist Raymond Bonner recalls in “Waltzing With a Dictator” how the US Embassy in Manila reported how the Marcoses used flying voters and “printed and marked one million fake ballots for use in the process as necessary” to assure an “overwhelming” victory.

But cheating wasn’t enough.

After the elections, Marcos went after those who defied him by throwing his opponents in prison.

There’s a famous editorial cartoon by the legendary Herblock that brilliantly summed up Marcos’s twisted view of elections. It shows Marcos standing next to one of his generals. They’re both angry as they watch a military van hauling off protesters.

“Ingrates!” Marcos roars. “You let them vote and the next thing they want their ballots counted.”

Filipinos have come a long way since those dark days. And it’s time for an important reminder.

Democracy is a journey, and it’s often messy, unpredictable, at times exhilarating. And the destination isn’t paradise.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:55 AM
Shattered bamboo reeds

By Juan L. Mercado

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:42 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

“Do not look at the heavens through a bamboo reed.” Can this Japanese proverb help us sift through the May 13 elections’ mixed bag? Nobody loses an election here. Those trashed insist they were cheated.

“My supporters and lawyers insist I fight on,” said legislator and Talisay Mayor Eduardo Gullas, 24 hours after the polls closed. “But I concede and wish my opponent all the best.”

After being trounced, Cebu City Vice Mayor Joy Augustus Young insisted: The surveys of his camp foresaw a 14-percent victory margin. “Survey result is what is the reality.” And who confused actual election tallies with survey “guesstimates”? Cebu buffed up financial assistance to teachers from P5,000 to P10,000. The teachers were bought, Young charged.

Nonsense. A hefty dose of Prozac or Zyprexia would jolt Young back to reality. The Villafuertes, who have dominated Camarines Sur for almost 40 years, need that too.

Nelly Villafuerte’s well-funded machine scraped up 31,364 votes. But the wife of the late interior secretary and former Naga City Mayor Jesse Robredo racked up 102,694 votes. Like Corazon Aquino and her son, Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, Leni Robredo was badgered by people to run.

Grace Poe shattered the survey crystal bowls when she topped the 2013 senatorial race. Vice President Jojo Binay suddenly broke into cold sweat. The Makati kingpin had reveled in being touted as “the next president.” That would collapse like a pack of cards should Grace run. Flustered then would be a mild term to describe Binay—and incumbent Interior Secretary Mar Roxas. Both know that history has a replay button.

In Makati, Senator-elect Nancy Binay came in third, garnering 165,666 votes. Grace topped the Senate race in the Binay “heartland”—where control levers are kept in family hands.

Until Grace emerged, the 2016 contest seemed locked into Binay versus Roxas. “That’s Scylla and Charybdis, that’s a rock and a hard place, that’s the devil and the deep blue sea,” Inquirer’s Conrado de Quiros wrote.

“We’ve got three years to change things, we’ve got three years to look for an alternative. Otherwise, we won’t be going back to the future. We’ll be rushing forward to the past,” De Quiros warned.

Some political dynasties that “looked at heavens through a bamboo reed” have crumbled rapidly, Inquirer’s Solita Monsod noted. That includes now the Garcias in Cebu, the Fuas in Siquijor, the Antoninos in South Cotabato, and the Jalosjoses in the three Zamboangas. Will they be accountable for past lapses? No basta decir adios. It’s not enough to say goodbye.

Other dynasties were sapped by partial losses: the Josons in Nueva Ecija, the Tañadas in Quezon, the Sumulongs in Rizal, the Teveses in Negros Oriental, the Dazas in Northern Samar, the Villarosas in Occidental Mindoro, plus the Tupases in Iloilo.

But more dynasties are emerging: the Pacquiaos in Sarangani and Alvarezes in Palawan. In 37 provinces, dynasties still “look at the heavens with a bamboo reed.” But the disapproval is rising.

Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu rode a Simba armored personnel carrier, escorted by a military convoy, to his proclamation as governor of Maguindanao, reports Mindanews' Carol Arguillas. Three years back, a Simba also ferried him to oath-taking. No one bitched. Mangudadatu’s wife, sisters, relatives plus 32 journalists from the media were slain November 2009 in Maguindanao. “It was the worst preelection violent incident in Philippine history and the worst worldwide in terms of the number of media workers killed in a single incident,” Arguillas recalls.

A “two-year window of opportunity” to ram through measures to consolidate initial reforms has opened for the administration with its 9-3 poll victory, write Romeo Bernardo and Marie Christine Tang for Global Source Partners. Key measures, from a new mining law to the completion of the Bangsamoro peace talks, now have a better chance being enacted. “There’s little risk of President Aquino becoming a lame duck president (soon), they note. He should hit the ground running when the new Congress opens…”

“Poverty is the worst form of violence,” Gandhi wrote. Today, 28 out of every 100 Filipinos scrounge below national poverty lines—unchanged over the last six years, says the latest National Statistical Coordination Board data.

About 20 percent of the poorest get 6 percent of the total national income. The “upper crust” of 20 percent corners nearly half of the total national income. You see that in slum families or in scrawny kids cadging for handouts. “Children from the poorest households run twice the risk of dying before age five.”

Aquino’s ace in the hand is unsullied personal integrity. He must harness that as his new team grapples with what historian Barbara Tuchman called the “tyranny of the urgent.” The capacity to govern is sapped by interlocking crises, she wrote. Overwhelmed by today’s demands, “few can plan for tomorrow.”

Filipinos were the first to wage People Power with cell phones. Today, there are 106.9 million cell phones in use. Internet access is 21 percent—and rising slowly. This audience is monitoring Binay, Roxas—and the new kid on the block: Grace Poe.

What lies ahead? Banquo wistfully complained to Macbeth: “If you can look into the seeds of time. And say/Which grain will grow and which will not.”

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 08:57 AM
Ideal worlds

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:41 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

Another dramatic thing happened in the election, though not quite a surprising one. That was Leni Robredo leading the rout of Luis Villafuerte in Camarines Sur. Leni buried Luis’ wife, Nelly, in a landslide in the congressional fight for the third district. John Bongat, a Robredo ally, remained mayor of Naga City, leaving his nearest rival, Jun Pelagio, biting the dust as well, and Luis himself lost to his grandson, Migz, as governor of the province.

The last is a curious twist in Philippine politics. It owes to Luis and son, LRay, being locked in a bitter feud, at times bordering on the violent. When LRay fielded his 23-year-old son against his estranged father, many thought he was crazy. The wise money said Migz didn’t have a chance, Luis owned Camarines Sur, he would win as he had always done in four decades by hook or by crook.

Lo and behold, neither hook nor crook worked. Last I looked, Migz was leading Luis by 50,000 or so. He’ll be the youngest governor in history.

A great deal of this owes to Leni. She it is who has brought about Villafuerte’s downfall, something her husband, Jesse, was never able to do in his lifetime. Her story invites a bit of comparison with Cory’s. Like Cory, she had lost her husband, though by the hand of fate or improvidence in her case rather than by the hand of man or a tyrant. Like Cory, she had been content to stay in the shadows and let her husband bathe in the public gaze. Like Cory, she had been thrust into politics by necessity, a reluctant candidate compelled to run to make sure her husband did not die in vain, his cause would go on. Like Cory, she faced a daunting task, fighting a kingpin that had ruled her province for as long as her province could remember. Like Cory, she had turned the fight into black and white, dark and light, abjectness and deliverance.

Like Cory, she now stands on the field of battle, surveying the remnants of her enemy’s scattered forces.

It’s not without a great deal of irony. Jesse Robredo himself had not planned on running for senator in the last election. He had entertained it early last year, but had abandoned it when he saw his ratings were not going up. He had been a great local official, even getting the Magsaysay Award for good governance, leaping over the heads of national officials for the honor. Alas, in this country it wasn’t enough to become senator. Bowing to necessity, Jesse settled for staying with the Department of the Interior and Local Government.

Alas, too, fate had other ideas. His plane crashed one not very fine day in August last year, and suddenly the world he left behind changed. His death transformed him, making him more alive at least in his people’s memory than he had been in life. Certainly, it opened people’s eyes, making them realize what a blessing—and loss—he was to governance.

Leni didn’t just inherit her husband’s mantle, she earned it. She did so by the composure she showed in the wake of her husband’s passing. She did so by the fortitude and courage she showed in the face of grief and devastation, in the face of the multitude of things she had to attend to while mourning her loss. She did so by showing a quietness and grace amid the whirlwind of the sudden discovery of her husband’s worth, a thing that threatened to sweep her off her feet as well.

The landslide did not just owe to Jesse, it owed to her too. In the voters’ certainty, whatever her husband had planted, she would bring to fruition, whatever her husband had started, she would finish. I myself thought that if she had decided to run for senator—someone would tell me she never got invited, a not entirely surprising oversight from a group of people given to oversights—she would have won hands down. I did worry that Leni could become a victim of local politics, a more hospitable home to money, thuggery, and dirty tricks, her enemies having all three in abundance. But as it turned out, she had something more powerful than those things.

She had the voters. She had the people.

Of course like Grace Poe, Leni Robredo has a world of obstacles to hurdle before she can conquer the world. Not least is making sure the political dynasties of Camarines Sur do not mount a comeback. The trick is not just in banishing them, it is keeping them from coming back. Six years ago, Ed Panlilio did the seemingly impossible too, which was to bring down the Pinedas. Six years ago, Grace Padaca did the seemingly impossible too, which was to bring down the Dys—talk of grace and dynasties. Three years later, the Pinedas and Dys were back. Three years later, Panlilio and Padaca were out.

Just as well, Leni has yet to prove herself in Congress. But of that I have little doubt, just as I have little doubt Grace Poe will acquit herself well in the Senate. Both are extremely capable, both are extremely intelligent. And both carry with them a legacy that will flail at their backs like a whip, or blow at their sails like the wind. Poe carries the dream of her father with her, the dream of lifting up the poor, the dream of educating the poor. And Leni carries the work of her husband with her, the boundless potential of local government, the boundless power of good governance. Motivation is the strongest engine of all.

Like Poe, Leni will soon find herself resolutely wooed for higher office by those angling for the presidency. She represents something bigger than herself. But the rest of us can dream us well, and imagine that in an ideal world you can always have Leni—and Grace—spurning them and reaching for bigger things, grander things. In an ideal world, you can always have Grace and Leni themselves teaming up to run for president and vice-president of this country. Wouldn’t that be something?

Well, who says we can’t make this an ideal world?

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 09:00 AM
Debating the ‘Church vote’

By Rina Jimenez-David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:38 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

As the saying goes: “Defeat is an orphan while victory has many fathers.”

This may explain why so many people are claiming the winners in the last senatorial elections as “proof” of the public support for or sentiment against the Reproductive Health Law, which is currently caught in the limbo of Supreme Court procedures.

But how is this possible? How could the same set of senators be for/against the same law? It all depends on the beholder, and the person interpreting the turnout.

Sen. Tito Sotto (still remember him?), who was staunchly against the RH bill during the Senate debates, said that Grace Poe’s clinching the top spot among the senatorial wannabes is “proof” that the so-called Catholic vote is “real.” He also said that the drop in the rankings of Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano, who had all voted in favor of the measure, “is strong evidence that there is a Catholic vote.” The Catholic vote, he added, also helped propel Koko Pimentel, Gringo Honasan, Cynthia Villar, Antonio Trillanes and JV Ejercito into the winning circle.

But last I looked, Poe—who has publicly declared her support for reproductive health—as well as Legarda, Escudero and Cayetano, occupy the top four slots in the senatorial tally. Sotto’s favored winners—Pimentel, Honasan, Villar, Trillanes and Ejercito—are caught in the bottom of the list, with Villar, Ejercito and Honasan taking the precarious last three slots.

This may be the reason the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development, a key player in pushing for the passage of the RH Law, rejoiced over the election of pro-RH candidates, saying that “despite the black propaganda of the Church against senatorial candidates who have been supportive of the Reproductive Health Law, a good number of the pro-RH candidates won the recently concluded midterm elections.” This, the group said, is proof that “there is no Catholic vote, and [that] no black propaganda of the Church can steal victory from candidates who advocate reproductive health.”

* * *

To reiterate, six of the seven candidates endorsed by the “Purple Vote” movement are front-runners in the senatorial race, with Sonny Escudero and Bam Aquino joining the pro-RH group. Only Risa Hontiveros among the “Purple Seven” failed to join the winners, but then again, a fellow candidate in Team PNoy, former senator Jun Magsaysay, who is anti-RH, has failed to make it, too.

In the House of Representatives, among the successful reelectionists were staunch RH supporters: Teddy Baguilat (lone district, Ifugao), Kaka Bag-ao (Dinagat Islands), Dina Abad (lone district, Batanes), Bolet Banal (third district, Quezon City), Kimmy Cojuangco (fifth district, Pangasinan), Jaye Lacson-Noel (lone district, Malabon City), Sandy Ocampo (sixth district, Manila), Susan Yap (second district, Tarlac), and Imelda Dimaporo (first district, Lanao del Norte). They won despite the fact that “they faced excruciating campaigns as their respective pastoral localities vocally campaigned against them.”

In a report in the news website Rappler.com, Aries Rufo pointed out that the strength of the Catholic vote should have propelled the candidates of the party Ang Kapatiran, which had mounted a faith-based anti-RH campaign, to victory. But even in the Archdiocese of Lipa, which “unleashed” lay Catholic groups against pro-RH candidates, and across the nation, the Kapatiran contingent is among the bottom-dwellers.

Rufo wrote that in an interview, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles “admitted that creating the ‘Catholic vote’ is still a pipe dream. We are just starting to create a mindset for the Catholic voters,” he said.

So if Sotto says the Catholic vote is real, while Archbishop Arguelles says it is still a pipe dream, who are we to believe? Maybe we should ask “Tito Sen” what it is he’s smoking.

* * *

From Pangasinan comes news of the incredible, though not totally unexpected, victory of “Manay” Gina de Venecia as reelected representative of the fourth district comprising the towns of Mangaldan, San Fabian, San Jacinto, and Manaoag and Dagupan City.

“She did even better than I did!” exclaimed former Speaker Joe de Venecia, Gina’s husband who had represented the district for many years but whose votes were no match for his wife’s steamroller victory this year.

Gina won 92 percent of the votes in the municipalities and 75 percent in Dagupan over her main rival, Celia Lim. Thanking the province’s spiritual patroness, the Blessed Virgin Mary of Manaoag, for the peaceful elections in Pangasinan, Gina cited the need for “strong legislation” to stop or mitigate “money politics” in the country. She added that she intends to reintroduce the movement for state subsidy for political parties initiated by her husband, “who is trying to promote it in Asia to reduce political corruption.”

Meanwhile, Gina is calling for prayers for the stricken Dagupan Mayor Benjie Lim, even as she predicted “wide-ranging reforms” under the new mayor, Belen Fernandez. She also suggested that after a year, defeated Liberal Party gubernatorial candidate Nani Braganza, former mayor of Alaminos City, would make a “dynamic, competent member of the Cabinet representing Pangasinan.” In the meantime, she said, Braganza could be “mobilized to help revitalize the peace talks with the CPP-NDF-NPA.”

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 09:05 AM
The sheer inadequacy of single-factor analyses

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:40 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

Apparently, there was a sympathy vote for the late, defeated presidential candidate Fernando Poe Jr. At least that is what many commentators, both professional and on-Facebook-only, assure us is the meaning of Grace Poe’s 20 million votes.

I can understand why the senator-elect sees her unexpected victory as vindication for her father; it is harder to understand why so many seem to think that that is the only meaning. Or why—and this is my main argument—there should be only one explanation.

Let me start, as many have, with anecdotal evidence. Two first-time voters in my household voted for Grace. Did they vote for her because they were convinced FPJ was cheated in 2004, or because they had realized that the country would have been better off in the six years between 2004 and 2010 under a Poe administration, or because they believed that the Poe family should be given a second chance to serve the nation at the highest levels?

None of the above. They voted for her because they liked what they saw; in the reverse hyperbole of teenage-speak, she “was not bad.”

No mention of FPJ at all. But think about it. How many of the 10 million or so new voters since 2004 (assuming over a million citizens reach majority age every year) even know who the actor was, or that he was the most reluctant candidate for the presidency, or that after Corazon Aquino he was the most famous victim of election fraud in our history—and knowing, cared enough to vote for his daughter?

I wish to be clear. There must have been many, even millions, who cast their vote for Grace Poe more or less for those reasons. Just not very many of the new voters, as now-conventional wisdom would have it. But if there were millions who voted for Grace for reasons unrelated to FPJ, how can we say Grace’s win was only, or primarily, a sympathy vote for “Da King”?

We need account for only a million and a half, or maybe two million, votes. That is the difference between first place and second in the Senate race. Take away those votes, and Grace wouldn’t have topped the Senate contest. And if Grace had not topped the Senate race, there wouldn’t be any talk now about sympathy for FPJ.

But starting with the January surveys, Grace was always in the winners’ circle. Her monthly standing varied, a roller coaster ride she has herself alluded to, but once she had dramatically improved her voter support level from August last year (at that time, only 6 percent of survey respondents said they would vote for her), she was among the handful of candidates who were always in the safe zone.

When we speak of her “unexpected victory” then, we do not mean that nobody expected her to win; we only mean nobody expected her to top the Senate race.

It is quite a feat. Her vote total is the first to break the 20-million mark; given the continuing growth in our voting population, reaching this milestone was only a matter of time. But it is still a powerful symbol: the highest vote total in our history, eclipsing Ferdinand Marcos’ 18 million votes in the sham 1981 presidential election and the 19 million votes of Senate topnotchers Mar Roxas in 2004 and Bong Revilla in 2010.

How did she do it?

She certainly banked on her father’s name, and her mother’s image. But I suggest that all that banking made a difference because of the massive investment in TV commercials she made in the last week of the campaign period.

Here’s more anecdotal evidence, but the kind that can be corroborated by hard numbers as soon as the data become available. By my count, in the last week of the campaign, Grace aired some 20 ads to every one of Loren Legarda’s. I must confess (and if I get the chance I will write at length about what I didn’t get right) that I thought all that adspend was a waste; my reading of the surveys led me to think that the race in the last month had become static, that the contest for the first 10 Senate seats had become settled. As the Grace Poe and Sonny Angara campaign teams would be the first to tell me, I was obviously wrong. But the point is: Grace spent a lot of capital airing ads in the last week; not coincidentally, all this happened after the last Social Weather Stations preelection survey was conducted on May 1 and 2.

How did she top the race?

I do not wish to belabor the point, but it must also be said that her campaign was the antithesis of her father’s feckless, frustrating drive to Malacañang. Having had the chance to cover that unexpected run in 2004, and seeing the Grace Poe campaign team at work in 2013, I can only marvel at the discipline, the strategic thinking, of Grace’s Senate bid.

While many volunteers and coordinators were on board (every single one I dealt with was as courteous as the candidate—something that cannot be said for all campaigns), there was one clear direction. There was a strong emphasis on ground operations. And from the start there was the decision to take part in candidates’ forums and debates. None of this, it pains me to point out, can be said of FPJ’s presidential run.

One more thing. As a candidate, she was acceptable to many. She took a principled stand and stood by the Liberal Party coalition when the United Nationalist Alliance forced her to choose, but in such a gentle, non-offensive way that, to the very end, Joseph Estrada, one of UNA’s so-called Three Kings, vowed to support her. Having worked diligently and intelligently to raise her awareness rating, she found that conversion (getting those aware to vote for her) came more easily because many perceived her, including first-time voters, as “not bad.”

Not bad at all.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 09:07 AM
Unfinished agenda

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:38 pm | Monday, May 20th, 2013

With the midterm elections behind us, it’s time to focus back on the work to be done—and there’s a great deal of it. Only hecklers and blinded critics would deny that much progress has been achieved in the last three years, particularly in governance and the economy. But as many constantly point out, we have yet to turn the good economic news into benefits that reach all Filipinos, and not just a minority at the top.

What exactly is the good news? There remain skeptics out there, but let me distill it to the essentials using my “PiTiK test” that focuses on presyo (prices), trabaho (jobs/employment) and kita (income/output): P-T-K. (For my curious readers: Yes, a newly reelected senator did seek my permission to use that trademark mnemonic for his successful campaign.) And based on latest available data, my PiTiK test yields 2½ good news out of 3. In contrast, 2 of the 3 yardsticks were bad news a year ago, so things have indeed turned around for the better.

Price inflation is the slowest we’ve seen in a while, easing to 2.6 percent as of April. (Translation: The average market bundle you would have bought for P100 last year now costs P102.60, which is not much of an increase.) Average inflation rate was higher at 3.2 percent in 2012, and 4.4 percent in 2011. What to me is even better news is that food price inflation in April was reported by the National Statistics Office to be even lower—at 1.9 percent. As food dominates the budgets of poor families, this tells me that inflation has hit the poor relatively less than it has affected everyone else.

On jobs or employment, the news is half good and half bad. The January 2013 Labor Force Survey showed a lower unemployment rate of 7.1 percent from last year’s 7.3 percent, and a net gain of 606,000 new jobs. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the underemployment rate—the percentage of those who have work but feel the need to work more to make ends meet—has jumped from 18.8 to 20.9 percent, indicating that the quality of available jobs leaves much to be desired.

As for kita, aggregate output/incomes as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) grew at 6.6 percent, the fastest in Southeast Asia. Growth also picked up across all three major sectors of agriculture, industry and services, although the improvement in agriculture was only slight (from 2.6 to 2.7 percent, versus the 1.9 to 6.5 percent speed-up in industry, and 5.9 to 7.4 percent acceleration in services). I have written in recent columns of how key growth indicators in 2010-2012 show a clear break from past sluggish trends, particularly in the preceding six-year period of 2004-2009. This has won us unprecedented investment-grade ratings from the major credit rating agencies.

But as noted earlier here, much work remains for President Aquino and his team. The challenge is two-fold. First, we must broaden the base and widen participation in and benefits from our economy’s newfound dynamism. Inclusive growth is now everybody’s mantra, but is much easier said than achieved, as it requires fundamental restructuring of the economy’s driving forces and basic foundations. Second, we must lock in the basis for the current economic momentum so that change in political leadership in 2016 need not derail it. Neither challenges will be easy to meet, but the latter could come from the former. To my mind, five key things must happen if we are to broaden the country’s economic base, disperse economic activity and spread economic gains across all sectors and geographic areas of the country:

One, we must get agriculture moving in a way that secures for small primary producers (farmers and fishers) a greater share of the final value of their product while improving their productivity, raising their incomes, and uplifting their wellbeing. An important step in this direction is providing them wide opportunities to participate in value adding, such as drying and processing (examples are freeze-drying of fruit, coffee roasting, muscovado or coco sugar production, and the like).

Two, we must seize new opportunities to reinvigorate the manufacturing sector and resume the quest for broad-based industrialization that passed us by in past decades as services assumed premature dominance. Some called it “leapfrogging” then; now we see it as “missing the boat.” Among other things, China’s waning edge due to escalating labor costs is now paving the way for us to get back on the industrialization track.

Three, we must promote, develop and empower small and medium enterprises (SMEs), not at the expense of large enterprise, but by fostering a synergistic, even symbiotic relationship between them. In so doing, we must fill the many gaps in the various value chains in our economy while ensuring that these value chains are inclusive and not captured by dominant players. Small producers must also be aided in clustering themselves to achieve greater scale economies.

Four, we must make the financial system truly inclusive by reforming the rules, structures and mechanisms that perpetuate the perverse reality where financing is costliest for the small and most financially deprived, and cheapest for the large and most financially endowed. Farm credit and SME financing simply must become much more accessible.

Five, we must foster a solidarity economy based on social enterprises that would get us away from prevalent economic concentration, yet move beyond simple competition toward stronger coordination and greater cooperation for the common good.

The agenda can be further fleshed out, but if we can effectively pursue all these, 2016 need not be as scary as many seem to see it to be.

Sam Miguel
05-21-2013, 09:20 AM
Election hangover

By Conchita C. Razon

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:28 am | Sunday, May 19th, 2013

Do you have election hangover? I do. Have the campaign posters, placards and other campaign eyesores been pulled down? The victors may be too busy celebrating, and perhaps the losers couldn’t care less. They all should lend MMDA a helping hand, don’t you think?

At least the propaganda jingles are over. I am happy about that. I think that as clever and well intended as these tried to be, many were silly and inane and actually turned off their target audience.

Someone asked me what it was like in the good old days. Names like Quirino, Rodriguez, Lacson, Quezon and Osmeña come to mind.

I remember in 1957 jumping on the bandwagon and urging everyone who cared to listen to rally behind the irresistible senator from Tayabas.

Impeccable oratory

Claro M. Recto was running for President, and I had a privileged seat (by virtue of being his daughter-in-law’s best friend) to witness his campaign up close and personal. His speeches were brilliant, his oratory impeccable. His smile was beguiling and could charm the birds off the trees. He was more than qualified.

But he lost, miserably. Many said it was because he spoke over people’s heads and belonged to the elite. Many who understood the times better saw the hand of foreign interests and blamed his Filipino First policy. In hindsight, it is obvious that no one could have survived against the popularity and mass appeal of Ramon Magsaysay.

Which brings to mind that in our recent polls, his son Jun Magsaysay didn’t make the cut. This is sad news. As a nation, we lost, big time.

We have never seen nor are likely to ever see again the likes of Don Claro. He was a statesman, orator, writer, a nationalist and an international personality. He walked the corridors of power with class. His brilliant career was cut short in Rome in 1960, when during a cultural mission to Europe and Latin America he suffered a fatal heart attack.

I was assigned to help edit a memorial supplement of his undelivered speeches for the Manila Chronicle, my first writing home base. I worked all night side by side with Recto’s bosom buddy, poet laureate Manuel Bernabe.

They had a mutual admiration society of sorts and a genuine affection and deep respect for one another. The sky was almost pink by the time we “put the pages to bed.” A Chronicle jeep took me home. He decided to walk. I guess his weeping was not over.

During the Recto experience I was a very young woman with stars in my eyes. I thought that being a man of integrity with a heart full of love of country were perfect qualities for a good leader. I knew I was right. But my man lost. It didn’t make sense. Not then. Those were my growing pains.

Great again

I have a clearer recollection of the rallies and campaign of 1965. I remember yelling at the top of my lungs about the virtues of the man who dreamed to make this nation great again. For a while there, it didn’t seem like an empty promise. I am sure it was more than that. And then life happened. Or worse, politics happened.

I have since reluctantly dabbled in things political, writing a speech here and a commentary there. But each time, there was a little less of the starry eyed idealist who, long ago, still believed.

I have friends who once upon a time marched the streets and braved water cannons in protest of people crazed by greed and the thirst for power. Today they are not moved.

I asked one of them why she is no longer involved. Back in the day, passion ran in her veins. She was fearless. Her reply was tentative, hesitant: “I am too old. I don’t have the energy. ” I prodded: “Old or disappointed?” There was sadness in her voice: “A little old, and a lot disillusioned. We have no more heroes.”

But that was before 2010.

The stunning results of this year’s exercise have revived my flagging spirits—yes, despite what doomsayers post on the social networks. I think bashers and complainers have nothing better to do than foment trouble and malign people.

Come on! Get over it. I say the die is cast. Let’s give them a chance. Get off that Facebook soapbox and stop spitting venom. And before you “like” or “share” the poison, remember: one click makes you just as vicious.

I am not exactly enamored with all the names and faces that have emerged in the winner circle. In the Magic 12, I have my “druthers.” But I believe each one has earned a chance to prove him/herself. For the good ones, three years will be too short. And one day may be too long for the “lemons.” But we picked them, didn’t we?

On the brighter side of things, I am totally delighted with the race run by Grace Poe Llamanzares. Great things are expected of her. I am confident she is more than capable. She will deliver and will not disappoint. Bravo, Grace!

It upsets me to hear TV and radio commentators speculate on how the new Senators will perform. They say that some will thwart whatever comes from the Palace, good, bad or indifferent, because they are committed to toe the party line.

We challenge them: “Stop being politicians and, party alliances be damned, start being Filipino!"

Sam Miguel
05-22-2013, 02:13 PM
From Inquirer online - - -

War on dynasties seen until 2016

8:19 pm | Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—Leaders of Movement Against Dynasties (MAD) said the group will continue to fight until 2016 for a law that would put flesh to a constitutional ban on political dynasties, encouraged by the rejection by voters of several members of powerful dynasties in the May 13 elections.

MAD chair Quintin San Diego said the best approach to ending political dynasties is still through a people’s initiative.

“The Supreme Court, for lack of an enabling law, has thrown out cases that asked the disqualification of some members of political dynasties,” he said.

“The incoming Congress still has many members [from] political clans. The way to go is still through the initiative petition,” he said.

A petition calling for the end to the succession of rulers from the same family was launched by the group in February at Baclaran Church. The target is 5.2 million signatures, the minimum requirement for people’s initiative-driven laws.

San Diego said while the Constitution explicitly prohibits political dynasties, no law in the last 25 years has been passed to make it operational.

In the absence of a law, he said MAD considers a family a political dynasty if two of its closely related members occupy national or local elective positions at the same time.

He said dynasties deny equal opportunity, control resources and worsen corruption and poverty in the country.

Dynasties, according to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines, “breed corruption and inhibit general access to political power.”

“[The existence of dynasties] restricts democracy,” San Diego said.

MAD said at least 18 political dynasties have been hurt by the “growing antidynasty sentiment.”

These, he said, include the Jalosjos family of Zamboanga; Angara family of Aurora; Reyes family of Isabela; Magsaysay and Gordon families of Zambales; Osmeña, Garcia and Gullas families of Cebu; Villafuerte family of Camarines Sur; Lazatin and Nepomuceno families of Angeles City; and the Aquinos of Tarlac.

In April, MAD took the campaign to La Union, the political base of the Ortegas, and Ilocos Sur, where the Singsons are dominant. However, members of these families still won.

Among the powerful clans now are the families of President Aquino and Vice President Jejomar Binay, said San Diego.

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance tallied 178 dominant political dynasties, including those in local areas. Tonette Orejas, Inquirer Central Luzon

Sam Miguel
05-22-2013, 02:15 PM
Stranglehold

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:25 pm | Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Alfred McCoy’s classic description of Philippine politics—as “an anarchy of families”—was coined in the early 1990s, but two decades later it’s even more apt and true. The results of the 2013 midterm polls have only confirmed that, while guns, goons and gold continue to play a huge part in how this country elects its leaders, a fourth element—bloodline—has the strongest grip of all on the system.

The guns and goons were actually at a historic low in the past electoral exercise, according to international observers. Even if it was observed that “violence was still being used as a tool in electoral campaigns … in contrast to the 2007 and 2010 elections, we observed a decrease in election-related violence,” said the Compact for Peaceful and Democratic Elections-International Observers Mission.

What the poll observers found particularly disturbing was something else: the overwhelming number of political dynasties in both the local and national levels. It’s these Mafia-style family conglomerates in power that contribute to and exacerbate the main problems they saw in the conduct of the recent polls, such as election-related violence, vote-buying and election management. “Many of these family networks control economic and political power and go at all costs, including resorting to vote-buying and violence, to maintain power,” the observers said.

Of the Philippines’ 80 provinces, 73 are ruled by political clans. Of some 178 dominant dynasties, about 100 are old land-based families, and the rest, new clans that rose and gained power after Edsa 1 and the post-Marcos years. That steep imbalance has led Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago to call the Philippines “the world capital of political dynasties”—a description that was reinforced in the latest polls, with the entry of newly minted dynasties such as the family of boxing champ Manny Pacquiao in Mindanao and the Pinedas in Pampanga.

In Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s province, not only did the former president win reelection unopposed (her congressman-son Dato took his gerrymandered Camarines Sur district for the second time), her ally Lilia Pineda also won a second term as governor. Pineda’s son Dennis also won as vice governor, Dennis’ wife Yolanda was reelected mayor of Sta. Rita town, and Pineda’s daughter Mylene won as mayor of Lubao town.

The Dy family, once defeated by independent candidate and now Comelec Commissioner Grace Padaca, is back in the saddle again in Isabela—its members holding the governor’s office, one of three congressional districts, and a number of mayor’s seats.

Down south, Pacquiao parlayed his celebrity and billion-peso wealth into a win not only for himself as reelected representative of Sarangani province, but also for his wife Jinkee—as green in governance as they come—as vice governor.

As neophytes go, however, none had a more spectacular run than Nancy Binay, a virtual unknown a year ago who placed fifth among the winning senators on the strength of her powerful surname. She now joins her father, Vice President Jejomar Binay, in a key government post, along with brother Junjun as mayor of Makati and sister Abigail as representative of Makati’s second district.

Of course, there is former president Joseph Estrada, bouncing back from political disgrace as the new mayor of Manila—with two of his sons now senators of the republic. And the case of the Marcoses is truly astounding…

When is enough enough? When will the voting public see that a political family’s rote invocations of “public service” to justify stuffing every public office in sight with kith and kin have curdled into plain greed?

Political dynasties come with huge costs to the health and well-being of the country. A 2012 study by Asian Institute of Management professor Ronald Mendoza correlates the Philippines’ economic inequality—the highest in Southeast Asia—with the lopsided character of its politics. With power and wealth and the means to acquire more of such concentrated in a few hands, the system becomes a self-perpetuating mockery of democracy.

More to the point, noted Mendoza, “political dynasties in the Philippines are located in regions with relatively higher poverty levels”—largely the result of families, their inclusive setup now free of checks and balances, treating their districts as fiefdoms for personal gain, and for shutting out qualified people from entering politics.

It’s a deadly stranglehold. Can any antidynasty bill be expected to thrive in the new Congress? Can dynasts turn on themselves and their kind?

Sam Miguel
05-22-2013, 02:16 PM
Dark side

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:24 pm | Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

Not all was light and hope in the last elections, there was a dark side to them. Agence France-Presse pointed it out last week. The elections also produced a “rogues’ gallery” of winners. Those rogues are:

One, Imelda Marcos, who won 88 percent of the votes in her husband’s turf in Ilocos Norte—she herself is from Leyte—retaining her seat in the House. She and her husband are well-known plunderers and oppressors.

Two, Joseph Estrada, who won as mayor of Manila against Alfredo Lim. Erap was variously impeached, overthrown by People Power, tried and convicted of corruption, but later pardoned by his successor who lived in constant fear of an uprising. Of course Erap was pitted against an opponent who had earned the nickname “Dirty Harry” for ignoring such niceties as due process and human rights. Poor Manila, Nick Joaquin’s noble city.

Three, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who also won 88 percent of the votes in her district in Pampanga. Obviously, it didn’t bother her constituents that she is detained in a military hospital for electoral fraud and corruption. Not quite incidentally, she and Erap are the two presidents who didn’t mind demeaning their former position by running for minor ones afterward. Of course it could always be said that Arroyo was just a stunted president and Erap an aborted one, but that’s another story.

Four, Ryan Luna, who ran for mayor of Bangued, and who had been in hiding since last month after being indicted for murder; five, Rodrigo Duterte, who ran unopposed for mayor of Davao City, known for trying to rid his favorite city of crime by ridding it of suspects, including minors; six, Ronald Singson, son of Chavit, who ran for representative in Ilocos Sur, whose claim to fame was being jailed in Hong Kong for cocaine possession; seven, Clara Reyes, who ran for Palawan governor, wife of Joel, the main suspect in the killing of environmentalist Gerry Ortega; eight, Jose Rodriguez, who ran for mayor of San Marcelino, who is on trial for raping a 12-year old; nine, Cipriano Violago, who ran for mayor of San Rafael, who went underground after being indicted for killing a cop.

Last but certainly not least, the Ampatuans who have won various seats in Maguindanao. Reshal Ampatuan, wife of Andal, won another term as mayor of Datu Unsay; Bai Dong Ampatuan, wife of Zaldy, won as mayor of Datu Hoffer; Bai Sahara won as mayor of Shariff Aguak; Benzar Ampatuan won as mayor of Mamasapano; Bai Sandria Sinsuat-Ampatuan won as mayor of Shariff Saydona Mustapha; and Zamzamin Ampatuan won as chief executive of Rajah Buayan.

Enough to make you wonder if there would be any witnesses left to testify against Zaldy and Andal in their trial.

Outside looking in, this has got to be most perplexing and disturbing behavior among a people, something only masochists do. Indeed, shortly before Election Day, a number of articles came out in the wires talking about Imelda drawing crowds in her campaign sorties. This is the wife of Ferdinand Marcos, one of the biggest crooks and at least one of the more devious dictators in the world, and she’s getting that reception?

The fact that we are not surprised at all about this, and about the victories of the people included in AFP’s “rogues’ gallery,” is itself pretty revealing. We do have a “damaged culture,” to borrow James Fallows’ term. A great deal of that damage is shown by the fact that do not have a strong sense of nation, we have only a strong sense of region. Or of province: Bicolanos are the only ones I know whose identity is regional rather than provincial. All others are Ilocano, Kapampangan, Ilonggo, Cebuano, Davaoeño, Chabacano. The Ilocanos in Hawaii do not particularly like to call themselves Filipinos, they like to call themselves Ilocanos.

We do not have a strong sense of nation, and so we do not have a strong sense of national interest. Elections bring that out furiously: Imelda is an adopted Ilocano (her husband was so), they will vote for her. Gloria is an adopted Kapampangan (her father was so; she herself grew up in Manila), they will vote for her. However they reek of rape and pillage, however they epitomize greed and selfishness, however they are the face of tyranny and oppression. As the Americans say about their favorite tyrants overseas, they might be SOBs, but they’re our SOBs.

Which itself owes to self-interest. We do not mind that they are crooks and murderers so long as they’ve oppressed others, not us. The most dramatic case of that of course is Marcos. He stole the country blind, but he at least gave back part of the loot to the Ilocanos in roads and bridges. He screwed the nation but he was kind to the people who deemed him their apo, their lord and protector. This country’s sense of corruption already being loose, it becomes looser still when applied to people who did well by their home and hearth, which is their province. Who the hell cares about the rest of the country?

While at that, it becomes looser still when the official takes on a Robin Hood persona, stealing from the rich to give to the poor. That is what Erap has succeeded in doing, which is why he remains a threat in national politics. And that is what Jojo Binay is, which is why the unceasing charges of corruption against him are bouncing off him like bullets off Superman. Which is also why he is a threat to national politics.

As to the Ampatuans winning in Maguindanao, and winning big, I leave that to Mindanao experts to explain. It is to me at least unintelligible at the level of heart or conscience, even if it is not beyond figuring out at the level of head or cold calculation. It’s just monstrous. It’s just sick.

It’s just one very dark side in our psyche.

Sam Miguel
05-23-2013, 08:40 AM
False god

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:23 pm | Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

The idea that Charter change is the key to unlocking the Philippines’ full potential, or to solving many of its most intractable problems, is a powerful one; it recurs every now and then, precisely because of the simplicity of its appeal. But it is a false simplicity. Charter change as many in the political class define it will prove to be difficult and complicated—and it may create more problems than it may solve.

This is not to say that the 1987 Constitution should not be revised or amended. But taking history’s lessons into account, we should recognize that the success of any attempt will be determined not so much by political will as by political timing.

One of the crucial innovations of the post-Marcos Constitution was the imposition of term limits, including a single six-year term for the presidency (a faint echo of the original 1935 Charter). The failure of the concerted efforts to change the Charter during the late Ramos years and in the last years of the Arroyo administration can be explained by their inability to generate popular support—an inability based directly on popular suspicion that the presidents at the time wanted to skirt the six-year limit. Any attempt at Charter change, then, must deal with that well-founded sense, that politicians if given a chance will move to extend their hold on power.

Those who wish to change some of the Constitution’s economic provisions (the limits on foreign ownership being at the top of their wish list) may question the continuing relevance of this public sense or chafe at its scope of influence, but it is reality. Perhaps the best chance to amend or revise the Charter was immediately after Edsa 2, in 2001, when Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo enjoyed the privilege of running for the presidency in her own right, and for a full term. (In other words, there was no need at that time to extend her stay in Malacañang.) Today, some proponents of Charter change see President Aquino’s continuing popularity, and his consistent position against any constitutional change, as the guarantee that the provisions on term limits won’t be lifted.

We do not know if the President shares their fine sense of irony. He has said again and again that he does not see the need to amend the Constitution; he will certainly not lead any effort to change it. Part of his reasoning must be that the reforms he has started to put in place, and which have earned him popular approval and international praise, did not need constitutional change to work, so why change?

Perhaps part is sentimental; the present Constitution is one of his mother’s legacies. Corazon Aquino, using her powers as the head of a revolutionary government, convened the Constitutional Commission in 1986 and ushered in a new constitutional order in 1987. He may be loath to tamper with one of his mother’s chief achievements.

Does the Constitution need amending or revising? That is a different question, to which many Filipinos, even those most suspicious of politicians’ motives, will answer in the affirmative. The lack of a run-off election provision has meant that no majority president has been elected since 1986. The lameness of the anti-political dynasty provision has condemned many parts of the country to a quarter-century of dynastic rule. The experiment that is the Judicial and Bar Council seems to have failed. And the list goes on.

Unlike in 1986, however, amending or revising the Constitution today is necessarily an open-ended process. When a constitutional convention is elected or the chambers of Congress are convened as a constituent assembly, the members will answer only to themselves; not even the President can impose his own schedule on them. In short: Despite promises to limit Charter change to specific provisions, everything in the Constitution becomes negotiable when a ConCon or a ConAss begins its work.

Perhaps the best approach today is to try the US formula, as recommended by constitutionalist Joaquin Bernas, SJ: File specific Charter-amendment legislation in Congress. That would limit the scope of any change, but at the same time meet the Constitution’s own more stringent standards for amending the Charter. Any other approach will create more problems than it will solve.

Sam Miguel
05-24-2013, 08:17 AM
Prosquatter laws leading to urban decay

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:56 pm | Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

As in the poem, my heart leapt up when I beheld in Thursday’s Inquirer a report that the Metro Manila Development Authority will conduct a census of squatters to prepare for their relocation. At last, I thought, we will get back our family property that has been squatted upon for decades. But, reading further, I learned that only squatters along waterways will be the subject of the census and relocation. What about the private properties, especially in Quezon City, on which the city government is collecting additional real-estate taxes, allegedly to be used for squatter housing? Not a single hollow block for the alleged squatter housing has been put in place, and the terms of office of the councilors who passed the additional realty tax as well as the mayor who implements it are to end in one month.

Much of Metro Manila is decaying due to the squatter colonies that local government units are tolerating because they are vote-rich areas.

In fact, many of those squatters were brought in by these local officials when they were candidates, to vote for them. And these same squatters are the ones who keep them in office during every election.

Lot owners cannot develop their properties because of the squatters. It is ironic that many lot owners are themselves homeless and are renting rooms because squatters have taken over, and are profiting from, their properties. It is fallacious to think that all squatters are poor. Many of them are rich opportunists.

Look at the squatter colonies: There are stores, shops, and other businesses, as well as two-to four-story concrete houses built on lots that were stolen from their owners. Yet the squatters do not pay real estate and business taxes, have no business permits, and most likely do not pay income taxes, too. It is the lot owners who pay the real estate taxes for the lots being used by other people. The Quezon City government is quick to sell at public auction those lots whose registered owners are delinquent in the payment of realty taxes. The winning bidders are usually syndicates close to City Hall.

It is the responsibility of the government to protect private property in exchange for the taxes the owners pay. But the LGUs do not do that. To be fair, the LGUs should suspend the collection of real estate taxes on lots squatted on until they have relocated the squatters. When will they start doing this?

If you go to City Hall to seek police help to stop squatters from building their shanties on your lot, officials will tell you to get a court order. Yet, it is the duty of the police to prevent a crime that is in the process of being committed. When a policeman sees a person being held up, it is his duty to arrest the holdup man. When he sees thieves taking away appliances from a house, it is his duty to arrest those criminals even without a court order. It is the same thing with squatters. They are thieves and robbers stealing somebody else’s property.

If you file an ejection case in court, the wheels of justice grind so slowly that by the time the court issues a decision, the squatter colony would be firmly established. And even if you win the case, the sheriff and police will not enforce it if you don’t pay them extra.

And the courts are so slow and the legal process so expensive that many property owners cannot afford the costs. On the other hand, the squatter associations have in-house lawyers and enforcers. The odds are stacked against the law-abiding property owner.

The fact that one is poor is no excuse to steal. Even if a person is poor, it is a crime to hold up a fellow man or rob someone else’s house; that person is still guilty of theft and robbery. Squatting is no different. A squatter is guilty of theft.

But the bleeding hearts in Congress have decriminalized squatting. And the Urban Development and Housing Act (Udha), better known as the Lina Law, piles all the benefits in favor of squatters. As I see it, the Udha is class legislation because it favors one class of citizens—the squatters—at the expense of the law-abiding, tax-paying property owners. It should be repealed. Likewise, the law decriminalizing squatting should be repealed.

Because of these laws, squatter colonies have mushroomed everywhere like bad weeds, leading to the decay of many urban areas.

The contagion is still spreading, with the government unable, or unwilling, to stop it because squatters are voters. Many flying voters are also squatters, as are many vote-sellers.

All over the urban areas, we see these tall condominium buildings for the rich. What about the poor? Why is there no in-city housing for them?

The reason squatters resist relocation is that they are thrown to places far from their means of livelihood. The pittance they earn is spent for transportation. So they go back to squatting in the cities.

Can’t the government require the land developers that for every 100 units for rich customers, they provide 10 low-cost housing units for the poor? Build medium-rise housing, at break-even prices for the squatters, near the tall gleaming condominiums.

Then the house help of the condo owners can come from these medium-rise housing units. The owners of the condo units—which are very small—will save money if their house help are “living out.” And the house help will save the money they will otherwise use for transportation because they can just walk to their jobs.

Vice President Jejomar Binay is the housing and antisquatting czar. But he is more concerned about working for his election to the presidency in 2016 that he has forgotten his responsibilities. Doesn’t he realize that he will get more votes if he is able to provide housing for squatters and return the lots squatted on to their owners?

Sam Miguel
05-24-2013, 08:33 AM
Who cares about the hungry?

By Jose Ma. Montelibano

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:49 pm | Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

I have been monitoring the hunger incidence statistics of the Philippines as reported quarterly by SWS for over ten years, as long as I have been involved with the Gawad Kalinga movement. Because I was a late-comer in anti-poverty work at that time, I remained observant but quiet. I thought I could not speak up when I was just like most people I knew then—uninterested, uninvolved and concerned with a million other things.

Along the way, I grew more intimate with poverty from consistent presence in areas where the poor were, getting to know them better, deeper involvement with community organizing, working with volunteers and partners, and helping design community programs. All the time, I always remained watchful about hunger. And when I knew the terrain much better, I began to write about it.

Wanting to understand why the Philippines, a country so rich in almost everything, was inexplicably mired in massive poverty, I was forced to turn to history. In my whole lifetime, poverty was already a reality in the Philippines. And since governance by Filipinos began only in 1946 despite claims of independence earlier, I could not blame any government administration of causing poverty. Of course, government may be very guilty in perpetuating in what it could have substantially mitigated in the last 67 years, but not in causing the massive poverty we have.

There is no doubt in my mind that poverty was a direct consequence of Spanish colonization, specifically in taking control of land that belonged to the people. Land in the 16th century was more meaningful that what it is today. When everything was agricultural then, land meant everything that man needed aside from his own skills and administration. Land meant home, land meant food, land meant security, land meant opportunity, land meant the past, the present and the future.

When Spain engineered the largest land-grab in our history, the people’s slide to poverty began. Only a few were spared from it, mostly local leaders who allowed themselves to be used by the foreign masters to control the rest of the natives. Only a few, then, were spared from the massive poverty that ensued in the centuries to come. These included the peninsulares and the insulares who, together with cooperative local leaders, became the first elite.

The landlessness of native Filipinos led to poverty, led to homelessness, led to hunger. There was just no other explanation for poverty, not at the national scale it reached. That there are always poor people around may be understandable, but not when it reaches 90%, as in the D & E classes of the Philippines. The saving grace is that livelihood is now not anymore totally dependent on land. Landless OFWs are earning enough to buy home lots and build sturdy homes. They are also lifting themselves out of poverty without help from the government and the elite.

But the point is not only about poverty but one of its most horrible faces— hunger. I have written many times that hunger shames us as a people. It shames government. It shames the Church. It shames all the non-poor among us. Beyond being a shame, it places a curse on us, not just the administration in power, not just the cardinals and bishops still active in their service, but all of us who can feed someone who is hungry but does not.

It is extremely difficult at this time not to be angry about 20 million Filipinos experiencing hunger. There is something that is inhuman about it, not that there are hungry people, but that there are people in strategic positions who end up doing nothing. It is not as though it is only now that millions have experienced hunger, it has been reported by SWS for at least 15 years.

We have a Catholic Church that expended great effort to wage war against the RH Bill, to create Team Patay during the campaign. My God, if my God is the same God they believe in, the same Bible we read has Jesus Christ asking on Judgment Day, “When I was hungry, did you feed me?” Is that kind of message so hard to understand or have the priorities of religion been flushed in the toilet bowl?

We have a spokesperson for the President of the Republic who, when asked about the latest hunger incidence report, says that “they do not take the survey results alone as the sole benchmark used by the government for its poverty-alleviation priorities.” Well, Ms. Valte, if you speak for our President, please take the hunger incidence report every quarter with the utmost interest, priority and sympathy. Do not make people believe that the President is simply more interested in defending his policies than getting more hungry people fed.

In truth, who cares about poverty-alleviation priorities when people are hungry? The success of anti-poverty programs can be appreciated only when hunger is effectively and substantially reduced. In other words, if the CCT claims that it has helped millions of families, it is like saying the SWS surveys are terribly understated, that the two or more million families that the CCT says it has reached used to be part of the hungry. Either the CCT is completely inutile against hunger and dishonest about its failures, or there used to be more than thirty million Filipinos experiencing hunger.

I thought that an Einstein saying was most relevant only to elections. But it seems even more relevant to poverty and hunger. Einstein said, “Insanity: to do the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” In attempts to ease poverty and hunger, what I used to think was only stupidity is actually insanity according to Einstein.

But what may be the unkindest cut of all for our millions who experience hunger is not government, not the Church, but the rest of the Filipino people who are not hungry and who make no effort to feed the hungry. It is Philippine society as a whole, its perversion from a culture of bayanihan to one that cannot think beyond oneself and one’s family. How sad to realize that, by how we have treated them, nobody really cares about the hungry.

Sam Miguel
05-28-2013, 08:06 AM
Legarda faces 2nd graft complaint

By Cynthia D. Balana

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:05 am | Tuesday, May 28th, 2013

Sen. Loren Legarda on Monday faced a second graft charge in the Office of the Ombudsman—this time for allegedly using a shell company to hide her ownership of a multimillion-peso Balinese-inspired mansion in Forbes Park, the swank village of the rich and famous in Makati City.

In the complaint for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, public interest advocate Louis “Barok” Biraogo accused Legarda of not declaring the mansion in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) from 2007 to 2011—an offense that led to the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona a year ago.

On paper, the Forbes property is owned by Loren Legarda and Associates Inc. (LLAI), a public relations firm that has “no employees, no operations, no business activities and no transactions” since its establishment by the senator in 1986, according to Biraogo.

He said Legarda identified the Forbes mansion at No. 40 Cambridge Circle as her residence in the invitations she sent in hosting a dinner for East Timorese President Jose Ramos-Horta in 2009.

In a complaint in the Ombudsman filed on May 6, Biraogo, 53, of Biñan City in Laguna province, accused Legarda of failing to declare in her SALN from 2007 to 2011 a P36-million condominium unit that she purportedly bought in Manhattan, New York City.

Loren denies charges

Asked for comment, Legarda sent a text message insisting that the Forbes property was listed in her SALN.

“It is owned by Loren Legarda and Associates. It is clearly in my SALN,” said Legarda, who also claimed that the US property on Park Avenue was in her official asset declarations.

A check with Legarda’s 2012 SALN submitted on April 30 indicated that the column “real property” only listed a residential apartment located in the “USA” with an acquisition cost of P28.7 million. This ostensibly referred to Biraogo’s first complaint.

Legarda’s SALN has an annex where her “personal and other property” with a total value of P67,481,803 were listed. She indicated in the document that she had shares of stock in LLAI worth P249,600.

“Personal and other property” also included cash on hand and in banks, a motor vehicle, jewelry, antiques and artworks, investments in shares of stock, receivables from advances, private insurance and “real property-USA” earlier disclosed.

Legarda said she also had shares of stock in the Manila Polo Club (P2 million), Tower Club (P350,000) and Bai-A-Labi Corp. (P622,365).

Published admission

The senator, not LLAI, is the true owner of the Forbes mansion, Biraogo insisted in his complaint on Monday, citing her admission to journalist Joanne Rae Ramirez in an interview published on April 28, 2007, in Philippine Star that she owned the mansion.

In that interview, Ramirez asked Legarda whether the mansion was built from her “commission” for a project in Batangas in which her pork barrel fund was used, or whether it was a “gift” from a special someone.

Legarda replied that it was not a gift and that she had “kept my nose clean in my 25 years in television as a journalist and in my six years as senator.”

She also stressed in that interview that she had to borrow money from the bank to partly finance it.

Legarda owns 2,496 of the 2,500 outstanding shares of LLAI, with her father, Antonio Sr., and brothers Edgardo and Antonio Jr., and a certain Ma. Pancrasia Valdez owning just a share apiece, Biraogo said.

He stressed that Legarda owned 99.84 percent of the stock of LLAI, which meant she was not just the majority stockholder and controlling interest holder of LLAI but was practically the owner of LLAI.

“Obviously, LLAI is being used by Legarda as a shell company to conceal her ownership of the Forbes Park property,” he said.

In the two complaints he had filed in the Office of the Ombudsman, Biraogo said Legarda violated Republic Act No. 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials.

‘Mountain of evidence’

He said Section 8 of RA 3019 required a public officer to disclose not just his or her assets and liabilities and the full disclosure of net worth, financial and business interests, financial connections, and the identities of any relatives in the government service.

Biraogo said that Section 1, Article XI, of the 1987 Constitution and Section 2 of RA 6713, otherwise known as the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials, required public officials to lead modest lives.

With Legarda’s self-proclaimed middle-class roots and her P75,000 monthly salary as a senator, Biraogo told reporters she could not have possibly afforded both the New York condominium and the Forbes mansion without “dipping her fingers into public funds.”

“The question is where did Sen. Loren Legarda get the money to buy a Forbes Park mansion, as well as a condo in an exclusive area in Manhattan where the Rockefellers and Trumps also have properties?” Biraogo asked. “From her annual pork barrel fund of P200 million multiplied by her years as an incumbent senator?”

Biraogo said Legarda could no longer claim black propaganda on his part to derail her desire to top the senatorial elections on May 13.

“The elections are now over and the day of reckoning for Lady Corona has come,” Biraogo said. “I will prove to the Ombudsman that there’s a mountain of evidence ready to cascade into an avalanche against Legarda.”

Penalty imprisonment

Biraogo said he was confident the Ombudsman would find probable cause to warrant Legarda’s indictment in the Sandiganbayan.

He pointed out that Legarda’s refusal and failure to declare the Forbes mansion in her 2007-2011 SALNs constituted five violations of Section 8 of RA 6713. Each count of graft prescribes a maximum penalty of five years in prison or a total of 25 years.

According to Biraogo, Citizen BAROK advocates, including cause-oriented lawyers, were considering filing charges against Legarda’s father and two brothers for possible connivance with the senator in hiding her immense wealth from government and public scrutiny.

He said the group’s members in the United States could also file a complaint against Legarda for perjury and violations of the US Property Codes for declaring there she was the sole owner of the New York condominium while declaring in the Philippines she was just a co-owner of the property with her father and brothers.

Charges of tax evasion against Legarda and her relatives are likewise being contemplated, Biraogo said.

In the case of Edgardo Legarda, charges may be filed with Singaporean banking regulators and the company that employs him, the Singaporean Development Bank, for his alleged role in hiding his sister’s wealth as a dummy in LLAI, Biraogo added.—With a report from Cathy Yamsuan

Sam Miguel
05-31-2013, 10:01 AM
Erap must revive Manila

DEMAND AND SUPPLY

By Boo Chanco

(The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2013 - 12:00am

Many have observed that becoming mayor of Manila is Erap’s last hurrah. It may well be just that and because of it, there is a lot at stake in terms of legacy issues in the next three years of Erap reigning supreme at Manila City Hall.

Winning the election was the easy part, even if the homestretch proved to be more of a cliffhanger than most people thought. But as Dolphy once said, what do we do after we have won?

For someone like Erap who had once been president of the country, vice president, senator and mayor of San Juan for the longest time, there should be nothing more to prove. But the abbreviated term of Erap in Malacañang and the corruption trial and eventual conviction and instant pardon make it necessary for Erap to prove himself all over again.

If Erap failed to be the best president we ever had, he now has the opportunity to be the best mayor Manila ever had. If he manages that, maybe all will be forgiven, so to speak. He would have shown the world that what happened during EDSA 2 was undoubtedly a big and terrible mistake.

Making something out of this opportunity to revive the City of Manila is a chance of a lifetime for Erap. Not many politicians are given a second chance in this grand manner. The challenges of reviving Manila can be as difficult and complicated as running the country, but maybe not as impossible.

The basic problems of poverty, essential services delivery from health to education and peace and order are similar to those faced by the tenant in Malacañang. But the big difference is that for a city mayor, all these problems are more immediate and bigger than life.

Erap, through his years as mayor of San Juan, must be aware that these problems are more than the statistics discussed in cabinet meetings. These problems have faces and the mayor is expected to address these concerns, for each and every one of them, everyday.

Then there is the problem of poverty of the spirit brought about by one’s miserable surroundings. Seeing a Manila that is dirty and way past its prime can sap the spirit of its residents. Revitalizing the city means making it look vibrant and inspiringly promising.

The older residents can at least pine for the old days when Escolta was the premier street of the nation. This was where the notables spent time sipping coffee and exchanging gossip at Botica Boie while their wives and children shop at Berg’s or Syvels.

Binondo was the financial center where the biggest banks, the large accounting and law firms had their offices. Across the Pasig River towards the bay area is Dewey (Roxas) boulevard where every one could enjoy fresh air walking by the seaside or riding the Motorco open roof, double deck bus down the picturesque boulevard.

Ermita and Malate were not the red light districts of today, but where the notables lived. Calle Penafrancia in Paco was the virtual Forbes Park where the Laurels and the Yulos had their mansions. Even the working class neighborhoods of Sampaloc and Tondo looked a lot better than what we can see today.

I don’t know when Manila started to look like an old impoverished city, but I think the martial law years seem to be the beginning of the decline. Businesses started migrating to Makati in droves in the early ’70s.

I remember the times well because I was then commuting to UP Diliman from Pandacan daily via Quiapo. That was also the time when a sister who just graduated from UP Law started to work at the SyCip Salazar law firm at the Trade and Commerce building in Juan Luna St. in Binondo where I sometimes accompanied her.

Then when martial law came, I worked at a bank on Rosario Street which entailed walking from Echague to Binondo every day. I saw the steady decline of Escolta until PNB was the only major bank with its head office there.

Now, it is undeniable that the once Pearl of the Orient is no more. Somehow, the succession of mayors and other officials of the city lost control or no longer knew how to deal with the city’s sagging fortunes. They should have fought Makati’s drive to become the country’s business capital, but I got the impression they just didn’t care.

They should have cared. With the tax base of the city diminished by the migration to Makati, there was less money to spend on the growing needs of Manila. The Ospital ng Maynila and the Manila Zoo, two premier showcases of the city started to look shabby.

That’s the challenge for the new Mayor Erap. How can he raise enough funds to provide for the needs of Manilans? How can he attract businesses to go back to the city and create the jobs the residents need? How can he raise the morale of city residents depressed by years of living in really bad surroundings?

Addressing the problems of Manila will zap the energy and imagination of younger men. But a former president of the country who has the support of the masa can certainly have some bright ideas from years of experience. He also has friends with the means to help him revive the city.

Among the first things Mayor Erap must do is to clean up the city… collect the garbage and get the barangays to enforce cleanliness around their areas. Manilans shouldn’t be embarrassed to invite guests to visit their city.

Tourism is a quick way of improving the way the city looks as well as increasing livelihood opportunities. Luckily too, we have an energetic and imaginative Tourism secretary who should be a willing partner to a supportive City Hall.

Intramuros must be developed as the principal tourism attraction. While it is under the Intramuros Administration and the Department of Tourism, I know they are very eager to do something and are even ready with plans. They certainly can use the help of City Hall to bring their plans to reality.

From Intramuros, there is the Post Office and Metropolitan Theater. If City Hall cannot revive these areas near it, how can it revive other areas around the city?

Erap can also get the Philippine Ports Authority to partner with a property company so that its vast prime land holdings along Bonifacio Drive can be developed. There are at least two derelict buildings in the area, the old Philippine Banking Corp. headquarters and the old Philippine Veterans Bank building. Both have been condemned after some earthquakes decades ago. Something productive ought to be done with the land these derelict buildings stand on.

With the property sector in an upswing, Erap should work with developers to revive the inner city --- Binondo, Malate, Ermita, Paco, etc. City Hall should explore the potentials of PPP in reclaiming areas of the city from their present squalor. Affordable housing for the residents now residing in slums should be explored with NHA and private developers. In-site housing for squatters should be possible.

The thing is, Mayor Erap must remarkably improve the way the city looks and lives so that property values will go up and City Hall can collect more from property taxes. Deteriorating neighborhoods erode the tax base and the downward spiral is bad for city finances.

For good things to happen, Mayor Erap must keep his credibility. People will be watching closely how he handles City Hall contracts. In the past, the biggest bone of contention is the garbage collection contract. It is a dirty business in every sense and a mayor can lose his credibility and his ability to lead the city if this is not handled well.

Mayor Erap can also make the Manila City Hall a showcase for ease in doing business. The country in general has received bad reviews from international agencies looking into corruption and red tape in LGUs specially those related to starting businesses.

In this regard, Mayor Erap can work with DTI and the National Competitiveness Council in streamlining and computerizing processes and procedures to get mayor’s permits, business licenses, etc. Mayor Erap has years of experience in how a local government unit operates so he knows where corruption infests the processes.

Mayor Erap can make a difference and revive the City of Manila. But it is hard work, and Mayor Erap should want it badly for it to happen. The work has to be done because we have to leave this city to our grandchildren better than we have found it, or we all die in shame.

Man of conviction

Here is a current Erap joke from my colleague, Ichu Villanueva.

Erap says he is a man of conviction just like Ninoy Aquino and Anwar Ibrahim. All three of them, he says, were unjustly convicted.

Joescoundrel
06-01-2013, 12:04 PM
Enrile resigned to losing Senate post

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:50 am | Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is apparently resigned to losing his hold on the Senate leadership and sliding into a minority role when a new Congress convenes in July, even as his presumptive successor has begun wooing his closest allies in the chamber’s so-called macho bloc.

According to Sen. Franklin Drilon, the new majority’s supposed candidate for Senate President, Enrile has committed the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) to take on the role of a constructive opposition in the 16th Congress.

“We will not be obstructionist,” Drilon quoted Enrile as saying.

The outgoing Senate President did not seem to mind his attempts to solicit support from Enrile’s allies in his bid for the Senate leadership, said Drilon, President Aquino’s party mate in the ruling Liberal Party.

“Senator Enrile expressed no objection to my seeking the support of senators presently identified with him, or the so-called macho bloc, so that we can all work together on measures that can improve the lives of our people,” he said in a statement.

Drilon, who said he and Enrile met in a Makati hotel last Thursday, quoted Enrile as saying that he and other UNA senators will actively engage the LP-led majority coalition in policy debates but will not get in the way of important legislation such as those dealing with poverty alleviation and jobs.

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, the Senate President Pro Tempore, said Enrile already told him of the meeting with Drilon.

“[What Senator Drilon] said was correct. Senate President Enrile said that if he could convince senators, individual members of the UNA and the macho bloc, then it’s OK,” Estrada said in a telephone interview.

Sticking it out with Enrile

But Drilon has yet to talk to him about it, he said. And even if he were to do so, Estrada said he would stick it out with Enrile, even if they move to the minority.

“I have already given my word to Senate President Enrile. If the Senate President will go down, I will go down with him,” Estrada said.

“Besides, I have already been in the minority,” he added. Interestingly, Drilon was the Senate President when Estrada began his first term during the Arroyo administration in 2004.

However, Estrada said he could not speak for the other members of the Enrile bloc on the issue of sticking it out with a minority-leader Enrile.

‘Macho’ bloc

Enrile’s so-called “macho” bloc is composed of Estrada, Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and the recently reelected Gregorio Honasan. Another member of the bloc is outgoing Sen. Panfilo Lacson.

Enrile and Estrada are members of the UNA. Although he ran under the UNA coalition in the May elections, Honasan is an independent. Sotto is a member of the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC).

The recent elections added two more UNA members to the Senate roster. They are Senators-elect JV Ejercito, the son of Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada and Jinggoy Estrada’s half-brother, and Nancy Binay, Vice President Jejomar Binay’s daughter.

Hard-headed

Estrada and Sotto said the members of the macho bloc will be meeting after the “lame duck” sessions next week to discuss how they would proceed if and when Drilon and the new majority come knocking at their door to ask for their support.

“I will consult JPE [Enrile] and Greg [Honasan] if ever Frank talks to us,” Sotto said.

“Our friendship knows no bounds whether I or any one of us is in the majority or minority. Same with Senator Drilon and I,” Sotto added.

Asked how the group came by the name, Sotto said, “it was the media that coined the term.”

“We’re all hard-headed and poised to fight,” he said.

“We’re also survivors… [we’re] still alive,” he added.

NP support sealed

Drilon last week secured the support of the Nacionalista Party, the party with the most Senate members at five—reelected Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Antonio Trillanes IV, Senator-elect Cynthia Villar and incumbents Pia Cayetano and Ferdinand Marcos Jr.

“Senator Villar assured us that the NP will continue to support the President and his legislative agenda in the Senate and that there will be a common candidate of the coalition in the Senate,” Drilon told a news forum.

“The people sent a clear message with this election: Let’s continue with what the President started three years ago,” he added.

According to Drilon, among the important measures to be tackled in the next Congress are the proposed new charter to replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), the rationalization of the government fiscal incentive program, and a mining law.

Drilon was the campaign manager of the administration’s Team PNoy coalition.

Its senatorial ticket was made up of the President’s handpicked candidates from the LP, the NP, the NPC, the Laban ng Demokratikong Pilipino, the PDP-Laban and the Akbayan party-list group.

The coalition won nine of the 12 senatorial seats being contested, securing for the administration a strong majority in the new Congress.

Joescoundrel
06-02-2013, 08:23 AM
US: Corruption abets terror in PH

By Tarra Quismundo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:01 am | Sunday, June 2nd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—While citing its “strong counterterrorism cooperation” with the Philippines, the United States noted that “official corruption” and resource and personnel constraints had stymied the country’s antiterror campaign.

In its latest Country Reports on Terrorism released this week, the US Department of State, however, lauded the Philippines continuing pressure on known terror groups, saying that its efforts in the last decade “have been successful at isolating and constraining the activities of domestic and transnational terrorists.”

Mindanao remains classified as a “terrorist haven” due to the presence of the al-Qaida linked Abu Sayyaf which the US had tagged as a foreign terrorist organization. The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing, the New People’s Army (NPA), also remain on the terror list.

“The Philippines has coordinated with US law enforcement authorities, especially regarding US fugitives and suspected terrorists. An under-resourced and understaffed law enforcement and justice system coupled with widespread official corruption, however, resulted in limited domestic investigations, unexecuted arrest warrants, few prosecutions, and lengthy trials of cases,” said the report released on May 30.

The report noted, for instance, that the proscription case the Philippine Department of Justice (DOJ) brought against the Abu Sayyaf, the first of its kind that sought to officially tag the group as a terrorist organization under the 2007 Human Security Act, had remained pending by the end of last year.

The US also cited a Manila court’s dismissal of an extradition case against an Abu Sayyaf leader, which the American side had indicted on “criminal hostage-taking charges” for the 1993 abduction of US national Charles Walton.

The latest country report released this month assessed “trends and events” in global terrorism from January to December of last year.

But the report noted successes, including the June 21 arrest of a suspected Abu Sayyaf member involved in the 2001 abduction of US citizens Martin and Gracia Burnham and Guillermo Sobero. A group of 14 Abu Sayyaf members were earlier sentenced to life in prison in 2007 for the kidnapping and deaths of Sobero, Martin Burham and Filipino nurse Ediborah Yap.

The US also noted a police operation that resulted in the death of suspected Malaysian Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) member Mohammad Noor Fikrie bin Abdul Kahar on Dec. 14, who was known to be carrying a bomb in his backpack at the time.

“The Philippines maintained its strong counterterrorism cooperation with the United States. The ability of terrorist groups, including the Abu Sayyaf, JI and the CPP-NPA, to conduct terrorist activities in the Philippines remained constrained,” the US state department said.

It cited limited operations of a declining number of Abu Sayyaf and JI members, and the CPP-NPA’s shrinking opportunities “to organize, plan, raise funds, communicate, recruit, train and operate” despite its national presence.

“Terrorist groups’ acts were generally limited to criminal activities designed to generate revenue for self-sustainment, such as kidnapping for ransom or extortion. Nonetheless, members of these groups were suspected to have carried out bombings against government, public and private facilities, primarily in the central and western areas of Mindanao; others were linked to extortion operations in other parts of the country,” the report said.

The US also noted the continuing implementation of the country’s Internal Peace and Security Plan, which facilitates a military-to-civilian shift in internal security operations.

Sam Miguel
06-05-2013, 09:08 AM
Enrile’s privilege speech on closing of Congress stirs speculations

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:03 pm | Monday, June 3rd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines – Speculations are rife about the content of the privilege speech Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile is scheduled to deliver on Wednesday.

The chamber has two more session days—June 5 and 6—that some senators have described as “lame duck” before the 15th Congress ends.

By tradition, outgoing senators use the occasion to deliver valedictory speeches thanking the people and their supporters for allowing them to serve.

However, Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III has released the agenda for June 5, wherein Enrile’s privilege speech is listed before the slew of legislative bills that are supposed to be passed on third reading.

Some insiders believe Enrile would use the occasion to give a piece of his mind about his expected exit from the Senate rostrum.

Sen. Franklin Drilon, campaign manager of the Team PNoy senatorial slate, is expected to replace Enrile at the opening of the 16th Congress in July.

There are also speculations that Enrile, one of the stalwarts of the United Nationalist Alliance, might deliver a commentary on the last senatorial election.

Drilon said time constraints could prevent the chamber from approving most of the pending bills.

This is because the bills could only become law after the Senate and the House of Representatives reconcile their versions of the measures, ratify them and submit them to Malacañang for the President’s signature.

Senators and congressmen can hold bicameral meetings only during session days. This means even if both chambers pass their versions of a pending bill on third reading on Wednesday or Thursday, they would no longer have time to hold bicameral meetings, much less ratify the reconciled versions in yet another session.

There are 10 Senate bills and 26 House bills awaiting approval on third reading. These include the controversial House bill carving a new province out of Camarines Sur.

“The purpose of approving a bill on third reading would not be achieved if there is no (bicameral) meeting,” Drilon said in a phone interview on Tuesday.

He said that because of constraints, the Senate would likely be able to ratify only the bicameral report “strengthening” the country’s juvenile justice system to be sponsored by Sen. Francis Escudero.

Sam Miguel
06-06-2013, 08:10 AM
Enrile quits, slams critics

Estrada to become acting Senate chief

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:15 am | Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile resigned as Senate President on Wednesday after attacking colleagues who, he said, had conducted a hate campaign against him that eroded public trust in the chamber and affected his son’s senatorial bid.

The resignation was announced in a privilege speech on what was supposed to be the last day of the 15th Congress. Senators on Wednesday night decided to extend the session until Thursday before adjourning sine die.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada took over Enrile’s post and will serve in an acting capacity until the 16th Congress convenes next month.

Sen. Franklin Drilon of the Liberal Party (LP), a member of the administration Team PNoy which won nine of the 12 Senate seats in the May 13 elections, was widely expected to be elected the next Senate President.

Enrile, who still has three years left of his six-year term and is likely to become minority leader in the next Congress, singled out Senators Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Defensor-Santiago, without naming her, as the detractors who had succeeded in eroding the image of the Senate in their struggle to malign him.

“No less than the son of my former (law) partner, the late Sen. Renato L. Cayetano, would dare accuse me of being a thief or a scoundrel,” Enrile said.

“A noncandidate senator who fashions herself as my nemesis and who evidently delights in doing the job” was the other author of “virulent personal attacks against me,” Enrile said, obviously referring to Santiago.

Enrile also chided Budget Secretary Florencio Abad for announcing that Drilon would soon replace him and that Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. would be retained as leader of the House of Representatives.

His voice shaking, Enrile dared all senators to individually account to the people how they used their annual budgets.

The challenge stemmed from complaints aired early this year by Santiago and Cayetano about Enrile’s selective distribution of additional maintenance and other operating expenditures (MOOE) totaling P1.8 million and a P250,000 cash bonus to 18 senators in December.

Excluded from the funds issued by the Office of the Senate President were Santiago, Cayetano, Sen. Pia Cayetano, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV and Enrile himself.

Santiago and Alan Cayetano were very vocal in their criticism of Enrile’s move that time.

Cayetano and Enrile even had a verbal tussle on the session floor after the younger senator delivered a speech scrutinizing the Senate’s steadily increasing budget from the time Enrile became Senate President in November 2008.

“I will leave each of my colleagues to explain directly to the people who elected them … to account for their own budgets as I have always been ready to account for my own. I can no longer speak for them. I refuse to be anyone’s scapegoat and every one’s whipping boy,” Enrile read from a written statement. “I refuse to let any senator drag my name down to the gutter.”

‘My heart bled for him’

Enrile said his son, Cagayan Rep. Jack Enrile, might have lost in the last senatorial elections as a result of the adverse public opinion following the MOOE controversy.

He said the “common analysis of observers” showed Jack’s candidacy “suffered from fallout and bitter criticism hurled against me by those I displeased” just as the senatorial campaign was about to take off early this year.

Enrile said he “endured in silence the pain of seeing my son suffer because of me. He carried on his shoulders the weight of all mud thrown at me as I stayed and watched quietly on the sidelines. My heart bled for him.”

He said the reelection of Cayetano and of Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, with whom he had a very public quarrel on topics ranging from the bill dividing Camarines Sur to the Chinese intrusion at Scarborough Shoal, would only aggravate his situation as Senate President.

“With the cloud of doubt and suspicion that adversaries have successfully hoisted upon my person, my honor and leadership, it is not farfetched for them to make people believe I will expend resources of the Senate, the people’s money and use of the powers of the Senate president just to hold on to this position,” he explained.

“I say successfully because no matter how baseless and malicious those accusations are or were, the issues hurled against me and their implications not only on my own but on the Senate’s integrity were never resolved,” Enrile said.

He said his detractors not only succeeded in maligning him, the public’s trust in the chamber suffered as well.

“I carried the whole brunt of the public’s ire over the one-page certification—the prevailing system of liquidation of the budget of senators which was neither my creation nor my invention,” Enrile said, referring to the requirement for all senators in liquidating their expenses.

Enrile said that while he and Sen. Panfilo Lacson, chairman of the accounts committee, agreed publicly to revert to the “old system of liquidating and accounting each centavo,” the rest of the senators kept their distance, “save for a few colleagues … as I was publicly pilloried and crucified.”

Oversight committee

Still, Enrile pointed out that public outcry over the manner by which funds were liquidated did not deter some colleagues from expressing concern on how this would affect the continued operations of their offices and their future budget allocations.

He said he also took the blame for the huge spending of various oversight committees mandated either by law or through Senate resolutions.

“Truth is, these committees operate and spend funds autonomously yet I was left alone as (Cayetano) questioned the increasing budget of the Senate from the time I assumed the Senate Presidency in November 2008,” he recalled.

“Senator Drilon as chair of finance committee knows only too well how the apportionment of chairmanships over these oversight committees can be a real headache for any Senate President. He was the first one to call my attention to it at the beginning of this Congress,” Enrile said.

“Next was Sen. Pia Cayetano who offered to review and study the rationalization of these preponderant oversight committees. I welcomed her offer to help, but I did not get any recommendation from her,” he added.

“I directed Drilon and Lacson to be in charge of the review following the numerous requests for budget augmentation I received. With the way the oversight committees were being presented as a form of entitlement, it was impossible for me to satisfy everyone.

“Perhaps in due time, Senator Drilon will finally find the solution that will adequately satisfy the members of this chamber. More importantly, I hope such solution would correct a rather unwieldy situation that has earned the criticism and disgust of the people,” Enrile said.

Explanation pressed

Cayetano remained adamant that Enrile should explain how to liquidate the P250,000 given each senator during the Christmas season last year.

“I cannot accept that P250,000 [of the Senate’s funds] could be given away and then leave it to each senator how to liquidate it,” Cayetano told reporters.

He added that the defeat of Enrile’s son should not be blamed on the issues raised against the Senate President.

“By resigning, he has not answered the issue. There are more questions now,” Cayetano said.

Trillanes, who openly campaigned among his colleagues for Enrile’s ouster even before, accepted Enrile’s challenge for an audit of every senator’s expenses. “If there’s an office that needs to be audited, it’s his office. If he wants an audit, then so be it. We will do that.”

He said Enrile just preempted his ouster. “It’s more of a theatrical move than anything else,” he said. “It was not a graceful exit. It was inevitable that he would be replaced. Let’s move on.”

Malacañang said it was respecting Enrile’s resignation, even as it acknowledged his role in maintaining the Senate’s independence and recognized his future role in the 16th Congress.

“For 1,661 days, or four years, six months and 19 days, Juan Ponce Enrile served as president of the Senate, the third-highest position in the Republic. Today, he irrevocably relinquished that position. We respect his decision,” President Aquino’s spokesman, Edwin Lacierda, said in a statement.—With reports from TJ A. Burgonio and Norman Bordadora

Sam Miguel
06-06-2013, 08:12 AM
^^^ Juan Ponce Enrile, truly Heaven-bound, because God forgives all, and the devil simply will not risk welcoming him into hell.

Sam Miguel
06-06-2013, 08:14 AM
Joker Arroyo reminds Estrada of cameo role as acting Senate President

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:48 am | Thursday, June 6th, 2013

Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada is facing what could be his shortest role in his political career as acting Senate President in two lame-duck sessions in the 15th Congress.

Outgoing Sen. Joker Arroyo didn’t miss a beat in reminding Estrada, a movie actor before he turned politician, of what could certainly be just a cameo.

“Mr. President, are you happy?” Arroyo asked Estrada after the Senate, following manifestations of Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. Franklin Drilon, installed Estrada as the acting head of the chamber upon the resignation of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Estrada will serve as acting Senate President until the chamber elects a new leader—something that is expected to happen on the first day of the 16th Congress on July 22.

“I could sense that while [Enrile] grieved, you couldn’t control your happiness. While the majority leader also grieved, of the top three in the Senate, it was only the Senate president pro tempore who is happy,” Arroyo said as colleagues laughed.

Apparently sensing that Arroyo was drawing laughter not only from the floor but even at the gallery at his expense, Estrada said that he was willing to have an election for a new Senate President right there and then.

Arroyo, however, was far from finished. He asked Estrada what his half-brother, Senator-elect San Juan Rep. JV Ejercito, would have to say.

Estrada and Ejercito are known to have had personal differences in the past.

“What will Senator-elect JV Ejercito say about that?” Arroyo said.

“Let’s get his reaction on July 22,” Estrada said with a sheepish smile.

“Do you think he will ever be Senate President?” Arroyo asked Estrada of his brother.

Drilon, the presumptive next Senate President, joined the fray.

“Did you talk to JV Ejercito? How did your conversation go?” Drilon asked Arroyo, who is ending a second Senate term.

“I said Jinggoy is already Senate President. [JV] said, ‘Eh ano [So what]?” Arroyo said to end his irreverent grilling of the acting Senate leader.

The exchange happened after the mood turned dramatic and suspenseful when Enrile irrevocably resigned following an emotional privilege speech, where he blasted his critics in the chamber.

The senators retreated to a caucus to discuss how to address the leadership vacuum.

Sen. Sergio Osmeña III told reporters before the caucus that Sotto, citing Senate rules, wanted Estrada as Senate President Pro Tempore to take over the presiding duties.

Osmeña, however, said there were other senators who wanted to elect a new Senate President with Drilon apparently being the choice.

Asked before the caucus if electing a Senate President was possible, Drilon told reporters that “anything was possible.”

During Enrile’s resignation speech, Drilon was teased by colleagues that his Senate presidency was coming sooner than expected.

The senators, however, returned from the caucus agreeing on Estrada taking over temporarily.

Both Estrada and Sotto, Enrile’s allies, expressed sadness over Enrile’s resignation.

“Of course, being an ally, being my mentor, he’s like a father to me, I was also hurt,” Estrada told reporters.

Sam Miguel
06-07-2013, 01:47 PM
Enough of Congress’ ‘freeloader legislating’

GOTCHA

By Jarius Bondoc

(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 7, 2013 - 12:00am

It’s sensible that President Noynoy Aquino vetoed the Centenarian Bill. For, it carried an onerous proviso that grants 75-percent discount on all purchases by centenarians.

The rider was deemed unfair, for it set no safeguards against abuses, or tax breaks for shop owners. It would have negated the noble aims of the Centenarian Bill, and incited disdain for citizens who reach the ripe old age of 100.

The bill’s intents were worthy: to honor and care for centenarians, and grant them outright cash benefit of P100,000 on the 100th birthday. But the 75-percent was just too much. It would have come from the shop owner, who would get nothing in return. Imagine a store that sells goods and services especially for senior citizens. The 75-percent off would have driven it out of business. Imagine the car dealer having to sell the centenarian a P1-million SUV for only P250,000. Imagine the hotelier having to charge the centenarian only P1,000 a day for the P4,000-suite, and the old man stays for life.

That’s what’s wrong with our Congress: it has this propensity for “freeloader legislating.” A senator or congressman authors a bill for personal cause, like reelection. Yet somebody has to bankroll the enacted benefits, and it’s not him but the hapless taxpayer or businessman. The freeloading legislator reaps the applause, popularity and votes, but lets someone else foot the bill.

In the case of the Centenarian Bill, it backfired. The freeloading co-author senator and congressman are now blaming each other for it. The latter says it’s because the former tried to outdo him by raising his 50-percent proposed discount to 75. The former says it’s the latter’s fault for not including anti-abuse and tax clauses. And they’re both lawyers!

Aquino vetoed three other bills: the Magna Carta for the Poor, the Internally Displaced Persons Act, and the lowering of height requirements for policemen, firemen, and jail guards. He said they contained “killer provisions” that would have made them impossible to implement. The enactments would have made the authors re-electable for being so caring of the poor, the refugees, the life-risking public servants. But those would have ended up as dead-letter laws too: unenforceable and infeasible for hazy funding and arbitrariness.

The recently passed Kasambahay (House Helpers) Law also was “freeloader legislation.” It laudably aims to raise the housemaids to the level of salary men, with social security, medical, and housing benefits. But the authors had to insert monthly minimum wages of P2,500, P2,000, and P1,500, depending on the locale. That gave tightwad employers an excuse to lower the maids’ higher old salaries, on the pretext that they now have to deduct SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-IBIG contributions. Heaven knows how many needy barrio lasses will now be turned away by better-off kin in the poblacion, out of fear that taking them in and sending them to school, in exchange for helping around the house, would also obligate them to pay minimum wages.

Aquino didn’t veto that rider, probably because the Kasambahay Law passed just before Election 2013. But happily he rejected dozens of other bills of local application. Most were to reclassify municipal streets, newly named after the legislator-authors’ departed parents, into national roads. Those were the height of self-serving, “freeloading legislation.” The authors wanted the fame and honor of streets with their names, but not the responsibility of repairing and maintaining them. And they took kickbacks from the paving of those streets.

“Freeloader legislation” costs the taxpayer big. Operating in 2012 on a budget of P9.37 billion, Congress passed 179 national and local laws. Meaning, it cost P52 million-plus to pass a law. In not one of those were the freeloading senators and congressmen ever required to put up the enabling funds from their pockets or pork barrels.

* * *

The video camera in the coast guards’ patrol boat that recently clashed with a Taiwanese poaching craft was there to record the truth. It was meant to capture acts of daring and wrongdoings. And it did. The vid reportedly shows the coast guards chasing and firing at the intruder — but also laughing as if in a turkey shoot. It tells that both sides were at fault, but one was graver.

All police cars, motorcycles, and precinct front desks also must be equipped with video cams. More so since patrol cops soon will be tasked under a new law to check suspected drunk or drugged drivers. Too, Metro Manila authorities will arm patrolmen with Taser high-voltage stun guns for protection against goony motorists.

Videos of cops going about their work will show if they’re doing it right, or just shaking down helpless citizens. Best practices will be taped for replication; malpractices can be used as evidence in criminal or administrative cases.

The cams will deter motorcycle cops from wasting taxpayer money escorting showy politicos’ convoys or countless funerals daily. They can also record if criminals fight back, flee, or offer bribes.

The police always advice shop and homeowners, building and school administrators, even churchmen, to install CCTVs in their premises, for security. They must follow their own counsel.

* * *

That new law on stricter gun ownership will not curb armed crimes. Only tougher crime busting will.

Responsible gun owners license their firearms; criminals don’t. The mere act of registering a firearm deters the owner from using it for bad. The police know that, yet make all sorts of excuses for not seizing over half-a-million loose firearms. Cracking down on legitimate gun owners will only drive them to illegality — like non-renewal of two-year licenses.

* * *

Sam Miguel
06-10-2013, 10:38 AM
Arrogance

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:40 pm | Sunday, June 9th, 2013

Juan Ponce Enrile had some choice words for his tormentors last Wednesday. In a privilege speech announcing his resignation as Senate president, he assailed Alan Peter Cayetano and Miriam Santiago in particular for the injustice he felt they had done him. Cayetano he expressly identified, Santiago he obliquely referred to.

In a shaking voice, he railed at the harm the two wreaked not just on him but on the Senate. “No matter how baseless and malicious their accusations were, the issues hurled against me and their implications (hurt) not only my own but the Senate’s integrity.” The personal harm to him, he said, was incalculable. “The common analysis of observers showed that Jack’s (his son’s) candidacy suffered from the fallout and bitter criticism hurled against me by those I displeased. I endured in silence the pain of seeing my son suffer because of me. He carried on his shoulders the weight of all mud thrown at me as I stayed and watched quietly on the sidelines. My heart bled for him.”

I’m sorry but my own heart doesn’t bleed from this (melo)drama.

The only person to blame for his son’s crushing defeat at the polls is he himself. He’s right to say that the common analysis of observers is that Jackie suffered from the fallout of the bitter criticism hurled against him. But that merely highlights the fact that Jackie was ampaw, that he shone on completely borrowed light, that he had no shape and substance and form by and of himself. All of it drew from his father. It was Juan Ponce who gave him blessings to run. Whether tacitly or openly, whether by acquiescence or encouragement, whether by tolerating it or engineering it, doesn’t really matter.

Borrowed light always dims when the source of the light dims. Whose fault is that?

Juan Ponce wants to blame others for his son’s debacle, let him blame the US Embassy. After all, it was US Ambassador William Sullivan who declared categorically that it was Jackie who murdered 19-year-old Ernest Lucas during Ferdinand Marcos’ time. A thing made known to the voters during the height of the campaign by way of WikiLeaks. He can always sue Sullivan or his estate for lying. He can always demand that the US Embassy apologize for the lie. Why doesn’t he?

In fact the only person to blame for his own disgrace with fortune and men’s eyes, as Shakespeare puts it, is he himself. He pushed his luck to a point where it ran out.

I’ve said again and again that Juan Ponce is the luckiest man I know. He was at the right place at the right time on two momentous occasions which allowed him to reinvent himself, or make the public forget his role as co-architect, champion, and enforcer of martial law. The first was when he happened to be among the mutineers that People Power rescued from Marcos’ murderous wrath, which allowed him to rehabilitate himself. The second was when he happened to be the Senate president the first time a chief justice of this country was impeached. Which allowed him the opportunity to ride off into the sunset in a blaze of glory.

The first he bungled by leading a series of coups against Cory, not content with having erased a good deal of his past, believing himself instead to be the rightful successor to Marcos. He gambled and lost, and for a while his fortunes plunged anew.

The second he bungled by trying to rewrite history. Or by trying to prove Marcos’ dictum about the “big lie”—which Marcos himself got from Hitler, who defined it in “Mein Kampf” as “a lie so colossal no one would believe that someone could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.” From being an aso, or issuer of ASSOs (arrest, search and seizure order), he became an Oskar Schindler, rescuing the hapless citizens from Marcos.

He upped the ante by (re)claiming that his ambush in Wack-Wack was genuine, a thing Ramon Montaño, who headed its investigation (and who ran for senator in this year’s elections), peremptorily dismissed.

That was what brought him down. Along with his son’s running for senator and the accusations brought against him by his co-senators, his reputation—particularly his ability to espy the truth, to recognize the truth, to tell the truth—took a dive. It is no small irony that his defeat began at the height of his victory, not unlike Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s, another master he served, who fell at the height of her glory. After wangling a meeting with Barack Obama, which represented the pinnacle of her efforts to sell herself as a global figure, she saw her world crumble by Cory dying and sending seismic shock waves her way.

In Juan Ponce’s case, it was at the height of his seeming glory, during his book launching when it appeared he had finally succeeded in altering the past, in revising the past, in reshaping the past, that the beginning of his end came. He had told the big lie, he had sold the big lie. Alas—for him—sometimes big lies only succeed in making the public realize some people truly have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. A cautionary tale, not quite incidentally, for the Marcoses should they try to do more than slink away in the hope that people would forget the inferno they had thrown them into.

No, Juan Ponce has only himself to blame for his current plight. I was tempted at the start to title this column, “Hubris.” But “hubris,” or overweening pride, carries with it tragic stature, a heroic figure striving for heroic ends and failing catastrophically. Juan Ponce does not cut a heroic figure, or a tragic one. All he strove for was to mass-hypnotize the country into believing his self-advancement was its own, his capacity to survive was its own, his oppression was its salvation. That is not hubris. That is brazen, breathtaking, unbelievable:

Arrogance.

Joescoundrel
06-16-2013, 10:35 AM
Biazon ‘shocked’ by political backers at BOC

By Jerry E. Esplanada

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:16 am | Friday, June 14th, 2013

Who do they say is always the last to know?

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has expressed surprise over the number of Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and employees who have political backers.

In a recent blog, Biazon said he was “not just talking about top level or even middle management, we’re talking about even down to the clerk level.”

“Once there was a person I put in the ‘customs navy’ (floating status). It wasn’t long before I received letters from three congressmen inquiring as to why that person was removed from his post,” he said.

Biazon said “one previous commissioner even had a political map of personnel in the bureau, identifying the connections the personnel had with those in power.”

The head of the Department of Finance-attached agency, who took the helm of the BOC in late 2011, tagged the “padrino system” (godfather or sponsor) as one of the “challenges that hamper the bureau’s journey toward being a reformed agency of government.”

Biazon said he was planning to push for a Congress measure prohibiting endorsements and recommendations from politicians and other persons of influence in the hiring and promotion of customs personnel.

In a text message to the Inquirer yesterday, he said he was “still thinking if I’ll push for that as a separate bill or incorporate it into the customs modernization bill.”

“As for other ideas on insulating the bureau from political patronage, I’ll bring them out at the appropriate time so as not to preempt them,” he said.

According to Biazon, the political patronage-related bill “should include the establishment of specific qualifications for anyone to be hired by the Bureau of Customs.”

“For instance, only those who have taken up customs administration or are licensed customs brokers should be hired,” he said.

Last week, he said the BOC would embark on a “proactive lobby and advocacy” for the passage of the customs modernization bill in the 16th Congress.

“We want it to become a priority legislation and be passed before President Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Because the first abrasive thing we should do to reform the bureau is to update the antiquated Tariff and Customs Code (which was enacted into law in 1957). All other efforts would be incomplete if we don’t do this basic step,” he had told the Customs Kapihan media forum.

Sam Miguel
06-17-2013, 08:58 AM
The latest Comelec broth

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:28 pm | Sunday, June 16th, 2013

Buhay and An Waray partylist groups are being stripped by the Commission on Elections of congressional seats already awarded to them. The seats are being reserved instead for the Senior Citizens party-list group. Understandably Buhay and An Waray are crying foul. What will happen to them?

Before we speculate about that, let us talk about a preliminary matter, namely, election contests.

Election contests are controversies where the No. 2 in an election race challenges the right of the proclaimed winner and demands that he be proclaimed winner instead. The Constitution says that the electoral tribunal of either chamber of Congress shall be the sole judge of election contests. This means that the Comelec, which has jurisdiction over the implementation of election laws, must at a certain point yield its jurisdiction to the electoral tribunal. But when exactly does jurisdiction pass from the Comelec to the electoral tribunal?

In all the Supreme Court cases I have seen, the Court ruled that the Comelec no longer has jurisdiction because in these cases the proclaimed winner had taken the oath and had assumed office. But in many cases the proclaimed winner does not immediately assume office. In fact, winners of the last congressional elections will not be able to assume office until the start of the new Congress come June 30. For that matter, it will take a while before the new electoral tribunal can get organized. Does this mean therefore that at least until June 30 the Comelec continues to have jurisdiction?

It seems to me that the moment a defeated candidate challenges a proclaimed winner saying that he is the real winner, we have the essential elements of an election contest which places the real winner in doubt. The doubt exists even before the proclaimed winner assumes office. Where then can the No. 2 go to seek relief? The Constitution says that the “Electoral Tribunal shall be the sole judge of all contests relating to the election, returns, and qualifications” of all squabbling members of Congress. Necessarily, therefore, relief will not come until after the electoral tribunal is organized.

There have been instances, however, when the proclaimed winner might succeed to take the oath and assume office even before an election contest can be filed or decided; in fact, even before June 30. Whether or not this is proper does not alter the fact that the ultimate judgment will be made by the electoral tribunal.

Now we have the peculiar case of Buhay and An Waray. Without anybody filing an election contest against anybody, Buhay and An Waray are being stripped of seats that have been proclaimed as won by them in order to reserve the seats for the as yet unproclaimed (and in fact initially disqualified) Senior Citizens party-list group. The answer of the Comelec is that the Supreme Court had issued an order commanding the Comelec to reserve seats for the Senior Citizen party list. But the Court did not specify how the Comelec should make the reservation.

This, of course, is not a run-of-the-mill election contest where two candidates are vying against each other. It is a contest between Buhay and An Waray on the one hand and the Comelec on the other!

In my view, whether the case goes to the Comelec or the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal, the outcome should be the same based on the manner seats are distributed according to existing jurisprudence. According to Banat vs Comelec (GR 17927) and earlier decisions, parties which obtain at least 2 percent of the total votes cast for party lists are entitled automatically to one seat. Those who get more than 2 percent can get an additional seat for every additional 2 percent, but only up to a maximum of three seats. After all those who have obtained at least 2 percent of the votes have been given their allocated seats, then the Comelec distributes the remaining seats among those who did not receive 2 percent until the maximum of 20 percent of the House seats have been filled.

The expectation on the basis of the number of votes received is that the Senior Citizens, if qualified, will be entitled to more than one seat. The reserved seats for them should be taken from among those who did not garner at least 2 percent of the votes cast. That way the seats already won by Buhay and An Waray and any other party entitled to more than one seat will be respected.

The problem we have now is partly the result of the rush to proclaim winners even before all the votes were counted.

The lot of second placers in elections. Does the runner-up take the place of a declared winner who is disqualified? According to Gonzales vs Comelec, he does not, unless the electorate is fully aware in fact and in law of a candidate’s disqualification so as to bring such awareness within the realm of notoriety, but they would nonetheless cast their votes in favor of the ineligible candidate. This exception was not verified in Gonzales vs Comelec. But this has been clarified by later decisions of the Supreme Court saying the second placer takes the place of the disqualified winner if the disqualification existed when the certificate of candidacy was filed. In other words, the winner was never a candidate.

Sam Miguel
06-18-2013, 09:22 AM
Jack Enrile was top campaign spender at P150.8M

By Philip C. Tubeza

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:19 am | Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

Defeated senatorial candidate Juan “Jack” Ponce Enrile Jr., son of resigned Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, was the top spender in the 2013 senatorial race, according to Commission on Elections (Comelec) records.

Enrile, who landed in 15th place, spent P150,797,910.18 on his failed campaign for a Senate seat and also received the biggest contribution from donors at P150,401,072.09, according to his statement of contributions and expenditures (SOCE).

Senator-elect JV Ejercito, who ranked 11th in the 12-man Senate race, was the second-highest spender at P138,207,825.76. He spent P2,276,085.01 of his own money and received P135,931,740.75 in contributions. Among his contributors were Iñigo U. Zobel, who gave P15 million.

Among those who used their personal funds, Senator-elect Cynthia Villar spent the most, shelling out P131,656,672.84 of her own money. Villar, who ranked 10th in the race, spent P133,979,127.25 and received only P2,616,454.41 in contributions.

No more than P156M

Comelec Chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr. said the senatorial candidates should not have spent more than P156 million each in the last campaign.

The other top spenders were Alan Peter Cayetano (P131,044,782.33), Nancy Binay (P128,695,057.10) and Bam Aquino (P124,327,987.81).

Grace Poe, who topped the Senate race, ranked 7th in expenditures with P123,448,994.86. She was followed by Juan Edgardo Angara (P120,136,752.86), Chiz Escudero (P100,723,309.10), Risa Hontiveros (P88,628,348.11), Loren Legarda (P83,034,205) and Koko Pimentel (P75,552,863.49).

Of the top 12 spenders, Enrile and Hontiveros, who spent P8,835.448.11 of her personal funds, did not win.

Among the Magic 12, Senator-elect Gregorio Honasan, who landed in the 12th spot, spent the least at P24,111,848.96, of which P1,009,707.92 came from his own pocket.

Senator-elect Antonio Trillanes IV, who secured the 9th slot, spent P30,135,014.77.

Comelec law department Director Esmeralda Ladra said they had received the SOCEs of all the senatorial candidates except for Ang Kapatiran’s Marwil Llasos.

Ladra said those who still had unspent contributions should also report these to the Comelec since this is taxable.

“The candidates still have to report the unexpended balance (because that) is subject to income tax. They should also report that and there shall be an official receipt,” Ladra said.

“While contributions are not taxable, any unexpended balance is taxable unless they give it back (to the contributor),” she added.

Sam Miguel
06-19-2013, 08:40 AM
Missed deadlines

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:39 am | Wednesday, June 19th, 2013

Even in ordinary, everyday life, missed deadlines are no trifling matter. When something is not done or delivered or paid for at the agreed-upon time, there are consequences. A student who turns in a late assignment runs the risk of a failing grade. A bounced check can land its issuer in court for estafa. A business supplier unable to produce the required goods under contract faces legal liabilities. And employees habitually tardy at completing their tasks may find themselves out of work sooner or later.

Missed deadlines are at the heart of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s recent warning that the peace talks between itself and the Philippine government are in peril. In its message sent to Malacañang through Malaysian facilitator Abdul Ghafar, the group said it “is frustrated about what is happening to the peace talks and … is very, very much concerned about what is going on.”

The Framework Agreement signed by the two parties on Oct. 15, 2012, billed by the government as a preliminary peace agreement with the separatist MILF that would establish a new autonomous political entity called Bangsamoro, replacing the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, was in fact a bare-bones road map with—at the time of signing—virtually nothing yet on the four major issues to be resolved in a final peace accord: power-sharing, wealth-sharing, normalization, and transitional arrangements and modalities.

These four “annexes,” as they were called, came with deadlines, following talks between the parties that should have immediately commenced after the signing of the Framework Agreement to flesh out the annexes in concrete detail. The original timetable was for a comprehensive agreement to be signed two months after. But six months later, only one annex—on transitional arrangements and modalities (TAM)—has been completed.

President Aquino has complied partly with one of eight TAM components by forming a 15-member Transition Commission whose main responsibilities include drafting a Bangsamoro Basic Law covering the proposed new region made up of five Muslim provinces in Mindanao, and proposing constitutional amendments, if necessary, to codify the peace agreement in the Constitution. Under the TAM, the newly-constituted Bangsamoro will replace the ARMM by 2015, with a full set of elected officials assuming office by July 1, 2016.

What has deadlocked the talks are the three other annexes. While wealth-sharing is said to have early on been approved and initialed by the two parties, the government has walked back its assent by saying it would seek more changes to the document—a delay the MILF has complained about bitterly. Its vice chair for political affairs, Ghadzali Jaafar, said it was only recently that it had received the government’s proposed amendments, necessitating further delay as it makes its own study of the proposals.

No formal talks are happening at present. After the government requested a reset of the talks last March, ostensibly to allow it to do a “diligence review” of its commitments so far, the two panels agreed to resume negotiations in Kuala Lumpur after the May midterm elections. But so far no schedule has been set up.

Malacañang says the delay is an unintended but necessary consequence of being careful, and also learning from the experience of the ill-fated Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain under the Arroyo administration, which was eventually declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. “Many of the items have generational and very broad implications. Thus, P-Noy is exercising due care and utmost diligence on these matters,” said Interior Secretary Mar Roxas.

Fine. But it must also be asked: Why did Malacañang agree to a cramped timetable in the first place? The series of deadlines it has missed is valid cause for worry, not least on the part of the MILF which, if it is to stay at the peace table, has to bank on the commitment and reliability of the Aquino administration to follow through on its promises. Also, as the nongovernment organization Mindanao Peoples’ Caucus has pointed out, “Given the very limited [time for the] transition roadmap between now and 2016, any delay in the signing of the Annexes will cause irreversible consequences on the viability of the transition period itself.”

There is still time to salvage the talks, but it’s fast running out. Given what Malacañang has promised the nation with this endeavor—a just and lasting peace, finally, for Mindanao—it cannot afford now to drop the ball.

Sam Miguel
06-20-2013, 08:25 AM
Politicians allowed estero settlers, says Singson

By TJ A. Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:26 am | Thursday, June 20th, 2013

The thousands of informal settlers living precariously along waterways in Metro Manila have remained where they are at the request of local politicians, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson said on Wednesday.

But once their relocation is pushed through, local officials who will allow these people to return to the esteros or estuaries will be sanctioned, he said.

The government had been keen on clearing the esteros of settlers since floods hit the capital in August last year, but local officials seeking reelection in the May 13 balloting got in the way.

“We wanted to do this, but I’ll be honest with you. Many requested that we shouldn’t do it before the elections. Now, they might come back to us again in view of the barangay elections. This time, we won’t give in. We have to do things immediately,” he said in a Malacañang briefing.

In 2011, the government announced a five-year P50-billion project to provide “on-site” or “in-city” housing for more than 100,000 families living near estuaries, waterways, rivers and creeks, or 20,000 families a year.

President Aquino approved a P10-billion fund for the implementation of the project in 2011, and committed P10 billion a year until he steps down in 2016.

Problem downplayed

Singson declined to identify the local politicians. “There are many LGUs (local government units) involved here. Take your pick,” he said.

In an attempt to downplay Singson’s comment, Strategic Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said, “How they got there and who’s responsible, it doesn’t really matter anymore.”

He said, however, that officials in Quezon City and San Juan had been very cooperative.

Singson, tasked with implementing a P351-billion master plan for flood control in the capital after last year’s massive flooding, claimed that the clearing of eight major waterways of 19,440 families would be done between now and December.

In 2012, the National Housing Authority built 18,000 homes and would build twice as many this year for the informal settlers, Carandang said.

“The national government will take the lead, clear them out. But they can’t go back. There will be sanctions,” Singson said, pointing out the Local Government Code and the Urban Development and Housing Act prohibit people from living along waterways. “The President has given instructions that there will be sanctions.”

Climate extremes

Informal settlers and people living in coastal towns in the Philippines are affected the most by severe weather conditions caused by climate change, according to a new World Bank study released on Wednesday.

In its report, titled “Turn Down the Heat: Climate Extremes, Regional Impacts and the Case for Resilience,” the World Bank said the Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries may be affected by widespread food shortages as a result of unprecedented heat waves and more intense storms due to global warming.

“In the near-term, climate change, which is already unfolding, could greatly harm the lives and the hopes of individuals and families who have had little hand in raising the earth’s temperature,” said World Bank president Jim Yong Kim.

The report said the Southeast Asian region was particularly vulnerable to the sea-level rise, increases in heat extremes, stronger tropical cyclones, and ocean warming and acidification because many are located within a tropical cyclone belt and have relatively high coastal population densities.

“In the Philippines, the biggest risks are due to more severe impacts storms will have on informal settlements and coastal communities,” the World Bank said.

The multilateral lender said it was working with the Philippine government to enhance the country’s capacity to deal with climate impacts as well as help ensure its overall national public expenditure is appropriately targeted to deal with the challenges outlined in the report.

“Together with other development partners, the Bank is also helping in the preparations for priority projects that aim to improve flood management and resilience in Metro Manila,” it added. With a report from Paolo G. Montecillo

Joescoundrel
06-22-2013, 11:49 AM
Haggling for committee chairmanships continues

By Cathy Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:37 am | Saturday, June 22nd, 2013

The haggling for committee chairmanships among senators continues and Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. hinted that Sen. Franklin Drilon’s ascent to the top post in the chamber could hinge on whether he can make “everybody happy” with their assignments in the incoming Congress.

Marcos said senators have already indicated to Drilon, Malacañang’s choice for Senate President, their preferred committee assignments.

This is not a guarantee however that all senators would get what they want. In some cases, two or more senators have publicly indicated their interest in the same Senate committee.

“There would have to be adjustments. ‘If I cannot give you this committee, would this other one be fine with you?’ I’m sure you’re all familiar with that process, that’s what going on now,” Marcos told reporters at the Kapihan sa Senado Thursday.

Marcos said Drilon must first resolve the issue of committee distribution before he can get majority support for the Senate Presidency.

“Nothing is definite… Of course, it’s going to be the issue of committee chairmanships that is going to be key,” he explained.

Until Drilon comes up with his final list of committee assignments that satisfies everyone, he is still unsure of whether he will helm the chamber, Marcos said.

Because of this, Marcos said the Nationalista Party (NP) senators remain “open to anything. We have not yet decided on fielding (or) not fielding (a choice for Senate President).”

Marcos said that as it is, the NP feels “it’s very, very early” to tell who becomes the next Senate President following the resignation of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile on June 5.

While the committee assignments remain unclear, Marcos said the senators “really cannot make any decisions now because anything can happen between now and July 22” when the 16th Congress opens.

“You could only expect things to become more definite less than one week before the 22nd. I can come and tell you ‘this is what will happen’ but not until then,” he told reporters.

Observers noted that Marcos’ statement ran counter to Drilon’s announcement several weeks back in the same forum that he and NP president Sen. Manny Villar have already agreed that senators from the NP and Drilon’s Liberal Party would field a “single candidate” for Senate President.

Marcos would not reveal the committee preferences he and his NP partymates submitted to Drilon.

“I don’t want to preempt anyone by saying this or the other thing. Let us just say that everyone has been able to (indicate his or her committee choices),” he said.

Earlier reports said the NP has asked that newly reelected Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano be appointed Senate President Pro Tempore and his sister Sen. Pia Cayetano be the majority leader.

However, Sen. Loren Legarda, in a huddle with reporters earlier this week, said Drilon has offered the Pro Tempore position to her in “several conversations.”

The NP has also asked for the Senate national defense chairmanship for newly elected Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV.

Sam Miguel
06-24-2013, 08:28 AM
Squatting problem getting out of control

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:53 pm | Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

The squatting problem is getting out of control.

Even the government, at national and local levels, seems powerless against them. Or more accurately, is not willing to get the ire of squatters by relocating them. Reason: Squatters are voters. And squatters usually vote as a block. They vote for whomever their leaders choose. And with barangay elections coming up, it would be even more difficult for barangay officials to muster the courage and the will power to eject squatters. In fact, some of these local officials are the very same people who brought in squatters to vote for them. Some barangay officials (and even councilors, mayors and congressmen) protect certain squatter colonies because they consider these their bailiwicks.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II recently warned local government officials, from mayors to barangay (village) captains: Remove squatters from danger zones between now and the barangay elections or face prosecution. How much this warning will prod local executives into action remains to be seen.

Indeed, this is the best time to eject squatters because the senatorial and local elections are over, and so candidates need not fear the squatter backlash. But the barangay elections are coming up, and barangay officials, much more than the higher-level LGU officials, are dependent on squatter votes.

The Quezon City government has given squatters two months to move out or …. Seriously, if Quezon City Mayor Herbert “Bistek” Bautista can remove the squatters in two months, I will put his picture on the family altar and sing “alleluia” to it every single day.

* * *

Similarly, residents of Filinvest 1 Village say they would do the same thing if Mayor Bistek will remove, not the squatter colony, but even just the double-parking on the private road leading to the village.

The road, Filinvest Road 1, which runs at right angles to Batasan Road near the Sandiganbayan and leads to Filinvest Village a few hundred meters in the interior, is a private road. A three-lane paved street, it was built on private land by the developer, Filinvest, to service the homeowners of the subdivision.

But like parasites, squatters occupied the lots on both sides of the road. Not content with that, they put up stores and shops alongside the road itself. Naturally, shoppers and suppliers park before the shops on both sides of the road, leaving very little space for vehicles going to Filinvest to squeeze through.

Besides the shoppers, the squatters themselves park their own vehicles—thus giving the lie to the notion that all squatters are poor. These squatters own vehicles, stores and shops, television sets, refrigerators, stereo sets, computers, and other expensive home appliances, yet they pay no rent to the owners of the lots they are squatting on, or real estate taxes, or business taxes to the city government, or income taxes to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. And the bleeding hearts still call them “poor”?

After receiving many complaints from residents about the perennial traffic jams on the road going to their homes—a road built and owned by Filinvest, but which squatters have appropriated for themselves—the barangay issued a resolution limiting parallel parking on Filinvest Road 1 (as well as other roads nearby) to only one side—in other words, no double-parking.

There is a sign at the entrance to the road: “One side parking only.” But vehicles still park on both sides. Worse, vehicles now park diagonally—no longer parallel—perhaps to accommodate more vehicles of the squatters. (The barangay resolution does not permit diagonal parking.) Result: Only one lane is left open to vehicles going home to Filinvest, resulting in traffic jams on the road. Which makes village owners very angry.

Legally, Filinvest Road 1 is not a public road. It is a private road on privately titled land constructed by Filinvest for village residents. Therefore, the Filinvest Homeowners’ Association should have control over it and its security guards should direct traffic there. But barangay officials have usurped this function and are very lenient with squatters because of their votes.

As I see it, City Hall should return control of Filinvest Road 1 to the homeowners’ association. The barangay, City Hall, and the Metro Manila Development Authority which claims jurisdiction over all traffic in Metro Manila, should give support in managing the traffic, but the decisions should still be made by the owners, the Filinvest homeowners, through its association.

Look at it this way: The homeowners pay the real estate taxes—in Quezon City, the highest in the whole country—as well as many other taxes. These taxes pay the salaries and allowances of all City Hall and barangay officials, as well as for all city assistance extended to squatters and other city expenses made for squatters. On the opposite end, the squatters pay almost no direct taxes (real estate tax, business tax, income tax, etc.). Worse, they are lawbreakers, technically stealing properties owned by others. So why do they have more rights than the law-abiding, tax-paying citizens?

* * *

Here’s news for fans of Willie Nepomuceno, the master mimic, impersonator and comedian: Willie will be featured tonight, starting at 8:30, on Channel News Asia (Cable TV 82 in Manila), in the series “Conversation With…”

CNA producer Maria Ronald said Willie Nep’s “frighteningly accurate portrayal of politicians and pop stars, which has entertained Filipinos for three decades, does more than amuse his audience. It gives them a view.”

In the interview, Willie said he believes his impersonations “represent the common man’s fight against authority, and that’s the reason he considers comedy a serious business.”

Sam Miguel
06-24-2013, 10:18 AM
Squatters and suffrage

A LAW EACH DAY (KEEPS TROUBLE AWAY)

By Jose C. Sison

(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 24, 2013 - 12:00am

In our column last Friday, June 21, 2013 we pointed out that squatting and politics really go together in this country because of the right of suffrage supposedly enjoyed even by squatters pursuant to our Constitution (Article V, Section 1). So the link between squatting and politics really stems from link between the squatters and their right of suffrage. The squatters’ right to vote in the election seems to be the very reason behind the chronic squatter problem in this country because politicians themselves largely depend on squatters’ vote to win elections. Hence they would prefer that squatters stay put in the area where they can be useful to them come election time. This is the very reason behind the peoples’ growing belief that the squatter problem in this country is here to stay and may even get worse.

So far, the accepted practice in this jurisdiction is really to allow squatters to vote in our elections because our charter itself provides that “no literacy, property, or other substantive requirement shall be imposed on the exercise of suffrage” (Article V, Section 1, last sentence). And so based on this provision, the squatters’ right to vote even if they do not own any property has been recognized for as long as they are “citizens of the Philippines, not otherwise disqualified by law, who are least 18 years of age, who shall have resided in the Philippines for at least one year and in the place where they propose to vote, for at least six month immediately preceding the election”.

But as already pointed out, this present practice based on the above constitutional provision nevertheless requires legitimate residency of voters in the place where they propose to vote. Legitimate residency is required because every intendment of the law, especially the charter which is the fundamental law of the land, should always be in favor of legitimacy. Otherwise it will be self-defeating.

Hence, for all legal intents and purposes, squatters should not be allowed to vote because they are not legitimate residents of the place where they propose to vote. Of course there is no jurisprudence yet on this matter. For jurisprudence to be established on this issue the Comelec should adopt this rule in the registration of voters so that the Supreme Court can resolve whether or not it is the correct interpretation of the charter.

Indeed this move may be the more effective way not only in solving the squatter problem but also in improving the quality of our electorate so that we may elect the right officials and improve our politics. In fact, as early as 1991, the board members of the Chamber of Real Estate Brokers (CREBA) led by its Chairman at that time, Retired Brigadier General Rizalino A. Alquiza had already made such a proposal to then Senator Joey Lina as they were discussing the Lina Law. According to General Alquiza in reaction to my Friday column on “Squatting and Politics”:

“In that meeting, I proposed to Senator Lina that, instead, a law should be passed by Congress that, in defining the qualifications and disqualifications of voters, a person to qualify as a voter in local elections he must have been a legitimate resident of the precinct (where he is a voter) for at least six (6) months, and a “legitimate resident” is defined as one who is either the registered owner or the lessee of the house and lot he is occupying. As proof, he must present the Owner’s Duplicate Copy of the title of the lot or a copy of the Lease Contract he has entered into with the owner of the house and lot he is occupying. By this definition, a squatter cannot be considered a legitimate resident of the place where he is voting and therefore not qualified to vote in local elections. That would remove the reason for local officials to cuddle the squatters. My proposal does not apply to national elections, where the residency requirement is that one must have been a resident of the Philippines for at least one (1) year.

I remember what Senator Lina told me, “General, you cannot expect Congress to pass your proposal into law, because members of the lower House, like the local officials, also depend on the votes of squatters.” Maybe, this time when the adverse effects of squatting, especially along esteros which has caused flooding, have reached national consciousness, the members of Congress will awaken to finally solve this menace of squatting. Not only disqualifying squatters from local elections, Congress should make squatting a criminal offense, for that is, plain and simple, robbery. Squatters squat not only on public lands, like the esteros, but also on private properties. By squatting on private properties, they in effect rob the properties of other persons. If that is not a crime, I don’t know what is”.

Of course we should also understand the squatters’ situation. Most of them perhaps were only forced to transfer and illegally stay in unoccupied private and public properties in the cities to seek greener pastures and lift themselves out of their poverty stricken lives in remote areas. Indeed their present situation is not really their fault so why should they be disenfranchised of their right to vote.

The answer here is supplied by another reader, Elmar Layka (elmarlayka@ahoo.com) who also reacted to my column last Friday. He lives in a barangay where there are “several pockets of squatters along the waterways and under electric power lines who do not pay real estate taxes and perhaps, not even income taxes”. Here is Mr. Layka’s description of the squatters in their barangay:

“They are so numerous that they out-number the legitimate residents – both property owners and tenants. For this reason, all the barangay council members are squatters, so that the legitimate residents have no voice in the running of the barangay. Rather anomalous as the legitimate residents are the ones paying taxes.

It is bruited about that the barangay captain and the council members (and others higher up) are the ones who coddle and encourage the proliferation of the squatters as a source of votes.

So in order not to infringe their right of suffrage, Mr. Layka proposes to require the squatters to cast their votes in their province of origin. In this way politicians will have no more reason to coddle them or prevent their relocation. This is another suggestion worth considering.

Sam Miguel
06-25-2013, 08:47 AM
Permanent solution: New towns for informal settlers

By Salvador M. Enriquez Jr.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:13 am | Tuesday, June 25th, 2013

The recent flooding in parts of Metro Manila brought to the fore once more the problem of informal settlers living along esteros on river banks and under bridges.

The flooding puts pressure on the government and the Aquino administration to find not only an immediate but also lasting and permanent solutions to this perennial problem.

Developing new towns as “integrated viable economies” could provide the alternative to the current “relocation-oriented” strategy, which has, over the past 20 years, failed to effectively address the problems of informal dwellers, housing backlog, urban congestion and the continuing influx of people to cities, notably Metro Manila.

Economically viable

It is well known that in some provinces close to Manila, such as Bulacan, Rizal and Laguna, there remain parcels of land that are uninhabited but have a strong potential for development. The problem, however, is access and triggering their economic development.

That’s where new towns or satellites of new towns can be established—not just relocation sites, as the current approach affords.

The first task is to identify possible sites of new towns or satellite towns—maybe 100 to 200 hectares for a start.

Then access has to be provided. That means the government investing in a new highway to the site, then connecting it with smaller roads, if necessary, to nearby centers.

The development of the town can then be jointly undertaken with the private sector—which may be encouraged to invest in new industries and factories that will create jobs and livelihood, or even provide such facilities as a town center with recreational areas, markets, church, day-care centers, schools and hospitals.

But such new towns or satellite towns must be carefully planned to avoid the same pitfalls now seen in urban areas of the country, where development had not been properly planned.

This concept is not new. It has been tried and has found success in many countries, such as the United Kingdom, Singapore, Malaysia, Australia and China.

One example is the development of Shenzhen in China, a fishing village that, in 1979, had a population of only 30,000 and a gross domestic product (GDP) per capita of 606 yuan.

Then, Deng Xiao Ping decided to make it a new city and a showcase of China’s new economic advancement. Today, Shenzhen has a population of over 10 million—people voluntarily moved there as development was taking place—and a GDP per capita of $14,000, one of the highest in the world.

What we can do is not in the magnitude of Shenzhen but a model on a much smaller scale that can be replicated in many parts of the country.

The better part is that it will not only offer a lasting solution to the housing problem and congestion in our urban areas but also trigger economic development and offer the road to the much-desired inclusive economic growth.

Patch-up approach

The development of new towns is better than the usual patch-up approach, including the latest government plan to spend nearly P400 million to relocate more than 20,000 families living in Metro Manila’s danger zones—about P18,000 per family for one year—to entice them to move to safer homes.

This sort of “modified conditional cash transfer” scheme is intended to help informal settlers find safer homes they can rent.

It is understandable why the plan is meeting criticism from some sectors. The Urban Poor Associates, for instance, sees it as just another “band-aid solution.”

Even Undersecretary Francisco Fernandez of the Department of the Interior and Local Government, the official-in-charge of the relocation, admits that the financial aid will be enough only for the families to rent a room in slum areas that are not in or near waterways.

In other words, they will continue to live in subhuman conditions within the metropolis. Urban congestion and the housing backlog will just remain and continue to build up.

And no relocation could become permanent unless the settlement sites are assured of long-term economic and social viability.

Creating new towns will address this gap.

(Salvador M. Enriquez Jr. is a former finance secretary and budget secretary.)

Sam Miguel
06-26-2013, 09:49 AM
Pacquiao No. 1 absentee in House

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:18 am | Wednesday, June 26th, 2013

Boxing superstar and Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao is No. 1 in the House of Representatives for something other lawmakers should not emulate.

Pacquiao earned the distinction of racking up the biggest number of absences in the 15th Congress.

He, along with Negros Occidental Rep. Julio Ledesma IV, was absent for 60 out of the 168 session days, records from the House of Representatives show.

Pacquiao’s absences are equivalent to five session months as the House holds just three session days a week. Still, he received no diminution of salary and benefits.

By contrast, 21 of the 290 members of the House had perfect attendance.

Former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo registered a total attendance record of 111 days, three more than Pacquiao’s. But for most of her term, she has been detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center for electoral sabotage and plunder cases.

Others who posted a marginally better attendance record than Pacquiao were Ang Galing Pinoy party-list Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo, who was present for 112 days; Pampanga Rep Carmelo Lazatin, 115 days; Laguna Rep. Ma. Evita Arago, 116 days; and Iloilo Rep. Augusto Syjuco, 117 days.

There were lawmakers who were present for far fewer days, but they either died during their term, took their oath in the middle of the 15th Congress or who were later dropped from the rolls.

Some absences were attributed to constituency work, while others were made without notice.

Among the top absentees, Mikey Arroyo posted the biggest number of absences without notice, at 53.

He was followed by Ledesma, who had 45 absences without notice. In another 15 of his absences, he was considered to be doing constituency work.

Syjuco had 42 absences without notice, and 9 absences for constituency work. Pacquiao had 37 absences without notice, and 23 absences for constituency work.

Gloria Arroyo’s 30 absences were also without notice and 24 were recorded as constituency work.

In Lazatin’s case, 43 of his absences were for constituency work, while 10 were without notice. Arago had 41 absences for constituency work, and 11 absences without notice.

Perfect attendance

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte was among the lawmakers who were present for all session days of the 15th Congress.

Other lawmakers with perfect attendance records are Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao; Diwa party-list Rep. Emmeline Aglipay; Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado Arroyo; Quezon City Rep. Jorge Banal; Pangasinan Rep. Leopoldo Bataoil; Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo; Cebu Rep. Rachel del Mar; Camarines Sur Rep. Salvio Fortuno; Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez; Mandaluyong Rep. Neptali Gonzales II; Bagong Henerasyon Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy; Senior Citizens party-list Rep. David Kho; Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman; An Waray party-list Rep. Florencio Noel; Una ang Pamilya party-list Rep. Reena Obillo; Agham party-list Rep. Angelo Palmones; Antipolo Rep. Roberto Puno; Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo; Bohol Rep. Rene Relampagos; and Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez.

In previous instances, the absenteeism of many lawmakers had hampered work in Congress. There were times when sessions had to be adjourned because of a lack of warm bodies on the floor, leading to crucial legislation being stalled.

During the campaign for the May elections, several senatorial candidates supported the idea of imposing fines on lawmakers who would constantly fail to report for duty.

Incoming Sen. Paolo Benigno Aquino IV said that being a member of Congress was a serious responsibility and that a basic requirement of the job was to attend hearings and sessions.

Sam Miguel
06-28-2013, 08:41 AM
An idiot so idiotic he could not even kill himself correctly. And why are Congressmen allowed to keep weapons inside the House premises?

Lawmaker shoots self in House

By Leila Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:51 am | Friday, June 28th, 2013

Outgoing Cagayan de Oro Rep. Benjo Benaldo was found with a gunshot wound to the chest in his office at the House of Representatives on Thursday night and was rushed to New Era hospital in Quezon City, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Benaldo, who lost in the last election, is the husband of Brazilian model and actress Daiana Menezes. They reportedly married in Las Vegas last December.

Menezes had already rushed to his side, a report said. Belmonte said he saw the two talking.

A highly placed source from the House said Benaldo apparently attempted to commit suicide in his fifth-floor office at the Batasang Pambansa compound.

Belmonte could not categorically explain the reason behind the congressman’s action.

Menezes days earlier posted mysterious messages on her social networking sites that appeared to be allegations of physical abuse.

The couple later came out on TV saying they had fought “because of love.”

In a television interview, Belmonte said Benaldo was alone in his office when the shot was fired. The Speaker had rushed to the hospital after learning of the incident.

Later, in a radio interview, Belmonte said that when the shot was heard from Benaldo’s office, his staff rushed in and saw him sitting by his desk, bleeding. A pistol was on the table.

As of Thursday night, Benaldo was conscious and appeared to be doing well, Belmonte said.

“He gave us a thumbs-up sign, and he was smiling. He looked like he’s in a better mood,” the Speaker said. “He told us he would get through this thing.”

The source said the shot that pierced Benaldo’s chest appeared to have gone “through and through.”

Belmonte said the bullet that pierced Benaldo’s chest had a downward trajectory and exited his body.

The House media bureau, in an earlier advisory, said Benaldo, “drenched in blood,” was seen at the South Wing lobby being rushed by several men out of the building.

Belmonte said Benaldo would be moved out of New Era hospital and transferred to another hospital, possibly St. Luke’s Medical Center.

Sam Miguel
06-28-2013, 08:49 AM
Lawmaker told: There’s no excuse for absences

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:38 am | Friday, June 28th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—We don’t need more absentee lawmakers.

Marikina Rep. Romero Quimbo, who will be on his second term in the 16th Congress, said Thursday legislators owe it to their constituents to attend the thrice a week House sessions, usually held Mondays to Wednesdays, at 4 p.m.

“I think it would be embarrassing to the public if many of us would continue to be absent. I’d like to remind everybody, it doesn’t matter if they’re not so good at debating, I just hope they would show up at the plenary,” Quimbo told reporters, when asked what advice he could give his new colleagues.

Quimbo was among the 21 lawmakers who registered perfect attendance in the 15th Congress.

Sarangani Rep. Manny Pacquiao and Negros Occidental Rep. Jules Ledesma were the top absentee lawmakers.

Quimbo dismissed the absentee lawmakers’ excuse that they were doing work in their respective districts when they should be studying and passing laws.

“That’s just an excuse. All of us have the same job. Our main duty is to pass laws. Bills that are not being passed or laws that are deficient or filled with errors could have been avoided had more people joined the debate and talked about these,” he said.

He said he was agreeable to suggestions that frequently absent lawmakers be denied certain benefits, such as their salaries or pork barrel, formally known as the priority development assistance fund (PDAF).

“I think that would be an abandonment of their duty or mandate from the people. It should be no work, no pork,” he said.

Sam Miguel
07-03-2013, 12:45 PM
Name of honor

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:50 pm | Tuesday, July 2nd, 2013

The new mayor of Manila added an outrageous entry to his long list of quotable quotes when he declared at his recent swearing-in: “For the first time, Manila will have an ex-convict as your city mayor. I feel that I am in good company with Nelson Mandela of South Africa, Anwar Ibrahim of Malaysia, Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar and our own Sen. Ninoy Aquino who was convicted by a military court. We were all convicted. That is why we are now all men of conviction.”

The remark was a demonstration of the two abiding impulses in Joseph Estrada’s life: to turn everything into a joke and to insist on the goodness of his name, especially in the matter of the plunder charge of which he has been convicted. But only the most clueless or indifferent would not blanch at this offensive attempt to put himself in the league of Anwar Ibrahim, Aung San Suu Kyi, Ninoy Aquino and, particularly, Nelson Mandela.

When the ex-president was engaging in name-dropping in another effort to deodorize his name, Mr. Mandela, 96, remained in critical condition in a hospital in South Africa. The people of that country, and others all over the world, leaders and ordinary citizens alike, are fervently praying for the grace to accept the imminent passing of this man whose long, arduous and inspiring life has galvanized the struggle for fundamental human rights and dignity. This is a man who deserves and commands only honor, admiration and respect; his name should not be mentioned lightly.

Mr. Mandela stands head and shoulders above many world leaders in history, not only for what he has done, which is formidable, but also for what he did not do. When he became South Africa’s first black president, elected in that country’s first free and truly multiracial elections after the dismantling of its hated apartheid regime, Mr. Mandela confounded both white and black South Africans by refusing to engage in recrimination and revenge. He had been the most implacable foe of apartheid, went nearly blind from 27 years of harsh imprisonment under the white South African government, but, once handed the reins of power, he saved his country from strife by staying the hand of those itching to settle scores over many years of oppression and violence against black people.

In his autobiography “Long Walk to Freedom,” Mr. Mandela wrote: “As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison… Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

For his remarkable decision to forgive for the sake of preserving the peace, he was initially vilified by some in his own camp, his campaign of national unification branded an appeasement of the white population. But the firebrand of the 1960s, who had led a campaign of violence against the oppressive Afrikaner government on the grounds that “when a man is denied the right to live the life he believes in, he has no choice but to become an outlaw,” had somehow become a new man in prison. Now he went by a different dictum: “If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”

Like many other countries, South Africa remains beset by many problems, from soaring crime rates to lingering economic inequality. But in that continent, and for the rest of the world, it has also become a beacon of sociopolitical and economic advancement, a country that, against all odds, achieved something quite improbable: a monumental political transition without war, chaos or widespread bloodshed, thanks to the wisdom and example of its revered Madiba.

“I am fundamentally an optimist,” Mr. Mandela has said. “Whether that comes from nature or nurture, I cannot say. Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward. There were many dark moments when my faith in humanity was sorely tested, but I would not and could not give myself up to despair. That way lays defeat and death.”

We stand with the people of South Africa and the international community in saluting Nelson Mandela, whose life is a towering example of great moral and physical courage. May his name and legacy endure through time.

Joescoundrel
07-06-2013, 08:55 AM
Informal settlers and water rates

By Solita Collas-Monsod

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:30 pm | Friday, July 5th, 2013

I haven’t done an actual count, but it seems that the past week has had more than its share of news stories worthy of comment or analysis, and I don’t want to pass up the chance to get in my licks. So I ask the Reader for her forbearance as I tackle more than one issue in this column, not necessarily in the order of their importance.

For Metro Manilans in particular, but with application to all highly urbanized areas, there is the issue of informal settlers, and the controversies arising from them. But let us start with a definition of informal settlers, who obviously are those who live in informal settlements. So what is an informal settlement? The UN Habitat Program defines it as a residential area where a group of housing units has been constructed on land to which the occupants have no legal claim, or which they occupy illegally, and/or unplanned settlements and areas where housing is not in compliance with current planning and building regulations (unauthorized housing).

The latest incident to grab the headlines was the confrontation between the police and the apparently last holdover families—estimated at 1,500 to 2,000 of the original 10,000-12,000 families who were unauthorized/illegally occupying a 29-hectare property of the National Housing Authority which had been sold to the Ayalas for development.

The property had been squatted on for decades, but one does not know whether the informal settlers were paying rent to so-called squatter lords, or whether they were living there rent-free. If squatter lords were involved, these are generally believed to be members of the police or military—who are feared by the local residents and at the same time are treated gingerly by the local politicians, who are suspected of getting a cut anyway from the enormous rents being exacted from the informal settlers. On the other hand, if the informal settlers were living rent-free, then obviously they were being rewarded for breaking the law, which does not give them any incentive for being the law-abiding citizens that the country needs.

What horrified many, and turned off any public sympathy for the holdover families, was their use of feces as weapons against the police. Apparently, in these confrontations throwing sticks and stones and Molotov cocktails are acceptable, but throwing feces goes beyond the pale.

I don’t know where the rest of the informal settlers who left the area went—no doubt encouraged by some financial arrangement with either the NHA or the Ayalas. But their departure most likely will be temporary—simply because the relocation sites offered to them involve unaffordable transport costs (in time and money) to their workplaces in Metro Manila. They will come back—and settle/squat somewhere else.

Which brings me to my point: If relocation sites have failed because they are too far from work areas, why do the government authorities insist on selling government land for high-end commercial/residential development rather than setting them aside for social housing projects? The government has helped informal settlers buy privately owned land through the Community Mortgage program. So why not do the same for government property?

The Quezon City property of the government that was the subject of the recent violence covers 29 hectares. Another government property, this time the FTI (Food Terminal Inc.) in Taguig, and also sold to the Ayalas, covers 79 hectares. At least a portion of these areas could have been set aside for socialized housing and for resettlement, where the working poor (hopefully chosen by lottery) would benefit. As it is now, let’s face it, it is the wealthy who will benefit. One sincerely hopes that the Quezon Institute property and the Welfareville (Mandaluyong) property of the government will not be developed for the rich but for the poor.

* * *

The other local issue that caught my attention is the matter of water rates. The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, bless its heart, has posted the costs of water in major cities in Southeast Asia, and lo and behold, we pay the third and fourth highest water bills per 15 cubic meters, following Singapore and Jakarta, with Bangkok trailing far behind us.

One recalls that the entry of the two concessionaires of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (Maynilad and Manila Water) resulted in less distribution losses, more client-households served, and definitely less cost of water paid by the poor and marginalized than when the MWSS was directly involved. Not to mention much safer water. Privatizing was definitely a plus.

What the concessionaires pay their employees or officers is none of MWSS’ business. And until I see all the data, I am not prepared to comment on whether rates should be increased or decreased.

However, if the reports are accurate about the two concessionaires passing on to their users their income tax bills, that action has to be roundly condemned. Nothing, absolutely nothing, can justify such a move. Income taxes are paid on the net income or profit of the corporation. Profit or net income is equal to total revenue minus total costs. So how can a tax on net income be a cost? Unconscionable. If indeed the reports are accurate.

Frankly, it is hard to believe that such upstanding corporate citizens like Maynilad (Pangilinan, Consunji) and Manila Water (Ayala), can be so deliberately underhanded—but there is always a first time. Moreover, that the MWSS allowed this practice to go on, apparently for the past five or six years, before blowing the whistle is equally condemnable.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 08:25 AM
Why an attempt to abolish SK in 13th Congress was unsuccessful

By Cathy C. Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:11 am | Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

An attempt to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) in the 13th Congress was nipped in the bud after the then neophyte senator who planned to file a bill to do away with the local youth legislative council backed off.

The 13th Congress was convened in the years 2004-2007.

The senator said his colleagues were hesitant to abolish the local network of supporters they could rely on during elections, forcing him to drop his plan before his staff could prepare a draft of the measure.

In an interview at the Senate on Monday, the senator, who sought anonymity because he did not want to antagonize anyone, recalled that he cited the same reasons in 2004 that a Commission on Elections official recently gave for the Comelec planning to ask Congress to abolish the SK in the current 16th Congress.

Commissioner Lucenito Tagle has said the SK had become a training ground for corruption with older politicians tutoring the budding youth leaders in the ways of taking government funds.

Tagle also said the SK was a “breeding ground for political dynasties,” where young members of political clans begin an apprenticeship up the youth legislative council ladder in preparation for higher office later.

However, Liberal Party Senators Paulo Benigno “Bam” Aquino IV and Teofisto “TG” Guingona III have expressed a preference for reforming the SK instead of abolishing it, saying the youth need a forum to air their views.

“I was doing a head count among the senators, asking their support for the abolition of the SK because, really, as early as then the institution had deteriorated into a training ground for corruption. That was mostly the experience throughout the country,” said the anonymous senator who won a first term in 2004.

He said a common observation then was that barangay (village) officials were introducing SK officers to questionable practices involving finances.

“Many of my fellow senators then were turned off. I figured that if I could not get enough signatures once the bill materialized, I would not be able to get enough signatures anyway, so I dropped the idea,” the senator said.

Bam Aquino told reporters at the Senate on Monday that he planned to file an SK reform bill that would usher in a “renaissance in youth development programs.”

Aquino said he would also want clearer definitions of the functions of the SK and the National Youth Commission (NYC), which he previously chaired.

“The NYC is responsible for policymaking on youth concerns at the national level. However, whether or not NYC policy is to be carried out by the SK is not clear. Meanwhile, the SK national president sits as ex officio member of the NYC board,” Aquino said.

Two congressmen have expressed support for abolishing the SK, with one proposing that Congress not allocate a budget for the youth council in 2014.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 08:26 AM
^^^ Could anybody list down the Top 10 SK accomplishments for the last SK term that anybody has actually heard of and from which there was derived actual, concrete, measurable benefit?

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 08:36 AM
Wasted subsidies

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:53 pm | Monday, July 8th, 2013

Subsidies to government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) are a drain on government finances and usually a waste of taxpayers’ money. It’s good to learn that such subsidies declined 16 percent to P10 billion in the first five months of 2013 from P11.95 billion a year ago. Economic officials claimed that improvements in the financial operations of some state-owned firms made them less dependent on government support.

However, the bigger picture for the past 13 years is far from desirable. From P9.06 billion in 2000, total government subsidies to GOCCs declined to P7.58 billion in 2002. But the next year, the level almost doubled to P14.98 billion. This stayed near this figure in the following years until it surged again to P27.34 billion in 2007. The worst was in 2011 when subsidies to state firms peaked at P53.7 billion. Last year, total subsidies to GOCCs amounted to P42.64 billion.

There is more than enough literature to show that public corporations generally perform poorly compared to private corporations. A World Bank study as early as 1995 identified three reasons why this is so: No one has a clear stake in generating positive returns because there was no single identifiable owner (many departments or agencies may run a particular GOCC); many state-owned companies have multiple or conflicting objectives (a corporation may be formed to lower the price of a socially sensitive good but is expected to maximize its returns); and access to subsidies, transfers and guaranteed loans created a moral hazard such that there was no incentive to be efficient since there was no threat of bankruptcy.

The Senate’s economic planning office also did a substantive study on the government corporate sector in 2006 with help from the United Nations Development Program. The study, which covered the period 1999-2004, found that the often conflicting goals of promoting consumer welfare and financial viability were present in the charters of many GOCCs. The Light Rail Transit Authority, for example, was mandated to provide efficient mass transport system in Metro Manila. However, its fare structure was considered one of the lowest in Southeast Asia, not because it was efficiently managed, but because it was heavily subsidized. Another was the Local Water Utilities Administration, which was tasked to review the tariffs that water districts imposed on consumers. However, citing a 2005 World Bank report, it said revenues of several water districts were not enough to allow cost recovery largely because tariff increases have been hostage to political interventions.

The National Irrigation Administration was tasked with the construction, operation and maintenance of irrigation systems nationwide. It collected irrigation service fees (ISF) to cover operation and maintenance expenses as well as construction costs. But the Senate study noted that the actual ISF covered only operations and maintenance. As a result, NIA consistently registered losses during the entire period of the study.

Another major user of subsidies, the National Food Authority, was tasked to ensure adequate and continuous supply of food items at affordable prices. Its chief mandate was to procure grains at a price that would give farmers a fair return on their investment and make the price of rice affordable to low-income families. True to its mandate, the study noted that the average procurement price of NFA grain was 9 percent higher than the market price, and the average NFA rice was 18 percent cheaper than ordinary rice. As such, NFA was likewise in the red for the duration of the study period. Other similar examples were the Philippine National Railways, National Electrification Administration, and National Housing Authority.

It’s time to make a drastic move to end subsidies to GOCCs that do not deserve them. Subsidies to state-owned agencies like the NFA have also been a major source of corruption. One way is to sell or let go of those that can be run more efficiently by the private sector. The government has succeeded in this endeavor by privatizing the power-generation sector of National Power Corp. and the water supply system of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System.

Every year, the government promises to cut the amount of subsidies extended to GOCCs as part of efforts to put the country’s fiscal house in order and to push companies to improve their operations. Subsidies extended to state-owned firms that do not deserve them mean less funds for social services like education and health care. It’s time to stop this wastage.

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 09:36 AM
Political will, political capital

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:49 pm | Monday, July 8th, 2013

I often point out that some of the most critical policy reforms for achieving broad-based and widely beneficial (i.e., inclusive) economic growth have long been known and well understood. Our policymakers have simply failed consistently to get them done through the years. I have seen too many policy prescriptions widely acknowledged for decades to be crucial, yet continuing to remain just that: as prescriptions that never become actual policies. This is because the key policymakers in both the legislative and executive branches of government simply could not muster the political will to go against the enemies of reform, who have vested interests to protect. In many instances, the policymakers are co-opted by the same vested interests, in a political and electoral system wherein the golden rule (“he who holds the gold makes the rules”) prevails.

Some of my readers, knowing that I was once upon a time the country’s chief economic planner, fault me for supposedly not having done many of the things I write about now. Alas, planners hardly control policy, especially where populist or rent-seeking politicians can readily thwart evidence-based policy directions set by studious technocrats. Indeed, it is not uncommon for us to hear that we have some of the best-laid plans, but it is in their implementation that we fall apart. A former colleague in government once told me that we should be happy enough to take one step backward if we can take two steps forward. In my experience and observation, though, we have taken far too many backward steps that were not matched by offsetting forward steps.

Many of the long-recognized but unheeded reforms are well known. One such reform long called for is the easing or repeal of the age-old Cabotage Law, which prohibits foreign shipping lines from ferrying goods between two domestic ports. For decades, we have been lamenting how it is much more costly to ship goods between Mindanao and Manila than between Bangkok or Singapore and Manila. Even more appalling is the fact that it is more expensive to transport goods directly between two domestic ports than between the same two domestic ports via an international port. For example, a 2010 study documented that it costs US$1,860 to transport goods in a 40-foot container directly from Manila to Cagayan de Oro. But transporting it first via Kaohsiung in Taiwan would reduce the shipping costs to only US$1,144, or US$716 less! The clear implication is that domestic shippers are charging much more than what would prevail if international shippers could compete directly with them on domestic routes. Inasmuch as transport and logistics costs comprise from 24 to 44 percent of the wholesale price of commodities, the higher cost of domestic shipping due to lack of competition penalizes most of us Filipinos. And yet we have allowed this situation to persist for decades, in the name of protecting our domestic shipping industry—never mind how inefficient and costly it might have been. Nationalism is hardly the word for this; I’d call it masochistic xenophobia. The same self-injuring attitude is at work as we continue refusing to open our skies more freely to foreign airlines, in the name of “reciprocity” for our domestic carriers. In effect, we are depriving ourselves of millions of likely additional foreign tourists, and a corresponding number of tourism-related jobs—even as we have over 3 million jobless Filipinos, and many more with inadequate jobs—to protect the interests of a few. And I always thought that good policymaking meant seeking the greatest good for the greatest number.

There has been much discussion lately about the long-debated need to ease the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership in certain key industries including education, mass media and public utilities. Such restrictions have not only restricted foreign firms from bringing in job-creating investments. They have also prevented them from contesting tightly controlled markets traditionally cornered by domestic oligopolists, thereby restricting competition that could otherwise spur higher quality and lower prices. Such foreign ownership restrictions have long been abandoned by most of our progressive neighbors and economic peers, which now have high employment rates and more equitable and broadly based economies to show for it. As we work for a long-needed competition policy law to promote healthy competition within the economy, we need to complete the picture by also enabling competition from without.

President Aquino’s great political capital gives him a unique opportunity to push desired constitutional amendments (and resist undesirable ones) with the least resistance. Ironically, he argues that constitutional amendments are not essential to achieving high rates of economic growth, citing our recent growth record. But he is just as bothered that the benefits of brisk growth are largely reaped by the wealthy few, and fail to reach the wide masses of Filipinos. Granting that easing foreign ownership restrictions may not be essential to rapid economic growth, the more relevant question could well be: Is more inclusive growth likely without it? Barriers to entry in key sectors of the economy, whether from within or without, have perpetuated what analysts call “elite capture” and the persistent failure of the benefits of growth to trickle down to ordinary Filipinos.

President Quezon once declared that he’d rather have our country “run like hell” by Filipinos (than run like heaven by foreigners). But in the economy, his rationale (“we can always change them”) doesn’t quite hold: the dominant players cannot simply be voted out.

* * *

Sam Miguel
07-09-2013, 09:50 AM
Lawmakers call for passage of bills on SK abolition

By Paolo Romero

(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Administration lawmakers have called for swift action on pending bills in the House of Representatives on reforming or abolishing the Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) as the barangay elections are set to be held on Oct. 28.

The SK is a barangay-based youth government whose members are elected along with barangay officials.

Over a dozen bills on abolishing or reorganizing the SK were filed during the 15th Congress and remain docked in the House committees on revision of laws, youth, and on local government.

The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is reportedly planning to formally ask the 16th Congress to approve a measure abolishing the SK.

Caloocan City Rep. Edgar Erice and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento in separate statements called on the pertinent committees to immediately act on the measures once they are refiled.

Erice, who earlier branded the SK as the “school of corruption,” said abolishing the youth group before the barangay elections in October will save government at least P1.1 billion in election expenses.

About 42,000 seats for SK chairperson and 300,000 seats for SK council will be up for grabs in the polls.

“The billion-peso budget can be reverted to the national treasury and re-allocated to increase appropriations for new school buildings,” he said.

He suggested that his colleagues start conducting dialogues with barangay and SK officials on the matter so the committees can have their inputs this early.

Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo earlier proposed the scrapping of the budget for SK as an item in the overall barangay budget, saying this would stop corruption in the youth organization.

He said the SK’s corruption emanates from its leaders’ access to public funds and that “a budget-less SK would be the appropriate antidote for that.”

Earlier, election lawyer Romulo Macalintal called for the abolition of SK on the belief that it is not serving its purpose of providing the youth with political training.

Macalintal claimed that most of those running for SK posts are children of politicians, worsening the problem on political dynasties.

He also cautioned that many SK officials have also been exposed to mishandling of budget and the practice of regular politicians not to accept defeat during elections.

The Comelec shared Macalintal’s opinion and the poll body might come out with a resolution urging President Aquino to ask legislators to postpone the conduct of SK elections scheduled simultaneously with the barangay polls on Oct. 28.

The Comelec expects that through the postponement, it will be proven that the country can do without the SK, thus leading to its abolition.

Quezon City Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte expressed support yesterday to the call from various sectors to abolish the SK, but she maintained that the government should ensure that the youth is properly represented in the policymaking process of the government.

“I support the abolition of Sangguniang Kabataan in its present setup. But we have to make sure that there are venues for the youth to participate in policymaking,” she said.

Belmonte said she believes the need for youth participation in the government, but noted that the present SK setup is far from the ideal way through which the younger generation could actively take part.

She said there are different local special bodies such as the Barangay Development Council or the City Development Council where the youth can actively participate in government.

“We have managed to empower senior citizens, women’s groups, LGBTs (lesbians, gays, bisexual and transgender) and PWDs (persons with disabilities) and other sectors in this way, so why not the youth?” she added.

Instead of SK, Belmonte said the government should make it mandatory for the youth to be represented in various local councils where they can push their agenda without the need to allot them huge amounts of money.

According to Belmonte, the budget allotted to the SK in the present setup exposes the youth to traditional politics, which might affect their idealism.

“Often, they (youth) are used as pawns by those around them whom they look to for advice, in order to access the huge amounts of public funds representing the SK budget for personal gain,” Belmonte added.

Reform, not abolish SK

Sen. JV Ejercito said that instead of abolishing the SK he proposed to reform the system to make it more responsive to the present times.

Ejercito told reporters during the weekly Kapihan sa Diamond Hotel in Manila that abolishing the SK is not logical.

“If there is a problem in the SK we should reform it rather than abolish it just like that. Shutting it down completely takes away the voice of the youth and robs them their privilege to perform community service,” he said.

The senator said he is proposing a bill, dubbed as the “Sangguniang Kabataan Empowerment Act of 2013,” which seeks to reform and correct the flaws in the SK.

Meanwhile, poll watchdog Consortium on Electoral Reforms (CER) said calls to abolish the SK should be studied carefully because the system is needed to train the youth for governance.

CER executive director Ramon Casiple said that while SK has not resulted in any “substantial change” in the country’s politics, its outright abolition is uncalled for.

“I don’t agree that it should be abolished outright. We first have to review it and then make the necessary corrections. Whether we like it or not, we need that kind of institution to train our youth on politics, especially now that we don’t have a genuine political party system,” he added.– With Sheila Crisostomo, Janvic Mateo, Perseus Echeminada

Sam Miguel
07-10-2013, 09:17 AM
Bongbong Marcos Blew It

By Gemma Rita R. Marin

12:21 am | Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

The rainy season has begun, certain to be followed by typhoons and floods. Two episodes of heavy rains and resultant floods in fact occurred in Metro Manila last month. Horrendous traffic followed, commuters were stranded, those who could not wait to reach home waded through the waters, oblivious to the possibility of contracting diseases and infections.

From experience, we can expect another 18 typhoons with strong winds and rains, and similar occurrences of floods and landslides in different parts of the country, which always lead to sickness and destruction of life and property.

It’s interesting how the blame for these yearly adversities can be passed so easily from one to another. We hear private citizens attributing the floods to informal settlers who build their shanties along waterways, preventing the waters from flowing freely out to the sea. Informal settlers hold the government accountable for failing to provide them with proper relocation sites and in-city housing or resettlement programs. Government officials from the legislative and executive branches, whether national or local, throw back the blame to their colleagues for the poor implementation of these housing and infrastructure projects.

Sen. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., for instance, recently came out with the following statement: “It really boils down to the simple fact that since ‘Pepeng’ and ‘Ondoy,’ we have done absolutely nothing to fix the flooding.” At a Senate press briefing last month, he exhorted the national and local governments to become more proactive than reactive to the perennial problem of flooding. He mentioned the lack of new spillways and pumping stations, as well as of a program of reforestation surrounding the city. Then he said: “We don’t have a proper land use plan. What land use plan we have is not being implemented. We have to understand what every piece of land we have to use.”

Unless the good senator is suffering from occasional or selective amnesia, how can he not remember that he was the one who blocked the passage of a national land use policy in the last Congress?

Senate Bill 3091, also known as the National Land Use Act or NLUA, was ready for third reading in January of this year. During the last week of the Senate sessions and before the campaign period for national and local elections began in February, the bill reverted to second-reading status because Senators Frank Drilon, Bongbong Marcos and Manny Villar expressed their intention to introduce amendments. Senator Drilon dutifully presented his four proposed amendments, which Sen. Gringo Honasan, the Senate champion and main sponsor of the bill, readily accepted. Senator Marcos, on the other hand, begged the indulgence of the body because he and his staff were not ready to present their individual amendments. Senator Villar was nowhere to be found in the session hall.

On the final day of session, it was Senator Marcos’ turn to be absent. Thus, there was no way that the 53 amendments reportedly crafted by real estate development institutions led by the Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association or Creba, and coursed through Senator Marcos, could be presented. Consequently, Majority Floor Leader Tito Sotto moved that discussions on the bill be suspended for resumption in June.

Land use does not seem to be as controversial as the reproductive health and mining issues, but none of the bills proposing to enact a national land use policy filed since the 9th Congress in 1994 has ever been passed. Both chambers of Congress have always paid lip service to the passage of a national land use policy. In the 15th Congress, more than 70 representatives, or about one-third of the House, coauthored the bill on land use, while practically all the senators authored the Senate version. Yet the bill on a National Land Use Act continues to languish in the legislature, as it has done so for decades, and for the last seven congresses.

Countless lives have been claimed and properties destroyed because housing projects were erected on danger zones, while prime agricultural lands and food production areas were either converted into residential, commercial/industrial use or declared as mining sites. How many more properties and lives will it take and will be sacrificed before the lawmakers come to realize the significance of proper land use?

“We are all in government. We’re all to blame. We should be doing something about it. It will take the effort of many entities to get this right. Let’s fix the problem, not the blame,” Senator Marcos asserted. But he had the chance to fix it in the last Congress—and blew that chance.

The Filipino people hope and trust that along with his colleagues in the Senate, Senator Marcos will help prevent the perennial problems of flooding, outbreak of diseases, loss of life and property from recurring by finally passing the National Land Use Act in this 16th Congress.

Gemma Rita R. Marin is executive director of the John J. Carroll Institute on Church and Social Issues and head of its Rural Development Program.

Sam Miguel
07-10-2013, 09:56 AM
Time to abolish the Sangguniang Kabataan

INTROSPECTIVE

By Tony Katigbak

(The Philippine Star) | Updated July 10, 2013 - 12:00am

In theory, the Sangguniang Kabataan serves a very noble purpose. It was created to serve as a training ground for the country’s future leaders. It was a place where those who wanted to learn about politics might enter to enrich their skills and learn what it would take to become a future leader of the nation.

Over the years though, as what often happens with a once-noble purpose, the Sangguniang Kabataan has been twisted and turned into something that is no longer in unison with its original purpose. It has become as open to graft and corruption as the government itself, and instead of fostering future good leaders, it only seems to teach the youth about the corruption that exists in the government at a very early age.

I think that in the last couple of years the purity and purpose of the SK has been something that not everyone believed in anymore. However, it remained important for the youth to feel they have a voice so that they remained interested in their government and how the country was being run. Over the weekend, Caloocan Rep. Edgardo Erice proposed an amendment that would, in effect, abolish the SK, something he had originally proposed while he was in his first term in office.

I read about this news over the weekend and I could not help but agree with his line of thinking. It just seems ridiculous to keep an institution around that is no longer serving its purpose. Unless drastic changes are made to return the so-called innocence of the SK, there really is no need to keep it around.

Other than just churning out younger corrupt future politicians, the SK has also been known to be the training ground for political dynasties, a place where politician families can put their kids to “learn about” politics until they are of age and can take over the family business. This seems rather unfair to those who truly want to run for the SK because of a genuine interest in politics and serving the people. They stand no chance running against candidates who are backed by their political families. It’s just another place for politicians to gain a stronger foothold.

As mentioned by Erice, who himself had been a part of the Sangguniang Kabataan when he was younger, when he was in it there was absolutely no budget allotted for the youth group. The group was pure volunteerism and those who joined did it out of a sincere desire to learn and they worked on programs that directly benefitted them. It was very different from the current way the group is set up.

They are now a “logical first choice target for local politicians seeking a higher position.” Because of this SK leaders are truly exposed to the ugly side of politics at a very young age and instead of inspiration are being disillusioned and even jaded by the system instead of striving to find ways to improve it and better it.

Of course, the idea of abolishing the SK is also having its fair share of opposition. There are those who claim that the importance of the group is still the same – and that is giving the youth a voice in the government and teaching them about politics at a young age thereby helping them understand how the government works. With this mission I wholeheartedly agree, however, that is not what is happening now.

The Caloocan Representative went on to say that he understood the importance of having a youth voice and suggested instead the organization of a Barangay Youth Council headed by the youngest elected Sangguniang Barangay member with four chairmen appointed. They will tackle topics directly related to the youth including education, sports, environment, and culture and the arts.

I can see the merits of his suggestions and I think it would be a good first step in cleansing youth politics and keeping them focused on what really matters – building a better nation for themselves and their generation. As is, there are both pros and cons to abolishing the SK, but in the end we have to ask ourselves which is the path that will lead to more future growth and development.

While the concept of the Sangguniang Kabataan is noble, it is not being executed properly. It can’t be denied that it is a training ground for political dynasties and more and more political names are being put in the SK than possible future leaders who may not come from as prestigious a legacy but who are more than capable of serving. Plus, there is a substantial allocation of funds to the SK. If these are not being run correctly, the funds will surely not also be used the best possible way.

At the same time though, should the group be abolished, how would the funding be used in a way that it will still serve its intended purpose? That is a serious question that needs to be addressed as well. In an ideal world, the best way to approach this problem is to institute reforms and safeguards. I think the Barangay Youth Council is a good idea in the right direction. The government can also earmark the SK funds for youth related projects in their districts — such as school renovations, park and sports center buildings, and arts and culture programs for the youth. I think, in general, that is what these funds are for, but due to the nature of politics sometimes earmarking is not the same as actual budget implementation.

Another idea given by the Representative of Quezon City is to continue on the SK but with zero budget. Give the youth their organization to learn about politics and make their suggestions within their barangays but don’t include money or budget in the process. He claimed that the SK’s corruption comes from its leaders’ access to public funds. A budget-less SK might be the antidote for such corruption. It’s a very radical reform, but something that may also work. Without budget, the SK would return to the purity it formerly had because the young leaders’ elders — politicians, barangay leaders, and etc would not be tempted to interfere.

Personally, I am not entirely sure about which road is the best one to take at this point, but I do agree that changes need to be made. This is no longer something we can just ignore. The longer it goes on, the harder it will be to fix. Whether this is something that can be address before the elections in October is something only time will tell. Although for the amendment to just come in now is cutting it quite close though I must admit.

Sam Miguel
07-15-2013, 08:34 AM
P10-B racket a good reason to stop pork barrel

By Neal H. Cruz

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:41 pm | Sunday, July 14th, 2013

The P10-billion racket being investigated by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is one more reason why the pork barrel system should be abolished. One of the sources of the billions of pesos allegedly stolen by the JLN Group of Companies is the pork barrel of senators and congressmen. Others are special funds such as the Malampaya Fund and the Fertilizer Fund of the Department of Agriculture.

“As long as government is there, there is money,” the alleged mastermind, Janet Lim Napoles, reportedly told her employees. I would like to add: As long as the pork barrel is there, there would be graft.

As narrated in Sunday’s issue of the Inquirer, the modus operandi is very easy and simple. By just using the names of bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and foundations as well as of bogus recipients, and by forging the signatures of local government officials, the JLN companies were able to collect from the government P10 billion in almost a decade of operations.

The scam begins when a JLN official or employee (usually Napoles herself) approaches a senator or congressman to buy his/her pork barrel allocation, camouflaged as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), for which the legislator is paid 50 to 60 percent of the amount of allocation, as kickback or commission.

(Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and then Rep. Rene Velarde of Buhay Partylist were the first to be named by the Commission on Audit among legislators whose pork allocations were the source of funds allegedly rechanneled to bogus NGOs but were encashed and given to Napoles herself.)

A JLN team prepares a list of beneficiaries of fictitious NGOs and foundations, from which the legislator chooses. The Department of Budget and Management then prepares the Special Allotment Release Order. The JLN team then makes a list of individual beneficiaries, all fictitious. The team prepares all the paperwork, forging all the signatures.

When the check is released, it is deposited in the bank account of the bogus NGO beneficiary. After the check is cleared, the money would be withdrawn and the cash delivered in suitcases to Napoles herself. It is not yet known where the money goes after this.

The modus operandi proves that not only should the pork barrel system be discontinued but that the government should be strict in accepting and registering NGOs and foundations, as well as partylists.

At present, it is very easy to register NGOs and foundations and partylists. All one has to do is: concoct a name for an NGO or a partylist; claim what sector it represents and its intended beneficiaries; and come up with a list of officials (JLN had its employees as officials of its bogus NGOs), and he/she is in business. It is no secret that some party lists, whose nominees are sitting in the present Congress, are bogus. Jo Christine Napoles, the eldest daughter of Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged mastermind, may sit in the House of Representatives as nominee of the OFW Family Club, of which former Ambassador Roy Señeres is the first nominee.

Everybody knows that the pork barrel system is a principal source of graft and corruption. It corrupts a long line of people—from legislators to contractors to district engineers, treasurers, clerks, down the line. It weakens the moral fiber of the people.

On top of that, the government loses tens of billions of pesos because of it; money taken away from its people in the form of services.

Abolish the pork barrel and you eliminate half of the source of corruption.

President Aquino made the people believe, during the campaign and after his inauguration, that his priority is to fight corruption.

He can easily do that by not including in his budget proposal the PDAF or pork barrel. Congress cannot put it there because it is prohibited from adding to what Malacañang has proposed. Congress can only remove or reduce funding enumerated in the budget proposal.

It is that easy to eliminate at least half of the graft and corruption that has been bedeviling the nation for decades. Yet year after year, president after president sends to Congress budget proposals for the PDAF. And Congress, quickly, happily, and greedily passes the PDAF budget.

I am sure that President Aquino, the self-proclaimed nemesis of graft and corruption, has again submitted to Congress a budget for next year that includes the hated PDAF.

Why do the presidents do it? Because it is a means of making the legislators do what the president wants. Cooperative legislators get their pork allocations quickly; uncooperative ones don’t get theirs as quickly. The pork is a sort of carrot-and-stick for the legislators. In short, the pork is a bribe by the President to members of Congress. Because of the pork, presidents, including President Aquino, are guilty of bribery. Giving bribes is a form of corruption, ’di ba President Noynoy? So why are you doing it?

Mr. President, please stop this source of corruption once and for all, as you promised. Withdraw the budget for the PDAF. There are very good reasons for doing it. Let that be your legacy to the nation. Your presidency will be remembered for that, if not for anything else.

Sam Miguel
07-16-2013, 09:48 AM
Revilla accuses Palace of ‘demolition job’

By Cathy C. Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:17 am | Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. on Monday accused Malacañang of linking him to the alleged irregular use of more than P1 billion of his pork barrel over the past 10 years, saying it was part of efforts to discredit “nonallied” potential candidates for President in 2016.

“They are trying to destroy my name just because there are people who are asking me to run [for President] in 2016,” Revilla said in Filipino in an e-mailed statement.

Revilla did not mince words when he blamed Malacañang for the Inquirer report identifying him, four other senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives as those who supposedly allowed bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to use their pork barrel for nonexistent projects.

“Why are they trying to demolish us in this trial by publicity? Suspiciously, only nonallies of the administration are being dragged into this controversy,” said the senator who headed the once-powerful Lakas-CMD.

Revilla challenged probers to investigate how all senators, including allies of President Aquino, used their priority development assistance fund (PDAF), a pork barrel for members of Congress.

Each senator is allotted P200 million in PDAF yearly and each House member, P70 million for their pet projects.

An Inquirer report said Revilla had authorized a web of NGOs referred to as JLN Corp., allegedly led by Janet Lim-Napoles, to gain access to his pork barrel in 22 instances.

Apart from Revilla, other senators named in an ongoing probe by the National Bureau of Investigation were Juan Ponce Enrile (21 instances of PDAF access), Jinggoy Estrada (18), Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. (4) and Gregorio Honasan (once).

Object of witch-hunt

Revilla said he had received information that he would be the object of a witch-hunt by the administration.

“I have already been warned by someone in Malacañang that I could be a target. This is it. This controversy has been engineered by the administration for only one purpose—to demolish the opposition, especially those who enjoy the popular support of our people,” he said.

Revilla, whose second term in the Senate ends in 2016, has long been rumored to be considering a run for the presidency. The Constitution bars senators from seeking a third term.

In fact, there is talk in the Senate that he and Marcos would team up in 2016 when Marcos’ first six-year term ends.

Both senators have denied the rumors although Marcos once hinted at plans to seek a higher post in a recent news conference.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said allegations against him and four other senators were politically motivated.

“Any allegations [or] insinuations of irregularity must be backed up by evidence in the proper courts of law subject to due process and not politically motivated, suspicious or malicious trial by publicity,” he said in a text message.

In separate statements, Revilla, Honasan and Marcos all said they were willing to cooperate with investigators as they had nothing to hide.

Honasan insisted that all records regarding the use of his PDAF “are subject to accounting and auditing procedures according to law … The records of my office are transparent and open for public scrutiny.”

Honasan also said the issue underscored the need for a freedom of information bill and reminded Malacañang that he was the one who sponsored the version passed on third and final reading in the 15th Congress.

Revilla said he welcomed an investigation but it must be “fair and objective.”

“I have always been transparent and accountable … I have a clear conscience and I am saddened because politics is destroying the name that I have long protected,” Revilla said.

Marcos said he was “more than eager to cooperate” with investigators and added that he had never been acquainted with Napoles.

Revilla noted that all those named in the NBI investigation were neither members of the administration’s Liberal Party (LP) nor of other political groups allied with it.

Revilla added that the police officers who surrounded his Cavite home while he was being guarded by NBI confidential agents a few months ago bolstered his charges against Malacañang.

“In the last elections, more than 120 armed men of my political opponents in Cavite who are administration allies surrounded our house and put me and my family in danger,” he said, obviously referring to erstwhile Cavite Gov. Ayong Maliksi, an LP member.

At that time, Revilla’s son Jolo was running for vice governor.

“By means of intimidation, they tried to forcibly enter my house even without a warrant,” the senator said, referring to members of the Philippine National Police.

“And because they failed in Cavite, they found another way to pressure me,” Revilla said.

‘Mere allegations’

Revilla also complained about how “mere allegations” aired by Napoles’ estranged colleagues “have been treated as fact in the public eye, especially since the so-called whistle-blowers have openly admitted that it was they who forged and falsified documents to carry out their scheme.”

Earlier reports said Benhur Luy, Napoles’ former employee, admitted helping her in carrying out her scheme by opening bank accounts from which pork barrel funds given by legislators were withdrawn.

Affidavits submitted by Luy and other potential witnesses were used to build the case against Napoles.

“If what the affidavits say is true, we too are victims of this anomaly. The executive branch has the responsibility to ensure that public funds were properly spent,” Revilla said.

The senator said he wanted the NBI to release the affidavits on which the Inquirer reports were based.

“The allocation of our [PDAF is] subject to existing government rules and regulations. The release of funds [is] solely handled by the implementing agencies and the executive branch,” he said.

“This demolition job is a sad commentary on the state of Philippine politics … If it is true that this has been going on for

10 years, why expose it now and in a newspaper?” he added.

‘Political angle’

Late afternoon on Monday, Marcos sent an e-mailed statement broaching the possibility of a “political angle” in the effort to link him to the PDAF scam.

“I am eager to participate in any investigation, which will reveal the truth of this matter. I am also exploring the possibility that there may be a political angle to all this in the light of the upcoming presidential election in 2016,” he added.

Marcos said that after the PDAF report came out, he and his staff had reviewed the procedures his office was following in its release.

“My office receives an average of 300 requests a month to fund various projects from local government units (LGUs). From these requests I choose which project to fund generally based on my legislative agenda,” he noted.

Marcos said the amounts of PDAF given to all projects were compiled in a list and given to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) “for review and endorsement to the relevant government agencies for implementation.”

He said that in the last three years, projects using his PDAF were implemented by various departments, LGUs and state colleges and universities.

Marcos argued that the disbursement and implementation of the PDAF “is a function and responsibility of the DBM and the implementing government agencies.”

“A senator’s role in this process is merely to identify the projects to be funded, the amount allocated to these projects as well as the beneficiary LGUs,” he said.

Enrile, meanwhile, urged the Commission on Audit (COA) to release in full the special audit of all senators’ PDAF to aid the NBI and the Department of Justice in their investigation.

Enrile maintained that his office “consistently abides by all the issuances and guidelines” of the DBM in connection with the use of PDAF and that all releases of his PDAF “are part of public record.”

The senator complained he and the four others had been “accused, tried and judged in the media and before the public of having pocketed public funds … but not given the opportunity at all by any official agency to defend ourselves … in any manner consistent with justice and due process.”

Enrile said he did not know Napoles and that he did not receive “any bribe or financial benefit” from any of the NGOs linked to her.

Enrile also noted that the NBI effort on Napoles was not the first time that he, Revilla and Estrada were linked to a reported scam in connection with the PDAF.

A few months back, a COA report implicated the three senators in another scam in which a total of P195 million of their pork was allegedly released to an NGO and used for ghost projects.

Sam Miguel
07-16-2013, 09:49 AM
Santiago proposes independent probe panel

By Gil C. Cabacungan and Cathy C. Yamsuan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:15 am | Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Go on leave while an independent panel formed by President Aquino and made up of retired magistrates determines your culpability.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago offered this unsolicited advice to five senators linked to the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam involving a network of bogus people’s organizations and ghost projects set up by Janet Lim-Napoles.

“Out of delicadeza, the five senators should go on leave to erase any doubt that they might use their power or their money to pressure the investigators,” Santiago said.

She described Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Gregorio Honasan II as “persons of interest” who allegedly funneled a combined P2.358 billion of their pork barrel into ghost projects in exchange for kickbacks of at least 50 percent from fictitious NGOs set up by Napoles.

“I was not only extremely angry that they have sullied the name of the institution which I am associated with. I felt the bottom has fallen out of my world because of the amounts involved,” Santiago said.

Also on Monday, Sen. Francis Escudero filed a resolution calling for a “full-blown investigation” by the Senate blue ribbon committee of the allege misuse of pork—formally known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF)—once the 16th Congress opens for business next week.

But Sen. Franklin Drilon, touted as the next Senate President, shot down the proposal, saying the probe was better left to the National Bureau of Investigation because the Senate investigating a case that involved its members would reek of conflict of interest.

Escudero, however, argued that “accountability and transparency dictate that this report be quizzically looked into … to show that neither sacred cows nor the notion of an ‘old boys club’ exists in a government working for change.”

He said the public perception that the PDAF was spent with “neither constraints nor accountability” was damaging. A senator is entitled to P200 million in PDAF every year and a member of the House of Representatives, P70 million for their pet projects.

Honasan

Honasan said he would rather wait first for the report that the NBI would file before heeding Santiago’s suggestion.

“In the interest of justice, fairness, transparency and public interest, any call for a leave of absence, resignation or inhibition among pubic officials mentioned must be considered only after all records of (special allotment release orders) from the (budget department) are made public (including) the local government units and beneficiaries,” Honasan said in a text message.

Prima facie evidence

In an interview with reporters, Santiago said the eyewitness accounts of and affidavits executed by whistle-blowers who had worked for Napoles constituted prima facie evidence against Revilla, Enrile, Estrada, Marcos and Honasan.

She cited Revilla who authorized the use of P1 billion of his pork barrel for 22 projects over the past 10 years.

“If the allegation is correct, he must have received one half of P1 billion, or P500 million. They are presumed innocent, but under our justice system presumption of innocence does not prevent government from investigating a complaint,” the senator said.

In addressing the alleged scam, Santiago said the main problem was to decide the body that would probe the five senators—the Office of the Ombudsman, the Department of Justice or their peers in the ethics committee.

“A senator cannot be impeached. A senator cannot be charged in the Ombudsman because under the Ombudsman Act, the Ombudsman has no jurisdiction over senators. A senator can be subjected to preliminary investigation by the prosecution service under the Department of Justice. But the justice secretary, being a Cabinet member, is always solicitous of the desires and wishes of a senator, for fear that they might concoct an investigation against her, or they might cut off her budgetary appropriation,” Santiago said.

‘Futile route’

She said the Senate committee on ethics and privileges might investigate a senator for improper behavior and might even impose the penalty of removal from office.

“But the empirical history shows that senators are loathe to investigate their fellow senators, much less expel their colleague. So that would be a futile route,” Santiago said.

Ameurfina, Flerida Ruth

She said that this would leave the President with no choice but to create an independent panel just like “the practice of the American president, who appoints a public prosecutor to handle the prosecution of egregious scams and scandals in government.”

She suggested that panel be composed of three members “who are beyond the reach of politicians,” preferably former Supreme Court Justices such as Ameurfina Melencio Herrera and Flerida Ruth Romero.

She said the most depressing aspect of the scandal was the involvement of former Senate President Enrile himself who granted the second-biggest amount of pork barrel to fake NGOs and “considering his (Enrile) posture that he is a legal expert and fond of the wisdom of the old.”

“He might be old but it has been (shown) he has no wisdom,” Santiago said.

Drilon said he would propose that the PDAF be used only for social services such as medical assistance for indigent patients and the construction of school buildings.

“It is best to let the NBI do its job. We cannot investigate ourselves because whatever the results would be, people would not believe it,” he said.

Sam Miguel
07-16-2013, 09:51 AM
Belmonte has no plans to scrap pork

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:13 am | Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

Despite the scandal stemming from the investigation of a racket involving P10 billion in pork, Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte will not let go of the much-maligned program just yet.

Expected to be elected again as Speaker of the House of Representatives in the 16th Congress, Belmonte told reporters on Monday that the pork barrel, officially called Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), had many safeguards that could be implemented to ensure that funds were spent properly.

There are areas in the country that do not get enough funds from the national budget and will benefit from the lawmakers’ pork, Belmonte said.

But Belmonte also said that he wanted the House to look at all the documents and data that the authorities had on the alleged pork scam so that it could determine if it should proceed with an investigation.

“Whether this is true or not true, there is a need to keep on tightening the rules to make sure the uses (of pork) really benefit the people,” Belmonte said.

“[T]he issue of everybody knows where it’s spent, and the issue of accountability… these are the ends we would like to do,” he said.

He added that he was in favor of the “100 percent” scrutiny of the PDAF to see how it is used, of the House periodically upgrading or improving the ways to spend the money, and of making the whole thing open to the public.

Abolish pork

Sen. Franklin Drilon has proposed the abolition of the pork barrel amid allegations that lawmakers had channeled their allocations to fictitious projects through bogus NGOs.

Many of the representatives linked to the pork scam are no longer members of the House.

One incumbent on the list of lawmakers allegedly involved is Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, who denied having had any dealings with the group allegedly behind the scam.

Rodriguez said on Monday that he never had any dealings with JLN Corp. or its owner, Janet Lim-Napoles, or any of her representatives.

He said his pork went to the Technology Livelihood Resources Center for livelihood projects, which were implemented in his district. The projects include soap and jewelry making, he said.

“The use of my funds is an open book. It has been given and it has been implemented,” he said.

Rodriguez said he favored the investigation of the pork scam.

Belmonte said the Department of Budget and Management was already tightening the rules for the pork barrel’s use. For instance, lawmakers can only choose to fund projects listed on a menu prepared by the department, he said.

Support for abolition

But ACT Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said it was high time for Congress to abolish the pork barrel, but acknowledged the abolition would be difficult, as there would surely be strong opposition in the House.

Still, he said, the extent of the magnitude of the alleged scam is a good argument for abolishing the pork barrel.

“This P10-billion PDAF scam makes the notorious P700-million fertilizer fund scandal during the Arroyo administration look like petty thievery. The magnitude of the alleged plunder involving JLN Corp. and a large number of legislators in both chambers of Congress has outraged the nation and shown that the PDAF is a corrupting mechanism that is beyond repair,” Tinio said in a statement.

Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) Director General Joel Villanueva, formerly a party-list representative, said he did not get a single cent of his pork allocation during the Arroyo administration so he could not have been involved in the alleged scam.

Villanueva urged the National Bureau of Investigation to dig deeper to find out who forged his signature in the documents that implicated him.

Villanueva was Cibac representative for nine years until 2010, when he was appointed by President Aquino to head Tesda.

Lawmakers involved

According to the NBI probe, 28 lawmakers—five senators and 23 representatives—allegedly authorized dummy NGOs put up by Napoles to use their pork allocations for phantom projects over the last 10 years.

Abono party-list Rep. Conrado Estrella III on Monday admitted meeting Napoles, but he denied having taken part in any of her projects.

Estrella, a former representative of Pangasinan’s sixth district, said he was introduced to Napoles only recently, and met her on at least two occasions.

“But I have no association with her. I see her sometimes and we just exchange hellos. I did not know that she was associated with the foundations mentioned in the papers,” he said.

Estrella said he did not release his pork allocation to any NGO, adding that it was government agencies that implemented his projects.

COA report questioned

He said that three years ago, he questioned a Commission on Audit (COA) report that indicated he had endorsed certain foundations as project implementers.

“I didn’t endorse any foundation. I dealt directly with the agency. Why should I deal with the foundation when I knew the secretary, I knew the undersecretaries themselves? I knew them personally and I had the personality to deal with them,” Estrella said.

“I looked at the signatures in the papers given by COA and the signatures were not mine. I did not endorse [the projects]. My signatures were forged,” he said.

A list furnished the Inquirer indicated that Estrella released some P97 million in 2009 and 2010 to various NGOs to implement projects in the towns in Pangasinan’s sixth district.

The NGOs, however, turned out to be bogus and the money ended in the bank account of JLN Corp.

Estrella said the signature of his brother, Robert Raymund, then representative of Abono, was also forged. Robert Raymund reportedly channeled P41 million to bogus NGOs.

Similar story

In Baguio City, former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa had a similar story.

“I deny getting money to finance the projects now being linked to Napoles,” he said by telephone on Monday.

Dangwa represented Benguet for nine consecutive years, ending his final term in 2010.

Like Estrella, Dangwa said he was also asked by the COA to validate at least five fund requests that supposedly carried his signatures.

“I looked at the documents and they were not my signatures. They were forgeries. Whoever signed them did not even try to copy my signature. They were someone else’s signature,” he said.

“I can’t recall whether the COA requests were made in 2011 or 2012, but I did not respond to them myself. My executive assistant offered to fix the problem for me. I am now looking for my employee. I trusted him,” Dangwa said.

Dangwa declined to name his assistant, saying he lost contact with the aide when his term ended.

Dangwa said he did not know the NGOs that supposedly received his congressional funds.

The Inquirer reported that the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDF) and the Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. were supported by Dangwa’s pork barrel.

Farm needs

But Dangwa acknowledged that his pork barrel had been used to augment farming needs in his province.

Benguet produces most of the vegetables sold in Metro Manila.

Dangwa said he had never met Napoles.

In Quezon province, former Mulanay Mayor Prudencio Maxino was surprised when told that his town had been the alleged recipient of a P10-million project from Agri and Economic Performance for Farmers Inc.

“It’s my first time to hear the name of that NGO,” Maxino said by the phone.

He said the local government during his term had no project funded by the supposed NGO.

“Most of our projects were funded by Kalahi (Kalahi-CIDSS, or Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services),” Maxino said.—With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan in Manila; Gabriel Cardinoza, Yolanda Sotelo and Vincent Cabreza, Inquirer Northern Luzon; and Delfin T. Mallari Jr., Inquirer Southern Luzon

Sam Miguel
07-17-2013, 10:15 AM
CBCP exec to Revilla: Unacceptable, just explain

By Philip C. Tubeza, TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:37 am | Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Unacceptable.

This was how a ranking official of the Catholic Bishops’Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) on Tuesday described Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr.’s defense that Malacañang was after him after it was revealed that more than P1 billion of his pork barrel funds had been misused.

Fr. Edwin Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, said Revilla and the other lawmakers, whose allotments under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) were allegedly used by bogus nongovernment organizations, should divulge what they know instead of pointing fingers at others.

Gariguez supported Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s call for senators linked to the scam to go on leave.

“I agree with that instead of them saying, like Sen. Bong Revilla, that (the Palace) is just after him… That is not acceptable to the people,” Gariguez said in a Church forum at Intramuros, Manila. “They should come up with a reasonable explanation and explain if you received (money) or not. They should give the public a reasonable answer.”

Gariguez joined calls by other sectors for the abolition of the pork barrel system.

“Scrap it! The COA (Commission on Audit) itself did not see this for 10 years so this means that the country lost a lot of money,” he said. “What guarantee do we have now that taxpayers’ money will not be misused when we saw how politicians connived with those who release the money and those who check the releases?”

Gariguez said President Aquino should announce the abolition of the pork barrel system during his State of the Nation Address on Monday.

“Congress should have nothing to do with the PDAF because this should be handled by line agencies,” he said. “This has really become a source of so much corruption. Imagine, P10 billion. There should be some drastic measures to address this problem and these should come from the Executive.”

Malolos Bishop Jose Oliveros called for a “rethink” of how the pork barrel system had been handled, particularly the role played by lawmakers.

“Senators and congressmen are legislators. They were elected to make laws, not to make roads or create livelihood programs,” Oliveros said. “There are agencies of government which handle these programs. Leave the funds to them and not to our legislators because it only becomes an occasion of abuse.”

Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte dismissed Revilla’s accusation that the Palace was behind charges that his PDAF funds had been misused and that these were part of a “demolition job” ahead of the 2016 presidential election.

“The government is facing many problems … We don’t have time for things like this,” Valte told reporters. “I understand the senator mentioned that he has a source. We would appreciate it if that information was given to us because certainly that is not the case. The demolition job did not come from us.”

Valte said the President felt that the allegations that were being looked into by the National Bureau of Investigation were very serious. “What can be assured is that the investigation will be thorough and will be impartial,” she said.

Malacañang also rejected Senator Santiago’s call for the President to form a team of special prosecutors to look into the scam. Valte said that NBI investigation should suffice for now.

Sam Miguel
07-17-2013, 10:16 AM
What happened to the principled guy I knew?

By Ramon Tulfo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:48 am | Tuesday, July 16th, 2013

There’s more than meets the eye in the estimated P10-billion scam involving the pork barrel funds of lawmakers ending up in dummy nongovernment organizations (NGO) for purported ghost projects.

Janet Lim-Napoles, president and CEO of the trading firm JLN Corp.—the firm that allegedly acted as the conduit of pork barrel funds—allegedly boasted to a friend that there were many more lawmakers who were involved than the ones published by the Inquirer on its front page on Monday.

The amount stolen from the government through the scheme could exceed P10 billion, said Napoles, who was reportedly laughing when she gave the information to a friend.

Some former lawmakers who are now in the executive branch of government were involved in the scheme.

Napoles’ friend told another friend, who, in turn, told me about it.

Of course, in court my information would be considered hearsay.

But I have no reason to doubt my friend’s story.

* * *

Why was Napoles laughing while she was telling her friend about the involvement of a bigger number of lawmakers than what came out in the Inquirer front page on Monday?

She’s probably sure nothing will come out of the investigation into her dealings with the government.

If the stories that have come out in the media are true, she certainly knows how to spread the sunshine, so to speak, that’s why all these years she has never been exposed.

If not for JLN Corp. insider Benhur Luy, who allegedly skimmed money off Napoles’ loot and whom she reportedly abducted, that woman and the corrupt lawmakers would still be laughing all the way to the bank.

* * *

When the OFW Family, a party-list group representing overseas Filipino workers, was being formed, I was present in one of its meetings.

OFW won two seats in the last election.

If memory serves, former Ambassador Roy Señeres, former actor Johnny Revilla, and a drop-dead gorgeous woman named Elo, were at an Italian restaurant at the Burgos Circle, Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City.

My friendship with Señeres goes a long, long way.

He presented to me the line-up of OFW Family party-list nominees, namely, himself, as first nominee; Revilla, as second nominee; his son Roy Jr., as third nominee.

I told Roy that having himself and his son as candidates in the same party list smacked of a political dynasty, which he—if I know him well—very much abhorred.

He said he would have a former ship captain, Bembol Rosales, as the third candidate to replace his son.

It turned out Señeres didn’t keep his word.

He now wants Revilla disqualified for being an American citizen.

Worse, he wants Revilla replaced by Jo Christine Napoles, the daughter of Janet Napoles.

What Roy Señeres doesn’t know—or refuses to see—is that Revilla had renounced his US citizenship before the elections.

What has happened to the highly principled guy I have known from way back?

Sam Miguel
07-22-2013, 10:28 AM
Toward broader autonomy for Muslim Mindanao

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, SJ

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:08 pm | Sunday, July 21st, 2013

The move for broader autonomy for Muslim Mindanao is continuing beyond what has already been outlined in the 1987 Constitution. The basic constitutional principle on the subject says, “There shall be created autonomous regions in Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras consisting of provinces, cities, municipalities, and geographical areas sharing common and distinctive historical and cultural heritage, economic and social structures, and other relevant characteristics within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Forming autonomous regions is in fact more than just a question of privilege for these two regions. It is a question of right. One of the riches of the Filipino nation is the diversity of cultures found in it. These diverse cultures, as a matter of right, must be allowed to flourish. No one culture should be allowed to crush any other. Thus, the basis for the establishment of autonomous regions is homogeneity of the culture of the area and its distinctiveness from other cultures, and not just geographic accident.

The phrase “Muslim Mindanao” should not be construed as meaning that all of Mindanao is Muslim. It simply means those areas of Mindanao which are predominantly Muslim. The phrase Muslim Mindanao is used in much the same way that the phrase Christian Philippines does not suggest that all of the inhabitants of the Philippines are Christian.

The creation of the autonomous regions, however, does not mean the establishment of sovereignties distinct from that of the republic. These autonomous regions can be established only “within the framework of this Constitution and the national sovereignty as well as territorial integrity of the Republic of the Philippines.”

Autonomy in the Cordilleras has been at a standstill. Attempts at formulating a Basic Law for the Cordilleras have not been to the satisfaction of the inhabitants and therefore have been rejected.

Muslim Mindanao has succeeded in implementing an Organic Act which for several years now has formed the fundamental structure for the government of the region. The Organic Act, however, is now slowly on the way to being replaced by the Organic Act for the Bangsamoro. The process of replacement started with the approval of the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro. But that was all it was—a framework. The negotiators have been feverishly working to put flesh on the framework.

The approval by the negotiators of the wealth sharing agreement is a major step in the direction of fortifying the desired autonomy. The document embodying the agreement is entitled “Annex on Revenue Generation and Wealth Sharing.” Principally it consists of formulas for the sharing of taxes and revenues from rich natural resources that are found in the territory. The details are found in the document.

The importance of the annex is highlighted thus: “The parties acknowledge that wealth creation (or revenue creation and sourcing) is important for the operation of the Bangsamoro, considering that the Bangsamoro territory is among the most underdeveloped in the Philippines due to the decades-long conflict. Moreover, the existing tax base therein is very limited. There is a need to bridge the financial gap between the Bangsamoro’s prospective needs and the revenues being created therein. In this way, the Bangsamoro can catch up with the more progressive areas of the country.”

What follows next? A lot more work.

An important point to remember is that the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is governed by two organic acts: the 1987 Constitution and the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao. When the framework agreement was announced we were assured that its completion will not involve constitutional amendment. If it should and if the President wants it to go through, he may have to modify his position on amending the current Constitution. Constitutional amendment will require tremendous amount of work, not to mention controversies.

At this stage of the negotiations dealing only with wealth creation and sharing, however, I do not see any need for constitutional amendment. What has been touched so far does not involve the control and development of natural resources but only taxes and revenues from natural resources found in the territory. To a great extent this can be handled by ordinary legislation.

However, the determination of which areas containing natural resources can be covered as special sources of revenue may have to await the determination of the extent of the Bangsamoro territory. As I see it, the territory envisioned for the Bangsamoro is larger than what is covered under the Organic Act for Muslim Mindanao. Under the 1987 Constitution the territories included in the ARMM covered only provinces, cities, municipalities and geographic areas which voted for inclusion in the ARMM. The framework agreement envisions a larger area.

So far, the general reaction to the draft revenue creation and sharing agreement has been positive. Although it is still a draft, the negotiators deserve congratulations for the hard work.

Sam Miguel
07-22-2013, 10:31 AM
Still, get rid of it

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:09 pm | Sunday, July 21st, 2013

It’s a good question to ask as Aquino takes to the podium to make his report to us, his Boss. What to do with the pork barrel?

Edwin Lacierda says the Palace doesn’t want “to wade into the discussion (of whether the pork barrel should be abolished or not) since that’s primarily the call of the legislators.”

Frank Drilon, the next Senate president, agrees. It’s not the executive’s, or specifically the President’s call, to make, it is Congress’. “This is a decision of both houses (of Congress). If one house does not agree, then you cannot abolish (the pork barrel), which is part of the General Appropriations Act.” In any case, he adds, Congress doesn’t even have to move to abolish the pork barrel. “We can simply delete the Priority Development Assistance Fund (the official name of the pork barrel) from the General Appropriations Act, and it’s gone.”

Expressed in this way, it all sounds sober and doable. But it is in fact the most ludicrous thing in the world. What it amounts to is asking Dracula to decide on whether the blood bank should be scrapped or not.

Can you seriously imagine the senators and congressmen wringing their hands and wracking their brains when faced with the question of whether they should part with their P200-million and P70-million PDAF a year, respectively?

In fact, it doesn’t get much better if you rest the decision in the hands of the executive. Unless you are a Ferdinand Marcos and have only a rubber-stamp Batasan to do your bidding, your best bet to control Congress as president is by way of the pork barrel. The power to reduce amounts, put obstacles to, or entirely withhold pork barrel from senators and congressmen who are not sympathetic to your agenda is awesome. It guarantees that the experience of St. Paul on the way to Damascus of suddenly seeing the light and turning a new leaf will be replicated routinely in Congress.

The benefits to be gained from the pork barrel—chief of them that it equalizes the powers of the executive and legislative, particularly in the use of public funds, thereby strengthening the concept of checks and balances—are largely theoretical. Whatever those gains are, they are dwarfed by the far more humongous scourges the pork barrel unleashes. The pork barrel is quite possibly the single biggest contributor to warping our political culture.

One, it poses the biggest obstacle to having a real political party system in this country. To belabor a point, we do not have real political parties in this country, what we have are loose coalitions built around the president or “presidentiables.” As soon as a new president emerges, politicians leave the parties they were affiliated with to join the one the president belongs to. That’s the reason we’ve had as many “dominant” parties as elections. That’s the reason most of the major political figures today have run the gamut of the so-called political parties. That’s the reason our politicians do not represent party beliefs, only personal careers.

The pork barrel worsens things immeasurably. The origin of the pork barrel is of American slaves pushing and shoving one another in their mad scramble for the barrel of salted pork their masters put out before them during special occasions. That is a quite accurate image of what our elected officials do after elections. We’ve always gotten around the rule that says, “To the victors go the spoils,” the “vanquished,” or those fielded by the other parties, simply joining the winning coalition. Look how many people have become Liberals overnight.

It’s especially so in local elections. As one mayor told me, “What can I do? I don’t join the winners, I don’t get my pork. I don’t get my pork, my constituents suffer.” He did not bother to add, “My constituents suffer, they won’t vote for me next time.”

That brings us to, two, the pork barrel is the heart of patronage politics. The pork barrel is the soul of dynastic politics.

Where the pork barrel is not plowed into ghostly projects manifested in the material world by people like Janet Lim-Napoles, it is put in projects whose main, if not sole, purpose is to assure that the incumbent will be elected again. And over time, his kith and kin. You can debate to your heart’s content whether diverting money paid for by all taxpayers to a local area is good or bad, skewed or balancing, but what you cannot debate is how the money is used in the local areas. It is bad, it is skewed. As studies on the pattern of spending of pork shows, it hews to areas that are vote-rich, which are the highly urbanized centers, and to projects that ensure future votes will go to the incumbent. Or his children.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the pork provides elected officials with campaign funds they can use to effectively campaign throughout their terms. You’ve got to be horrendously abusive or greedy or dumb not to be able to win at least a second term. And we wonder why incumbents normally lead in surveys. And we wonder why families tend to expand and dominate their particular turfs.

And three, there’s of course the not very small matter of corruption. But most disputations of the pork barrel have already dwelled on it.

The pork barrel did not create our hollow, brittle, or virtually nonexistent party system. It did not create patronage or dynastic politics. And it did not create corruption. But it has vitally, centrally, decisively contributed to them, and continues to vitally, centrally, decisively contribute to them. What to do with the pork barrel?

Still, get rid of it.

Sam Miguel
07-25-2013, 08:25 AM
P27B pork in 2014 national budget

But PDAF projects in NGOs to be scrutinized

By Christian V. Esguerra, Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:17 am | Thursday, July 25th, 2013

The pork stays and it’s a whopping P27 billion in the Aquino administration’s proposed P2.268-trillion national budget for next year.

Unfazed by the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam, the executive branch still opted to include the regular allocation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Unlike in the past when only the ‘soft’ portion was in the budget and the ‘hard’ portion was tucked in” in government agencies, the new budget proposal shows the “whole and complete PDAF,” said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad.

Soft refers to projects involving social services; hard involves infrastructure projects.

“The P27-billion PDAF is provided and that is a special line item for PDAF in this budget,” Abad said when he submitted the national expenditure program to the House of Representatives on Tuesday.

However, Malacañang is considering measures that would subject nongovernment organizations (NGOs) implementing PDAF projects under closer scrutiny by the Department of Social Welfare and Development.

NGOs accredited by DSWD

“We are still in the process of determining whether our role will be limited only to registration or expanded to include accreditation and licensing (of NGOs),” Social Welfare Secretary Corazon Soliman said in a telephone interview, referring to talks with the Department of Budget and Management.

President Aquino made no mention of the pork barrel scandal on Monday in his fourth State of the Nation Address (Sona), which lasted nearly two hours and tackled other police and corruption scandals under his watch.

The Makabayan bloc earlier filed a bill seeking to abolish the entire pork barrel system in government, including the President’s Social Fund. Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares urged Aquino to make the bill “irrelevant” by not including the PDAF in the 2014 national budget.

Each senator usually gets P200 million in PDAF every year, while members of the House of Representatives receive P70 million each.

The National Bureau of Investigation is currently looking into allegations by six whistle-blowers that P10 billion in pork barrel funds of five senators and 23 congressmen had been lost over the past decade in ghost projects implemented by dummy NGOs.

P842B in social services

The P27-billion PDAF allocation is no match for the P62.6 billion in cash doles under the conditional cash transfer program (CCT) in the national budget.

The amount was raised from the existing P44-billion budget this year to cover “4.44 million households and 10.2 million children beneficiaries.”

The new amount dwarfs the P21.1-billion budget set aside for the construction of irrigation systems, and the P12-billion allocation for building farm-to-market roads in the proposed national budget.

“We’ve already witnessed the steady and consistent improvement of the country’s economic performance under the Aquino administration,” Abad said. “Now, we’re bringing these successes to bear on the lives of every Filipino.”

In all, “social services” will corner the biggest portion of the proposed national budget at 37.2 percent, or P842.8 billion. The amount represents a 20.5-increase from the P699.4 billion set aside in the current budget.

The CCT took off from the “Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program” first introduced by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now on her second term as a Pampanga congresswoman.

Expanded CCT coverage

The program has had its share of supporters and critics considering its mechanism that provides P300 or P500 to poor families with a maximum of three children up to age 14, or a total of P1,400 per month.

As recommended by the government think tank, Philippine Institute for Development Studies, the administration expanded the CCT program to include “high school-aged children” from 15 to 18.

“It clearly makes sense from a poverty reduction point of view to make that additional investment on the education of the child to ensure that he/she finishes high school,” according to the institute’s study by Celia Reyes.

“A high school graduate will have more employment opportunities and higher pay. If the program aims only for graduation in the elementary level, and does not provide an effective exit strategy, the possible returns are very minimal to matter.”

The DSWD has been conducting registration, accreditation and licensing of NGOs involved in social welfare services, Soliman said.

The department has even accredited several NGOs as recipients for the “soft” projects of pork barrel funds and that the DSWD has the system in place to cover projects beyond social welfare, she said.

In the registration process, Soliman said the DSWD would immediately filter out fake NGOs. She said the accreditation process was more stringent as NGOs would be required to have working program in place and good governance standards.

Sen. Ralph Recto said he had no objection to the grant of NGO gatekeeper to the DSWD.

“I am open to the idea. The DSWD has performed well. It is correct to have an accreditation process and adopt safeguards on the use of PDAF,” said Recto in a text message.

Sam Miguel
07-26-2013, 09:09 AM
LP members corner choice House positions

By Leila B. Salaverria

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:51 am | Friday, July 26th, 2013

The reorganization in the House of Representatives is running apace with many crucial committee chairmanships filled in the first three session days of the 16th Congress.

As expected, Liberal Party lawmakers, party mates of President Aquino, got most of the plum posts. The LP is the biggest party bloc in the House.

No chairmanships have been offered members of the minority.

Some important committees still do not have leaders, however, among them, public information—which is expected to tackle the freedom of information bill—human rights, national defense and security, overseas workers affairs, and public works.

The powerful appropriations committee, which scrutinizes the national budget, went to Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab of the LP.

Another key chairmanship, of the ways and means committee, went to Marikina Rep. Federico R. Quimbo (LP), who was a prosecution spokesman during the Malacañang-backed impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Important role in Cha-cha

Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., one of the impeachment prosecutors, will keep the justice committee. The committee on constitutional amendments went to Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano. The committee will play an important role should Charter change proposals in the House gain traction.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Jorge Almonte will chair the ethics committee, which went to the minority in previous congresses. Tupas, Albano and Almonte are with the LP.

LP secretary general and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento heads the House delegation in the powerful Commission on Appointments.

Two LP members—Davao del Sur Rep. Franklin Bautista and Bulacan Rep. Joselito Mendoza—were appointed to the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) which resolves election disputes involving sitting lawmakers.

The other LP members who got committee assignments were Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, land use; Marikina Rep. Marcelino Teodoro, legislative franchises; Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo, Metro Manila development; Manila Rep. Amado Bagatsing, ecology; Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, good government and public accountability;

North Cotabato Rep. Jesus Sacdalan, government enterprises and privatization; Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop, government reorganization; Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguulat, agrarian reform; Leyte Rep. Andres Salvacion, civil service and professional regulation; and Iligan City Rep. Vicente Belmonte, dangerous drugs.

Members of the Nationalist People’s Coalition, Nacionalista Party and National Unity Party, all allies of the LP, also got important posts. The NPC is the second-biggest party in the House.

Chairmanships went to NPC members Batangas Rep. Mark Llandro Mendoza, agriculture and food; Pangasinan Rep. Kimi Cojuangco, basic education and culture; Tarlac Rep. Enrique Cojuangco, economic affairs; La Union Rep. Eufranio Eriguel, health; Rizal Rep. Joel Roy Duavit, information and communications technology; South Cotabato Rep. Pedro Acharon, local government; Pangasinan Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, revision of laws; Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Victor Yu, science and technology; Rizal Rep. Isidro Rodriguez, southern Tagalog development, and Zamboanga del Sur Rep. Aurora Cerilles, welfare of children.

From the NP, Romblon Rep. Eleandro Madrona got the accounts committee, while Albay Rep. Al Francis Bichara will chair foreign affairs.

Joescoundrel
07-28-2013, 09:00 AM
A hard look at the pork barrel

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:14 pm | Saturday, July 27th, 2013

The pork barrel system of allocating public funds to benefit a local constituency is a feature of politics we borrowed from the United States. Under this system, elected representatives are given the opportunity to insert allocations for their pet projects in the spending program of the national government. Any expenditure not explicitly recommended by the president in the national budget is thus, in theory, part of the pork barrel.

At first blush, there appears nothing fundamentally wrong about this system, especially where one is dealing with a federal government that has its own priorities. In practice, however, it tends to contradict the whole logic of rational budgeting. Instead of subjecting congressional insertions to careful scrutiny or debate, legislators find it easier to allow everybody to feed from the pork barrel. In the process, some get more than the others, depending upon how close they are to the appropriations committee.

As chief executive, the President has the power to veto any expenditure item that he does not agree with. A few American presidents do this, particularly when a congressional insertion entails having to reallocate a huge chunk of the national budget. Most presidents, as a rule, avoid antagonizing Congress and risking failure to pass the budget. They prefer to accommodate the political needs of legislators by reserving a certain portion of the national appropriations measure for their projects. In return, astute presidents expect the priorities laid down in the national budget to remain basically untouched.

This quid pro quo remains a feature of modern politics, as shown by the menu of compromises that have had to be negotiated in recent debates over the US federal budget. Deadlock lurked at every point, so much so that reasonable heads from the two major parties have had to come together repeatedly to break the intransigence within their respective parties. In recent days, John McCain, President Barack Obama’s principal rival for the presidency in 2008, played the unlikely role of an Obama stalwart by softening the resistance of his own Republican colleagues in order to help his erstwhile opponent get his budget through.

McCain’s own agenda is to prevent the defense budget from being cut.

Since he can count on friendly majorities in both chambers of Congress, President Aquino faces no such problems. But, this does not mean that he can treat his allies any way he chooses. He knows the realities. He knows he won’t be able to govern unless he takes care of the politics. So, while he has the option to remove the pork barrel portion from the budget, he has to be mindful of the need to marshal steady political support for his agenda in the remaining half of his term.

We don’t expect P-Noy to take the initiative to abolish the pork barrel. Still, it is imperative that we keep the pressure on for the investigation of pork barrel misuse and its eventual elimination. At the same time, we await the promulgation of the safeguards that Budget Secretary Florencio Abad promised in a recent interview. He and the President, who were both members of Congress for many years, ought to know what kind of controls will work to minimize corruption in the utilization of the pork barrel.

It is important to stay focused on the key issues. I don’t think that the Filipino electorate is against the idea of giving legislators the prerogative to identify infrastructure and social services projects that are meant primarily for their districts and constituents. Indeed, they expect this function to be the biggest part, if not the sole component, of their role as elected representatives of the people. What our people object to is the waste and the diversion of funds to private pockets.

Honest legislators who believe that this is not part of the work of legislation have every reason to refuse their pork barrel allocation. We salute former senator Ping Lacson for doing so during his entire term. It is not to say that the rest who availed themselves of their annual allocation are all corrupt. But they must realize that the pork barrel is a tainted resource. They have the obligation not only to erase any suspicion that the money went into their pockets, but also to make sure that it was actually spent for the designated projects or the intended beneficiaries.

No legislator who taps into his pork barrel should have recourse to the excuse that monitoring and auditing are not their responsibility. Maybe legally, they are not. But ethically, they are. I think that any senator or congressman who nominates a project for “priority development assistance” must be presumed not only to have done the proper studies but also to be concerned enough to want to know whether a project has been carried out as planned and has benefited the community it is meant to serve. To argue that these are not part of his duties—as Sen. Lito Lapid recently did in his defense of his allotments for supposed antidengue chemical sprays for communities that had no dengue problem—is not only self-serving but utterly irresponsible.

Clearly, what is terribly wrong about our present pork barrel system is that it is designed to work as a powerful inducement to corruption. The sheer availability of allotments for as yet unnamed projects serves as an invitation for creative suppliers like JLN Corp. to conjure and offer to their clients all kinds of projects that have no higher aim than to monetize the allotments. It is almost as if the facility was put there precisely to make every politician complicit and quiet while this annual robbery is routinely perpetrated on a helpless nation.

* * *

Sam Miguel
07-29-2013, 01:07 PM
Sotto tied to pork waste

P6.5-million fund also used to buy deodorizer

By Maricar Cinco

Inquirer Southern Luzon

12:00 am | Monday, July 29th, 2013

TERESA, Rizal—A portion of Sen. Vicente Sotto III’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) went to the purchase of garbage deodorizer in the municipality of Teresa although the town’s officials said they had made no request for the microbial inoculant that remained unused, the Inquirer has learned.

In another example of the misuse of pork barrel funds, Sotto gave to Teresa town P1.5 million from his 2012 PDAF on May 15 last year, according to the official website of this municipality.

The money went to purchase 2,140 liters of the inoculant Effective Microwealth Probiotic (EMP) from Innsbruck International Trading.

Records of the Teresa accounting office showed that the EMP was for an antidengue program, although there was no outbreak of the disease in the town.

Innsbruck was the same company that reportedly received P20 million from Sen. Lito Lapid’s pork barrel for questionable antidengue programs in several Rizal towns. The Inquirer tried to contact Innsbruck but learned that it was neither operating out of its given address in Rodriguez, Rizal, nor at a San Juan City address.

Aside from Teresa, the municipality of Tanay, also in Rizal, received P5 million from Sotto, also on May 15, 2012, for the “probiotics or medicines for (a) medical mission,” according to the website of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM). Tanay did not request a mission, according to the town’s officials.

Sought for reaction, Sotto said he did not tolerate any irregularity in the use of his PADF. He said all the projects funded by his office were aboveboard because his staff was very careful about documentation.

“It seems someone is trying to pull a fast one,” he said, when informed that the projects in Teresa and Tanay had not been requested by the municipalities but were offered to them.

“According to my staff, we have copies of the requests of all that we give funds to for whatever projects,” Sotto told the Inquirer on Saturday.

“(My staff) doesn’t make me sign unless they’re sure because of the huge number of those who make requests,” he said. “And some of them don’t get anything.”

Sotto said he would support an investigation by the Senate or a law enforcement body like the National Bureau of Investigation.

“I will not tolerate any illegal use of my PDAF,” he said. “Seriously now, even I am being dragged into this,” he said in Filipino, referring to the pork barrel scam revelations coming out almost daily.

Lapid pork funding

Official records showed Lapid gave P20 million of his PDAF to the municipalities of Teresa, Baras and Pililla, all in Rizal, and to Polillo in Quezon, with each town receiving P5 million worth, or 7,142 liters (320 containers), of the EMP solution.

Morong, also in Rizal, received P5 million from Lapid for the “purchase of antidengue medicines” on Oct. 7, 2011, also according to the DBM website.

This despite the low incidence of dengue in those municipalities, according to their respective municipal health officers.

Lapid issued a statement on Friday denying any irregularity in the disbursement of his pork barrel.

But Pililla municipal planning officer Dariel Ricardo said: “It was offered to us. Syempre matutuwa kami (Of course, we would be glad).” Ricardo in a phone interview said it was the senator’s office, through a staff member whose name he could not recall, that offered the financial assistance.

“All we had to do was provide them with a (project) proposal,” he said.

In Teresa, environment officer Marlon Pielago, whose office took charge of distributing the EMP solution to the communities, said that neither he nor the former mayor, Rodel de la Cruz, had asked for the inoculant.

In fact, Pielago added, the town preferred not to shell out municipal funds for the enzyme, “because we could make it ourselves.”

He said the solution consisted of red sugar and spoiled rice mixed with water to culture the bacteria that speed up garbage decomposition.

“But this came to us for free so we may as well accept it,” Pielago said of the pork-funded inoculants.

No bid documents

Around 100 containers of EMP were stacked at the Teresa Materials Recovery Facility and another 100 in the Baras municipal gymnasium.

The Inquirer asked to see the bid documents, but none of the municipalities were able to show any.

In Morong, budget officer Yolanda Alcantara said her office did not keep records of such transactions.

When pressed on how Innsbruck was able to win the contract just weeks after Lapid’s allotment order was issued by the DBM, the Teresa municipal accountant, Lily Mendoza, said all the papers had been submitted to the Commission on Audit.

In Baras, budget officer Almario Matawaran said no bidding took place. “We were told that (Innsbruck) was the exclusive (distributor of EMP),” he said.

The respective municipal health officers, apparently unaware of the supposed antidengue fund, were surprised when told about the allotment.

“We made no request for such funding. I have no knowledge of that transaction,” said Dr. Menchita Celetra, Teresa health officer who added that she would rather the municipality received actual medicines.

Baras sanitary officer Alberto Pendre was disappointed the fund went elsewhere when all the town could afford was an information campaign against dengue. “Sayang (What a loss)!” said Dr. Norberta Pedrosa, Morong health officer.

Sam Miguel
07-29-2013, 01:34 PM
The political demise of a local potentate

By Antonio Montalvan II

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:56 pm | Sunday, July 28th, 2013

I had thought the issue was parochial. Manila friends believed otherwise. Knowing where I was coming from, they would inject into our conversations how happy they were to learn that a local dictator in Mindanao, after 25 years in power, had been toppled, not by a mass uprising but by the power of the automated ballot.

In 15 of those years Vicente Y. Emano ruled as mayor of Cagayan de Oro, a position which many say he never won in an honest election. In one of the elections, he outflanked Koko Pimentel who was in his first attempt at politics. In the years following, Emano continued to win even as his credibility steadily declined.

Many say Emano was a classic dictator. He exhibited braggadocio in abundance, surrounding himself with burly security men traveling in convoys that often included a police SWAT vehicle. Nobody but nobody could afford to defy his self-imposed conventions. He reduced the city council into a rubber stamp that was useless without his dictates, and his councilors into sycophants who seemed to have never heard of the principle of checks and balances in governance. When an ordinance was passed prohibiting smoking in public places, Emano considered himself exempted. When a ban on tinted vehicles was imposed, he had himself excluded from the application of the law.

Mayor Rodrigo Duterte of Davao City also exudes an air of braggadocio. And some people do see him as a dictator too. But he has political will. He works the field, walks the city streets of Davao City, and personally apprehends traffic violators. In other words, government works in Davao City, which earned the place the accolade “one of the most liveable of the world’s cities.” Skeptics may ask: “How about human rights?” But no one can say Duterte’s is classic dictatorship.

The classic dictator is one who rules from an armchair. Ruling from an armchair is akin to Nero playing the fiddle while Rome burned. That is exactly how Emano “governed” Cagayan de Oro for 15 years. And his “detached” style of governance did not take long to take effect. The city fell into urban decay; the traffic problem got worse and worse, eventually beating that of Manila, and the streets turned into a stinking mayhem—all these while the autocrat filled a ridiculously violet-painted office with cigarette smoke and with the harsh sounds of imperial orders to subalterns, which often were accompanied with an ample mixture of profanities. For everybody in his past world was a subaltern.

In our paternalistic/maternalistic culture, mayors are often reverently looked up to as “fathers” of their localities just as women mayors are kindly thought of as “mothers.” Under Emano, Cagayan de Oro was an orphan.

Drunk and obsessed with power, dictators are in constant fear of losing power. They erase defeat from their vocabulary, knowing that defeat could strip them of their power and ultimately bring them ignominy. Marcos, Duvalier, Idi Amin—history will never be kind to their memories.

As we write, a powerful bomb was detonated in a strip of upscale bistros in Cagayan de Oro. According to news reports, six victims have died, and dozens of other patrons were hurt. Two of the dead were medical doctors attending a national convention in town. Another fatality was a young provincial board member of Misamis Oriental, Roldan Lagbas. What senseless cruelty!

Just more than a week ago, the Commission on Audit came out with damning evidence on the misuse of calamity funds meant for the victims and survivors of Tropical Storm “Sendong.” Of the P123.94 million raised from public donations, P50 million lay idle in a bank even as survivors were reeling from the disaster. Out of the P55 million allotted for the construction of 500 permanent shelters for relocation, only 80 units were built. Some P8.8 million was paid as mobilization fee for one SCV Construction reportedly owned by a former bodyguard of Emano, but which, many believe, is really owned by a member of the Emano family.

Why is it that dictators usually find themselves in hot water after their political demise? A week ago, GMA-7 released the investigative documentary “Anomalya sa Calamity Fund sa Cagayan de Oro.” They say some dictators go berserk when their misdeeds are laid bare before the world. Was this connected to the bomb last Friday night? I wouldn’t say so, but there are speculations.

As classic a dictator as he was, Emano can

either stage a comeback or retaliate. Both are, of course, mere speculations at this point. We know, however, that also as classic is the line, “The evil that men do lives after them.” And that is from William Shakespeare.

Sam Miguel
07-30-2013, 09:55 AM
Photos show Lapid with questionable trader

By Maricar Cinco

Inquirer Southern Luzon

1:32 am | Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

RODRIGUEZ, Rizal—A bunch of photos showing Sen. Lito Lapid with Ma. Victoria Sevilla Tolentino showed a connection between the lawmaker’s office and the company implicated in a questionable pork barrel-funded government project.

Tolentino, known to her employees by her nickname Marivic, is the general manager of Innsbruck International Trading, the company that received hefty funds from Lapid’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for a supposed antidengue program.

But Lapid, through his chief legal officer, lawyer Filmer Abrajano, denied knowing the company or Tolentino.

Abrajano said neither Lapid nor his office knew the company or had anything to do with the P20-million procurement of “Effective Microwealth Probiotics (EMP),” a garbage deodorizer, from Innsbruck.

In 2011, a portion of Lapid’s PDAF went to the towns of Morong, Pililla, Teresa and Baras, all in Rizal province, and Polillo in Quezon. Each municipality received P5 million used to purchase EMP from Innsbruck.

On May 15, 2012, the office of Sen. Vicente Sotto III also gave P1.5 million to the town of Teresa for the purchase of EMP from the same company. Sotto also gave P5 million to Tanay, Rizal, on the same date, for the purchase of “probiotics or medicines for (a) medical mission,” according to the website of the Department of Budget and Management.

The solution turned out to be garbage deodorizer—not antidengue solutions.

“How could they not know her? In the Senate, Tolentino hangs out with the staff of Sotto and Lapid. They went together—Tolentino and members of the two senators’ staff— to Hong Kong last year and Tolentino paid for the travel expenses,” said a source, who claimed knowing Tolentino and the company.

‘Close’ to the senator

The source on Monday provided the Inquirer with photos from the Facebook and Instagram accounts of Tolentino’s relatives.

“There were a lot more [photos] but [Tolentino’s] account was deactivated over the weekend,” after the Inquirer published the report about the supposed anomalous transactions, the source said.

But a few happened to stay on the social networking site, including a picture of Lapid and Tolentino at the senator’s Pampanga mansion.

The photo, according to a caption dated July 14, 2013, read: “We were invited to senator Lito Lapid’s house in Porac, Pampanga.” The senator’s statement, denying any connection with the company, was issued just last week.

Another set of photos, from an Instagram account of another relative, showed Tolentino posing with Lapid’s staff at the senator’s office. Tolentino was wearing Easter bunny ears in what appeared to be a Halloween party, as the photo was taken 39 weeks ago.

“They (Lapid and Tolentino) are close,” said the source, who requested anonymity so as not to get involved in the controversy.

The source, however, agreed to a phone interview, “because people finally spoke out,” referring to the earlier Inquirer reports. “I knew all about this but couldn’t speak it out because they have strong ‘connections,’” the source added.

A former Innsbruck employee, interviewed last week in Rodriguez, Rizal, also said Tolentino personally knew the senator. “Bata ni Lapid yun,” the former employee said.

Senate contacts

A company profile, provided by the local government unit of Polillo to the Inquirer, said Innsbruck International Trading started its operations in 1995.

It said Innsbruck supplied medical kits, trucks and Hummer spare parts to the Armed Forces of the Philippines, until it shifted to supplying medical equipment in 1998. The company ventured into EMP products, also in 1998, with the local government units in Laguna, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Rizal.

“The production cost is low but it seems the markup of the government is really high,” the source said of EMP, which is made of rotten fruits, molasses and sugar.

A liter of EMP is sold to the government for P700, or about P15,000 per 20-liter container.

Tolentino, the source said, “coursed [the contracts] through” Abrajano, for Lapid’s PDAF, and a certain Ma. Nenita “Nette” R. de los Reyes from the office of Sotto.

The business, the source said, allowed Tolentino “to buy a house in the United States and pay for her travels with the senators’ staff.”

Sam Miguel
07-30-2013, 10:00 AM
One of Customs ‘three kings’ fails to submit letter vacating Naia post

By Tina G. Santos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:02 am | Tuesday, July 30th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—One of the so-called “Three Kings” at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) did not heed Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon’s directive to district and subport collectors to submit a letter relinquishing their posts.

As of 5 p.m. on Monday (the end of the work day), Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) district collector Carlos So had not yet submitted his letter signifying his intention to vacate his post.

So, along with Port of Manila district collector Rogel Gatchalian and Manila International Container Port collector Ricardo Belmonte are the so-called “three kings” at the BOC.

The Philippine Daily Inquirer tried but failed to reach So for comment.

Biazon on Friday warned that BOC district and subport collectors who did not submit letters vacating their posts would be placed on a floating status.

As of 2:30 p.m. on Monday, a total of 45 district and subport collectors had complied with Biazon’s order to relinquish their posts in preparation for a reassignment in the first round of a wide-ranging reform in the agency.

“If they don’t comply within the day or within the timeline specified, it only means they don’t support my effort. Those who don’t support my effort would be taken out of the way,” Biazon told reporters Monday during the inspection of some P45 million worth of smuggled items at the Port of Manila.

The BOC has 17 major ports and 37 subports nationwide.

Monday 5 p.m. deadline

Biazon, who issued the order last Friday, gave the officials until 5 p.m. on Monday to submit their letters.

Belmonte and Gatchalian, who already complied with Biazon’s directive over the weekend, and So are said to be politically well-connected collectors who head the three Metro Manila revenue districts and reportedly do not want to be removed or reassigned elsewhere.

Gatchalian, Belmonte and So somehow escaped being included in the first major revamp of district collectors undertaken by Biazon early this year despite the revenue districts they headed failing to meet their revenue targets last year and in the first five months of 2013.

Belmonte is said to be backed by his brother, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte; Gatchalian by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, and So by the influential Iglesia ni Cristo.

In an interview on Monday, Biazon said: “If our direction is moving forward in terms of reforms and they don’t support it, definitely I’ll get them out of the way… may bakante sa customs’ navy (floating status),” he said.

While admitting that he could not terminate the officials from the bureau, Biazon said he had the authority to replace or relieve them from their posts.

Apart from So, Julius Premediles of the Port of Iloilo and seven subport collectors have not submitted their letters of relinquishment.

The 13 other district collectors, apart from Belmonte and Gatchalian, who complied with Biazon’s directive were Fidel Villanueva of the Port of San Fernando, Tomas Alcid of Batangas, Edward dela Cuesta of Cebu, Nelson Belen of Tacloban, Oswaldo Geli of Surigao, Ma. Lourdes Mangaoang of Cagayan de Oro, Darwisha Schuck or Zamboanga, Eduard James Dybuco of Davao, Adelina Molina of Subic, Ronnie Silvestre of Clark International Airport, Leilani Alameda of Aparri, Elvira Cruz of Limay and Leovigildo Dayoja of Legaspi.

30 subport posts vacated

The BOC said 30 subport posts have already been vacated.

Biazon refused to say who among the officials would be replaced, retained or would be placed on a floating status.

“The evaluation is still ongoing….a good performance will be considered,” he said.

Asked if there were people lobbying for particular post, Biazon said he has not received any so far.

“I’ve not received any. First of all, it is not yet known which among the posts will be vacated. Let it be said that their relinquishment will be final upon my action on the letters they submitted. The officials who submitted the letters will still be on a hold order capacity so the operation at the ports will not be affected,” Biazon said.

He added that the new assignments would still need the approval of the Department of Finance.

Biazon, during the flag-raising ceremony at the bureau on Monday, reminded the employees and officials to support reform efforts by the government.

“Twenty months have passed and we exercised so much patience, but everything comes to an end,” he told reporters in an interview.

“I called on them again to do what is expected from us. The President must have already run out of patience, it would be much worse if the people would be the ones losing their patience,” he said.

“I explained to them that this is an opportunity for us to prove to the world, to everyone that we are serious in reforms and it is a call for each and every official and employee of the BOC to make history and be part of the generation that reforms Customs, I told them this has been going on for generations, let it stop here,” he added.

“This is a job, a mission that has been given to me and I intend to fulfill it. Although I could easily walk away from this and save myself from being tarnished, I believe that this mission is worth fighting for to be able to reform the bureau, that’s the only reason why I accepted this job. I did not ask for it, it was offered to me. I saw the President had the political will and determination to reform Customs,” Biazon said.

Sam Miguel
08-01-2013, 09:48 AM
DA okayed P90M pork

Funds came from PDAF of 8 solons

By il C. Cabacungan, Nancy C. Carvajal, Ronnel W. Domingo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Thursday, August 1st, 2013

The office of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala endorsed the release of P89.2 million two years ago through a bogus agency allegedly owned by Janet Lim-Napoles despite tightened accreditation by the Department of Agriculture (DA) of nongovernment organizations (NGOs), the Inquirer learned on Wednesay.

Levito Baligod, counsel of pork scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy, said his client had documents, including special allotment release orders (Saro), showing that 11 pet projects of eight representatives in the 15th Congress used Kaupdanan para sa Mangunguma Foundation Inc. (KPMI), which was allegedly set up by Napoles.

At press time, Alcala had not replied to a request for comment by the Inquirer on the claim of Baligod, whose client blew the whistle on Napoles’ activities in a series of statements earlier submitted to the NBI. Luy’s claims have been affirmed by the five other whistle-blowers. Napoles has denied any wrongdoing.

‘Can’t memorize everything’

“I am not Superman,” Alcala said Wednesday.

“The department has 40 attached agencies and I can’t memorize everything. But in good faith, I do not sign anything that has not passed the scrutiny of my staff,” he said.

He was reacting to an earlier Inquirer report on Wednesday. He had ordered an inquiry into the alleged involvement of an official of the Department of Agriculture in the activities of dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) that were said to have channeled state funds to ghost projects in schemes purportedly masterminded by Napoles.

He said he had sent a memo to Ophelia P. Agawin, assistant secretary for finance, to explain why pork barrel scam whistle-blower Merlina P. Suñas was implicating his office as a conduit of funds to bogus NGOs.

Asked how well he knew Agawin, Alcala said, “She goes to work religiously.”

“But we can’t base things on appearances. She needs to explain (the issue),” said the former congressman.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Suñas identified at least three livelihood projects worth a combined P16 million that were implemented by a Napoles NGO in Davao City, which used DA funds.

Ordered ‘revalidation’

“Surely, I don’t know about those (projects),” Alcala said, adding that he had also ordered a “revalidation” of DA-accredited NGOs and projects.

He said he did not remember having signed any of the projects that Suñas mentioned.

Suñas said the three projects were worth P3 million, P5 million and P8 million, respectively, all of which supposedly involved the distribution of packages that included fertilizer and sprayers.

She said that only the P3-million project was implemented for show while the two other projects were mere “ghost deliveries.”

Kaupdanan was one of the 20 dummy NGOs set up by Napoles’ JLN Corp. which allegedly had managed to fleece P10 billion in state funds over the last 10 years in connivance with lawmakers and government officials.

Luy submitted the documents to the National Bureau of Investigation on Wednesday, the second day of closed-door hearings called to question officials and incorporators of the dummy companies, Baligod said.

The 31-year-old Luy was summoned as principal whistle-blower and president of Napoles’ Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.

LP members, too

The P89.2 million released by Alcala came from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of eight representatives, including members of the ruling Liberal Party and party-list groups.

Baligod said that his client, as well as the other five whistle-blowers who also were former Napoles employees, had evidence not only against opposition lawmakers but also administration legislators.

“We are not looking if the people involved are members of the Liberal Party, Nacionalista or other parties. What we will name will be those in the documents,” he said.

Luy earlier implicated five senators and 23 House members in the alleged Napoles racket.

DA releases

The lawmakers named in the documents, according to Baligod, were:

– Masbate Rep. Scott Davies Lanete, P30 million (P15 million Saro BMB-11-T000000311, April 26, 2011, and P15 million Saro BMB-11-T-000003550, Nov. 9, 2011).

– Lanao del Sur Rep. Mohammed Hussein Pangandaman with P15 million (BMB-11-T-00000124 June, 5, 2011).

– An Waray Rep. Neil Benedict Montejo with P14.2 million (P5 million Saro BMB-G-11-T000000573, April 29, 2011, and P9.2 million Saro G-11-T000003990, Nov. 17, 2011).

– Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab with P13 million (P8 million Saro BMB-G-11-T-000000085, April 18, 2011, and P5 million Saro G-11-01859, Nov. 2, 2011).

– Bukidnon Rep. Florencio Flores Jr. with P6 million (Saro G-11-T-000000405, April 27, 2011).

– Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez P5 million (Saro G-11-T000001813, June 29, 2011).

– Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella with P5 million.

– Davao del Norte Rep. Antonio Lagdameo Jr. with P1 million.

No official receipts

Baligod said that it would be “very interesting” to see how the Department of Agriculture would liquidate these releases.

He said that the department, acting on mounting reports of bogus NGOs accessing state funds, had included KPMI on its list of 15 to 20 accredited NGOs even though the JLN affiliate was under investigation for its involvement in the release of P900 million worth of Malampaya funds by then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman to fake Napoles agencies in 2009.

Baligod provided the Inquirer with a Commission on Audit (COA) letter to KPMI president John Raymund de Asis, an employee of Napoles, dated Nov. 6, 2012, demanding proof of receipt or delivery for the P75 million worth of agriculture inputs that it committed to buy with the Malampaya funds it obtained from Pangandaman for eight towns in northern and central Luzon.

The COA said that the liquidation documents submitted by KPMI to the Department of Agrarian Reform did not have official receipts, sales invoices and delivery receipts. The commission also asked KPMI to reveal the addresses of the beneficiaries and the criteria on how they were selected.

No funds from pork

Alcala said the DA had stopped channeling funds from lawmakers’ pork barrel since 2011 and that, following a stringent screening process, there were now only 26 DA-accredited NGOs.

Asked whether President Aquino still trusted him, Alcala replied by saying he just had lunch with the Chief Executive.

“He seems to be satisfied at what I have reported to him, and I’m sure he would not have shared a meal with me if I did not enjoy his confidence,” Alcala said.

Sam Miguel
08-01-2013, 10:22 AM
A thesis on corruption

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:36 pm | Wednesday, July 31st, 2013

Even if only half of the allegations against her turn out to be true, Janet Lim-Napoles, the supposed brain behind the mind-boggling pork barrel scam that is the subject of ongoing Inquirer reports, would easily qualify as the country’s foremost expert on corruption. The elaborate scheme attributed to her presumes an intimate grasp of the workings of the political system that no Filipino scholar has ever fully documented. Napoles appears to have explored the weakest links of government and seen the vulnerabilities of officials at various levels. But, instead of writing a doctoral thesis or book on the topic, she has used this knowledge to build a lucrative business.

Should she ever land in prison and need a benign intellectual pursuit to keep her active mind at work, I would recommend that she consider writing a participant-observer account of the social system of corruption. I would be happy to offer advice on the theoretical framework. A working title for her thesis might be: “Politics and the function of corruption: How the pork barrel works.” The aim of the study would be to bring out the background assumptions implicit in the way the JLN group of companies navigated the murky waters of government. Such research would help transitional societies like ours find effective antidotes to the scourge of corruption in public service.

I would begin with the hypothesis that the pork barrel, which goes by the pretentious name Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is really nothing more than a bribe to the legislators who hold the power to approve the national budget. This concession can take many forms and go by other names like “congressional initiatives.” But the basic idea is the same: to provide congressmen and senators the means to cater to the specific needs of their constituencies, and, if they wish, to recoup part of what they spend during elections.

This seemingly irrational feature of the political system proceeds from the recognition that in a society where material deprivation and lack of access to services continue to be the lot of the many, legislators find themselves having to attend to the personal needs of their constituents. This is not their function yet it is what makes running for office very costly. The lack of differentiation between government and politics per se precisely casts them in the role of overall patrons, well beyond the function of lawmaking. Lawmaking becomes, for many of them, no more than a peripheral chore. In such settings, one might as well replace Congress with a small commission of full-time professional experts on policy and law to work on legislation. But that would go against the tenets of representative democracy.

As I have previously said in this column, voters, in general, are not averse to the idea of giving their representatives the right to identify pet or priority projects. What they object to is the waste and misappropriation of public funds that typically result from the exercise of this power. The pork barrel scam to which the Napoles network is linked shows that corruption thrives where discretion is broad and no clear assignment of accountability exists.

As expected, legislators who were among the clients of the JLN group of companies deny any responsibility for the implementation and monitoring of the projects they identified for funding. The implementing agencies, on the other hand, claim they are only the channel for the release of the funds and point to the local governments as the answerable units. The latter, in turn, assert that the responsibility lies with the NGOs who are commissioned to deliver the goods and services. For their part, the NGOs claim they delivered the goods to the listed beneficiaries, but it is not their fault if these are fictitious.

One can imagine how much grease money is dispensed at every point in this chain of corruption. Yet, no one can easily be held accountable, except the lowest clerks in the totem pole of government who received the project proposals. The profitable business model that Napoles has explicitly designed for this environment is easy to replicate, but developing the key contacts in every office may take more time. It is thus not a surprise that it was the Napoles associates—Benhur K. Luy and Merlina P. Suñas—who emerged as the whistle-blowers in this case. Napoles says that they turned against her after she stopped them from striking out on their own.

Obviously, this problem will not go away with the elimination of one syndicate. It’s almost certain there are other operators out there that are lying low for now, waiting for the issue to die down. Their modus operandi is woven around the same assumptions about our political system, namely: that there is big money to be made from government, that every public official has a price, that everyone is on the take or complicit, and that even as investigations are launched to placate public anger, no one actually goes to jail unless they pose a political threat.

The main argument of this imaginary thesis would be that a political system like ours incorporates corruption into its operations as a condition for its maintenance. In short, corruption is functional to the system. The system’s default is to reproduce itself. Nothing will compel it to change except persistent pressure from outside the system. If the other institutional systems—the mass media, the Church, the economic system, the law, etc.—can generate enough noise and irritation over its performance, the political system will have no choice but to pause, reflect and reform.

Sam Miguel
08-02-2013, 09:45 AM
‘Padrinos’

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:25 pm | Thursday, August 1st, 2013

Retired general Danilo Lim spoke of “powerful forces” preventing reform from taking root in the Bureau of Customs. How powerful? Enough to dissuade the former Scout Ranger from naming names. Another ex-soldier, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV, said he was certain President Aquino knew who the “padrinos” pulling strings in the controversial agency were, and called on the President to name names, too.

This sounds like a dangerous game of one-upmanship, but in fact Trillanes has a point. Identifying who the real powers are in Customs would be a vigorous step in the right direction.

But identification alone is not enough. Proof must be presented, yes, but beyond that, naming names would be tantamount to declaring open season on powerful individuals; the President, or indeed anyone else who dares, must be prepared for the certainty of conflict. If the padrinos in Customs are named, the intensity of the infighting among the political class will make the political skirmishing over the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona look like a bloodless video game.

Already, a senator has gone on record to say he has indeed been calling up Customs officials, but only to complain about inefficiencies or instances of corruption. We can expect more strategic denials in the future, from other highly placed politicians or highly influential businessmen. They may be completely innocent; they may be intricately implicated in the corruption in Customs. But they have mastered the political game as it is played in the Philippines, enough to know that all they need to do is ride out the bad publicity, and things will return to normal.

That is why naming names is important; it fixes the identity of those very people who have turned the agency into the icon of incompetence and corruption denounced in the State of the Nation Address. And that is also why Lim missed a real opportunity to fight for the reform he champions; unlike President Aquino, he can speak from his personal experience with these padrinos.

We realize that some padrinos change from administration to administration; how many Filipinos have heard horror stories about one influential individual in the previous government directly calling the shots in the agency? Lim, then, can offer a specific kind of testimony: the time-bound kind, which demonstrates how even corruption in Customs follows a cycle.

Even Trillanes must have based his unlikely challenge to President Aquino on certain knowledge. He can name names, too, offering another kind of testimony: the one from reputation. It may even be that some of those he has heard convincing details about are old, familiar names—the ones who have been around for decades. Think of the service he will render the country.

But Lim, Trillanes, even Mr. Aquino must prepare to do battle; the padrinos are where they are precisely because they know their way around power.

The truth is: In the Customs context, money is not the root of all evil—though there is certainly a lot of money to do evil with. Rather, it is patronage that is the source of corruption.

The padrinos serve as gatekeepers; their nominees win the right posts. They serve to protect those they have nominated, from reassignment or the occasional anticorruption initiative. They serve as guarantors of those they protect, assuring them of steady extra revenue. They even serve as financiers for political campaigns.

These powerful forces must be exposed for who they are. Lim, Trillanes, even the President are faced with the opportunity of a lifetime.

Sam Miguel
08-02-2013, 09:48 AM
‘Demoralized’ customs men wear black armbands

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:19 am | Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Wearing black armbands was the response of a number of Bureau of Customs (BOC) employees to what they call “sweeping generalizations” made by President Benigno Aquino III in his recent State of the Nation Address in which he referred to customs personnel as corrupt and inefficient.

In a news conference at the BOC headquarters in Manila’s South Harbor, some 20 members of Bureau of Customs Employees Association (Bocea) wore the armbands to express their disappointment over the President’s remarks and to oppose alleged government plans to privatize the agency.

In a statement, Romulo Pagulayan, head of the 3,000-member Bocea, described the President’s pronouncements as “very disgraceful and humiliating.”

Due process disregarded

Mr. Aquino’s accusations also “demoralized all officers and employees of the BOC,” Pagulayan said. “(They were) in complete disregard of their rights to dignity and due process as provided for in the Constitution.”

The Bocea president said the Department of Finance-attached agency “cannot be totally blamed for not meeting its revenue collection targets,”

Factors like globalization, trade liberalization, a sluggish international trade and a strong peso should be faulted for the problem, he said.

Lack of personnel

BOC personnel “should not be faulted for the perceived smuggling problem in the bureau,” which the Bocea head claimed was “beyond the control of the BOC’s 17 collection districts.”

“At present, the total personnel complement of the bureau is just 3,000 distributed in 17 districts nationwide compared to 7,000 in 1980…. With this lack of personnel, the bureau cannot cover and effectively carry out its mandate,” Pagulayan.

He added that “despite this handicap, the BOC has proven its capability in apprehending smuggled goods.”

In his Sona, Mr. Aquino lambasted the BOC for allowing smuggled items, weapons and even illegal drugs into the country, and for not properly taxing imported goods.

The President said: “Instead of collecting the proper taxes and preventing contraband from entering the country, they are heedlessly permitting the smuggling of goods, even drugs, arms and other items of similar nature into our territory. The Department of Finance estimates that more than P200 billion in revenues slip through our borders instead of going to our public coffers… Where do these people get the gall?”

He also said he was dismayed with the performance of the agency and its personnel.

‘Padrino’ system

Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon has complained that efforts to curb shenanigans in the agency have been stymied by people entrenched in the BOC padrino (patron) system.

Biazon and his deputy commissioner for intelligence, Danilo Lim, were quoted as saying that backers of corrupt BOC officials include senators, congressmen and relatives of high government officials.

“There will be no more sacred cows at the Bureau of Customs,” Biazon said on Thursday.

He said the agency’s “antismuggling drive, just like before, would be aggressive and wide-ranging.”

“However, this time, with President Aquino’s call to clean the bureau of corrupt officials no matter who their protectors are, there will be no more sacred cows at the BOC,” Biazon said.

He said “all those caught doing illicit trade in the bureau will be prosecuted, in accordance with law.”

“[I]f, for so many reasons, we encountered setbacks in our antismuggling campaign before despite our all-out drive against smuggling, we don’t expect this to happen now after the President’s resounding call for reforms in the Bureau of Customs in his fourth State of the Nation Address,” Biazon said.

Smuggled rice

He made the remarks upon his return from an official trip to Cebu City, where he inspected 312 container vans of smuggled Vietnamese rice at the Port of Cebu.

The shipment, which is part of more than 1,160 container vans of illegally imported rice seized by the BOC in late April, is scheduled for auction next week.

“The government expects to raise at least P245 million in revenue from the Aug. 7 auction of the 312 container vans of smuggled rice,” Biazon said.

The agency earlier raised P14.5 million when it auctioned off 50 container vans from the same shipment of smuggled rice.

Mother lode

Lim earlier called the shipment the agency’s “biggest haul of smuggled rice.”

“We hit the mother lode of rice smuggling,” he told reporters as he led the formal seizure of the illegal rice shipment, said to be worth over P1.2 billion.

Deputy Customs Commissioner Danilo Lim pointed out the smuggled rice was bigger in volume and value than the haul confiscated last year at the Subic Bay Freeport in Zambales.

The Cebu rice shipment was misdeclared as stone and granite slabs and cooling insulators, among other items. The container vans arrived on separate occasions between March 22 and April 13.

The BOC named the consignees of the illegally imported rice as JJM Global Trading, JM-ARS Trading, Neon Gateway Trading, Custans Enterprises, Melma Enterprises, NMW Enterprises, Ocean Park Enterprises, and MMSM Trading.

Other smuggled items

In Cebu, Biazon also inspected more than P10 million worth of smuggled items from China, Japan and Australia, including three used Mitsubishi Colt vehicles, a Mazada Elf truck, seven motorcycles and five used speedboats.

He said “the latest seizure of smuggled goods was the result of the bureau’s enhanced antismuggling and anticorruption campaign.”

He said it was “in response to the President’s rebuke on the extent of corruption in the agency.”

Sam Miguel
08-02-2013, 09:57 AM
^^^ These BOCEA people, I swear to God, I guess the President was right about them all along. Ang kakapal talaga ng mukha.

Ironically and tragically, they seem to be the only people in the country who think they are getting things done over at Customs.

I find it very hard to believe that they do not know of the shenanigans all over Customs for at least the better part of the last half-century.

Even if we were to assume (not admit) that they had nothing to do with these shenanigans, the fact that they know of them, and surely know who are behind said shenanigans, and have never so much as spoken out against the perpetrators, makes them GUILTY BY OMISSION of AIDING and ABETTING CORRUPTION.

Sigurado may nagaganap na katiwalian. Sigurado may nakakaalam, baka nga marami pang nakakaalam (gaya ng mga kasapi sa BOCEA), sa mga katiwaliang ito. Ngunit ni isa walang nagsasalita. Pare-pareho lang nilang niloloko at ninanakawan ang Bayan.

They have the guts to speak out against a President who has torn them a new a--hole, yet curiously they do not have the guts to come out and condemn those who are giving Customs its deservedly bad name.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:14 AM
Never again

By Joseph Jadway “JJ” Marasigan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:58 pm | Sunday, August 4th, 2013

If you frequent the social media, Facebook especially, you will quickly notice some regular but phony narratives about the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. They speak about his supposed achievements and exploits, and how he is currently being molded in an image of a hero or that of a great statesman. The most recent one that I encountered is a tale about the golden treasures that certain parties so persistently try to connect to his wealth, to erase the popular belief that it was ill-gotten.

Some analysts think that these narratives are all part of the grand scheme of the Marcoses to try to revise history. More recently, the family has been trying to put up a discourse on the Marcos and Aquino schools, if indeed there are such things, in an effort to field Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. in the 2016 national elections. There are also verified reports in the academic community that in 2016, the likely contenders against the Aquino team will not be Jejomar Binay and whoever his vice presidential candidate will be. According to these reports, the fight will likely be between President Aquino’s anointed successor and Bongbong-Bong (Revilla) or Bong-Bongbong. Indeed, certain parties are doing the best they can to wage an online social movement aimed precisely at some sort of historical revisionism that will redeem the Marcoses.

With regard to the Marcos ill-gotten wealth, I find Ricardo Manapat’s “Some are Smarter than Others: History of Marcos Crony Capitalism” as very credible reading, being very well-documented and evidence-based. The thief was really smarter than others to be able to steal bars of gold from the Philippine Central Bank’s gold reserves, have these melted and reshaped, and engraved with ancient Asian characters to make these appear as part of his exploits during World War II.

But let’s talk about the Yamashita “Golden Buddha” discovered by Rogelio Roxas and forcibly taken from the poor guy, with Marcos’ brother, Judge Pacifico Marcos, ordering Roxas’ arrest and their cohorts beating him almost to death. Let’s talk about the Steel Butterfly’s 3,000 pairs of shoes. Let’s talk about her husband’s fake medals. Let’s talk about the Import Control Law that then Rep. Ferdinand Marcos authored, imposing soaring importation taxes on foreigners who wanted to do business in the Philippines. He was allegedly even the one selling import licenses to foreign businessmen for $3,000 each. The story goes that when he was still courting Imelda and they were on their way to Baguio City, he made an excuse to stop by his bank and invited her to step inside the vault holding his money. Sandra Burton wrote in her celebrated work “Impossible Dream: The Aquinos, the Marcoses and the Unfinished Revolution” that Imelda’s eyes nearly popped out when she saw bundles of money, not in Philippine pesos, but in cold US dollars. Let’s talk about the coconut levy imposed on poor coconut farmers, supposedly to solve their perennial credit problems. It turned out the levy only satisfied his cronies’ perennial greed. And the long list goes on.

Now certain parties want to revise history and target the younger generations, to lead them to believe the hoax that is FM. Again, I think that these are all part of the design to cleanse the name of the man who believed in his own lies. A man who was driven by his delusion, as can be gleaned from his own diary written on stationery bearing the mark “Office of the President,” that he had supernatural powers. A man who declared martial law thinking that he was there to stay in power for good.

In one of the pages of the diary that was discovered after he and his family fled Malacañang, Marcos thought that the chaos he himself had magnified “brings me to the necessity to declare martial law, as God spoke to me … in order to save democracy.” When an attempt was made against the life of Pope Paul VI who was then visiting Manila, Marcos “felt like the spirit of God possessed me to strike with a karate chop the man who attempted to kill the Pope” (when he was not even anywhere near the area where the Pontiff was attacked). “My hair stands [on end] as I realize what this means,” he wrote. My own hair stands on end as I begin to think about this madness.

He failed to study the lessons of history, and so the rest became history. Maybe he was not really smart, after all. He was simply a liar or an egomaniac—or both.

I suspect that a lot more attempts to revise history will come out via the social media, sooner or later. But we should say: Never again to martial law. Never again to the Marcoses. As the late Jaime Cardinal Sin once said: “To err is human. To forgive is divine. But to repeat is stupid.”

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:16 AM
Thinking about pork

By Edilberto C. de Jesus

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:16 pm | Friday, August 2nd, 2013

Can Asians think? Evasive statements from parties implicated in the alleged pork barrel scam recalled the book of Kishore Mhabubani, former Singapore ambassador to the United Nations and now dean of the LKY School of Public Policy. The alleged scammers apparently believe that Filipinos cannot think.

Responding to allegations that she distributed to fictitious beneficiary organizations grants from the Priority Development Assistance Funds entrusted to senators and congressmen, Janet Lim-Napoles denied any wrongdoing. JLN Corp., she claimed, had been doing business for many years, unblemished by any suspicion of fraud.

Lim-Napoles never addressed the basic questions even the casual reader would like answered: What is the business of JLN Corp.? What product or services does it offer clients? How does it make a profit? She must explain her company’s business model in a clear and credible way. A long business record is by itself no proof of virtue; a crook can successfully operate for a long time without being caught.

From the media accounts, the business appears to operate in the following manner. The company sets up nongovernment organizations to support propoor and priority government development programs that can be funded through the PDAF. It then secures funding support from legislators, who each receives a share of the PDAF budget (P200 million/year for the senators and P70 million/year for the congressmen).

NGOs compete for a share of a large but still limited pie. The challenge for Lim-Napoles and her staff is to market the projects of their NGOs to the politicians as superior to those offered by the others. One strategy is to get supporting endorsements of their projects from officials of local government units.

Implementation of development projects is a function of the executive branch. The responsibility of Congress is to evaluate the proposed programs of executive agencies and determine the budget they should receive. Wide discretion in deciding what projects to support with PDAF funds gives the members of Congress a role in implementation.

The rationale for the PDAF follows from the presumption that the elected politicians know the urgent needs of their constituencies and should have some means of responding quickly to them. The backlog in development projects, the perennial shortage of funds, and the bureaucratic requirements that lead to delays in executive action buttress the case for the PDAF.

The politicians are clearly key to whatever business Lim-Napoles is operating. Those implicated in the alleged scam, such as Senators Lito Lapid, Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ferdinand Marcos Jr., Gregorio Honasan and Vicente Sotto, are not neophyte politicians. They are supposed to be intimately familiar with the challenges facing their constituencies. Why should they need the services of Lim-Napoles?

Surely, in a country where more than a third of the population live below the poverty line and where thousands of NGOs are working to help the poor, politicians should not lack creditable NGOs and meritorious projects to fund. What makes the NGOs of JLN Corp. more deserving of support?

JLN’s political clients have a lot to explain. So far, the explanations have not been persuasive, but indicate the defensive lines the politicians are preparing: 1) The allegations constitute black propaganda against “presidentiables.” 2) We were responding to urgent, priority requests from local government officials. 3) Our trusted staff cleared the projects before we gave our approval. 4) Other executive government agencies are responsible for monitoring implementation and stopping fraud.

The first response is a pathetic evasion of the issue, as religious leaders have noted. The second requires investigation, as some LGUs are disputing claims that they initiated the request. The third requires us to trust congressional staff on the mere say-so of their bosses, who can later conveniently throw them overboard. The fourth slides past the prior, prejudicial question: the decision of the congressman or senator to favor JLN NGOs with their PDAF.

The truth about the alleged pork barrel scam does not require expert rocket science research. It begins and can end with the basic question on the character of the NGOs organized by JLN Corp. LGU officials have reported that even when their PDAF requests are granted, they have to deal with the NGOs recommended by the legislators. What was the track record that recommended the JLN NGOs? What was their PDAF performance?

Congress has control of the purse. Its members are accountable to the public for their stewardship of the PDAF. The casual, careless, and, possibly, corrupt handling of the PDAF program has brought disrepute to the entire institution.

Debates on whether to continue or scrap the PDAF should take place, but should not distract from the task of getting to the bottom of the JLN business. The thorough investigation of the issue will inform the debates and indicate policy direction. This, and sanctions for the guilty, will be necessary to rebuild public trust.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:17 AM
Pork barrel and agriculture

By Solita Collas-Monsod

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:17 pm | Friday, August 2nd, 2013

The latest Philippine Human Development Report (2012/2013), launched last Monday, may not have the most eye-opening, or curiosity-inspiring, of titles—“Geography and Human Development”—but its contents belie whatever humdrum expectations may be implied.

The Report cites evidence showing that factors related to geography—climate type, slope, elevation, whether an area is by the sea or is landlocked—“explain” a substantial amount of the variations in the Human Development Index (HDI) between our provinces. How substantial? Would you believe 34 percent for HDI as a whole, and as much as 47 percent for poverty incidence? And if so-called “neighborhood effects” are taken into account, the percentage goes up to 44 percent for HDI and 54 percent for poverty incidence.

By what channels does geography affect these local outcomes—life expectancy, mean years of schooling, per capita income and poverty incidence—that comprise the provincial HDI? And what are the opportunity costs of not fully taking geography into account?

The answer to the first question, according to the Report, is that the links are through human health, agricultural prospects, access between locations, and specific political institutions. And the answer to the second question is: Significant costs in terms of lost productivity, missed schooling, substandard agricultural yields (up to 150 percent in yield increase foregone), food insecurity, forfeited agglomeration economies (benefits obtained when firms locate near each other), and lost growth.

The Report then explains that these costs arise because of a national organization (read: government) that is arranged as vertical silos (“a system, process, department, etc. that operates in isolation from others”) by agency, and by program, which is “incompatible with the integrated, ecosystem-based governance that local geography demands.” Moreover, the large inefficiencies and foregone benefits also arise from the “well-intended but misguided notion that spreading production evenly across space will lead to growth that is more equitable”—the so-called “divide-by-N syndrome.”

That growth by its nature will be spatially uneven, and that “resisting the forces of unbalanced growth … is tantamount to fighting economic growth itself,” is emphasized by the Report—but it also emphasizes that a geographic convergence of living standards can and must take place, that growth strategies must not be focused on places, but on people.

I focus on two examples in the Report, given the current public focus: the pork barrel and agriculture.

The pork barrel is brought up in connection with the divide-by-N syndrome, which the Report defines as the “mechanical and feckless dissipation of government funds across localities instead of their rational allocation to where these might have the most impact.” The pork barrel, according to the Report, typifies this “fragmentation of public resources across time and space”—and one supposes that the term “feckless” covers the ghost-projects scam.

Apparently, what has been sauce for the goose (the legislators, the president, the vice president) is also sauce for the gander, because per the Report, “the same fragmentation is found at local levels, where pork-barrel-like allocations are drawn from local development funds and given to members of the Sanggunian and municipal mayors, and from mayors to barangays (at least those aligned with mayors). Hence, the many small projects with little or no development significance dotting towns and cities, such as waiting sheds, entrance arches, multipurpose pavements.”

What about agriculture? The Report is particularly critical of the government’s undue focus on rice (P-Noy mentions rice sufficiency in his State of the Nation Addresses, and just yesterday, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala bemoaned the fact that his department’s achievements in this area are overlooked), a focus that is not unique to the current administration. According to the Report, this misdirected focus—on rice self-sufficiency and on production rather than on cost-effective food security and on farm incomes—has crowded out support to other subsectors (e.g., fisheries, coconut) where poverty incidence is much higher.

Citing research findings, the Report concludes that the “single-commodity-production” focus has been costly, has undermined food security, and has been ultimately antipoor.

Has all this attention on rice resulted in the (unfortunately) desired self-sufficiency? The data speak for themselves: Between 2001 and 2010, per the Report, rice support claimed about 47 percent of the budget pie of P52.8 billion (excluding irrigation), but during the same period, self-sufficiency in rice declined by 10 percentage points from 91.29 percent to 81.27 percent.

Well, what about after P-Noy came in? The Report finds that in 2011, there was a sharp percentage point increase in the self-sufficiency ratio. However, again citing research, this was achieved by holding down imports to one-third their level in 2010 and then drawing down on the country’s rice stocks—an unsustainable strategy. And there is the fact that rice smuggling has proliferated (not in the Report), which is not reflected in import figures.

So what is the bottom line? The Report talks about economic integration and integrated delivery of basic and social services, with provinces as the key. Which is great. And we can start by dispensing with the pork barrel and reordering our agricultural priorities. That is, if we want inclusive growth. (Read the Report at www.hdn.org.ph.)

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:23 AM
Source of Napoles wealth questioned

Coal firms bogus, says ex-employee

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:35 am | Monday, August 5th, 2013

The rise of Janet Lim-Napoles from a modest family home in a Laguna subdivision to a mansion at Forbes Park in just a little over 20 years is the stuff most Filipino dreams are made of.

She claims her great wealth came not by defrauding the government of billions of pesos in lawmakers’ pork barrel funds meant to ease rural poverty, but from sound investment. Her whistle-blowers say Napoles’ fortune certainly did not come from exporting coal as she had claimed in a TV interview.

“They do not know anything about coal,” said Merlina P. Suñas, who registered for Napoles dummy companies and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

Suñas is one of six former employees of Napoles who have executed affidavits accusing the president and CEO of the JLN Group of Companies of turning the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, into a source of kickbacks. The racket came to light when Benhur Luy, the principal whistle-blower, was allegedly detained by Napoles and subsequently rescued by the National Bureau of Investigation.

The NBI is investigating the claims of the whistle-blowers.

Napoles, 49, has remained secretive about how she and her family accumulated such great fortune despite a ruthless desire to be accepted in high society by throwing lavish parties and hobnobbing with the rich and the powerful.

The Inquirer asked Napoles’ camp to reveal the family’s source of wealth. Her counsel, Lorna Kapunan, replied: “My client feels that she cannot trust you. We will present proof in the appropriate venue. We have sent a demand letter to PDI … expressing our client’s concern over your demolition job.”

Luy (a relative and former personal assistant) and Suñas (a former staff member and president of one of the 20 bogus NGOs formed by Napoles) revealed in interviews that JLN was a tightly managed, family business preying on taxpayers’ money with the connivance of senators, representatives and their staff, and government officials and bureaucrats.

“They cannot say how they earned their money because they are probably ashamed to tell their high society friends about it,” Suñas said.

In an interview with ABS-CBN News’ Korina Sanchez on July 23, Napoles, her husband and two children, James and Jo-Christine, explained that the family’s wealth came from “a successful business in coal export and trade to China, India and Pakistan, and others since the 1990s.”

Sanchez even interviewed “a longtime business partner who flew in to testify to the legitimacy of the Napoles family business.” The unidentified business partner said: “In 1998, we grew together up to right now. Now we become bigger. In Jakarta, we have property, around 650 hectares.”

Napoles claimed that her business partners are in the country to prove the legitimacy of her businesses and that she did not deal exclusively with the government. Her husband, former Marine Maj. Jaime Napoles, said: “It is true we have a business, but this is not just any business. This is legitimate business.”

In a letter to President Aquino on April 17, Napoles said:

“We are decent law-abiding citizens all our lives. We are not kidnappers; we are not criminals. My family and I are legitimate businessmen. We have been engaged in the business for the past 29 years and the main reason for our success is because of the trust and integrity attached to our good name.”

Napoles sought the President’s intervention in what she claimed was an extortion attempt by “suspicious characters” and some NBI agents.

Congressman, generals

Suñas said she was assigned to handle the registration of Napoles’ supposed coal companies, Asia Prime Energy Development Corp. and Asia Star Power Resources Corp., between 2010 and 2011, and she knew that these companies were bogus.

“They do not know anything about coal. Their goal was to go into a high-profile business from the money they made out of their real business. I think their next plan was to go into power generation,” Suñas said.

Asia Prime had a former Mindanao representative as head, while Asia Power had former generals as stockholders. SEC records show that these two companies remain in their start-up phase.

Luy said that as a Grade 3 pupil, he once spent his summer vacation at the three-bedroom Napoles home on Teresa Street, South City Homes, Biñan, Laguna. “We were crammed in there. They had a red Toyota car and it was really beat up,” Luy said.

He said that after he got his license as a medical technologist in 2002, Napoles recruited him to help her. “I was working at Chinese General Hospital then and I had planned on moving to work for a drug-testing company. But she wanted me to just work for her and offered to match my salary, which was P14,000,” Luy said.

He was paid P8,000 a month and stayed with the Napoles family who by then had moved to No. 635 San Isidro St., Ayala Alabang Village in Muntinlupa City.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 08:23 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Husband as driver

Luy said that Napoles was fully in charge of the business with her husband as her driver, a far cry from the mutineer in 1989 who commandeered a Marine tank in a failed solo mission to crash the gates of Camp Aguinaldo. (His vehicle lost fuel. He suffered burns when soldiers poured gasoline in the tank to flush him out).

“Our days were mostly spent talking to congressmen, mayors and chiefs of staff of senators mostly outside their offices. It was Evelyn de Leon who was tasked to go to Congress or the Senate or their offices to follow up,” Luy said.

De Leon is the president of the Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI), one of the bogus NGOs. The foundation was among those accused of rigging the bid for P3.8 million worth of Kevlar helmets in 1998. The charges against Napoles were dropped for lack of probable cause.

Luy said De Leon and Napoles met when they were members of the “Most Blessed Sacrament,” a Christian organization in Laguna.

Luy said that in 2005, he was asked by Napoles to join the JLN office on the 25th floor of Discovery Suites in Ortigas. “She realized that I was good in liquidation of money and that I was thorough in monitoring collections and disbursements, everything was recorded and balanced,” he said.

In the office, Luy met De Leon, Suñas and other JLN employees who were also named president of the Napoles NGOs, like Marina Sula (Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.) and John Lim (Ginintuang Alay para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc.).

“There were a lot of congressmen, senators, former senators visiting our office,” Luy said.

Fertilizer scam

When Napoles was embroiled in another high-profile controversy in 2006, the P728-million fertilizer scam masterminded by then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, Luy said the original Napoles NGOs had to lie low—De Leon’s PSDFI accounted for P31 million and Suñas’ People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. accounted for P5.2 million of taxpayers’ money diverted to the campaign of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2004.

Among the Napoles NGOs formed after the fertilizer scam was the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. where Luy was president.

“I accepted because I thought foundations were meant for good deeds. I didn’t know at first that what we were working on were ghost deliveries. When I finally realized it, I was already in too deep,” he said.

At first, Luy said he was given a salary raise from P8,000 to P12,000. Napoles then offered him 0.5-percent commission when the amounts involved got bigger. “I got around P200,000 to P300,000 from our collections …. If the commission got too big, say P500,000, then Madam brought it lower. She was very tight with money,” he said.

Luy said Napoles’ acquisitions became more lavish in 2009 when she cornered the entire P900-million Malampaya fund allocated to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR).

“She really hit the jackpot then because she never delivered anything from the project, she got all the money. She ordered our foundations to start buying dollars from a black market trader on Pasong Tamo Avenue, Makati. She used these dollars to buy a hotel in Anaheim, California, ($7 million) and a condominium in LA ($1 million),” said Luy.

Suñas said she was responsible for coordinating with then Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman and his undersecretary, Narciso B. Nieto, what NGOs would be used as conduits. She said the NGOs were supposed to provide P35,781 worth of agricultural products (gloves, seeds sprayers, and containers) to each beneficiary.

She said the Malampaya funds were paid in the name of the NGOs that took out the money as soon as they were ready for withdrawal and delivered them promptly to Napoles’ office or home for deposit in her safe or her personal dollar or peso account, or to the Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc. (for higher returns), or her bathtub.

P75M withdrawal

Suñas said the P900 million was paid out in three batches in 2009 and 2010. “The biggest withdrawal I made was for P75 million in one day. We brought [the money] out of the bank using four traveling bags,” she said.

After the Malampaya fund windfall, Napoles acquired in 2010 her first mansion on Narra Street at Forbes Park Village (a source claimed that Napoles has at least five lots in Forbes alone), units at Pacific Plaza in Fort Bonifacio Global City, a hotel in Davao, and two units on the 53rd floor of Primea Tower on Ayala Avenue (worth at least P50 million each).

Luy and Suñas said Napoles’ modus operandi was no different from what she did in the Kevlar and the fertilizer scams—Napoles offered to pay in advance cash to the winning bidder of the project or the government agency handling the release of the funds or the senators or congressmen or governors or mayors who had pork barrel and internal revenue allotment funds at their disposal.

The two said Napoles’ partners got 40 percent to 60 percent of the project value up front while the brokers (normally their staff or friends or relatives) got a standard 5-percent commission and the NGO staffers, 0.5 percent. Napoles would get the rest, they said.

“We just do the paperwork and the follow-ups. We hardly meet with the big bosses, only Madam gets to meet them,” Luy said.

He said the Napoles couple were fond of throwing parties that were always bigger and more expensive than what they had before. “They wanted to be accepted into high society,” Luy said.

But the biggest party was reserved for what could only be termed as a “crocodile’s ball” where all business partners and agents gathered yearly at Discovery Suites to celebrate the years’ collections.

Sam Miguel
08-05-2013, 10:19 AM
Bill seeks to criminalize padrino recommendations

By Christina Mendez

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 5, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is set to revive a bill seeking to penalize patronage politics in the bureaucracy.

This week Santiago will file the “Anti-Political Recommendations Bill,” which had been filed during the second regular session of the 14th Congress, amid reports that some ranking officials of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) were promoted with the endorsement of powerful politicians.

The senator said the bill aims to punish the acts of making and soliciting political recommendations from any public official or employee.

Violators can be fined up to P30,000, imprisoned for up to one year, or both fined and jailed. If an administrative probe establishes guilt, a government employee can be suspended or dismissed from the service.

Santiago said passing the bill into law will strengthen the bureaucracy by granting agencies their rightful discretion over the appointment, promotion, assignment, transfer or designation of their employees.

Santiago recommends that each appointment, promotion, assignment, transfer or designation, interim or otherwise, of a public officer or an employee shall be made without regard to any recommendation or statement, oral or written, with respect to any person who requests or is under consideration for such appointment by any member of the Senate or House of Representatives.

The same provision goes for any official of the national or local government, member of the judiciary, official of a political party and any other individual or organization.

“The violation proven in a proper administrative proceeding shall be sufficient cause for removal or dismissal of a public officer even if no criminal prosecution is instituted against such officer,” Santiago’s bill declares.

Yesterday, Santiago renewed her tirade against former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile for allegedly endorsing the appointment of Customs collector Rogel Gatchalian to the Port of Manila during the previous administration.

“You can see the practice of politicians who use influence to recommend persons to lucrative posts. These corrupt officials place their own people in agencies perceived as corrupt,” Santiago said, adding that corruption in the BOC “stinks to high heavens.”

Although she was suffering from chronic fatigue syndrome, Santiago managed to give a radio interview criticizing Enrile who admitted last week that he endorsed the promotion of Gatchalian.

But Enrile said he was surprised that Gatchalian was appointed as collector for the Port of Manila.

“My goodness me... they gave in to his request. Now he will even blame the Palace? A Customs collector at the Port of Manila is a very important position in the BOC. (Enrile) should know because he was a former Customs commissioner,” Santiago said.

She said the “padrino” system usually exists in departments or agencies where there are “lucrative” posts such as in the Department of Public Works and Highways, BOC, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Bureau of Immigration, and Department of Transportation and Communications.

“If the politician is the one making the recommendation, it means he is lobbying for it,” she said.

Santiago called for a ban on political recommendations, saying the “padrino system” is another deplorable practice of epal or shameless politicians.

“There should be a presumption that it is a corrupt practice in the Philippines. There are no people in lucrative posts that were appointed because of their own merits. In corrupt offices, the longer you stay, the more corrupt you will get,” she said in pushing for the passage of the measure.

She said “epal” politicians already have their names displayed in every public infrastructure project earmarked through their pork barrel. “And now they want their names attached in people’s résumés? The nerve of these people,” Santiago said.

In a press statement, Santiago reacted to reports that senators and congressmen recommended the promotion of the alleged “three kings” at BOC, among them Gatchalian. The two others are Manila International Container Port collector Ricardo Belmonte and Ninoy Aquino International Airport district collector Carlos So.

Belmonte has denied having political backers, adding that he rose from the ranks and has been in the bureau for 34 years.

“Why should a senator or congressman meddle and influence how an agency of the executive branch hires its employees? If the person you backed turns out to be corrupt, what does it say about you as a politician?” Santiago said.

“Worse, the padrino system tends to bypass more qualified individuals to government positions in favor of ones with better political connections. Aside from being corrupt, they are unqualified. We should bring back meritocracy to the bureaucracy,” the senator said.

Santiago has a cousin in the BOC: Deputy Commissioner Horacio Suansing.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2013, 09:08 AM
Napoles had P510M in PAF coop, says Luy

Whistle-blower has records of fund transactions

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

Janet Lim-Napoles had more than P500 million in a savings and loan cooperative of members of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) deposits under her name, her husband, children and employees allegedly running dummy nongovernment organizations (NGO) siphoning state funds through ghost projects.

Lawyer Levi Baligod said whistle-blower Benhur Luy had the complete records of funds Napoles had amassed from profits of her bogus NGOs that were pumped into Air Materiel Wing Savings and Loan Association Inc. (AMWSLAI) through the help of the thrift association’s president and chair, Ricardo L. Nolasco Jr.

“There are questions on whether Napoles and the persons she used were eligible and whether these investments were in keeping with AMWSLAI’s limits on deposits,” Baligod said in an interview.

The Inquirer called Nolasco’s office, his personal staff and compliance officer Ronald Dominguez for comment on this report but he had not replied as of press time.

Baligod said Napoles wanted to maximize the bonanza from her fake NGOs by placing the money in a safe but high-yielding deposit account. “AMWSLAI gives up to 13-percent interest earnings, tax free,” the lawyer said.

He said that Nolasco apparently accommodated Napoles despite the fact that AMWSLAI had a P3-million limit on its deposits per individual to prevent an abuse of the funds.

Based on documents furnished by Luy, who was entrusted by Napoles to record and balance her business books, Napoles funneled a total of P510 million in deposits to AMWSLAI from Oct. 9, 2009, to April 2011.

These are:

– P55 million deposited in April 2009 in the accounts of Napoles and her children James and Jo-Christine (P10 million each); and Gertrudes Luy (P25 million).

– P100 million or P25 million each in the accounts of Jaime Napoles (Janet’s husband), William Lim, Luy and Vanessa Ajos Eman (a president of one of the Napoles’ NGOs) deposited in October 2009.

– P4 million under Edwin Tan in February 2010.

– P205 million deposited in June 2010 under Liza Ho Maclang (P5 million) and Winnie Villanueva and John Raymund de Asis (P100 million each).

– P29 million under Rosita Kawson Co (P25 million) and Bonifacio Lao Maclang (P4 million) in July 2010.

– P30 million in December 2010 under Karen Panlilio Pantoja.

– P25 million in January 2011 under Napoles.

– P62 million under Gertrudes Luy (P25 million), Janet (P5 million) and her children James and Jo-Christine (P16 million each) in April 2011.

Luy’s records included the account and certificate numbers of each placement, terms of placement (between two and three years), and interest per annum (10 and 13 percent).

It could not be determined whether the funds were rolled over.

Napoles, head of JLN Corp., has accused Luy of stealing P300,000 from her company and taking out two loans amounting to P5 million from AMWSLAI on her behalf without her authorization.

Special probe panel

Also on Monday, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales said in a statement that she had ordered the creation of a special panel to look into the misuse by seven NGOS allegedly controlled by Napoles of P200 million in funds under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) in 2007 and 2008.

Morales has also given the five-member panel the leeway to conduct a preliminary investigation and administrative adjudication of all other cases that may arise from or involve the utilization of the PDAF. She said a case buildup by her field investigation office had started even before Luy blew the whistle on the pork barrel scam.

The panel will look into graft and falsification charges filed against former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Undersecretary Narciso Nieto, Director Teresita Panlilio, chief accountant Angelita Cacananta, budget officer Ronald Venancio, cashier Nilda Baui, three notaries public, three certified public accountants and 24 private individuals behind the seven NGOs led by Luy and his fellow whistle-blower Merlina Suñas.

The Ombudsman said Pangandaman, Nieto, Panlilio, Venancio and Baui have also been slapped with administrative charges for grave misconduct, conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service, gross neglect of duty and serious dishonesty.

NGOs investigated

The seven NGOs implicated in the CARP fund scam were Luy’s Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.;, People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. led by Suñas; Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc. led by May-Ann Kilapkilap as president; Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. led by Nemesio Pablo; Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Foundation Inc. led by Jocelyn O. Piorato; Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. led by Marina Sula; and Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. led by Simonette Briones.

The 245-page complaint said Pangandaman and his coaccused granted funds for projects classified as “agri-business development,” “micro-livelihood project” or “agricultural production” to the seven NGOs in violation of the Commission on Audit circular on the release of funds to NGOs and people’s organizations.

The complaint alleged that while the NGOs said they made deliveries to projects in several municipalities in Cagayan, Pangasinan, Cavite, Dinagat Island, Surigao del Norte, Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte and Agusan del Sur, the listed beneficiaries denied getting anything from them.

The CARP fund scam is seen as a precursor of the P900-million Malampaya fund scam that whistle-blower Suñas claimed was concocted by Napoles, Pangandaman and Nieto in 2009 using fake NGOs that made ghost deliveries.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2013, 09:10 AM
P728M FERTILIZER SCAM

Dimaporo arrested by NBI in hospital

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Tuesday, August 6th, 2013

The Sandiganbayan, together with the National Bureau of Investigation, served the arrest warrant Monday on Lanao del Norte Rep. Abdullah Dimaporo in his suite at Cardinal Santos Medical Center in Greenhills, San Juan City, in connection with the P728-million fertilizer scam in 2004.

Judicial Officer Romulo Barrozo oversaw the arrest order served at 11 a.m. after which Dimaporo’s fingerprints were taken, his personal details recorded and his mug shots taken.

A court source said the group agreed to allow Dimaporo to stay in the hospital under the watch of the NBI even though the antigraft court had ordered that no bail would be granted for the malversation charges against him for the alleged ghost delivery of fertilizers to a nongovernment organization (NGO) in 2004.

Dimaporo’s lawyers presented the Sandiganbayan officials with the doctor’s recommendation allowing him to remain under hospital care after suffering chest pains and acute myocardial infraction or a mild heart attack a few days ago.

They also argued that the case against Dimaporo was weak and did not justify the prohibition of bail.

Last week, Dimaporo was charged by the Ombudsman with malversation of public funds and graft for the purchase and delivery of 10,000 bags of Saka Organic fertilizers worth P5 million under the Farm Inputs and Farm Implement Program of the Department of Agriculture through the Lanao Foundation Inc. (LFI), an NGO formed by the lawmaker in 1994. The Ombudsman claimed that Dimaporo faked the delivery receipts for the fertilizer.

Dimaporo’s coaccused are former provincial agriculturist Isabelo Luna and private individuals Felizardo Dragon, Evangeline Ontiveros, Rosalinda Bisenio and Elmer Sayre.

The bogus fertilizer transaction is one of several projects that constituted the P728-million fertilizer fund scam orchestrated by then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante in 2004 as part of an alleged plan to divert taxpayers’ money to the campaign kitty of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The prosecution has 10 days to comment on Dimaporo’s petition for hospital arrest. The defense will have another 10 days to respond to the prosecution.

Sam Miguel
08-06-2013, 10:15 AM
More LGUs complain of financial woes; probe set

By Michael Punongbayan

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Cities and municipalities all over the country are on the brink of bankruptcy, with some local leaders ordering strict austerity measures that threaten to delay projects and undermine delivery of basic services.

Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas II said they would look into reports that previous administrations had scraped city and municipal budgets clean.

“We are gathering the information from the LGUs. Many newly elected city mayors have informally commented that they have been left with nothing. But these stories were anecdotal – we still have to find more data,” Roxas told The STAR.

Misamis Oriental Gov. Yevgeny Vincente Emano is blaming his predecessor for the province’s financial woes, which have prompted him to issue an executive order limiting expenses to 70 percent of the province’s budget.

Misamis Oriental “is in a fiscal crisis as the provincial government can no longer manage its debts due to a huge budget deficit, caused by an imbalance between revenues and expenditures,” he said.

“All departments are hereby ordered to ensure a reduction of at least 30 percent in the use of electricity, water and office supply. The Office of the Provincial Administrator shall ensure Internet or LAN connectivity among all offices and the use of the same for inter-office memorandum to save on paper and energy cost,” he said.

An audit observation memorandum (AOM) from the Commission on Audit (COA) last June revealed that actual collections from January to June amounted to only P492.5 million or 30 percent of the full-year target collection.

For the remaining half of the year, the Office of the Provincial Treasurer has projected an income of P516.6 million, including the province’s share in the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA).

Emano revealed that total disbursements for the months of January to June amounted to P509.3 million while obligations without cash backup totaled P260 million.

He noted that the provincial government also has to pay P102 million in premiums to PhilHealth and loans totaling P24 million.

He said the province may have to settle at the moment its obligations incurred after June 30.

“The programs under the chief executive will be reviewed and if necessary, only those that are critical and necessary, such as disaster preparedness and delivery of health services, will be implemented,” Emano’s executive order read.

He also directed the provincial administrator to submit a program for austerity prepared in consultation with all departments while the Sangguniang Panlalawigan, under the provincial vice governor, is called to adopt its own austerity program.

Unless extremely necessary, travel and meetings outside Misamis Oriental and Cagayan de Oro City are not allowed in the meantime.

In his executive order, Emano also suspended the purchase of vehicles except ambulances or those for disaster preparedness. Also restricted are training, workshops and seminars, as well as some cultural activities unless deemed necessary under the province’s tourism development program.

Also in the red territory is the municipality of Guiguinto in Bulacan, whose budget deficit stands at P50 million. Officials also lamented that some properties and equipment owned by the municipality were unaccounted for.

Municipal administrator Edilberto Cruz said expenses have been limited to employee’s salaries, acquisition of office supplies, and delivery of social services. The municipality is headed by Mayor Ambrosio Cruz.

Cruz said the municipality also had to settle P2 million in mobile telephone bills carried over from the previous leadership.

“I issued a memorandum that telephone expenses will be limited to the mayor, members of the Sangguniang Bayan and department heads,” he said.

Cruz described the expenses as “mind boggling” and “shocking.”

More woes up north

In Pangasinan, Dagupan City and the town of Binmaley also reported severe financial difficulties.

Dagupan City Mayor Belen Fernandez said she has only P8.5 million cash on hand against a total projected expense of P56.3 million.

Luz de Guzman, acting budget officer, said the P8.5 million was all that remained of the P612-million approved budget for 2013 after deducting the expenditures made by the past city administration, or some P356.1 million.

Fernandez said the city, as it turned out, had incurred a deficit of P21.6 million in 2012 and the past administration used the 2013 budget to cover it.

Fernandez cited a report of City Treasurer Romelita Alcantara before the Sangguniang Panlungsod in 2012 that the city had P1-million surplus to justify a request of former mayor Benjamin Lim for a supplemental budget.

But Alcantara, in a meeting called by Fernandez, admitted that the P22.6 million from the 2013 budget had been used to pay different creditors. The same problem was raised by Binmaley Mayor Simplicio Rosario.

“Believe it or not, as of June 30, it’s zero balance with even thousands of pesos debts left for gasoline expenses,” Rosario said.

Rosario also said that of the P4.32-million appropriation for job order for workers, only P2,188 was left on June 30 when he assumed office.

Of the P3.1 million for indigents, only P100,000 remained when Rosario took over.

Hidden budget

Bacolod Mayor Monico Puentevella lambasted his predecessor for keeping him “in the dark as far as our financial situation is concerned.”

“It’s unfortunate that despite DILG’s memo discouraging or preventing local government units from incurring more debts or loans, our City of Smiles (tagline of Bacolod) isn’t smiling anymore with P1.3-billion debt we inherited,” Puentevella said in press statement.

“And not surprisingly, these are made on the year just before the elections are held. The Department of Finance knows this but somehow, they have tolerated it through the years,” he said.

“I’m just stating this for the record for DILG and Department of Finance now to prevent this from continuing, unless there’s a calamity or incidents of this nature,” he said.

“And what is worse, to rise from the ashes, most of the inheritors are forced to borrow again in order to survive or do their job. Stringent guidelines are essential, or there’s no end to this. Victims are the taxpayers,” he said.

He said they were on an “Easter hunt” for funds in Bacolod City Hall. “As far as hidden money is concerned, we have not found it yet,” he said.

Mayor Rolando Distura of Dumangas town in Iloilo is also complaining of depleted coffers.

“For one, the fund allocated for assistance in crisis situation, which is usually given as aid to indigents, was left with almost nothing,” he said. Before the second quarter of the year, the previous administration requested for P300,000 supplemental budget while then Rep. Ferjenel Biron provided P500,000.

“Of the P1.8 million, when I assumed post last July 1, what was left was P1,200. It was unfair because we deemed that it was inappropriately used,” Distura said.

He also said Dumangas entered into a loan agreement with the Development Bank of the Philippines for P13.5 million set to mature in April 2016. The money was used for the construction of a transport terminal.

“I acknowledge that the intention was good. But my hands are now tied because of the little fund when I took over,” he added. – With Charlie Lagasca, Cecille Suerte Felipe, Michelle Zoleta, Raymund Catindig, Roel Pareño, Jennifer Rendon, Danny Dangcalan, Eva Visperas, Dino Balabo

Sam Miguel
08-06-2013, 10:16 AM
Militant lawmakers give up P1.5-B ‘pork’

By Jess Diaz

(The Philippine Star) | Updated August 6, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Seven militant party-list representatives have decided to give up nearly P1.5 billion in pork barrel funds available to them for the next three years.

They made the decision as other members of the House of Representatives called for retaining the congressional pork barrel.

“We will not access our PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) during the 16th Congress,” one of the seven, Carlos Zarate of Bayan Muna, said yesterday in a television interview.

PDAF is the official name of the congressional pork barrel. It allocates P200 million a year for each senator and P70 million for each House member.

Zarate and his colleagues thus have a combined P490 million for one year and P1.470 billion for the three-year life of the present Congress up to the end of President Aquino’s term on June 30, 2016.

“We can’t say we’ll just institute reforms (in the use of the PDAF). The challenge for all of us in Congress is to abolish the pork barrel,” Zarate said.

Alliance of Concerned Teachers Rep. Antonio Tinio said the proposed introduction of reforms in the use of the pork barrel amid the latest allegations of irregularities would no longer work.

“The guidelines are supposed to be strict, and yet we have this newest scam in which a syndicate supposedly pocketed P10 billion of pork barrel funds,” he said.

He said irregularities in the use of PDAF allocations could be the largest, longest-running corruption racket in the nation’s history.

Besides Zarate and Tinio, their colleagues who are not touching their PDAF are Luz Ilagan and Emmi de Jesus of Gabriela, Fernando Hicap of Anakpawis, Terry Ridon of Kabataan, and Neri Colmenares also of Bayan Muna.

According to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website, militant party-list groups had been availing themselves of their PDAF allocations from 2009 up to this year.

Before last May’s elections, the DBM released P83.350 million to Bayan Muna and P20 million to Anakpawis, though the amounts represented the two groups’ PDAF balances for previous years.

Zarate, Hicap and Ridon are first-time House members and thus have not tasted “pork.”

The seven militant party-list representatives, who belong to the House minority, have filed a bill to scrap the PDAF.

In the Senate, the principal proponent of scrapping the pork barrel is Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who, the DBM website shows, has received a total of P450 million in PDAF from 2009 up to June this year.

Zarate and his colleagues also criticized President Aquino for defending the congressional pork barrel amid reports of irregularities, saying such defense is not consistent with the Chief Executive’s daang matuwid advocacy.

They said it is not true that the President cannot scrap the PDAF, as Aquino’s spokespersons claim.

The President can choose to delete the PDAF in his budget proposal and to reject it if Congress returns it, Tinio said.

In calling for retaining the pork barrel, several House members supported the suggestion of Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. for PDAF critics to just give up their allocations.

“I am for the retention of PDAF because it is a huge help to the needy. It pays for scholarships of poor students, hospital bills of indigent patients, burial expenses of paupers, among others. Of course, it has been abused and corrupted by some. But the remedy is not to eliminate the fund but to tighten its disbursement,” Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao said.

His Isabela colleague Rodito Albano said: “The PDAF is for our constituents. They are entitled to it. Those who do not want it can give their share to us. The issue is not about its existence but its misuse.”

Valenzuela City Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo said those who are against the pork barrel should not deprive other districts of their allocation and should just heed the Speaker’s suggestion.

“We fully support the Speaker’s position that those who call for the PDAF abolition should not request release of their allocation to maintain their integrity,” he said.

The call for PDAF abolition came on the heels of reports that some politicians were misusing their allocation in cahoots with businesswoman Janet Napoles and bogus non-government organizations (NGOs). The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) is looking into the irregularity.

Leyte Rep. Martin Romualdez, head of the so-called independent bloc, said they would scrutinize the President’s own pork barrel funds, estimated at P200 billion. “The special purpose funds or lump sum funds are going unscrutinized and without any accountability,” Romualdez told reporters.

“While the controversy on pork barrel is a substantial amount, we are just talking here of about one percent of our budget next year. It is quite ironic that larger and bigger funds have been left unchecked and away from transparency and accountability,” he said.

Senate President Franklin Drilon, for his part, said the chamber would wait for the NBI and other agencies to finish their probe before deciding whether to launch its own investigation.

This developed as Justice Secretary Leila de Lima directed the Bureau of Immigration to be “on the lookout or alert for” Napoles and her brother Reynald Lim “should either or both of them pass through the immigration counters in any of our international airports and/or seaports, whether on their way in or out of the country.”

Meanwhile, another NGO is being asked to account for P17.7 million in pork barrel funds which was supposed to have been used for livelihood programs and stipends for scholars of eight barangays in Antipolo City two years ago.

The money was sourced from the PDAF of Rep. Roberto Puno in 2011. Puno is now deputy House speaker.

State auditors, in a 2012 report released last week, said Kaunlaran at Kagalingan in Antipolo Inc. (KAKA), has yet to show enough documentary proof of “validity, regularity and occurrence.”

At the Palace, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda clarified that Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares had never asked lawmakers to submit their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) as the investigation into the alleged misuse of PDAF had just started.

“The investigation by the BIR is very confidential. By nature, this is very confidential, so we are not privy as to what Commissioner Kim Henares will do as regards the investigation,” he said. – With Edu Punay, Michael Punongbayan, Paolo Romero, Marvin Sy, Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica

Joescoundrel
08-17-2013, 08:19 AM
COA: Funds sourced from Enrile, Revilla, Estrada, Honasan PDAF

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:53 am | Saturday, August 17th, 2013

Funds totaling P6.2 billion were transferred to 82 nongovernment organizations (NGOs) “in clear violation of the law” from 2007 to 2009, all of which were either unknown or cannot be located at their given addresses, according to the Special Audit of the Commission on Audit (COA) released Thursday.

The COA report said 10 NGOs linked to Janet Lim-Napoles are on the list. Of this 10, six are among the Top 19 NGOs that received the bulk of the pork barrel funds, officially called the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

These funds were sourced from the PDAFs of Senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. (P413.29 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P332.7 million), Jinggoy Estrada (P191.58 million) and Gregorio Honasan (P14.55 million).

Among the Napoles-linked NGOs were the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc. (SDPFFI), which received P585.359 million in projects; Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (MAMFI), P477.033 million; Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development Foundation Inc. (CARED), P246.74 million; Agri & Economic Program for Farmers Foundation (AEPFFI), P145.25 million; Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI), P121.61 million; and Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation (APMFI), P104.95 million.

These NGOs received close to P1.7 billion in PDAF funds, almost a third of the total P6.2 billion.

Other Napoles-linked NGOs that also received funds, according to the report, were Bukirin Tanglaw Livelihood Foundation Inc. (BTLFI), P19.2 million; People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. (POPDFI), P50.35 million; and Philippine Agri & Social Economic Development Foundation Inc. (PASEDF), P10.57 million.

The breakdown of the total P413.29 million released by Revilla to Napoles-linked NGOs is as follows: P97 million to SDPFFI, P31.5 million to PSDFI, P106.45 million to AEPFFI, P58.2 million to APMFI and P120.14 million to MAMFI.

Enrile’s P332.7 million was broken down as follows: P24.25 million to AEPFFI, P46.75 million to APMFI, P96.8 million to CARED, P77.6 million to MAMFI, P24.25 million to POPDFI and P63.05 million to SDPFFI.

The breakdown of Estrada’s P191.58 million was: P172.18 million to MAMFI and P19.4 million to SDPFFI.

Honasan gave P14.55 million to AEPFFI.

Other senators who endorsed their PDAF to NGOs (not identified with Napoles) were Manuel Lapid (Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr. Foundation Inc., P22 million), Edgardo Angara (Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation, P19.4 million; Serbisyong Pagmamahal Foundation Inc., P500,000; Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc., P14 million; Manila Seedling Bank Foundation, P1 million; Molugan Foundation Inc. P9.6 million), Mar Roxas (Kaloocan Assistance Council Inc., P5 million), Ralph Recto (Masaganang mga Bukirin Foundation, Inc., P28.4 million), Juan Miguel Zubiri (Nagkakaisang Manggagawa ng Pelikulang Pilipino, P6.5 million), Richard Gordon (Philippine National Red Cross, P52.1 million), Ramon Magsaysay Jr. (Quezon City Performing Arts Development Foundation, P500,000) and Loren Legarda (Serbisyong Pagmamahal Foundation Inc., P200,000).

The COA report said 119 projects were implemented through the Zamboanga del Norte Agricultural College Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC), National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) and Technology Resource Center (TRC).

Other NGOs that also received huge infusions from the pork barrel funds were Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (KKAMFI), P526.679 million; Aaron Foundation Phils. Inc. (AFPI), P524.91 million; Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (Pang-FI), P396.128 million; Farmerbusiness Dev’t Corp (FDC), P248.4 million; Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr. Foundation Inc. (DRAISFI), P164.622 million; Masaganang mga Bukirin Foundation Inc. (MBFI), P163.958 million; Kaloocan Assistance Council, Inc. (KACI), P133.6 million; ITO NA Movement Foundation, Inc. (ITO NA MI), P124.86; Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI), P109.062 million; Gabay at Pag-asa ng Masa Foundations Inc. (GPMFI), Gabay sa Magandang Bukas Foundation Inc. (GMBFI) and Ikaw at Ako Foundation Inc. (IAFI), P108.015 million; and Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation Inc. (KapKFI), P107.54 million.

Source: COA Special Audit Report

Joescoundrel
08-17-2013, 08:22 AM
‘If we’re at fault, then let us suffer the consequences’

By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Philip C. Tubeza and Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:45 am | Friday, August 16th, 2013

Politically motivated or not, the pork barrel controversy should result in the prosecution of those who are liable, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile said on Thursday.

Enrile, the most senior among the opposition senators implicated in the P10-billion scam allegedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, also called on the National Bureau of Investigation to confront him if there was any case against him.

“If we’re at fault, then let us suffer the consequences,” Enrile said in Filipino.

Enrile answered in the negative when asked if the NBI had gotten in touch with him on the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“I don’t know what they have. It’s better that we will be confronted with their evidence,” Enrile said.

On the Department of Justice reportedly preparing charges against lawmakers implicated in the racket, Enrile said: “It’s OK. For me, they can investigate it. Better.”

No running away

Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, another opposition figure in the middle of the controversy, indicated he wouldn’t run away from accountability if charges were filed against him.

“Before, [my father President Joseph Estrada and I] had warrants for our arrest. We didn’t go in hiding,” Estrada said at the weekly news forum at the Senate.

Estrada also expressed faith in Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s fairness. “I don’t think she will just file cases against lawmakers without basis,” he said.

Estrada and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. revealed their children’s association with the Napoleses.

Estrada said his daughter was a classmate of a Napoles nephew. “She’s an acquaintance. I won’t deny that I know her,” Estrada said of the alleged scam mastermind.

‘Legal and legitimate’

Estrada said he might have signed PDAF endorsements “but I do not know if those particular endorsements belong to her or to bogus nongovernment organizations. I wouldn’t have known.”

Reacting to a report on the news website Rappler, Revilla said that his son Bryan’s business partnership with a Napoles child “was legal and legitimate.”

“I was introduced once or twice to Ms Napoles and have seen her occasionally in certain social gatherings. Aside from the customary hi’s and hello’s, we had no other interaction with each other,”

Revilla said in a statement.

“My son Bryan, on the other hand, and one of her children were schoolmates in high school. I understand that they, with other friends, were in the business of importing and selling rubber shoes. This is the PB & J Corp.,” Revilla added.

Spare the children

Revilla said that the business “is being tainted with malice.”

“I think that this malicious story is another attempt by some sectors to malign us. If they want to destroy me, let them go after me. Spare my children,” Revilla said.

Senators urged the investigation of the departments of agriculture and budget, saying these agencies had the duty to determine the legitimacy of requests for funding of projects under their pork barrel.

In separate interviews, Senators Gregorio Honasan, Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and Estrada stressed their offices did not have the “mechanism” necessary to check whether requests for financing from their PDAF were legitimate.

The NBI is looking into allegations that funds from the pork barrel of the three, along with those of Enrile and Revilla had been channeled to ghost projects of dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles.

Inaccurate, unverified

Six whistle-blowers, all former employees of Napoles, claimed in affidavits that over the past decade, P10 billion had been fleeced from the PDAF of the five senators and 23 members of the House of Representatives and other state agencies.

Honasan lamented what he described as a “serialized media account” of the NBI inquiry. “We were already warned, we were given information during the campaign that this would happen,” he told Inquirer.

Media reports on the alleged scam, Honasan said, were “incomplete, inaccurate and unverified.” He said he and his colleagues would not be unjustly vilified had the freedom of information bill he had sponsored in the last Congress have been signed into law.

Honasan said even the Commission on Audit had advised his office “not to react to the media reports” in the meantime that it was verifying the signatures of mayors who requested funding from PDAF and the purportedly dubious NGOs.

A senator’s office, he said, “has no capability or checking mechanism” such as that of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to verify the requests.

Since the DBM collects certificates from requesting local government units (LGUs), he said, “all beneficiaries are verifiable at their level while a senator’s office can only identify a project based on a request from an LGU.”

Joescoundrel
08-19-2013, 07:22 AM
Why Congress won’t act on call for pork scam probe

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:28 am | Monday, August 19th, 2013

Why is Congress playing deaf to the growing clamor to abolish the annual P24-billion pork barrel?

Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said Sunday that with the release of the Commission on Audit (COA) report, the main reason why Congress does not want to investigate the scam has been revealed.

“It is now clear that the reason why there is resistance to an investigation in Congress is because those who are involved are in power,” Colmenares said.

He said, however, that the lawmakers’ involvement should spur Congress to investigate the scam or “risk being accused of making a cover-up.”

The lawmakers involved are either senators or congressmen who received more than their annual Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations (P200 million for senators and P70 million for representatives) or dealt with dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs) from 2007 to 2009, according to the 412-page COA investigative report.

The COA team that did the special audit of the PDAF was composed of Catherine B. Petri, Kristina Cleo R. Bigornia, Jennifer A. Sanorjo, Cristina P. Mercado, Ma. Cristina Irene P. Franco, Joselita G. Corteza, George S. Tamayo, Jr., Dondon P. Marcos, Joselito N. Sucion, Rosemarie R. Magtaan, Onofre R. Mores, Lydia R. Dizon, Teresita T. Santiago and Grace T. de Castro.

The team leaders were Joan Agnes N. Alfafaras, Angelita A. Aquino, Cheryll Apalisoc, Leona A. Andriano, and Gloria D. Silverio. The overall leader of the team was Elsielin C. Masangcay.

9 senators

There are nine incumbent senators in the COA report: Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Gregorio Honasan II, Lito Lapid, Miriam Defensor-Santiago and Loren Legarda.

Six senators are related by blood to the senators involved in the pork barrel: Juan Edgardo Angara (son of former Sen. Edgardo Angara), Pia Cayetano (sister of Alan), Joseph Victor Ejercito (brother of Jinggoy), Koko Pimentel Jr. (son of former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr.), Cynthia Villar (wife of former Sen. Manny Villar, although she is listed in the COA report as the Las Piñas representative).

Cayetano, who used to be at the forefront of congressional probes anchored on testimony far less reliable than pork barrel scam whistle-blowers Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas, has been quick to reject public demand that the Senate investigate the scam, saying it amounts to senators investigating senators.

His wife, Taguig City Mayor Laarni Cayetano, has also been cited in the COA report for exceeding her pork barrel allocation by P8.5 million when she was a representative under the administration of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Senator Cayetano is also counting on his brother, Taguig City Rep. Lino Cayetano, to hold the same view.

Another political dynasty is in the same boat as the Cayetanos. Makati Rep. Mar-Len Abigail S. Binay also exceeded her pork barrel quota by P47 million from 2007 to 2009, but she could count on her father (Vice President Jejomar Binay), her sister (Sen. Nancy Binay) and brother (Makati Mayor Jun-Jun Binay) for support.

Aquino officials

Some of the implicated lawmakers in the pork barrel scam have taken key positions in the Aquino administration: Interior Secretary Mar Roxas (he gave P5 million to a suspect NGO, Kaloocan Assistance Council Inc.), Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Customs Commissioner Rufino Biazon and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Chair Joel Villanueva.

More than 40 congressmen implicated in the pork barrel scam are still going strong in the House of Representatives, and they are led by Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, who has been found to have exceeded his pork barrel allocations by P205 million during the Arroyo administration and has spent P256.381 million of his pork barrel for projects using spurious documents, including 167 transactions worth P28.744 million that have been denied by suppliers.

Gonzales was senior deputy majority leader from 2007 and 2009 when all impeachment cases against Arroyo were nipped in the bud. He has been in office since 1995 (except when he became mayor from 2004 to 2007) and is currently serving his second three-year term.

Scandal-tainted leaders

The scam-tainted lawmakers who managed to get leadership positions in this Congress are Ronaldo Zamora of San Juan City (minority leader), Carlos Padilla of Nueva Vizcaya (Deputy Speaker), Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela (Deputy Speaker) and Roberto V. Puno of Antipolo City (Deputy Speaker).

Others got juicy committee chairmanships: Isidro Ungab of Davao City (committee on appropriations), Neil Tupas Jr. of Iloilo (justice) Amado Bagatsing of Manila (ecology), Marcelino Teodoro of Marikina (legislative franchises), Arturo B. Robes of San Jose Del Monte City (social services), Herminia B. Roman of Bataan (veterans affairs and welfare), Arnulfo Go of Sultan Kudarat (Mindanao affairs), Victor Yu of Zamboanga del Sur (science and technology), Vicente Belmonte of Iligan (dangerous drugs), Al Francis Bichara of Albay (foreign affairs) and Manuel Agyao of Kalinga (rural development).

At least two incumbents have a direct and bigger participation in the pork barrel scam: Rolando Andaya of Camarines Sur (former budget secretary) and Arthur Yap (former agriculture secretary).

Other porkers

The rest of the incumbent lawmakers cited in the report are Diosdado M. Arroyo of Camarines Sur (whose uncle, the late Ignacio Arroyo, is also implicated), Philip Pichay of Surigao del Sur (whose brother, former Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr., was also listed in COA report), Julio Ledesma IV of Negros Occidental, Isagani S. Amatong of Zamboanga del Norte, Rommel C. Amatong of Compostela Valley, Benjamin Asilo of Manila;

Ma. Theresa Bonoan of Manila, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Emil Ong of Northern Samar, Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, Czarina Umali of Nueva Ecija, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte, Maria Zenaida Angping of Manila, Joseph Gilbert Violago of Nueva Ecija, Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental, Belma Cabilao of Zamboanga Sibugay;

Wilfrido Mark Enverga of Quezon, Rolando Uy of Cagayan de Oro, Dulce Ann Hofer of Zamboanga Sibugay, Antonio Lagdameo of Davao del Norte, Franklin Bautista of Davao del Sur, Victor Francisco Ortega of La Union, Carol Jayne Lopez of Yacap party-list, Mariano Piamonte of A-Teacher party-list group and Francisco Manuel Ortega of Abono party-list group.

Related by blood, party ties

Some of the incumbent lawmakers are related by blood or party ties to the lawmakers implicated in the COA report: Reynaldo Umali of Oriental Mindoro (brother of now Oriental Mindoro Gov. Alfonso Umali), Karlo Alexei Nograles of Davao City (son of former Speaker Prospero Nograles), Winston Castelo of Quezon City (brother of Nanette Castelo-Daza), Rene Relampagos (cousin of Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos);

Eleonor Bulut-Begtang of Apayao (sister of former Rep. Elias Bulut), Carlo V. Lopez of Manila (son of former Rep. Jaime Lopez), Mercedes Cagas of Davao del Sur (mother of former Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas), Harlin Abayo of Northern Samar (husband of former Rep. Daryl Grace Abayo); Gerald Anthony Gullas of Cebu (son of former Rep. Eduardo Gullas), Enrique Garcia Jr. of Bataan (father of former Rep. Albert Raymund Garcia);

Mark Villar of Las Piñas (son of Senator Villar), Magnolia Antonino-Nadres of Nueva Ecija (daughter of former Rep. Rodolfo Antonino), Rose Marie “Baby” Arenas of Pangasinan (mother of former Rep. Rachel Arenas), Rodolfo Biazon of Muntinlupa City (father of former Rep. Rufino Biazon who is now customs chief), Dakila Carlo Cua of Quirino (son of former Rep. Junie Cua), Georgina de Venecia of Pangasinan (wife of former Speaker Jose de Venecia);

Grex Lagman of Albay (son of former Rep. Edcel Lagman), Lani Revilla of Cavite (wife of Senator Revilla), Susan Yap of Tarlac (daughter of former Rep. Jose Yap), Regina Ongsiako Reyes of Marinduque (daughter of former Rep. Carmencita Reyes), Scott Davies Lanete of Masbate (son of former Rep. Rizalina Seachon-Lanete), Felix William Fuentebella of Camarines Sur (son of former Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella);

Thelma Almario of Davao Oriental (mother of former Rep. Joel Mayo Almario), Jose Ma. Zubiri of Bukidnon (father of former Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri), Elisa Olga T. Kho of Masbate (wife of former Rep. Antonio Kho), Gavini C. Pancho of Bulacan (son of former Rep. Pedro Pancho), Maria Vida Bravo of Masbate (wife of former Rep. Narciso Bravo Jr.);

Conrado Estrella of Abono (cousin of former Rep. Robert Estrella), Ma. Carmen Zamora of Compostela Valley (daughter of former Rep. Manuel Zamora) and Josephine Veronique Lacson-Noel of Malabon City (wife of former An-Waray Rep. Florencio Noel), with An-Waray Representatives Victoria Noel and Neil Benedict Montejo; Sherwin Tugna and Cinchona Cruz-Gonzales of Citizen’s Battle Against Corruption; and Mariano Michael Velarde Jr. of the Buhay party-list group (brother of former Rep. Rene Velarde and son of El Shaddai leader Bro. Mike Velarde), with Irwin Tieng and Lito Atienza of Buhay.

Joescoundrel
08-19-2013, 07:25 AM
Repulsive

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:33 pm | Sunday, August 18th, 2013

Of the many horrors one can find in the Commission on Audit’s Special Audit Report No. 2012-03, which COA Chair Grace Pulido-Tan released to the public last Friday, Table 26 on page 58 offers a particularly repulsive example.

It lists the five legislators and one legislator’s relative who served as incorporators of nongovernment organizations which subsequently received fund transfers from the legislators’ own pork barrel allocations. Some P188.6 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) monies allocated to the six lawmakers were channeled directly into NGOs they or a relative built in the first place.

Forget about keeping appearances. Between 2007 and 2009, the period covered by the COA’s special audit, then Sen. Edgardo Angara allowed the release of P14.4 million to Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc., an organization he was himself an incorporator, stockholder and board director of. His appalling lack of delicadeza looks positively naive, however, when contrasted with the naked greed of Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. of Quezon City; he prioritized the release of a total of P99.5 million from his pork barrel allocation to a foundation he was incorporator, stockholder and trustee of. The name of the foundation? The Matias Defensor Sr. Foundation Inc.

The others listed in Table 26—Amado Bagatsing of Manila, Ma. Victoria Sy-Alvarado of Bulacan, Anthony Miranda of Isabela and Jeannie Sandoval, the sister-in-law of Federico Sandoval II of Malabon/Navotas—also channeled millions of pesos from their pork barrel funds into their own or their relative’s foundations. Sy-Alvarado had the lowest amount listed, “just” P12.9 million, but the funds went to the Jose Sy-Alvarado Foundation Inc., an NGO named after her father-in-law and of which she was the president on record.

Shameless, just utterly shameless.

Tan said she wept when she read the report; indeed, a close read can be overwhelming. The product of a two-year-audit (June 2010 to September 2012) and a year-long reporting process (September 2012 to August 2013, including some three months for the implementing government agencies and legislators involved to respond to the findings), the report is the political equivalent of a sex video scandal—the graphic record of repeated acts of violation, but with the Filipino people as the victim.

The businesswoman at the center of the so-called P10-billion pork barrel scam exposed by the Inquirer is implicated in the COA report too; 10 of the 82 NGOs the COA identified as dubious (either “unknown or unlocated at their given addresses, or have given nonexistent addresses, or [with] addresses traced [to] a mere shanty or high-end residential units without any NGO signages and of which, some turned out to be the residences of their owner/officer”—to quote from the report’s Executive Summary) are linked to Janet Lim-Napoles. All told, the 10 NGOs received over P2 billion in pork barrel funds between 2007 and 2009.

The “Inquirer validates our findings,” Tan said last Friday, referring to the Napoles stories. But the other way around is also true: The COA report validates the Inquirer stories as well as the newspaper’s editorial position.

We have always understood the eyewitness testimony against Napoles (from whistle-blowers who used to work in the businesswoman’s inner circle) and the documentation on the fake NGOs or fake projects as proof that the pork barrel system was being gamed. The elaborate fakery was designed to move pork barrel funds into lawmakers’ pockets, with operators taking a generous share of the money. Unlike other, older forms of corruption, where at least the proposed bridge or road or school building or basketball court would actually be built, with the usual commissions going to those who made the project happen, the pork barrel scam glimpsed in the Inquirer stories seems to have been designed to do this without all that. To forget, in other words, about keeping appearances.

The COA report shows us that the scam Napoles was alleged by the whistle-blowers to have masterminded actually fits the general pattern of fund abuse: rules were not followed, recipients were chosen on mere endorsement, projects were nonexistent, receipts were fabricated, releases were unliquidated. In other words, and to borrow a phrase from the information technology industry: The irregularities in the use of the pork barrel are not a bug; they are a standard feature.

Time to finally abolish the pork barrel system.

danny
08-21-2013, 01:08 PM
Come on. Kahit kabataang barangay corrupt. Nagugulat pa kayo. Handa na ba ang Pinas maghimagsik o magpapagahasa na lang habang buhay?

Sam Miguel
08-22-2013, 08:57 AM
Why Ninoy still matters 30 years after he was murdered by the Marcos dictatorship

By Boying Pimentel

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:42 pm | Saturday, August 17th, 2013

SAN FRANCISCO — I was 14 when I was first saw Ninoy Aquino in action.

It was 1978. Ferdinand Marcos, hoping to legitimize his dictatorship in the eyes of the world, had called for elections for a new legislature.

Marcos was confident he would win easily even if he let Ninoy Aquino, then the country’s most well-known political prisoner, join the campaign.

That was a big mistake.

During a televised interview with journalists clearly aligned with the dictator, Aquino showed the country why Marcos feared him so much. It was a mesmerizing performance.

He out-talked the panelists sent to discredit him, responding to questions and allegations, eloquently and brilliantly, shifting comfortably from English to Pilipino and back.

Marcos shouldn’t have let him out of prison. Ninoy clearly was a dangerous adversary who exposed the regime’s most glaring flaws. The regime had to resort to the most brazen forms of electoral fraud to “win.”

But my views of Ninoy eventually evolved.

By the time I entered UP Diliman in the early 80s, I saw Ninoy as neither a superhero nor a saint.

Yes, he was an important figure in the fight against tyranny. But I had more questions about what he stood for, having been exposed to broader, more progressive ideas on the Diliman campus. Like many young people of on the UP Campus I grew more critical of Ninoy’s role in Philippine politics.

He was a leading opponent of the regime, but in the eyes of many from my generation, he also represented the old-style, elite politics that caused many of the country’s problems in the first place.

We didn’t use the word ‘trapo’ then, but we saw Ninoy as a traditional politician on which that pejorative term is based.

Not that young Filipinos of my generation rejected all traditional politicians. Not at all. We admired the likes of Lorenzo Tañada, Jovito Salonga and Pepe Diokno.

They may have come from the elite, but, during the dark years of dictatorship, they aligned themselves, in very concrete ways, with people like us – students. They even linked arms with factory workers and farmers.

Diokno, in particular, or Ka Pepe as we called him, became the epitome of the activist-politician that many of my generation revered.

He was a regular speaker at student demonstrations. He became respected as a fearless human rights crusader and a consistent critic of U.S. support for Marcos.

I still remember a human rights lawyer’s story of how Diokno would join fact-finding missions in remote barrios where he would be actively interviewing survivors or witnesses of abuses. The Diokno house in New Manila was open to activists and ordinary people who had joined the fight against dictatorship.

We admired Diokno. Ninoy, we respected, but also viewed with some suspicion as just another old-style politician angling for power.

Then came August 21, 1983.

I was at home watching TV with my family when my eldest sister walked into the room and said, “Patay na si Ninoy.”

The next day, on the U.P. Diliman campus, a professor observed the sadness and rage he saw in the eyes of ordinary Filipinos he met on jeepneys and on the streets. I was one of the hundreds of thousands who joined the rain-drenched funeral march for Ninoy on Aug. 31, 1983.

And the next three years turned out to be the most exhilarating and confusing, most exciting and frightening, most emotionally-draining and intellectually-stimulating period of my life and the lives of many Martial Law babies.

We all know how that story ended — a united people kicked out a bully. The nightmare was over.

Thirty years later, there may still be disagreements on Ninoy’s political record, and there are still many questions about his motives. I still do not see him as either a superhero or saint.

Many of the criticisms, in my view, are fair and deserve closer scrutiny. Others are so clearly over-the-top, cruel and sinister, many of them being spread by supporters of the dictatorship.

But one thing is clear: Ninoy’s death set us free from dictatorship. His story still matters.

There’s been speculation on why Ninoy came home when he did. But one point cannot be disputed: He came home at perhaps the worst time for someone considered as Marcos’s most feared enemy.

The Pinoy Hitler was at the height of his power. Many of his opponents were in jail or in exile. Ronald Reagan’s Washington loved him. Reagan even sent his Vice President George H.W. Bush to Manila to praise Marcos for his “adherence to democratic principles.” And Reagan himself later embraced the despot as a friend and ally during the Marcos state visit to the U.S.

Why in the world would you give up the safety of life in exile in Boston to take on a powerful despot backed by a world superpower?

A coward would have just stayed put and waited for a better opportunity.

Which is why despite any misgivings one may have about his politics, I join others in giving Ninoy credit for having had the courage to return to the battlefield.

The risks were clear, and yet he boarded that plane.

Sam Miguel
08-22-2013, 09:26 AM
Can pork be good?

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:35 pm | Wednesday, August 21st, 2013

Rather than heed the growing public clamor to scrap the pork barrel portion in the current national budget, President Aquino has justified retaining it while calling for tighter control over its use. He argues that the system of reserving funds for projects identified by legislators has the advantage of benefiting communities and addressing needs often neglected by the national government. He cites his own experience as a former representative of Tarlac province.

There is no question that honest and conscientious legislators can put their pork barrel to good use. By the same token, they may also be tempted by its sheer availability into pocketing it. The issue is: Is the pork barrel system the most rational way of spotting social needs that escape the notice of the national government? Bear in mind that this is a system explicitly invented to accommodate politicians in their role as patrons, a mechanism that everywhere has been proven to be susceptible to widespread abuse. Can anyone honestly think that effective controls may be built into the system without removing the one basic feature that defines it—personal discretion by politicians over the expenditure of public funds?

We all know this is not how government in a democracy is supposed to work. The work of legislators, insofar as the budget is concerned, is confined to reviewing the budgetary proposal submitted by the executive, scrutinizing and debating its general thrusts and priorities, and disallowing intended appropriations that cannot be justified. This political power does not give congressmen and senators the discretion to allot money for their pet projects. And, much less does it include the privilege of naming contractors and suppliers, and recommending designated beneficiaries.

Asked if he would give in to the public clamor to abolish the pork barrel, P-Noy was supposed to have retorted, “And then change it to what?” I think the reasonable reply to that would be: “Just take it out—it is a superfluity.” The administration of funds is not a legislative function. If the national government wants to make sure that underserved communities are attended to, all it needs to do is listen to the local development councils at all levels through the various government agencies on the ground.

There is a simple logical reason for keeping administration separate from politics. The politicians who have the power to examine the budget might be more objective if they were not given a role in the actual administration of public money. In turn, those in charge of the funds might be more conscientious in approving fund releases, bidding out contracts, monitoring projects, and auditing expenditures if they did not have to deal with politicians. These are principles of modern governance that are embodied in our system of laws.

There is, of course, no guarantee that public funds would be better spent if the pork barrel system was abolished. But the legislature might be in a better position to call the executive to task if its members were not in some way involved in executive functions. It may compel legislators to focus more on their core function—lawmaking and participation in parliamentary debates—to be assessed by voters on the basis of their parliamentary activity rather than on their patronal generosity. At the very least, getting rid of the pork barrel is a direct way of removing one of the biggest sources of corruption in our society.

But I can understand why the average president of our country would want to retain the pork barrel system. In the absence of a strong political party system, the power to release or to withhold Priority Development Assistance Fund allotments offers the executive strong leverage in its dealings with Congress. We may also presume that every president could, if he asked for it, obtain a dossier on PDAF misuse by particular politicians, a weapon against political foes that is too good to give up.

Why is the clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel being addressed to P-Noy rather than to Congress? It’s because we expect much from him. We expect him to be different—to be a modern, not just a moral, President. We want him not just to set the example of honest leadership, but to change the system that corrupts even the best of our leaders. We look up to him to use his popularity to initiate enduring reforms in governance and political practice, knowing he has little time left before he is replaced by another president.

It is regrettable that P-Noy does not appear to appreciate the depth of public disaffection over the pork barrel scam. It took him more than a month to make a declaration on the pork barrel controversy, and all he could manage is to defend it as a neutral tool of governance. He seems to believe that it can be regulated and its loopholes plugged, forgetting that it was not any branch or agency of government that exposed the scam but a couple of whistle-blowers. If the Napoles group of bogus nongovernment organizations had not imploded, it is doubtful if the public would have known about the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

My hunch is that when the Commission on Audit completes its review of PDAF utilization, it will be found that at least half of the members of Congress were engaged in one form of irregularity or another. Many routinely took kickbacks. They knowingly channeled millions of their PDAF to shell NGOs whose performance they had no interest in monitoring. Others lost all sense of shame and created their own NGOs, fattening these with their annual PDAF. All contrary to law.

Can pork be good after it is cured? Not in a political system dominated by insatiable swine.

Sam Miguel
08-23-2013, 07:58 AM
Countdown: 15 senators now seeking ban on pork

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:55 am | Friday, August 23rd, 2013

The idea of doing away with their allocations under the multibillion-peso Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) has gained ground in the Senate, with 15 senators so far expressing support for the abolition of the pork barrel.

Senators Francis Escudero and Alan Peter Cayetano on Thursday filed separate resolutions seeking the scrapping of the PDAF, the official name of the pork barrel.

This developed as two senior senators from both the majority and minority—Ralph Recto and Gregorio Honasan—expressed the need to abolish not only the PDAF but also the discretionary funds of the executive branch headed by President Aquino.

Other senators who favored the abolition of the PDAF were Teofisto Guingona III, Aquilino Pimentel III, Loren Legarda, Grace Poe, Juan Edgardo Angara, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Benigno Aquino IV, all members of the majority bloc.

Members of the minority who supported the idea of scrapping the PDAF included Deputy Minority Leader Vicente Sotto III and Sen. JV Ejercito, the chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs.

Senate President Franklin Drilon himself earlier expressed support for the abolition of the pork barrel, while Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a resolution for the three-year phaseout of the congressional pork.

Honasan and Revilla were among the senators whose names figured in the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam engineered by Janet Lim-Napoles using fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and recipients.

Their names were also mentioned in the Commission on Audit (COA) report that found that more than P6 billion in PDAF went to 82 questionable NGOs, including those set up by a number of lawmakers or their relatives.

The others were Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.

All the senators linked to the scam and mentioned in the COA findings have denied any wrongdoing and indicated their willingness to be investigated.

“[The PDAF] has already mutated into a multibillion racket allegedly perpetrated by syndicates in both the public and private sectors,” Escudero said in Resolution No. 193 that he filed on Thursday, this week’s first and only working day at the Senate.

Source of corruption

“Despite the proper use and disbursement by well-meaning public officials and despite its statutory laudable purpose, the misconception that the pork barrel has become a form of horse trading and a major source of corruption in the government is apparently starting to become real in the eyes of the Filipino people,” Escudero said.

Escudero is the chair of the Senate committee on finance that in the coming weeks will hear the Aquino administration’s proposed P2.226-trillion budget for 2014.

Majority Leader Cayetano said in concurrent Resolution No. 4, which he hopes the House of Representatives will adopt, that the power and mandate of oversight was greatly compromised when legislators themselves were accused of grave acts of abuse and misuse of public funds.



Misuse fans anger

“[The] special audit report of the Commission on Audit covering the years 2007-2009 released on Aug. 16, 2013, showed that at least P6.165 billion of PDAF from 12 senators and 180 representatives were released to 82 questionable nongovernment organizations, which has further fanned the discontent, anger and indignation of the Filipino people,” Cayetano said.

Reports of the massive misuse of the PDAF, as alleged by whistle-blowers and confirmed by the COA report, have gripped the nation and triggered widespread public outrage.

Million people march

The misuse of public funds has also given rise to calls to abolish the pork barrel and a public gathering called the “Million People March to Luneta” on Aug. 26 in Rizal Park in Manila and other parts of the country to showcase the people’s outrage, but President Aquino and many lawmakers have thumbed down the idea.

Cayetano said the continued presence of the PDAF in the national budget was viewed by the public as an unwillingness of the legislature to address the many abuses and instances of corruption in the system and the unwillingness to heed the voice of the Filipino people for dramatic change.

Recto, the Senate President Pro Tempore and the former chair of the Senate committee on ways and means, said he was supporting the abolition of the pork barrel but added that it would not be enough to ensure graft-free and responsive national budget allocations in 2014 and afterward.

“Together with the abolition of the PDAF, we must reform the entire budget. [There should be] no off-budget items like [funds from] Malampaya, Pagcor, PCSO and minimize lump-sum budgeting to only calamity and contingency accounts,” Recto said, referring to the funds allocated by the executive branch.

Line-item budgeting

“The rest should be line item [allocations].

This will promote transparency and a more effective, efficient and responsive budget,” Recto said in a text message.

Recto said a line-item budget provided for in the General Appropriations Act “will inform local government officials, districts, communities, netizens, civil society where taxpayers’ money is being spent, what project, price and location.”

Aside from calling for the abolition of the PDAF, Honasan called for an impartial probe of the PDAF scam which, he said, put him in a bad light and for the enactment of the Freedom of Information Bill “that would mean full transparency in public affairs.”

“I would support the calibrated abolition of the PDAF, pork barrel, discretionary fund system in all branches, departments of government,” Honasan said in a text message.

Also ban insertions

Revilla, whose allocations were also linked to the PDAF scam, said, “It looks like it’s time for the total abolition of the PDAF.

Even the insertions should no longer be allowed.”

“It appears that the good intentions of helping the poor and spreading development to the countryside are not realized and are even toyed with when it comes to the implementation,” Revilla said.

A handful in House

Ejercito said senators should be sensitive to what the people want. “We were elected as legislators, not as administrators…. I can manage to perform my duties without the pork barrel. And also as a neophyte senator, I would want to put an end to this issue once and for all and restore the faith of the people in the Senate and Congress,” he said.

In the House of Representatives, a handful of lawmakers have also called for the scrapping of the PDAF.

But the Liberal Party secretary general, Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, said scrapping the pork barrel could leave many poor families without scholarships for their children, medical assistance and infrastructure projects.

Sarmiento said he supported President Aquino’s decision to suspend the release of the PDAF since this would be a good opportunity to plug the loopholes in the system and make it transparent and immune to corruption.

More harm than good

He said scrapping the PDAF would be a drastic move that could do more harm than good.

“The complete abolition of the Priority Development Assistance Fund appears to be the spur of the moment answer by people understandably angered by the extent of reported anomalies on the controversial pork barrel. But this may not, after all, be the best option,” he said in a statement.

Sarmiento said that personally, he would not mind if the pork barrel system would be abolished. But it could have “heartbreaking consequences” for poor families who depend on the help of their representatives for needs such as educational assistance and medical care.

Equalizing factor

The President, he said, “is convinced on the equalizing factor of the PDAF so the poorest of the poor in far-flung areas of the country could share the fruits of development.”

Sarmiento further said that the PDAF system was a good one, but “human greed took advantage of the system’s loopholes.” As long as it is used properly, the pork barrel funds could do a lot of good, he added.

He sought to distance the Aquino administration from the alleged pocketing of pork barrel funds. According to him, the alleged P10-billion scam supposedly involving Janet Lim-Napoles and several lawmakers took place before the reforms implemented by the Aquino administration.

He said the use of the pork barrel had been judicious and strictly regulated since 2010.—[I]With a report from Leila B. Salaverria

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 09:41 AM
The future of the barrels of pork

By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J.

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:37 pm | Sunday, August 25th, 2013

In 1934, when the 1935 Constitution was being formulated, there was a proposal to prohibit “pork barrel” funds altogether. The sponsor of the proposal traced the name “pork barrel” to a degrading ritual in slavery days. At a fixed day and hour, a barrel stuffed with pork would be rolled out and a multitude of black slaves would cast their famished bodies into the porcine feast to assuage their hunger. The 1934 proposal was defeated and the pork barrel institution lived on.

In 1994, Congress deodorized the “pork barrel” and renamed it Countrywide Development Fund (CDF). It is now referred to as PDAF or the Priority Development Assistance Fund. The fund, as we all know it, means oodles and oodles of money placed more or less at the disposition of members of Congress and of the executive.

In 1996, the Inquirer ran an award-winning exposé of the pork barrel scam happening then. I don’t recall that we rallied against the scam. And even if we did, we also all know that members of Congress and of the executive department, like all of us, can sometimes resist everything except temptation. So we still are at it.

Can the Supreme Court do anything about it? In 1994, the Supreme Court was asked to put an end to the practice when the CDF in the General Appropriations Act (GAA) for that year was challenged on the ground that it was an encroachment by the legislature on the powers of the executive. The argument used against the fund was that, although appropriating money is the function of Congress, spending it is the prerogative of the executive department. The Court ruled in favor of the fund. It said that what the law allowed congressmen to do was simply to recommend projects. If the recommended projects qualified for funding under the CDF, it was the president who would implement them.

The Supreme Court crowned its decision with choice selections from the wisdom of the ages. I reproduce two paragraphs below because they are what have inspired Congress to build upon the CDF and to strengthen the participation of Congress in the distribution of national largesse. The Court said:

“The Constitution is a framework of a workable government and its interpretation must take into account the complexities, realities and politics attendant to the operation of the political branches of government. Prior to the GAA of 1991, there was an uneven allocation of appropriations for the constituents of the members of Congress, with the members close to the Congressional leadership or who hold cards for ‘horse-trading,’ getting more than their less favored colleagues. The members of Congress also had to reckon with an unsympathetic President, who could exercise his veto power to cancel from the appropriation bill a pet project of a Representative or Senator.

“The Countrywide Development Fund attempts to make equal the unequal. It is also a recognition that individual members of Congress, far more than the President and their congressional colleagues are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents and the priority to be given each project.”

I guess what the Court was saying was that “pork barrel,” human nature being what it is, is a necessary evil. Moreover, Congress, with the cooperation of the President, can always construct the “barrel design” in such a way that it can pass constitutional muster. And if you believe that the only thing members of Congress do under the design is recommend, indeed there is nothing constitutionally objectionable about that.

The “complexities, realities and politics of government” have once again overtaken Congress and the executive, and the President is being asked to deal with the Napoles scandal. It is perhaps the biggest challenge to the much-vaunted daang matuwid.

Actually, the CDF can be made to work within the “complexities, realities and politics of government.” I must say that I was impressed by what a congressman friend of mine did with his share of the CDF. Working hand in glove with local government officials, he made use of what was made available to him for improving the life of many people in his district. Projects he started survived beyond his tenure in the House of Representatives. No wonder that when he ran for his third term no one dared challenge him.

I am sure that there are others who have done well with their fund. On the other hand, I am also sure that there will always be those who have nothing to show for their share or who may not even know what ever happened to their share. But it was we who elected them to where they are.

Last Friday the President announced that there will be no more pork barrel fund. Instead, there will be a new scheme which basically will block the hands of the members of Congress from touching the fund once approved. It will be closely guarded by the President and his men and women. Call it any way you like—St. Peter’s coffers, perhaps—but the renamed pork will still be there mostly as identified by members of the House who, according to the 1994 decision of the Court, “are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents.”

Are we just playing games to befuddle the public? The President is asking the public to have faith in him and his allies. After all, he is the boss. Will you give him that?

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 09:47 AM
Move over PDAF, BUB is here

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:16 pm | Monday, August 26th, 2013

Goodbye, Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), a.k.a. congressional pork barrel. After President Aquino’s recent statement on the issue, it has been declared, although in a somewhat nuanced way, that “the PDAF, as we know it, will cease to exist.” Many people had hoped that we could all say “good riddance” to the pork. But from statements coming out of government, it’s clear that legislators will still not be confined to what they are elected to do, which is to make laws, and leave project identification and execution where it belongs: the executive branch. That’s what governors, mayors and barangay chairs are there for, along with regional and local offices of national line agencies, Regional Development Councils (RDCs) and local development councils (LDCs) at various levels.

Professor Randy David points out that lawmakers’ authority over the budget is confined to reviewing the budget proposal submitted by the executive, scrutinizing and debating its general thrusts and priorities and disallowing unjustifiable appropriations. It is not supposed to extend to the level of allocations for specific projects on the ground so as to give them the discretion to allot money for their pet projects, name contractors and suppliers and recommend designated beneficiaries. This is why it somehow rings hollow when the PDAF is rationalized as a way “to enable your representatives to identify projects for your communities that your local government unit cannot afford.” I have yet to find someone who believes “our representatives” to be better equipped to identify appropriate projects for our communities than the above executive officials or bodies, or than the very communities themselves.

David notes what could very well be the real reason the President is reluctant to scrap the PDAF entirely: “(It) is a system explicitly invented to accommodate politicians in their role as patrons… In the absence of a strong political party system, the power to release or to withhold PDAF allotments offers the executive strong leverage in its dealings with Congress.” In the end, the true rationale for PDAF, or any of its past and future variants, is a political rather than substantive one. This need not be taken in a negative light; political support from Congress is, after all, critical to the effectiveness of a good executive trying to push positive reforms.

Political justifications aside, effective resource allocation for priority needs of our communities need not be constrained by the size of the local governments’ internal revenue allotments, such as to necessitate calling on lawmakers to step in. The RDCs are collegial bodies that bring regional line agencies, local executives and non-government representatives together, and are mandated to help prioritize national budget allocations to address regional and local resource gaps. In theory, the RDCs and LDCs should be able to define priority needs at the grassroots and their attendant budgetary requirements much better than any politician can. In actual practice, however, I’ve heard RDC members express frustration that their respective budget prioritization exercises over the years were of little consequence, set aside by administrations with a propensity for top-down governance. Meanwhile, LDCs are seldom convened and mobilized, especially where local executives are not keen to share governance responsibilities with their true “bosses.”

Still, these do not justify pulling in lawmakers to do something they are not meant to do. We now have a government that appears widely trusted to set things right. If anything, what the President and the executive branch needs to do with greater vigor is to ensure that these mechanisms for participatory governance are made to work the way they should. And one critical aspect of this is participatory budgeting, which government is now pursuing through the Bottom-Up-Budgeting (BUB) approach.

Brazil is widely cited for pioneering this, with the first full participatory budgeting process developed in the city of Porto Alegre, starting in 1989. The process happens annually, starting with a series of neighborhood, regional and citywide assemblies, where residents and elected budget delegates identify and vote on spending priorities for implementation. Around 50,000 residents from diverse economic and political backgrounds (out of 1.5 million city inhabitants) now take part in the city’s participatory budgeting process, with the number consistently growing. The mechanism has since spread to more than 140 municipalities in Brazil, hundreds of Latin American cities and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa, and North America. International approaches vary according to local contexts, but adhere to the basic Porto Alegre model.

Here at home, the Department of Budget and Management has worked with the National Anti-Poverty Commission, the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Social Welfare and Development to put BUB into action. In Joint Memorandum Circular No. 3-2012, the four agencies adopt BUB as the mechanism to ensure inclusion of funding requirements for the development needs of some 1,233 focus cities and municipalities in the budget proposals of relevant national agencies. The process invokes the collective wisdom of all stakeholders concerned, including and especially those in the communities to be directly affected.

Between giving continued discretion to legislators to identify priority projects, and scaling up the BUB approach nationwide to meet the same objectives, the latter, to my mind, wins hands down. Hello BUB, good riddance PDAF? One can only wish.

* * *

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 09:53 AM
When the strong weep

By Juan L. Mercado

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:18 pm | Monday, August 26th, 2013

How would Sen. Jose Diokno (1922-1987) see those six tarred senators who twisted in the wind at Monday’s rallies against the pork barrel scam?

If historian Ambeth Ocampo were born 30 years earlier, he regretted, he could have watched Diokno or Sen. Claro Recto debate. The Senate then had a Lorenzo Tañada, an Emmanuel Pelaez, a Jovito Salonga.

Not anymore. Scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles “asked me to pick up a Montblanc pen from Rustan’s,” said Whistleblower No. 9. She paid P65,000 in cash and had the senator’s name engraved. So, “did Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. brag to Sen. Jinggoy Estrada: My pen is mightier than yours”? Dr. Carolina Camara of Butuan e-mailed.

“More important” than Montblanc pens is what “induced [Senator Diokno’s family] to shed tears,” wondered President Aquino in an Inquirer interview on the 30th anniversary of his father’s murder.

Diokno and Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. vanished from their Fort Bonifacio cells and their personal effects were returned without explanation. “Will he not need his toothbrush?” Corazon Aquino asked stone-faced jailors. Over 42 days, the two families searched.

Blindfolded and handcuffed to escorts, Diokno and Aquino were secretly helicoptered to Nueva Ecija. “Their escorts had .45 pistols pointed at the midsection of both my dad and Senator Diokno,” P-Noy recalls. “They didn’t know where they were being brought.”

Aquino smuggled “A challenge to martial law” that the Bangkok Post published in a three-part series. Reprisals followed. They were half-starved to death in solitary confinement at Fort Magsaysay.

“I admire the Dioknos,” P-Noy added. “They are tougher than us. As tough as us at the very least. But when I saw them step out of [the Fort Magsaysay] building, they were in tears. A few minutes later, the 13-year-old Aquino and his family saw why Carmen Icasiano-Diokno and her family had wept.

They saw, behind cell bars, Benigno Aquino Jr. “He had no glasses. He was unshaven, no watch, no ring… He held on to his pants because he lost so much weight,” P-Noy told Lifestyle editor Thelma Sioson San Juan. “He was so pleased to see us, very emotional.”

The strong weep, too. Tears of the Dioknos and Aquinos remind us of what the gospels report: Before the tomb of his friend Lazarus, “Jesus wept.”

Nonsense, Imelda Marcos insists. The “New Society” ushered in the most democratic regime the Philippines ever knew. Move over, Imelda. There’s a new kid on the block. The Net is awash with uploads of 21-year-old Jeane Napoles’ bash at Beverly Hills. They display multiple Porsche cars, million-peso watches, a clutch bag costing roughly P400,000 and—how did you guess?—nine pairs of shoes costing P360,000 each.

Another showed shopping sprees in other countries. Imelda has no franchise on foreign homes. The Napoles admit they “co-own” a $7-million hotel near Disneyland in Los Angeles, California. The photos were hastily scrubbed from the Net. But not before Kim Henares of the Bureau of Internal Revenue said they were asking some questions. No problem if the right tax is paid.

See those mindsets in the context of the letter that Diokno wrote from his prison cell in 1972: “True, there is little that men of goodwill can do now to end the madness that holds our nation in its grip. But we can, even now, scrutinize our past; try to pinpoint where we went wrong; determine what led to this madness and what nurtured it; and how, when it ends, we can make sure that it need never happen again. For this madness must end—if not in my lifetime, at least in yours.”

The Manila airport murder of Ninoy triggered the revolt against the Marcos dictatorship. People Power installed Aquino’s widow as president. Equally hesitant about seeking election, her son is now the 15th Philippine president. These events blur memories of Diokno’s towering role in governance. Thus, it is right that P-Noy remind our children of this IOU for Diokno.

Martial law in September 1972, aborted Diokno’s second term as senator. After two years of detention, he was released without charges being filed. He passed away a year after the Marcos regime collapsed.

Our grandchildren have no memories of Diokno. In future history classes, we hope they’ll glimpse what this Filipino did for them. For now, their lolo tries to bridge the gaps with stories culled from experience.

One was of Press Foundation of Asia chats among journalists that Diokno often joined. What about martial law? fretted publisher Joaquin “Chino” Roces. “Marcos can create a throne of bayonets,” Diokno said. “But how long can he sit on it?”

Fourteen years, it turned out. Those years included a 1972 Supreme Court hearing for a petition for habeas corpus by detained officials, including Diokno, and journalists, like us. We don’t recall now the question posed by the pro-Marcos justice. But Diokno’s answer is seared into our minds: “We beg leave to submit a memorandum of reply since our answer now would be unprintable.”

That was unvarnished Diokno. And our children need that spirit more today. Despite being tarred by the dictatorship’s abuses and today’s pork scam, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. jostles to make a bid for the presidency come 2016. What would a Jose Diokno say?

In Monday’s rallies against those who pigged out on the pork barrel, we hear Diokno’s blunt comments re-echo, from prison and that 1972 Supreme Court hearing: “This madness must end—if not in my lifetime, at least in yours…” (And) “we beg leave to submit a memorandum of reply since our answer right now is unprintable.”

Sam Miguel
08-27-2013, 11:05 AM
Pork for the president

by Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Posted on 08/20/2013 12:45 PM | Updated 08/21/2013 6:43 PM

Janet Napoles is the flamboyant, high-living con woman we all love to hate. She has gamed the system so well, worked with partners in Congress and the executive departments, and together, drained public coffers of billions of pesos.

She is the recognized queen of congressional pork. But she was not one to rest at her peak. Instead, she expanded her territory and found a great discovery, the Malampaya Fund, which is the other branch of government’s pork, the President’s.

In 2009, reports show that most of the P900 million sourced from the Malampaya Fund and released to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), then under Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, went to Napoles’ pockets, through her fake NGOs. This huge sum was meant for the rehabilitation of farmers in areas ravaged by typhoons Ondong and Pepeng.

Napoles hit gold here. According to the whistleblowers, she started buying her US properties after this windfall.

But, it turns out, Napoles only got a minor share in the largesse from Malampaya. The Commission on Audit’s initial findings show that, from 2006-2010, President Arroyo approved the release of P23 billion, mostly in 2009, to a number of agencies supposedly to be used as calamity fund.

The recipients include the Department of Public Works and Highways, which got the biggest slice (P7 billion), followed by the Department of Agriculture (P5.8 billion), Palawan (P3.9 billion), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (P2.1 billion). The National Housing Authority and defense department got P1.4 billion and P1.2 billion respectively.

The rest — energy department, DAR, health department, transportation and communications department, PAG-ASA, and the budget and management department—belonged to the multi-million club.

Battle for billions

It may be a little-known fact but the Malampaya Fund can be spent the way the President wants it. This is not in the General Appropriations Act or the annual budget passed by Congress and its amounts are awesome, much bigger than the pork barrel.

This Fund comes from the Malampaya natural gas project that has been operating off the shores of Palawan for 13 years (since 2001). It is the single biggest investment in the Philippines and, so far, has paid the government more than $4 billion in revenues. The government expects royalties of up to $10 billion from Malampaya’s 20-year operations.

Apparently, the government was not prepared for this good fortune. To this day, the sharing of this multi-billion dollar fund is unsettled—and the resolution has been lodged with the Supreme Court. While the Supreme Court sits on the 7-year case questioning the sharing of the Fund, it has served Malacañang and others, including Napoles, well.

Looking back, former Palawan Gov Joel Reyes may have been one of the beneficiaries. In 2011, the COA recommended the filing of graft and criminal charges against Reyes for the alleged misuse of the P3.9 billion given to the province.

This controversy, apparently, claimed a life. Remember that Gerry Ortega, who exposed the alleged corruption in the provincial government’s handling of the fund in his radio shows, was shot dead.

Plunder

Today, here’s where things stand.

The province of Palawan wants 40% of gross revenues, citing the Local Government Code, while the national government says everything should go to them because they claim that the project is outside the territory of Palawan. To appease Palawan—and while waiting for the High Court’s decision—President Arroyo granted the province “assistance” from the Fund.

Arroyo was able to do this because a decree of Ferdinand Marcos gives the president a free hand in allocating the Fund. The decree states that revenues from energy projects should finance exploration and development of energy resources but provides a catch-all phrase that says the fund can also be used “for such other purposes as may be directed by the President.”

In the wake of the pork barrel scandal, Harry Roque, who is questioning the agreement between Arroyo and Palawan before the Supreme Court, wants the case resolved immediately. He was shocked to find out that 2 days after the oral arguments in the Court on Nov 24, 2009, the DAR released the first tranche of the P900-million rehabilitation fund for farmers to Napoles.

It’s been more than 3 years since the oral arguments, he says, and during this time, the “systematic plunder” of the Malampaya Fund continued, “unabated.”

(The justice in charge of the case is Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno; this is one of the cases she inherited when she was appointed to the Court in 2010. )

Napoles has led us to this bottomless well. It’s time to set things straight and, in Roque's words, “put an end to this plunder.” - Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
08-28-2013, 10:16 AM
Change, please

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:01 pm | Tuesday, August 27th, 2013

What now, my older and more cynical relatives ask, with Luneta over.

It’s hard to say, mainly because the ongoing anti-pork barrel campaign has been so similar to recent storms: slow-moving and almost unpredictable, yet protracted and powerful. We saw, too, two typhoons that didn’t quite make landfall in the Philippines but seemed to have conspired with the habagat, the southwest monsoon, to bring torrential rains.

Look now at the parallels to current national politics. The protest actions have been diffused, with no real “eye of the storm” in the sense of any one group dominating. The mobilization on Sunday showed this, bringing out different political groups from the left to the center, priests (and cardinals), sisters, seminarians, as well as non-aligned ones like the San Juan Greenhills Muslim Traders Association.

The turnout at Luneta was moderate but it was not small either, especially when you factor in the inclement weather. Again using the storms as a metaphor, we have to remember too the crowds at Luneta only represent the visible storm. Many more participated in their homes and on the Internet in a kind of political habagat.

The main “storm” in Luneta wasn’t marked by the usual indignation you find in protest rallies. Noisy yes, but more in the sense of being festive with singing and dancing. The rage was expressed more through postings on the Internet. Anger was palpable there in the way people talked about how hard life is, not just for the poor but for the middle classes, government and private sector employees, while our coffers were being plundered via the pork barrel. The anger is not just directed against Janet Lim-Napoles and her US-based daughter Jeane with a penchant for ostentatiously obscene displays of wealth, but also against the legislators, many of whom are suspected now to have profited as well from the kickbacks.

Trends

Four trends are clear in the way the anti-pork movement, and broader politics, is developing.

First, this is a nationwide movement. The focus of media coverage was on Luneta and Manila, which tends to devalue efforts in other major urban centers. We have to remember that people are hurting too outside of Manila, especially since some of the worst cases of plunder were in provinces and cities grappling with grinding poverty.

Second, we’re actually seeing several “movements,” with no clear core yet. The spontaneity can be healthy, but difficult to sustain in the long run. On the other hand, trying to get a core group together can be difficult, given the way our politics has been so polarized by ideologies and personalities.

Third, the target of the protest movement or movements seems to be moving from pork barrel to corruption. I sense that Filipinos are beginning to see the problem not just in terms of individuals’ greed but of a catastrophic illness affecting the entire body politic. There is more talk now against patronage politics, with people recognizing the irony of the pork barrel funds, politicians and characters like Napoles raiding public coffers for personal profit, while doling out crumbs to the poor and expecting the taxpayers to be grateful for the loose change.

I actually see difficulties in the transition from an anti-pork movement to one against patronage politics. On the radio I hear commentators, and listeners calling in, to defend the pork barrel as a necessary evil, a way to help the poor. The blinders are there and I worry that in the end, we will see the movement losing steam because Filipinos are still bound by feudal loyalties.

Finally, whatever the outcome of this anti-pork movement, I do see a turning point in our politics mainly because we’re seeing the growing use of a new political arena: the Internet and social media. The title for my column takes off from a website called change.org/ph, where citizens can initiate petitions directed mainly to politicians on specific issues. “Change.org” is actually global, with country-specific sites, the local one being managed by Inday Varona.

The Internet can be as noisy and heated as the parliament of the streets but petitions on “change.org” indicate a more civil approach, thus my “change, please” title, but said with firmness and a sense of urgency. The petitions are terse and to the point, zeroing in on a problem and proposing a solution. They are more polite versions of the manifestos of the marital law era, mimeographed (older readers, please explain to the young ones) on newsprint and distributed through the underground. Today we have a potential of reaching thousands of people through the Internet, with more sophisticated layouts and colored photographs to make a point.

The use of petitions on “change.org.ph” is still limited to the chattering classes, but the issues there are picked up by other Internet sites and by radio, television and print media.

Social observatory

I also consider this site to be a useful “social observatory,” telling us about what issues people (or at least of a small but influential middle class) care about. Let’s rank the petitions by the number of signatories:

Predictably, a call to the Ombudsman to conduct an impartial investigation of the grave misuse of public funds is at the top of the list with 16,302 signatories. This is followed by a call for the Luneta march, together with demands to probe and punish abusers of pork, with 10,343 signatories.

A petition to President Aquino, “Stop the Tampakan Mining Project” calls for a suspension of open-pit mining in Mindanao and comes in third with 9,732 signatories. This is followed by a petition to Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan with 6,535 signatories to keep Burnham Park green and free of commercialization. Another environmentally oriented petition with 6,399 signatories is addressed to the Department of Public Works and to Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada not to cut down 400 trees to build an underpass on España.

A petition to the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority to scrap a proposed two-day number coding system for vehicles got 5,357 signatories, followed closely by a call, signed by 5,262 people, calling on the President to require government officials to take public transport at least once a month.

There were many other petitions, including variations on the anti-pork theme. It’s interesting that petitions initiated by individuals seem to get more signatories. One anti-pork petition initiated by Kapatiran Party only had 199 signatories—fewer than the 381 who call on Jollibee to add more sauce and hotdogs (presumably pork?) to their spaghetti.

I know, the sauce and hotdogs petition seems trivial but that’s the way the Internet social media operates. Politics is, after all, a matter of negotiations and in the months ahead, we will see more innovative, and vigorous, turns in our political tournaments.

Sam Miguel
08-28-2013, 10:20 AM
Abolish Congress?

Posted on Wednesday Aug 28th at 12:00am

DEMAND AND SUPPLY

By Boo Chanco

Former NEDA chief Philip Medalla once observed that if we just took 300 names at random from the phone book, we are likely to come up with a better Congress. Philip may think he is exaggerating to emphasize a point but he is certainly up to something there. That’s sad.

It is obvious that Congress, as we now know it, is a pigsty. They are there theoretically to represent the people in the crafting of laws. But as the pork barrel issue showed, they are more interested in their own porcine interests, with my sincere apologies to pigs for insulting them in the analogy.

The thought occurred to me that the time has come to consider abolishing Congress altogether. Consider the money we will save… P25 billion on pork barrel funds for next year; Senate budget of about P3 billion; House outlay of P6.248 billion.

Of the senators’ P3 billion, P1.591 billion will be for salaries, while P1.407 billion will be for maintenance, operating and other expenses (MOOE). Of the congressmen’s P6.248 billion for next year, P3.060 billion will be for salaries, while P3.138 will be for MOOE and P50 million for capital outlay (procurement of equipment, building renovation and the like).

Note how much more their pork budget is compared to their operating budgets, which are not insignificant too. Surely we have better uses for the over P30 billion we spend on the perks and upkeep of all those senators and congressmen. And for what? Just so we can say we have what looks like a representative democracy?

In our daily lives, if the cost of maintaining a service, in this case lawmaking, can no longer be justified by the output or is more trouble than it is worth, it is a no-brainer to just scrap the service. It makes no sense putting more good money after bad… Experience over the years has shown that for Congress, we get nothing of value for our money and no hope for improvement in the future.

Of course it is not easy as that. We have a Constitution which calls for a Congress. We can amend the Constitution to abolish it but what do we do for a replacement? We can call it a Parliament but if we elect the same people anyway, we get the same disappointing results.

Besides, our government is supposed to be democratic and in a democracy, we need representatives of the people setting policy and safeguarding citizen rights. The fact that we get representa-thieves instead is beside the point. A Congress or a Parliament is a necessary evil unless we want a dictatorship or a monarchy. Even China has a make believe National People’s Congress.

I feel a strange yearning for a Lee Kuan Yew with a parliament that’s practically an extension of himself. I realize that’s not very democratic but if we get a leader who is good and has the ability to govern and deliver progress, why not? I know it is a big IF. With our luck, we got a Marcos with the same powers as Lee Kuan Yew and only the Swiss banks benefited.

Maybe we need to change the manner of electing legislators. Maybe Philip Medalla is right. Let the National Statistics and Census Office and the UP statisticians devise a sampling method that chooses representatives in various districts. The person selected must serve a term of three years. Cheaper than an election and no vote buying…

Those chosen must serve as a civic duty the way citizens serve on juries in the US… or a military draft. It promises a more participative democracy. We may also get officials who see public office as a chance to serve rather than as a career or a chance to attain riches. No need for pork barrel funds because no political debts to pay to constituents.

I get the feeling that election by random sampling may prove more democratic than voting. There will be no political dynasty because everyone has a chance to be chosen… informal settlers and Forbes Park residents get an equal chance. But don’t let Smartmatic program the computer that will do the random selection. Haha!

It is time to use statistics and technology to fix our horrible election system that has produced mostly crooks all these years. We will still get some crooks in the computerized sampling approach but that’s all up to chance. In elections, there is little chance the good guys can win. The computerized sampling approach will equalize the chances and elect non professional politicians who will only serve one term.

Of course I am dreaming of an alternative system knowing it has no chance of happening. But we need to talk about it because we need a new system now. Indeed, I decided to revise this column after I submitted it because Senate President Drilon just said, likely out of sarcasm, that we should just abolish Congress if we strip it of all its pork. Hmm… looks like my idea isn’t that outlandish after all.

And let us abolish the Senate. Whatever reforms we undertake in our system of government, we don’t need a Senate, at least not in the way we know it today. And in the meantime, the senators must not be entitled to any form of pork. Good to know that 15 senators already said they will remain pork free, at least for the meantime.

Senators are supposed to have a national constituency but we have a Sen. Angara (the father) who used up his pork to benefit Baler town and Aurora province, not to mention his own foundations. Angara fails to realize that even if he got a unanimous vote in Aurora province, he won’t be elected a senator without the rest of us. It is the same thing for Ralph Recto who used quite a large share of his pork on Batangas.

The other reform that ought to be instituted has to do with Presidential and vice presidential pork. P-Noy and Jojobama must lead by example. It would be nice to see P-Noy ordering both the Malampaya Fund and the Pagcor Social Fund to be deposited to the National Treasury and subject to appropriation by Congress.

In the meantime, the citizens must be told how the Malampaya Fund had been spent through the years. From 2001 to 2012, the Shell-Chevron Malampaya Consortium has turned over to the government some $6.5 billion. PNOC also got its share amounting to $400 million. $6.5-B + $0.4-B = $6.9-B ÷ 11 years = $627-M/year P27.5-B/yr. That’s a lot of money!

And while they are at it, there is a need to be truthful about intelligence funds. That’s what they call sizable amounts of money whose expenditures they don’t want to be audited.

One of the reasons people were incensed enough to go to Luneta last Monday is because time is running out. If P-Noy cannot be depended upon to do what is right about pork, it is unlikely his successor will do it. P-Noy is the most honest person we have elected and probably would elect in a long time. That is why he must use his political capital to reform the system and no turning back.

P-Noy has nothing to lose by totally abolishing pork. If Congress retaliates by refusing to work with him, P-Noy can at least remain true to himself and the people whose hopes and dreams for a corruption free government rest upon him.

We cannot abolish Congress any time soon, even if that is the right and logical thing to do. But we can, through a braver P-Noy, force Congress to be more financially accountable to the people.

P-Noy should not worry about being a lame duck president if that is what’s keeping him from doing the right thing. He should worry about history and what it will say about him if he falters on this moral issue. He wouldn’t want future generations of Filipinos to learn from their history books that P-Noy had the chance to reform decades of wrongs but he hesitated and did nothing.

And one last thing… P-Noy should do an honest to goodness housecleaning just to make sure there aren’t more cockroaches in the inner sanctum of Malacañang. They found one, a PR consultant of Napoles working for the Executive Secretary. There are likely to be others. Seek them out, Mr. President or face the danger of internal rot destroying the moral foundations of your Presidency.

Pork by any other name

ABS-CBN News reporter Lynda Jumilla decided to crowdsource via Twitter possible names for the new pork barrel scheme after the P-Noy announced PDAF is no more. Here are three of my favorites.

National Assistance Program of Lawmakers Engaged in Service (NAPOLES)

Lawmakers Initiative for Emergency, Miscellaneous and Personal Outlay (LIEMPO)

Livelihood Empowerment for Countrywide Humanitarian Outlay Network (LECHON)!”

Sam Miguel
08-29-2013, 10:17 AM
Estrada’s plunder conviction remembered

By Rodel Rodis

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:54 pm | Wednesday, August 28th, 2013

More than 75 years ago on August 19, 1938, on the occasion of his 60th birthday, Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel Luis Quezon reflected on the “state of the Philippine soul” in a speech delivered to 40,000 students and teachers.

“We lack the superb courage which impels action because it is right,” he said. “Our greatest fear is not to do wrong, but to be caught doing wrong. Our conception of virtue is conventional. We take religion lightly and we think lip-service equivalent to a deep, abiding faith. Patriotism among us is only skin deep and incapable of inspiring heroic deeds.”

Quezon was likely predicting the corrupt mindset of the politicians that would follow in the decades to come, politicians who can talk the “lip service” talk but who can only walk the “skin deep” walk.

On the other hand, the patriotism that is “inspiring heroic deeds” is coming from the Filipino people, many of whom joined the “Million People March” against pork barrel held in Manila’s Rizal Park on August 26 which was directed at eradicating a corrupt system of governmental fund distribution that is rife with abuse.

The march and the netizens’ revolt that spurred it were inspired by disclosures of how certain members of the Philippine Congress directed the P200 million allocated annually to each member of the Senate and P70 million to each House member for their use in projects that were supposed to benefit the Filipino people.

The whistle blowers revealed that at least P10 billion of those funds were illegally diverted by these government officials through businesswoman, now fugitive, Janet Lim-Napoles, to certain non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that merely served as convenient conduits for the funds to be kicked back to the pockets of the members of Congress.

The problem is that it may take years for the government to amass the evidence necessary to file plunder charges against the government officials who conspired with Napoles to pocket the people’s money for their own personal use. Not every member of Congress will be as candidly clueless as Rep. Lani Mercado, wife of Sen. Bong Revilla, who justified the pork barrel practice by claiming that her family has substantial personal expenses to pay for.

The problem is deeper than simply gathering sufficient forensic evidence to file plunder charges against the corrupt officials. It goes deeper even where the charges result in guilty verdicts against the scofflaws. It is the failure of the people to connect the dots.

On September 19, 2007, I wrote about the guilty verdict that was handed down by the Sandigan Bayan (Philippine Anti-Graft Court) against former president Joseph “Erap” Estrada on plunder charges (“No Tears for Estrada”). Perhaps it is time to review the facts of Estrada’s plunder conviction to avoid a repetition of what allowed a convicted plunderer to be elected mayor of Manila.

It took six years for the Sandigan Bayan court to try the Estrada case, most of it due to delays caused by Estrada himself. At one point, he fired all his attorneys so that a mistrial could occur. But after the court provided him with new attorneys, whom he rejected, Estrada retained new counsel and proceeded with the case. His strategy then was to delay it until his closest personal friend, Fernando Poe, Jr. (FPJ), whom he personally coaxed into running, could win the presidency in the May 2004 elections and dismiss all the charges against him.

But when Fernando Poe Jr. lost, Estrada had no choice but to proceed with the trial, with a strategy directed towards destroying the credibility of the court and depicting the trial as “politically motivated” to justify his removal from office. Very little was done by his lawyers to debunk the voluminous evidence presented in court.

Dozens of witnesses described how Estrada collected billions of Philippine pesos in “jueteng” protection money which, witnesses testified, they regularly delivered in cash to his Polk Street mansion in San Juan in Metro Manila. It was like a mob scene from “The Sopranos.” Credible witnesses also testified that when Estrada was president, he directed his appointees in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) to purchase a combined total of 681,733,000 shares of stock of the Belle Corporation worth P1,847,578,057.50 ($40-M).

Estrada now Manila Mayor

Carlos Arellano testified that he was a childhood friend of Estrada who appointed him chairman and president of the SSS in 1998. On October 6, 1999, he received a call from Estrada instructing him to buy Belle Corporation stock. He said he hesitated to do so because the SSS had an investment committee which selected the stocks to invest in for the millions of Filipinos who had contributed to it. However, after further prodding from Estrada, Arellano purchased P900 million in Belle stocks on October 21, 1999, just 15 days after he was directed to do so.

Federico Pascual (not the journalist and newspaper columnist in Manila) testified that he was the president of the GSIS in 1999, appointed by Estrada, when he was instructed to purchase Belle shares. He hesitated to do the president’s bidding, he said, because the Belle Corporation was involved in jai-alai and gambling and had a “speculative flavor”. But after receiving another call from Estrada on October 9, 1999, he went ahead and authorized the purchase by GSIS of P1.1-B (pesos) in Belle stock.

A close crony of Estrada, Jaime Dichaves, facilitated the transaction. Belle Corporation executives testified that they issued a cashier’s check to Dichaves in the amount of P189-M (International Exchange Bank Check No. 6000159271 dated November 5, 1999) as his 10% commission for securing the purchase by SSS and GSIS of close to P2-B (pesos) in Belle stocks.

Bank executives then testified that Dichaves deposited the check into his account and issued a check in the same amount, which he then deposited in to the Equitable Bank account of “Jose Velarde.” Dichaves deposited an additional amount of P74-M (pesos) into the same account.

Clarissa Ocampo, an Equitable Bank manager, testified that she personally witnessed Estrada sign his name as “Jose Velarde” in withdrawing funds from the Equitable Bank, an allegation that was openly admitted by Estrada himself. Bank executives testified that other bank accounts in the same bank were in the names of Jose Velarde and Loi Ejercito (Estrada’s legal wife).

Bank executives also testified that it was from this same Jose Velarde account that Estrada purchased the “Boracay Mansion” near Wack Wack Golf Club for the use of his favored mistress, Laarni Enriquez. The man who facilitated the purchase of this mansion was Jose Luis Yulo who, because of this “housing” experience was then appointed Estrada’s Secretary of Housing, replacing the very competent Karina Constantino-David.

The evidence was just too overwhelming and too blatant for the Sandigan Bayan justices to ignore. They found Estrada guilty of plunder, beyond a reasonable doubt.

When GSIS and SSS bought Belle stocks in 1999, they were priced at P3.14 a share. One year later, on December 29, 2000, their value had sunk dramatically to 60 centavos a share. Two years later, they had gone down to 40 centavos a share. Now they are virtually worthless.

That was what I wrote six years ago. Instead of being sentenced to life imprisonment for his crime, Estrada accepted a plea deal with then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In exchange for a presidential pardon from Arroyo (who likely hoped that she would set a precedent for herself), Estrada agreed never to run for public office again.

Sam Miguel
08-29-2013, 10:55 AM
In defense of honest NGOs

Posted on Thursday Aug 29th at 12:00am

BREAKTHROUGH

By Elfren S. Cruz

It is important to ensure that even in the midst of the most righteous crusade, there will be no collateral damage. In wars, these unwilling victims caught in the crossfire of contending parties are usually innocent civilians especially children.

In this current and just war against corruption, it seems that the most unfortunate victims or collateral damage are the legitimate non-governmental organizations or NGOs, who are now going to be excluded from any government funding if such a proposal is approved.

Perhaps one of Napoles’ greatest sin, together with the politicians allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam like Enrile, Marcos, Revilla, Sotto, Honasan, et al, is that they have tarnished the legitimate work done by dedicated and committed members of civil society.

NGOs , people’s organizations and other non profits belong to what is called civil society. The Philippines has always been known as a democracy with a very dynamic and active civil society. In the Million People March against the Pork Barrel last Monday, the presence of members from civil society were prominent.

There were the faculty and students of non-profit schools like De La Salle University, St. Scholastica’s College and Adamson University. And although the rest came as individuals, it was noticeable that many of them came from business organizations like MAP, civic organizations like Jaycees and Rotary, media groups like WOMEN, FSGO, foundations, cooperatives, Catholic parish councils, Protestant organizations and many other types of NGOs.

What are NGOs? Carmel Abao offers this definition:

“Civil Society organizations are thus defined as groups that are organized independently of and operate outside of but interact with the state and the market. The most fundamental attributes of CSOs are, they are voluntary, non-governmental, non-profit. CSOs framed in this way encompass a variety of nongovernment and non-profit groups that interact with government and business: socio-civic organizations, professional organizations, academe, media, churches, people’s organizations, non-governmental organizations and cooperatives.”

The contemporary history of NGOs in the Philippines has been a dramatic metamorphoses. During the dark days of the Marcos dictatorship, the government was very hostile towards NGOs. During the Marcos rule, there was very little tolerance for civil society and none for advocacy people’s organizations. However, because the government was unable to provide adequate services in many areas and to many sectors, like the urban poor and landless peasants, developmental NGOs stepped in to try and fill the void.

The largely feudal nature of the Marcos regime and the people orientation and democratic structure of NGOs created an environment of hostility between these two forces. It was also during the Marcos regime that civil society organizations built strong relationships with the middle class and the poor communities.

The activism and networks of these NGOs eventually contributed to the People Power Revolution in EDSA in 1986 which ousted Marcos and brought Corazon Aquino to power.

President Corazon Aquino not only restored democracy but she also enacted legislation favorable to civil society organizations. Government line agencies were encouraged to open NGO liaison offices and NGOs were permitted to negotiate directly with foreign funding institutions.

In 1986, Corazon Aquino said: “The private sector shall not only serve as the initiator but also as the prime mover of development. Specifically, the business sector, NGOs, and private voluntary agencies shall take the lead in undertaking and sustaining programs and projects aimed at improving the socio-economic situations.”

The 1987 Philippine Constitution mandates the state “to encourage non-governmental, community-based or sectoral organizations that promote the welfare of the nation.”

The Constitution also guarantees “the right of the people and their organizations to effective and reasonable participation at all levels of social, political and economic decision making.”

After the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution, there was a flowering of the NGO Movement. Unfortunately, even then non-governmental organizations of dubious integrity started engaging in questionable and corrupt practices. These were set up by politicians, businessmen and even government bureaucrats that sought to advance their own personal fortunes rather than the common good.

The President’s Social Fund (PSF) was set up by Corazon Aquino as a means of disbursing PAGCOR earnings to beneficiaries in the more depressed areas or sectors of the nation. Her directive was to look for relatively small projects that would immediately impact on the lives of the poor. These projects would include barrio potable water systems, footbridges, classrooms and other pro-poor projects.

Instead of letting PAGCOR disburse the funds, the Presidential Management Staff was tasked to look for provincial NGOs and elicit project proposals from them. The PMS was then required to confirm the legitimacy and integrity of these NGOs and monitor the implementation of the projects until completion.

For example, the construction of classrooms were assigned to the Federation of the Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce. The classrooms were built with superior structures. Also many members of the Chamber donated their own funds to augment the original budgets.

The PSF was also used for emergency relief. The first time was during the severe earthquake in Baguio. Then there was the Mt. Pinatubo eruption that caused havoc in Central Luzon.

One response to bogus organizations is that legitimate NGOs have bonded together. For example ten of the largest NGO networks formed the Caucus of Development NGO Networks [CODE-NGO] in 1991 to promote professionalism and to expand their reach. The Philippine NGO Movement is considered as one of the most dynamic and advanced in the whole world.

The alliance between the Government, focused on good governance and poverty alleviation, and an active and legitimate NGO movement can be a major component in the vision of a Philippines where the Rule of Law is institutionalized — where the opportunity for jobs and justice for all can become a reality.

* * *

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:08 AM
5 agencies in pork scam to be abolished

DENR suspends Philforest chief

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:40 am | Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Malacañang is moving to abolish Philippine Forest Corp., the agro-forestry arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and one of the many spigots that fake NGOs used to access pork barrel funds, according to Environment Secretary Ramon Paje.

The environment secretary said Philforest president Erwin Krishna N. Santos had been suspended indefinitely while the DENR was investigating the questionable deals the company had entered into with the bogus NGOs and members of Congress.

“Some of the Philforest’s functions might go to the Bureau of Forest Management. The immediate goal is to stop the source of pork leaks,” Paje said.

Paje said President Aquino had asked the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel to study the abolition not only of Philforest but also of National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) and Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estates Corp. (ZREC) of the Department of Agriculture; Technology Resources Center (TRC) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST); and, National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) of Land Bank of the Philippines.

Paje said the President was “extremely disappointed” with how the pork barrel scam continued into his administration, specifically the release of P428.5 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the official name of pork barrel or funds that finance pet projects of lawmakers, through the five state companies.

The P428.5-million PDAF, which came from two senators (Gregorio Honasan II and Manuel Lapid) and 24 members of the House of Representatives, was released from October 2010 to December 2011 to nine NGOs with dubious records.

The fake NGOs were Focus on Development Goals Foundation Inc. (FDGFI), Interactive Training Opportunity on Needs Alleviation Movements Inc., Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation Inc. (KKFI), Livedures Foundation Inc., Maharlikang Lipi Foundation Inc., Philippine Environment and Ecological Development Corp., Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. (PFI), Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Inc. and Workphil Foundation Inc. (WFI)

Outside Napoles network

These nine NGOs do not belong to the network of fake ones allegedly put up by detained Janet Lim-Napoles, accused of masterminding a P10-billion pork scam in 10 years.

After two weeks on the run, Napoles, accused of serious illegal detention of Benhur Luy, her former employee turned whistle-blower, is now detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. She surrendered to Mr. Aquino on Aug. 28.

Paje said the Philforest board had not been informed of the fund releases to the bogus NGOs.

“I would have not allowed it since we have stopped processing all pork barrel releases through the DENR since I took over. But the pork was released directly to the Philforest which should never have been allowed because it should have gone through the budget process,” he said.

OIC secures records

Paje said he had appointed Environment Undersecretary Analiza Teh as officer in charge “to secure documents, records and materials relevant to the investigation.”

In an October 2012 letter to the Philforest board, the Commission on Audit (COA) did not endorse the company’s financial statement for 2011 because of incomplete or missing documents.

The COA noted that the negative comments against Philforest had been recurring since the 2006 audit because management continued to ignore its recommendations, such the absence of an accounting system.

Like a shell firm

For an entity that handled close to half a billion pesos in 2011, Philforest operates like a shell corporation with no organizational structure.

Although its president and vice president are elected by the board, Philforest has a workforce of 19 temps whose contracts are renewed yearly. It has five consultants and two laborers taking care of its nursery in Limay, Bataan.

Philforest is a subsidiary of National Resources Development Corp., itself a DENR subsidiary, whose flagship program is to propagate Jatropha for biodiesel production.

Honasan’s P195M

Based on documents obtained by the Inquirer, Honasan accounted for P195 million of the P428.5 million in PDAF received by Philforest in 2011—P40 million in August 2011 and P100 million in December 2011 funneled to FDGFI; P50 million to the WFI in February 2011; and P5 million to PFI in December 2010.

KKFI and PFI were among the 82 questionable NGOs that a COA special audit of pork barrel from 2007 and 2009 said received at least P6.165 billion in the PDAF of 12 senators and 180 House members.

Another senator, Lapid, gave P5 million of his pork to FDGFI in June 2011.

24 representatives

Half of the PDAF that went to Philforest in 2011 came from representatives—Antonio T. Kho of Masbate (P30 million), Salvador P. Cabaluna II and Michael Angelo Rivera of the 1-CARE party-list group (P22.5 million each), Reynaldo V. Umali of Oriental Mindoro (P15 million), Jose Benjamin Benaldo of Cagayan de Oro (P15 million), Nicanor Briones of the Agap party-list group (P13 million).

Emil Ong of Northern Samar (P13 million), Peter Unabia of Misamis Oriental (P12 million), Hadjiman Hataman-Salliman of Basilan (P11 million), Joel Roy Duavit of Rizal (P10 million), Eduardo Gullas of Cebu (P9 million), Ramon H. Durano VI of Cebu (P9 million).

Nancy Catamco of North Cotabato (P9 million), Marc Douglas Cagas IV of Davao del Sur (P7 million), Jesus Emmanuel Paras of Bukidnon (P5 million), Potenciano Payuyo of the Apec party-list group (P5 million), Isabelle Climaco of Zamboanga City (P4 million), Nelson Dayanghirang of Davao Oriental (P4 million).

Robert Raymund M. Estrella of the Abono party-list group (P3 million), Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro (P3 million), Yevgeny Vicente B. Emano of Misamis Oriental (P3 million), Teoderico Haresco of the Kasangga party-list group (P1.5 million), Jose Aquino II of Agusan del Norte (P1 million) and Franklin Bautista of Davao del Sur (P1 million).

In the COA special audit of pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009, TRC received P2.432 billion; NLDC, P1.259 billion; Nabcor, P1.227 billion; and ZREC, P282 million.

The COA questioned why these corporate entities allowed the NGOs to undertake the projects that they should have undertaken themselves.

Management fees

The COA also wondered why the state firms chose the NGO beneficiaries based solely on the recommendation of lawmakers and why they rewarded themselves with 3 percent to 3.5 percent in management fees for practically doing nothing.

The Inquirer reported on Aug. 16 that seven fake NGOs allegedly controlled by Napoles had cornered close to P1 billion in pork barrel of five senators and eight representatives that was coursed mainly through NLDC. Roughly half of the funds were released between 2010 and 2012.

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:08 AM
^^^ Please ask Jun Lozada what he was doing all that time when he was still Phil Forest president.

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:11 AM
Pork-barreling Angara slams media frenzy on scam

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:25 am | Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Former Sen. Edgardo Angara, one of the biggest pork users under the Arroyo administration, said that most lawmakers had been unfairly “prejudged” in the media-induced “frenzy” on the pork barrel scam.

He said the media should not be quick to label the controversy a “scandal” as it tarred lawmakers as “evil” and NGOs as “fakes.”

Angara, who exceeded his pork barrel allocations by P384.375 million from 2007 to 2009, also refused to call it a “scandal,” saying “controversy” was the more apt term.

He said the findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) in its special report on pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009 had yet to be validated.

Angara, who was elected chair of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption in February, added that no case had been filed against any senator or representative who were named in the COA report.

He was identified by the COA report as one of six lawmakers who gave their pork to an NGO they had put up. “They did not qualify the report. They did not say any irregularity. Even if they mentioned my name, don’t jump into conclusion that I pocketed money from that,” he said over dzBB.

Angara NGO

Angara gave P14.4 million of his pork to an NGO, Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan Inc., where he was an incorporator, stockholder and board member.

In its findings, the COA said P9 million of the food packages distributed by Jeverps Enterprises was unliquidated while 20,625 of the 50,000 packs distributed were not supported by documents.

Angara said he met Janet Lim-Napoles only once in one social function.

While he believed that she would not qualify as a state witness, Angara said Napoles, as an “ordinary citizen,” should be spared from “prejudicial publicity” to ensure a fair trial.

He claimed that NGOs had been allowed as beneficiaries of government funds even before martial law (1972). But Angara said that early on, the Department of Budget and Management had made it a point that only government agencies or local government units should be allowed as implementing agencies (IAs) for a “practical reason.” They have resident auditors outside of the regular COA.

Not responsible

He said it was for this reason that the lawmakers were not responsible for checking the legitimacy of NGOs as the IAs had resident auditors designated for that role.

The IAs, Angara said, were also obliged to make a report to the Senate finance committee chair or the House appropriations committee chair.

World overturned

“Why are senators being blamed? The world has been overturned. The implementing agencies should not pass on their responsibilities to the lawmakers,” Angara said.

But Angara said that while lawmakers were allowed to endorse projects, they should not handpick NGOs (as most of them did which some IAs said left them with no choice but to follow). “But that is a matter of proof. Not all senators or congressmen are shameless,” he said.

He acknowledged that lawmakers could not “wash their hands of” the pork misuse because they were “morally” responsible in ensuring that taxpayers’ money was put to good use.

COA not a judge

He pointed out that the COA was not a “judge” but a mere financial watchdog whose findings have yet to be validated.

“They should have embargoed [the report] because that is prejudicial publicity. The documents are incomplete. There are steps that it should take before declaring an NGO is indeed fake. This has created a feeding frenzy because this juicy news, both local and international,” he said.

In the end, he said he agreed that pork should be abolished to remove these “self-interest” provisions in the budget.

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:12 AM
^^^ You're full of shit Ed Angara...

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:15 AM
Senators feel like cold cuts in front of COA chief

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

3:11 am | Sunday, September 1st, 2013

Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan’s presence at the Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the P10-billion pork barrel funds scam last week was enough for senators to break out in a cold sweat.

There is no stopping Tan from revealing the senators who have been tagged in a post- 2010 COA report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) finding their way to fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

COA Chair Tan said the misuse of the pork barrel funds continued well into the Aquino administration, with the same implementing agencies and the same legislators involved.

Tan said during the hearing that a total of P1.093 billion from the PDAF of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Gregorio Honasan went to the fake NGOs of businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles between 2007 and 2009.

All four have inhibited themselves from the inquiry but have denied any involvement in the misuse of pork barrel funds.

Sen. Francis Escudero, who sought the inquiry into the pork barrel scam, asked Tan if there was already a COA report on the alleged PDAF misuse in 2010 and onward, citing criticisms that the special audit only dealt with the latter years of the Arroyo administration.

“[I] would say that we find the same implementing agencies. [The National Agribusiness Corp.] is pretty notorious when it comes to that. [The Zamboanga del Norte College Rubber Estates Corp.] in 2011, it’s the same story about the PDAF being given to NGOs and the NGOs implementing the so-called projects but upon inspection and validation, there are a lot of deficiencies,” Tan told the inquiry.

Escudero then asked if the irregularities involved the same legislators.

“If I remember right, we’re coming up with the [audit of the] Philippine Forest Corp. It should have been released one or two weeks ago but we wanted to be careful with the validation because some might say it’s again wrong,” Tan said.

“Hopefully, by next week we can come out with it. It’s [about] PDAF allocation in 2011 and 2012 so it’s is very current. Some members are in this report and I think two additional ones,” Tan added.

It was at this point that Senate President Franklin Drilon interrupted Escudero’s questioning.

“It is unfair for you to say that there’s one or two more. Can you tell us who this one is or these two are…? They might be among those seated here,” said Drilon.

Tan told the inquiry that it was against the COA policy to divulge details of the report before it was released in full.

“Would it be sufficient for now to say that the two are not in this hall right now?” Tan said, eliciting some laughter from those present.

“That would do, as a start,” Drilon said, apparently satisfied with Tan’s response.

Drilon on Friday called on the public to give the senators implicated in the scandal a chance to explain themselves before passing judgment on them.

According to the COA special audit report, among the senators, Revilla poured the most into the Napoles NGOs cited by Tan, with P483.49 million. Enrile came in second with P332.7 million, followed by Estrada with P262.575 million.

Honasan had the least amount given to the questioned NGOs, with just P14.55 million.

Sam Miguel
09-02-2013, 10:57 AM
Let the hunt begin

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:11 pm | Sunday, September 1st, 2013

At first blush, Janet Lim-Napoles is the guiltiest of them all. The principle, as Leila de Lima explains, is important if Napoles is to be allowed to become state witness. Assuming she agrees to become one.

The law says that if a crime involves a conspiracy, only the “least guilty” may be accepted as state witness. It stands to reason: You can’t allow the mastermind, or the guiltiest of them all, to testify against his minions in exchange for a commuted sentence, or for walking away free. That is rewarding monstrosity, that is abetting impunity.

In theory, Napoles is the guiltiest in the P10-billion pork scam. She it was who got the lion’s share of the loot. She it was who conceived of the scam and put it in operation for all of 10 years. She it was who manufactured the nongovernment organizations that siphoned off the pork barrel funds from the senators and congressmen. While at this, she it was who gave NGOs a horrendously bad name, from a lofty entity given to doing things better than government, especially in attending to the needs of the poor and marginalized, to something fake.

She it was who lured the senators and congressmen into parting with what they thought was their own money but was really the people’s. She it was who put up the fronts, she it was who worked out the details, she it was who supervised the collecting until her subalterns, like Benhur Luy, learned the ropes and dreamed of taking over or putting up rival organizations that offered better rates of returns, or kickbacks. She it was who ran the organization. She it was who masterminded the operation.

Does that mean she cannot turn state witness and tell tales?

Not at all. Quite simply, she is not the guiltiest of them all.

I can understand how an illegal recruiter might be so in a scam involving overseas Filipino workers. An illegal recruiter who lures an OFW, or someone dreaming of working abroad, into parting with his hard-earned cash, the kind that gets stashed in soiled handkerchiefs, is truly guilty of a monstrous crime. His victim’s hard-earned cash probably took the form of selling a carabao, or pawning belongings, something he did in pursuit of an elusive dream. A dream that would continue to elude him for the work abroad being nonexistent.

This is nothing of the sort. The people Napoles lured into her scam were not helpless and desperate, they were rich and powerful. They knew perfectly well what they were getting into and got exactly what they paid for. In fact they weren’t lured at all. This is a case of mutual exploitation, the senators and congressmen who put their pork barrel funds in Napoles’ hands using Napoles as much as Napoles used them. If not indeed more so: The pork barrel funds were burning a hole in their pockets. It was loot waiting to be laundered, it was stash waiting to be converted into usable cash.

If Napoles had not existed, the crispy-pata-loving senators and congressmen would have invented her.

They and not Napoles are the guiltiest here. Their crime goes beyond the amounts of kickbacks they got from the pork scam. Their crime is of the stuff that gets presidents themselves impeached. As the congressmen who prosecuted Erap themselves cried out then, that is betrayal of public trust.

Napoles is nothing, she is an ordinary citizen, even if she is an extraordinary scoundrel. It still astonishes how someone who started out as a nobody had the cleverness and skill to build an empire out of spit. May bocadora, as we say, if not admiringly at least grudgingly. The senators and congressmen are everything, they occupy positions of power and authority. We elected them into their offices. We owe them respect, we owe them obedience, we gave them the power to make the laws by which we live. Napoles we expect to do what she did, the senators and congressmen we do not.

Just as well, we entrusted them with our money, in the same way that a poor family in the provinces entrusts a relative of theirs in Metro Manila with their lifetime savings to send their son to school. And they pocketed the money, quite apart from using a good deal of it to gamble and gambol, in the same way that the relative in Manila pocketed the money and spent a good deal of it betting at the races—and keeping the kid away from school. You cannot have a betrayal of trust more vicious, you cannot have a betrayal of public trust more profound.

The explosion of rage that ended up at the Luneta last Monday—though that is by no means the end, as the marchers vow—was not primarily because of Napoles, it was primarily because of the senators and congressmen. Except that that tended to be more implicit than explicit, more instinctive than articulated. Though Napoles has become the face of pork, the social media giving that face a literally swinish appearance, she is not the heart and soul of pork or the wanton profligacy pork has come to represent. The legislators are.

Zen has a saying that when someone points at the moon, you do not look at the finger, you look at the moon. Napoles is just the finger pointing at the moon. It’s time we stopped looking at the finger and looked at the moon.

By all means let Napoles testify, by all means let her name names. Let her spill her guts out, even if that image conjures the thing roasting in the pit.

Now begins the hunt for truth, says the president. Ah, but that is the hardest part of all, beside which Napoles’ capture, or surrender, will look like a walk in the park. A nation is watching, a nation that showed its spit and fire last Monday, a nation that is no longer content to make text jokes about corruption and agree to move on. We’ll see soon enough if we’re headed to bag wild boars, the more ferocious cousins of pigs, or mere rabbits.

Let the hunt begin.

Sam Miguel
09-03-2013, 01:56 PM
And yet Jun Lozada still hasn't said a damn thing about what he was doing all that time he was Phil Forest president...

Lozada ties Ochoa to Philforest row

Brod-in-law got 2,000 ha in Busuanga

By Marlon Ramos

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

A real estate firm owned by the brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr. benefited from a “midnight deal” during the Arroyo administration for the lease of 2,000 hectares of forest land and beach-front property in Busuanga, Palawan province, according to whistle-blower Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada and documents obtained by the Inquirer.

Presidential Proclamation No. 2057 was signed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on May 7, 2010, or three days before the general elections.

The proclamation authorized Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) to “administer the development of the area covered” by the Busuanga Pasture Reserve, vast pasture and grazing lands on the picturesque island municipality.

The pasture reserve also covers pristine white-sand beaches which, Lozada said, had been identified as prime tourism areas.

Philforest has been identified by Malacañang as one of the five state entities which had been used as conduits in the anomalous release of pork barrel of lawmakers to fake nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said Malacañang was set to abolish Philforest and approve the indefinite suspension of its current president, Erwin Krishna Santos.

Acuzar

On Nov. 17, 2009, Philforest entered into a “tenurial agreement” with New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJBI), a real estate company owned by businessman Jerry Acuzar, who is married to Ochoa’s sister.

In the agreement, Philforest gave Acuzar’s company the right to develop the public lands “into a technically feasible and economically viable grazing land in accordance with its approved development plan.”

The agreement was signed by then Philforest president Harlin Cast Abayon and NSJBI president Felicisimo Isidoro.

Lozada, a former Philforest president, said President Aquino should have canceled the deal as he had promised to annul all agreements that Arroyo entered into during the last few weeks of her administration.

Against midnight deals

“The President said he was against all the midnight deals that Arroyo had signed. That included the appointment of (ousted) Chief Justice (Renato) Corona,” Lozada told the Inquirer.

“He used billions of pesos in presidential pork barrel, presidential power and presidential influence, and the support of the people (to impeach Corona) … He should be consistent and prove that he was fighting for his principles and not out of vindictiveness,” said the whistle-blower in the NBN-ZTE deal.

“But they will not do that … These things are happening under the Office of the President. That really saddens me,” he added.

Lozada said at least two whistle-blowers had agreed to come out and testify that the agreement was disadvantageous to the government.

Under the agreement, Lozada said NSJBI should pay Philforest P500 per hectare in annual lease.

For some unknown reason, he said the annual rental was lowered to P100 per hectare.

Asked why Philforest agreed to lower the lease price, he said: “That’s the question. Why only P100?”

“The real test of daang matuwid (straight path policy) in this particular case is not whether the agreement between [Philforest and NSJBI] was canceled or not. The right question is why Presidential Proclamation No. 2057 has not been recalled,” Lozada said.

Quoting residents, Lozada said the current monthly lease of beach-front properties in Busuanga was P3,000 per hectare, while forest lands could fetch up to P2,000 per hectare every month.

Yulo King Ranch

The 2,000 ha awarded to NSJBI was part of the 40,000 ha that then President Ferdinand Marcos awarded to Yulo King Ranch (YKR) in 1978 for the breeding of cattle through a presidential decree.

The Palawan provincial government has been asking the national government through the Palawan Council for Sustainable Development to transfer portions of YKR to farmer beneficiaries from Coron and Busuanga towns who have been occupying the land.

The sprawling property is within the jurisdiction of Coron and Busuanga.

The Bureau of Animal Industry took over the property after Edsa I in 1986 and converted it into the Busuanga Breeding and Experimental Stations.

In the agreement, Philforest said NSJBI won the rights to the parcel of lands during the bidding that the agency conducted on Nov. 6, 2009, or 11 days before the deal was signed.

Ochoa consultant

Lozada said the two whistle-blowers identified Ochoa’s consultant, a certain Glen Mislang, as the one who runs the affairs of Philforest.

He said the whistle-blowers would present evidence, including phone calls, supposedly showing Mislang’s influence in Philforest.

“Erwin Santos [Philforest president who was suspended indefinitely in the wake of the pork barrel scam] is just their dummy there … That’s also the reason why Erwin Santos, despite being an active part of the propaganda of the Arroyo administration against me and the Senate, has been rewarded very well by this administration,” Lozada said.

Lozada is facing charges for awarding parcels of land to his brother.

He said religious groups had repeatedly sent letters to Aquino asking him to void Arroyo’s proclamation over the Busuanga lands, but they did not get any reply from the President.

Santos was appointed by then Environment Secretary Lito Atienza, who Lozada said was a close friend of Acuzar.

Lozada said Acuzar was also known to have close ties to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte.

“If you will look at its (NSJBI) history, it got its biggest project in 1988 when Atienza was chair of the NHA (National Housing Authority),” he said.

At that time, Lozada said Belmonte was the head of the Government Service Insurance System while Ochoa was the GSIS legal counsel.

Ochoa also served as city administrator during Belmonte’s nine-year tenure as mayor of Quezon City.

“The sad reality is that the people who are abusing this nation are usually business associates. They just look for new partners when the new administration comes in,” he said.

The Inquirer called up Ochoa to get his side but he did not respond.

‘Cover’

The plan to abolish Philforest is a mere “cover” to supposedly protect Aquino’s allies involved in the pork barrel scam, said an official of the Association of Major Religious Superiors of Men in the Philippines (AMRSMP).

Over Church-run Radio Veritas on Monday, Fr. Marlon Lacal, AMRSMP executive secretary, said the investigation of dubious deals the Philforest entered into with bogus NGOs must not stop at Santos but must “go to the highest level of power.”

Lacal said that the investigation must include Ochoa, who he claimed was a close friend of Santos.

The priest alleged that Ochoa used his ties to Santos to pave the awarding of government land in Busuanga to his brother-in-law.

Also on Radio Veritas, Lozada said the paper trail and evidence showing how Ochoa’s brother-in-law benefited from Philforest’s transactions may vanish with the closure of the state firm, the agro-forestry arm of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.—With reports from Jocelyn R. Uy in Manila and Redempto Anda, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Sam Miguel
09-03-2013, 02:12 PM
Another blast from the past

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:58 pm | Monday, September 2nd, 2013

Janet Lim-Napoles reminded me of another figure that hogged the headlines a lifetime ago, becoming the face of corruption at the time. He was Harry Stonehill.

Today’s generation will probably not have heard the name, he swiftly faded into obscurity. But for a while at least, in the early 1960s, he gained boundless fame or notoriety for being this country’s biggest corrupter.

Stonehill came here after the war with the US “liberation” forces and started several businesses. In less than a couple of decades, he had expanded and diversified—he went into everything from glass to tobacco (he introduced Virginia tobacco to the Ilocos)—building a $50-million business empire. He did so not just by pluck and ingenuity but by bribing public officials. A thing pretty much every other elite family did in this country, as you’ll know from Alfred McCoy’s “An Anarchy of Families”: Business prospered only by investing in government. It was so then, it is so now.

Stonehill grew so big he boasted at one point, “I am the government.” His favorite mantra was “Everybody has his price,” and he proved it. A raid on his offices in 1962, in the course of a congressional investigation of him for tax fraud, yielded a “Blue Book” where he had listed the names of some 200 public officials, businessmen and journalists he had bought. The list went up to then President Diosdado Macapagal and then Sen. Ferdinand Marcos. The two would contest the 1965 elections.

An interesting sidelight to this was that the one who vigorously ran after Stonehill was Macapagal’s justice secretary, Jose “Ka Pepe” Diokno. Diokno was a protégé of Arsenio Lacson, Manila’s hugely popular mayor who might have become the president of this country if he hadn’t died of a heart attack in 1962. It was Lacson who got Diokno his justice department portfolio in exchange for helping Macapagal win the presidency in 1961. Unfortunately for Macapagal, Diokno took his job seriously: He hounded Stonehill when the idea was simply to make a token anticorruption stance.

Soon after talk of the “Blue Book” spread like wildfire in the newspapers, Macapagal unceremoniously deported Stonehill without filing charges. He also fired Diokno pretty much for doing his job. Diokno got back at him by openly questioning his decision to deport Stonehill: “How can the government now prosecute the corrupted when it allowed the corrupter to go?”

There are of course obvious differences between Stonehill and Napoles. The most obvious is that Stonehill was an entrepreneur—he is also credited with having pioneered the expansion of Manila Bay—and produced real goods and services; while Napoles, if the allegations about her are true, is just a hustler who manufactured fake NGOs. One is tempted to say “two-bit hustler,” but you remember the dialogue in movies where a villain, accused of being nothing more than a common crook, replies, “I am not a common crook, I am an uncommon one.” Ten billion pesos certainly qualifies as beyond being an ordinary crook.

Another difference is that Stonehill bribed the public officials with his own money, Napoles enticed them to part with the people’s money in return for a kickback. Which also reveals a humongous difference in the scale of corruption then and now, and what it took to get people riled up over it. Then it took only an entrepreneur, who was arguably contributing something to the country with his business ventures, to bribe public officials to get the country up in arms. Now it takes a hustler dispossessing the taxpayers of P10 billion of their money to be thrown away in the most wasteful of ways to get the country up in arms. The scale of the country’s tolerance for atrocity has increased exponentially.

And still another difference is that Napoles is being detained while Stonehill was set free. Stonehill was prevented from talking while Napoles at least in theory is being coaxed to do so.

But for all these differences, they have something in common: They are the finger pointing at the moon. I mentioned that Zen saying yesterday: When someone points at the moon, don’t look at the finger, look at the moon.

Arguably, if the finger pointing at the moon is also wrapped up inside a sequined glove, the way Michael Jackson’s hand was, your gaze will be drawn to the finger too. Or for those who do not like metaphors, given the scale of Stonehill’s and Napoles’ perfidy, you have to look at them too and not just at the people they corrupted. But it would be an egregious error to fixate on them, to turn them into scapegoats, whose original meaning was an animal sacrificed to expiate the sins of others.

Stonehill and Napoles are not the guiltiest parties in the scams they wrought, the public officials are. We have no expectations from Stonehill and Napoles, other than the worst; we have expectations from those we elected, which are nothing less than the best. The senators and congressmen who conspired with Napoles didn’t just steal from us, they betrayed us. Napoles shouldn’t just be allowed to tell all she knows about them, she should be compelled to tell all she knows about them. If that means turning her into a state witness with all the enticements that go with it, by all means let’s do so. That is how the hunt for truth begins. That is how the hunt for truth bags boars and not just rabbits.

We do know what happens when investigations end only with the Stonehills and Napoleses of this world. The people in Stonehill’s “Blue Book” all got away with murder, or pillage. One of them became the next president, got reelected, and plunged the country into darkness for 14 years. In the process, adding murder to pillage and, to go by the current luxurious state of his relations, getting away with it too.

Something to think about.

Sam Miguel
09-04-2013, 09:38 AM
In the Know: Ochoa brod-in-law Jose “Jerry” Acuzar

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:22 am | Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Jose “Jerry” Acuzar, brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., is the chair of New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJBI).

Acuzar, who started as a draftsman at Tondo Foreshore Redevelopment Project in 1975, became a contractor in the 1980s before establishing NSJBI.

In an interview with the Inquirer in May 2012, he described NSJBI as “the go-to guys for landscaping and steel works” during its early years.

Acuzar cites House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte and former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza among his mentors.

Born on June 19, 1955, Acuzar hails from Balanga, Bataan. He took up architecture at the Technological Institute of the Philippines.

Acuzar’s NSJBI, which holds office in Quezon City, was incorporated in 1986. It was initially contracted to develop National Housing Authority land and infrastructure in Bagong Silang and nearby areas in Caloocan City.

Over the years, NSJBI has been involved in the 10-hectare Bureau of Internal Revenue housing project in Fairview, the renovation and expansion of the Court of Appeals building, the building of the Quezon City Hall of Justice and the construction of a portion of Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, among other projects.

Recently, NSJBI built condominiums, such as Victoria Towers in Quezon City and three-tower luxury development The Fort Victoria in Bonifacio Global City.

Acuzar also owns heritage town Las Casas Filipinas de Acuzar in Bagac, Bataan.

In June 2011, Ochoa came under fire for allegedly owning a P40-million mansion in White Plains, Quezon City. Ochoa said the house was owned by Acuzar and his wife, Tess.—Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
09-04-2013, 09:40 AM
What Went Before: Marcos issued decree giving land to cronies

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:34 am | Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

The Yulo King Ranch (YKR) covers 40,000 hectares within the municipalities of Busuanga and Coron in Palawan province, and is owned by alleged Marcos cronies Peter Sabido and Luis Yulo.

In 1975, then President Ferdinand Marcos issued Proclamation No. 1387 declaring YKR a pasture reserve.

In 1986, following the fall of the Marcos regime, YKR was among the properties sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) on allegations that they formed part of the Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth.

The administration of YKR was then transferred to the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI), which converted the property to the Busuanga Breeding and Experimental Stations.

In March 2010, the Supreme Court ordered the government to lift the sequestration of YKR, citing mismanagement of the property.

“The court deems it proper to lift the writ of sequestration pending the final resolution of the main case before the Sandiganbayan,” the high tribunal said in its decision.

The court noted that when the BAI took over its management in 1986, the ranch had 75,477 cattle and 115 horses. By 2005, there were only 2,565 cattle and 76 horses left on the ranch.

Two months before she stepped down, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Presidential Proclamation No. 2057 on May 7, 2010, authorizing Philippine Forest Corp. (Philforest) to administer the development of idle lands covered by the pasture reserve indicated in Marcos’ Proclamation No. 1387.

Under Arroyo’s proclamation, the PCGG, BAI and other government agencies were directed to cease, desist and refrain from introducing further activities in the area, and ordered to turn over assets, rights and other interests over the property to Philforest.

In April, former Philforest president Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada, the whistle-blower against Arroyo in the anomalous NBN-ZTE broadband deal, alleged that Arroyo’s midnight proclamation benefited the real estate company of Jose “Jerry” Acuzar, a brother-in-law of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

In a meeting with the media, Lozada showed the 2009 contract between Philforest and Acuzar’s New San Jose Builders Inc. (NSJBI). The deal awarded the company 2,000 hectares of land in Busuanga, Palawan, under the Busuanga Economic Productivity out of the Idle Land Agreements.

While all contracts of the awardees, including NSJBI, were canceled in December 2011 due to their failure to show project development plans, Lozada said some contracts were reconsidered, including that of NSJBI.

Lozada questioned why the Aquino administration continues to honor the midnight proclamation despite opposition from the people of Palawan.

He showed a copy of the letter of then Palawan Gov. Abraham Mitra to Aquino in October 2011, which asked that Proclamation No. 2057 be recalled, saying that it was against the earlier proclamation that declared the area a “pasture reserve.”

In his letter, Mitra said Proclamation No. 2057 was declared without consultations with the people living in the affected communities, as well as the local government units.—Inquirer Research

Sources: Inquirer Archives; Palawan Council for Sustainable Development; Supreme Court

Sam Miguel
09-04-2013, 10:00 AM
Frenzy

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:44 pm | Tuesday, September 3rd, 2013

Edgardo Angara complains that the media have induced a frenzy on pork. It has caused the public to prejudge senators and congressmen. By calling a “controversy” a “scandal,” media have painted a picture of legislators as evil and NGOs as fake. In fact the report of the Commission on Audit has yet to be validated. The COA itself, he said, should have been more responsible and “embargoed its report because it posed prejudicial publicity.”

The COA, which reported on the pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009, named Angara as one of those who grossly exceeded their pork allocations, in his case by P384.375 million. It also reported him as having sunk P14.4 million of his pork into an NGO he himself put up. That NGO, Kalusugan ng Bata, Karunungan ng Bayan, lists him as “incorporator, stockholder, and board member.”

But hold your horses, says Angara. “The COA did not qualify their report. They did not mention any irregularity. Even if they mentioned my name, don’t jump to the conclusion that I pocketed money from it.”

What’s wrong with it is that it’s like a prison warden allowing a VIP prisoner a weekend pass and justifying it afterward by saying: “So what? The guy did not commit any crime while he was on temporary liberty.” At the very least you have only his word for it. For all you know he could have robbed a bank, raped a minor, or put his drug empire in order by giving instructions to his subalterns.

But that’s nothing. Quite simply, giving prisoners, VIPs or not, temporary liberty is not the prerogative of a prison warden. It is wrong, it is illegal, it is a crime—in and of itself. And it is punishable by the warden himself sharing the lot, preferably permanently, of those he has given temporary leaves to.

Quite simply, plowing pork barrel funds into an NGO you yourself put up is not your prerogative as a senator. To begin with, you have no right to create an NGO as a senator. What is this, a “government non-government organization?” But of course that NGO is fake: It has no substance, no justification, no legitimacy. It has no right to exist. It is a travesty of everything decent or commonsensical.

It certainly renders comical the fact that Angara became chair of the Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption last February. You’re a lawyer, you’re a senator, and you’re the head of a global agency fighting corruption, and you don’t know that?

More than that, you put P14.4 million of your pork barrel funds, of which you have an inordinate excess, into the NGO you created, you turn controversy into a scandal. Hell, you turn scandal into scam.

Neric Acosta is currently in hot waters for doing something like this on a completely minor note, on a less epic scale. While congressman of Bukidnon, he put P5.5 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund to the Bukidnon Vegetable Producers Cooperative (BVPC). His mother, Socorro, the former mayor of Manolo Fortich, was listed as a director and board member of it. Both claimed to have the concurrence of the municipal council for the transfer of funds. Investigation, however, showed the municipal council approved no such thing.

Upon the recommendation of the Sandiganbayan, government put Acosta under a 90-day preventive suspension. Then this January, after learning that he and his mother had lied about the municipal council approval, the Sandiganbayan ordered both of them arrested.

The amount of P5.5 million is small compared to P14.4 million even if it is enormous compared to what a small-time guitar-player who commutes by jeepney to a dingy dive in Cubao or Quiapo in the dead of night makes in 20 years. Quite apart from that, Acosta merely plunked the money into an NGO his mother belonged to, Angara plunked the money into an NGO he was incorporator, shareholder and board member of. At least the erring senators and congressmen sank their pork barrel funds into a Napoles NGO which may or may not have been fake, they didn’t bother to look too closely. Angara sank his funds into an NGO which he knew, or ought to, being a lawyer, senator and global anticorruption official, to be fake.

That is another order of perfidy altogether, a higher one, a more breathtaking one. No more intermediaries, no more middlemen or women. Rekta na, as we say in Tagalog.

The Sandiganbayan said nothing about whether Acosta’s mother spent the P5.5 million rightly or wrongly, and rightly so. When you disbar a justice for ruling in a case that involves his family, you do not ask whether he ruled fairly or not. What he has done is unethical, immoral, wrong. When you take a senator to task, and hopefully to court, for putting his pork barrel funds in an NGO he himself put up, you do not ask whether his NGO spent the money rightly or wrongly. What he has done is unethical, immoral, wrong.

Angara says we do ill to presume he pocketed the money. What else are we to presume? The fruits of a poisoned tree are poisoned. The consequences of something wrong are wrong. I don’t know which is worse, the original crime or the justification of it. Certainly the justification doesn’t lessen the crime, it compounds it.

Angara says that by whipping up the frenzy, the media have painted the senators and congressmen black. Well, easy enough for them to repaint themselves white. All they have to do is give up their pork. All they have to do is hold a congressional hearing with Napoles as key witness. All they have to do is not fritter public money into NGOs of their making. Unlike ordinary citizens, public officials may not hold on to their office simply because they have not been proven to be criminals. They may hold on to their office only because they have proven themselves fit.

Do we really need the media to drive us to a frenzy? The senators and congressmen are already doing a good job of it.

Sam Miguel
09-06-2013, 02:24 PM
OMG! It’s ‘Tanda,’ ‘Sexy’ and ‘Pogi’ again

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:53 am | Friday, September 6th, 2013

Because the legislators signed the liquidation report, “they can’t say that they didn’t know about the projects.”

This is what Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, told reporters on Thursday after the second hearing on the pork barrel scam.

Two former heads of government corporations testified Thursday that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla had coursed millions of pesos from their pork barrel allocations through dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs), including those controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Rhodora Mendoza, former vice president for administration and finance of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), said Enrile, Estrada and Revilla signed letters endorsing NGOs linked to Napoles.

“I am very sure of the three senators endorsing NGOs: Revilla, Estrada, Enrile,” Mendoza said.

Alan Javellana, the president of Nabcor during the 2007-2009 period reviewed by the Commission on Audit (COA), told the blue ribbon committee that the three senators had channeled parts of their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to three of the eight NGOs identified with Napoles.

Those in the hearing were told that as part of the safeguards against abuse, the funds were released in four tranches, each tranche issued after the last one had been liquidated.

Mendoza said that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla or their representatives signed the report four times because the funds were released in four tranches.

Mendoza and Javellana testified in the Senate investigation a day after two new witnesses in the P10-billion pork barrel scam disclosed the existence of notebooks containing records of Napoles’ alleged dealings with Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and other legislators involving PDAF-funded ghost projects.

One of the new witnesses said Enrile, Estrada and Revilla were referred to in one of the notebooks by code names.

The code names, according to the witness, are “Tanda” for Enrile, “Sexy” for Estrada and “Pogi” for Revilla.

Mendoza told the Senate investigation that at least 10 members of the House of Representatives also endorsed NGOs linked to Napoles.

One of the congressmen, she said, was former Rep. Conrado Estrella III of Pangasinan’s 6th District.

Guingona asked Mendoza to bring documents to support her statements to the next hearing on Sept. 12.

The National Bureau of Investigation is looking into allegations that the 49-year-old Napoles, who is under detention, is the brains behind a scheme that defrauded the government over a 10-year period of P10 billion in funds meant to ease rural poverty.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Salvador Salacup, the head of the Zamboanga del Norte Rubber Estate Corp. (ZREC) from 2007 to 2009, said Enrile, Estrada and Revilla likewise used his agency to channel their PDAF to the Pangkabuhayan Foundation, an NGO separate from the Napoles group.

Salacup also identified Apec Rep. Edgar Valdez and Buhay Rep. Michael Velarde as the House members who had ZREC channel their PDAF entitlements to NGOs.

“I saw signatures of the legislators or, in letters, they mentioned their authorized representatives,” Salacup told the committee headed by Guingona.

Salacup said Estrada was represented by a certain Mr. Dinglasan; Enrile, by a certain Mr. Evangelista; and Revilla signed for himself. He said Valdez and Velarde signed the documents themselves.

In previous Inquirer reports, Jose Antonio Evangelista was identified as the deputy chief of staff of Enrile.

Letter to DA

Salacup testified there was “another letter to the mother department”—the Department of Agriculture (DA). “I saw letters also from the legislators saying that their respective PDAF will be coursed through the DA,” he said.

Upon questioning by Sen. Sergio Osmeña, Salacup said that ZREC got just P10 million in PDAF in 2007. This increased dramatically to P80 million in 2008.

Mendoza told Osmeña that the firm just got P2.4 million in PDAF in 2006; over P186 million in 2007; P752 million in 2008; and more than P307 million in 2009.

“Were you not surprised?” Osmeña asked Mendoza about the huge amounts that suddenly passed through Nabcor. She replied: “We were surprised because of the huge influx of requests from the legislators. We asked guidance from the DA onwhat we should do. They told us to just implement it because that’s being asked by the legislators.”

Both Salacup and Javellana were taken to task by the senators for relying on the endorsements of the legislators when they poured the funds into the NGOs.

“Obviously your safeguards didn’t work,” Sen. Pia Cayetano said after being told by Salacup of the documentary validation done by ZREC.

Salacup mentioned a lean staff when asked why the government firm didn’t check on the facilities and projects of the questionable funds recipients.

Administrative cost

Sen. Francis Escudero asked if the implementing agencies retained 3 percent of the PDAF coursed through them “supposedly, in theory, to supervise the project.”

“Yes, sir, part of the validation and administrative roles would be lifted from that,” Salacup said.

Escudero pointed out that under government rules there were only two modes of awarding a project to an NGO—by public bidding and by negotiated procurement.

“According to Mr. Javellana, the mere endorsement of a legislator already prompted you to award the contract to a particular NGO,” Escudero noted.

Salacup admitted being unfamiliar with the COA and government procurement procedures cited by Escudero.

“In that case, how can you follow it if you’re not familiar with it? Sir, the GPP circular states, number one, you can do a project with an NGO either by bidding it out among a lot of NGOs or by a negotiated procurement,” Escudero said.

“But if it’s a negotiated procurement, there are a lot of requirements, on top of your mayor’s permit, your SEC registration, your BIR financial statement. There are about 12 other items that you should have required in accordance with GPP circular. Did you require those documents, sir? It begs the question because if you don’t know about it, how can you require it?” Escudero added.

Looking for investors

Javellana told the hearing that he met Napoles on two occasions at the coffee shop of Discovery Center in Pasig City.

“We were looking for investors and it’s not only Napoles that I met. There are many other prospective investors for Nabcor,” Javellana said when asked by what was so special about Napoles that the president of a state corporation would give her a briefing.

“To participate in a joint venture with our projects,” Javellana replied.

Javellana said he also knew former Napoles employee and scam whistle-blower Benhur Luy as he followed up documents with the corporation’s staff. He, however, said that the two were introduced to him on different occasions. He said it was Manuel Jarmin, a DA employee, who introduced him to Napoles.

Mendoza, a former vice president for finance of Nabcor, also admitted meeting Napoles during a thanksgiving event at Discovery Center. She said she was invited by Luy, who introduced her to Napoles.

“There were too many people,” Mendoza said when asked if she and Napoles talked about anything during their initial meeting.

Luy followed up transactions

Mendoza told the committee Luy personally followed up transactions related to the NGO he headed, the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundations Inc.

The whistle-blowers have said that People’s Organization for Progress formed by Napoles and headed by Merlina Suñas was the first NGO to secure a PDAF allocation from Enrile in 2008. Suñas said it was a “test case” for Nabcor by Napoles. According to a document dated Jan. 31, 2008, the Enrile PDAF was worth P25 million.

Suñas also confirmed Javellana’s testimony that it was Jarmin who introduced him to Napoles.

“He was our consultant and helped us in preparing documents,” said Suñas. She said Nabcor did not require performance bonds for their projects. With a report from Nancy C. Carvajal

Joescoundrel
09-09-2013, 11:16 AM
Collateral damage of pork war

by Dean Tony La Viña

Posted on 09/07/2013 10:10 AM | Updated 09/07/2013 12:53 PM

It’s easy to lose one’s self in the heady feeling of mass action, of an upswell of righteous indignation against the pork barrel scam.

The Million People March (MPM) was of a piece with the EDSA Revolutions of 1987 and 2001. The more dramatic descriptions would describe the MPM, and all efforts to renounce pork and hold accountable the involved parties, as a war: a just war against corruption.

A war, which some voices seek to escalate, in order to put further pressure on all parties concerned, through continued protest action, whether in EDSA, or before the halls of Congress, or even in the trial of Janet Lim-Napoles, suspected as the facilitator of malicious diversion of Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) into private pockets.

Like all wars, which never are a neat business, we must beware of the collateral damage: the unintended targets and effects of our actions in this conflict. Commentators and stakeholders alike have already said we suffered collateral damage, on top of what the damage to governance and development pork-fuelled corruption has done to our people.

Without losing the determination to see this war through, we nonetheless need to take a deep breath, stand back, and take stock. Perhaps it’s easier for me to do so now, detached, as I compose this while abroad, in Indonesia, to teach on environmental matters. Perhaps, also because while we are beset with the PDAF scam, other problems threaten even greater chaos upon the world. There is political unrest in the Middle East, such as the Egypt's civil conflict and Syria's actual war. There are environmental catastrophes triggered by climate change.

Truth as first casualty of war

The first casualty of war, said Winston Churchill, is the truth. So it is here in the war against pork corruption: truth is something better appreciated from perspective rather than from passion.

It is true that there are specific liabilities to address: the charges against Napoles and her co-accused, the involved legislators and other government officials, and non-government organizations (NGOs)-in-name-only of defrauding the state, siphoning off billions from the national coffers. We must be ever vigilant that these liabilities, where they exist, are brought to light, that measures be taken so that it may never happen again, and justice be done.

Yet, as I’ve repeatedly and sadly observed countless times in other issues, passion sometimes overtakes perspective, combined with an unhealthy cynicism about politics.

From specific liabilities, some voices have accused all Congress, all government, even all NGOs wholesale of being involved in this scandal—that everyone is tainted by corruption. Some eyes see conspiracies everywhere—to evade prosecution, to paralyze the Administration or Opposition, to advance one’s political agenda at the expense of others.

Even Napoles’ surrender to President Aquino is suspected of having political or at least privilege undertones, raising conspiracy theories surrounding Executive Secretary Pacquito Ochoa or Aquino’s party-mates and allies in the legislature.

While I would question the wisdom of the President’s receiving of Napoles, including the comparison of her surrender to acts of revolutionary heroes Luis Taruc and Teodoro Asedillo, I do believe President Aquino’s explanation of why he personally accepted Napoles’ surrender. I have also never taken seriously the intrigues against Ochoa. My observation is that he is a quiet, hard worker that the President relies on for the nuts and bolts of daily governance.

Senate President Franklin Drilon may have proposed the abolition of Congress tongue-in-cheek: as a way of criticizing proposals to decrease the legislature’s legitimately-granted Constitutional power of the purse. Yet it also reflects the fervor uncompromising revolutionary passion often takes, to sweep aside everything, guilty and innocent alike, to clear the way for change.

While the public has every right to be righteously angry, and we do need change, we should also be careful that our anger doesn’t overwhelm our reason.

There is a cautionary proverb against this: “Don’t throw out the baby with the bathwater.” To reiterate: there are specific liabilities which specific personalities have incurred in this scandal, which can be brought to light through the trial which Napoles and her co-accused shall face, and in the Senate Blue Ribbon hearings being chaired masterfully so far by Senator Teofisto Guingona III, and in other supporting authoritative investigations.

In the interests of the truth, we should let these processes proceed unimpeded. In particular, Napoles deserves a fair trial, as does the Philippines. To try to force some sort of “acceptable” verdict through popular action risks either the trial court or an appeal court to rightfully acquit Napoles on the technicality of mistrial due to partiality, the accused being denied the due process of law.

The poor as losers

Besides the truth, there are far greater collateral casualties that call our attention. The biggest is the Philippine poor. It may not seem apparent at first sight, but as a sector they contribute the biggest chunk of Philippine government revenues (their income may be low, as is their corresponding taxes, but they also pay Value Added Taxes for their individual purchases).

Their taxes if they are employed are automatically withheld by their employers, almost without question. White collar professionals or their accountants sometimes have the luxury of claiming additional tax exemptions as they calculate their own taxes. The poor, as much as or even more than higher-income taxpayers, deserve an accounting from their government of their taxpayer pesos.

Yet they are also doubly victimized: the PDAF also funds the various social services (such as free heath check-ups and scholarships) they’ve come to depend on from their legislators, either as a sop to ensure votes, or, in the ideal case, as a genuine attempt to spur development or provide a social safety net for the constituency.

Now that the calls for pork abolition have gathered such steam, this better-or-worse lifeline is about to be cut, with a replacement being mightily frowned upon. Where else may the poor turn then, to obtain those goods once provided out of the legislative largess? The budget process is often too torturous to easily admit these former pork allocations as regular items under the General Appropriations Act, in the face of political debate and opposition.

Finally, even though the PDAF may be used to good ends, in the end it can only feed attitudes of patronage politics on both ends of the pork pipeline. Not only does the legislator feel “entitled” to have a largess, but his constituency may develop ingrained habits of expecting the blessings of that largess, further tying them to the good will of their patron.

It’s a medieval mindset that, more often than not, only entrenches the status quo: instead of working towards transformative, “game-changing” policies and agenda, legislators and constituencies alike may feel contented with their regular dose of PDAF-funded hand-outs.

For the pork barrel to exist is a festering wound to those who deserve to be lifted from misery and squalor.

Joescoundrel
09-09-2013, 11:17 AM
^ (Continued)

The demonization of NGOs

One big casualty of the pork war is the citizen sector. It's unfortunate that both government and media are not distinguishing between legitimate nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and bogus ones. The list in the COA report does not indicate which ones are the former and which are the latter. But how do we do that?

The names given are not familiar even if I worked with citizen organizations for many years. Yet I still feel uncomfortable about making judgments knowing that there are in fact thousands of legitimate citizen organizations in the Philippines

Indeed, citizen organizations are feeling the pressure of the scrutiny over the pork barrel, as their PDAF-funded projects fall under the investigation of authorities and media alike. While indeed there are fly-by-night NGOs out only to profit from government-citizen cooperation, now the entire class is suspected at the least, criticized at the worst, for engaging and cooperating with government.

It’s too easy to forget that citizen organizations still provide many social services to our vulnerable countrymen that government is unable or unwilling to do. The PDAF, for all its ills, was one of their sources of funding.

Government-citizen cooperation is not wrong. And, absent specific evidences against specific offenders, citizen organizations should enjoy at least the presumption of good faith in being funded from government sources. Besides, I do not think that local governments and the national agencies have currently enough capacity to actually deliver all the basic services to all the places that this is needed.

That said, perhaps the PDAF scandal should provoke a thoughtful discussion on the character and illumination of government-citizen engagement, in order to ensure the credibility and accountability of such cooperation.

As someone in this sector for nearly 30 years, co-founding in 1987 a leading human rights and environmental organization in the Philippines and as someone who sits in the board of numerous groups, this is a good time for us to sit down, reflect and ask hard questions about who we are and how we want to work with government.

I would for example encourage NGOs to discuss the very nomenclature we use for our organizations – “non-governmental organization” or “civil society organization” (CSO). These are negative terms in that we define ourselves in relation to what we are not.

The term NGO and CSO posits and contrasts our organization against the government as if the latter was an enemy. In fact, in Marxian scholarship, “civil society” is a term for alienation and is something that is not a badge of honor but to be overcome.

This was understandable during the Martial Law period and the early years after the EDSA revolution but I do not think this is still relevant today when citizen organizations partner with government in many things, including in implementing projects and delivering services.

For this reason, I prefer to use the word “citizen organizations” than NGO or CSO; the term is more modern and inclusive and does not have the baggage of the past.

I would also ask citizen organizations to seriously reconsider accepting government funding to support our work. I think that the best role we can play is to ensure social accountability, holding government accountable not only to norms of integrity and honesty but also effectiveness.

If citizen organizations do want to implement government projects and receive government funding, they should be considered contractors, subject to all procurement and auditing rules.

Helping reforms in government

Certainly not the least of those that may have been affected by the pork war are our champions of reform in all government branches. They certainly share the same aspirations as the rest of us to reform government finances, among other things, but they still are politicians and government officials that feel the heat from our criticisms and actions.

As earlier recounted, suspicions and conspiracy theories surrounding Janet Napoles and the pork barrel issue have damned the guilty and innocent alike. Such suspicions, when unwarranted, demoralize those innocent of the PDAF scandal. (Their opponents, less inclined to reform, may in fact leverage this by turning such suspicions into accusations against the “good guys” of profiting from pork, costing them political support.)

When so many personalities in governance work to entrench the old system of patronage politics, we need reform allies in government in order to keep them in check, if not reverse their efforts outright. Yet the face of indiscriminate anger, no matter how righteous, will alienate even the understanding.

Honest politicians—they do exist!—in the end require our support, our votes and our voices, to enact beneficial agendas and policies. Many have observed how Aquino’s call for abolition of pork, coupled with massive and vocal popular support, can override Congress’ traditional protection of this privileged fund. The same is true of lower-level politicians and government officials, even in matters less dramatic than PDAF.

To the reformers in government, be they in the executve, legislative or judicial branches, let us extend arms of support and ask: How can we help you? What do you need from us so you can make even more of a difference?

Calming down

From a well-known song in the musical Les Miserables: “… the music of a people who will not be slaves again.” As much as we should no longer be slaves to patronage politics, we shouldn’t be slaves to our own anger as well.

It will be counterproductive, tearing down the structures, resources, and people we need to win the fight against corruption. The messy democracy of popular, even revolutionary protest and the pressure of a multitude of voices, is also the messy democracy of fair trials; the passage of laws of reform and change; of trust in law and in good people in government; and the slow revolutions of the political heart which, my faith tells me, is the most enduring change, the most successful revolution.

In the immediate moment, I appeal for calm among us. Without letting our guard down, may we let the processes of government and of law do their work, watched vigilantly but unimpeded. May we trust and support our allies in government to see this effort through.

We can afford to be watchfully patient. We cannot afford to spend all our energies on one war and only one strategy for that war. To reiterate a theme from a previous piece elsewhere: We need a life beyond politics, every once in a while.

Or in our fury, we will take everything down with our target. – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
09-11-2013, 09:02 AM
Plunder complaint set vs Napoles, 3 senators

Enrile, Estrada, Revilla, Gigi Reyes among 14 facing charges

By Nancy C. Carvajal, Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:00 am | Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

“These people have received kickbacks of more than the plunder threshold of P50 million.”

Janet Lim-Napoles tops the list of 14 people to be charged with plunder in a private complaint that has been finalized by Levito Baligod, counsel of a group of whistle-blowers, for submission to the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice on Wednesday.

In an interview with the Inquirer, Baligod said Tuesday that apart from Napoles, the alleged brains of a P10-billion pork barrel scam, the list also includes senators, congressmen and their aides and “conduits.”

He said the evidence in the complaint would also be used in the case to be filed by the NBI in the Office of the Ombudsman.

He identified the others facing plunder charges as Gigi Reyes, Ruby Tuason, Pauline Labayen, Richard Cambe, Jose Antonio Evangelista, Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza, Rizalina Seachon-Lanete, Edgar Valdez, Prospero Pichay and Samuel Dangwa.

An Inquirer source said that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada would be included in the private complaint to be filed based on their letters of endorsement of Napoles’ dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) submitted to the Department of Budget and Management, Department of Agriculture and the documents from the Commission on Audit.

He said about 40 other government officials could face malversation charges for their involvement in the alleged racket.

“The documents we submitted will sufficiently show misuse of government funds and the amassing of illegal wealth by the private individuals,” Baligod told the Inquirer.

He said he would leave it up to the authorities who to prosecute among the heads of the several dozen NGOs allegedly controlled by Napoles.

The 49-year-old Napoles is detained at Fort Sto. Domingo, an antiterrorist training camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna province, following her surrender to President Aquino on Aug. 28, saying she feared for her life.

She went into hiding on Aug. 14 after the Regional Trial Court of Makati City issued a warrant for her arrest in the alleged illegal detention of her aide, Benhur Luy.

Luy, 31, has accused Napoles, head of the JLN group of companies, of funneling P10 billion from the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, to ghost projects of dummy NGOs. Luy has been joined in his accusations against Napoles by at least 10 other whistle-blowers, all of them her former employees.

Daily records of transactions

Baligod said that among the documents to support the whistle-blowers’ private complaint were daily records of financial transactions of JLN Corp. “These were records from 2004 until 2010, duly recorded by the whistle-blowers,” Baligod said.

The pieces of evidence include joint statements of six whistle-blowers and more than 2,000 pages of financial transactions. The accusers, aside from Luy, include Merlina Suñas, Nova Dulay Macalintal and Gertrudes Luy, Benhur’s mother. Baligod asked the Inquirer not to name the other two whistle-blowers for security reasons.

“The six have personal knowledge of the money trail from the NGOs, the lawmakers and Napoles,” Baligod explained. “These whistle-blowers handed millions of money to the lawmakers and their conduits,” he said.

Baligod met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Tuesday afternoon. Emerging from the meeting, the lawyer told reporters that the documentary evidence was going through line-by-line cross-checking for accuracy.

“We are conducting a third review because the documents are replete with figures. If we make a mistake in one figure, it will no longer match the bank account [contents], for example, of the legislator or the Saro (statement of allotment release order) number. So we do not want later to be viewed as unreliable when it comes to information,” he said. “We have to be meticulous. We are proofreading [the documents].”

Bank inquiry proceedings

According to Baligod, the documents would be submitted to the NBI team conducting the fact-finding investigation of the PDAF scam.

He said the Court of Appeals order freezing Napoles-linked accounts also helped in the completion of the documents.

“We have the check numbers, the dates and other details. That is why the Anti-Money Laundering Council is undertaking bank inquiry proceedings now so the government [prosecutors] will match the results of the AMLC with the accounting record of Benhur Luy,” Baligod explained.

Asked if the documents would show the paper trail, including bank account names and numbers, vouchers, checks and the payors and payees, the lawyer replied, “Yes.”

“I have 10 whistle-blowers, but for the purposes of proving the plunder and malversation charges, we only need six. The others will be used in the serious illegal detention case. They saw how Napoles detained Benhur. But for the purposes of establishing the financial transactions between and among Napoles, legislators and other government officials, we need at least six,” he said.

Sam Miguel
09-11-2013, 09:05 AM
UP physics prof does the math on pork plus NGOs

Physics prof taps science to ‘visualize’ networks of ‘pork’ donors and recipients

By Kristine Angeli Sabillo

INQUIRER.net

12:45 am | Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Using network maps, a physics professor and his students at the University of the Philippines (UP) in Diliman showed the connections between nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and lawmakers allegedly involved in the pork barrel scam.

“On the average, a legislator distributes his PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) to 21.38 (or 21) NGOs,” said the study prepared by Giovanni Tapang (associate professor at the UP National Institute of Physics) and his students Pamela Anne Pasion and Gabriel Dominik Sison.

The study found that “NGOs typically receive allocations from 7.68 (or 7) different legislators on the average.”

It was based on the Commission on Audit (COA) special report on the 2007-2009 PDAF releases.

Network analysis, which involves computer science and mathematics, has long been used for sociology, telecommunications and even state intelligence activities.

Some of its practical applications include mapping crime rings or terrorist networks.

In a Facebook post, Tapang said the initial study showed that “both NGOs and congressmen have shared communities” and that some of them give PDAF to and get PDAF from multiple sources, making them “hubs,” or heavily linked objects of the networks.

Bigger, smaller networks

The visual network also showed six “communities” of lawmakers who tended to give to the same set of NGOs.

A closer look at the data showed Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Gregorio Honasan in one of the bigger networks.

Former Sen. Edgardo Angara, former Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo Jr. and Sen. Loren Legarda can be found in a smaller one.

“We can rank the legislators based on the number of ‘partners’ they have, of which ex-Bohol Rep. Adam Relson Jala tops the list. This is reflected in the high degree of his connections.

“We can also add weight to these links by the number of times that two linked legislators funded a common NGO. In such a weighted network, Nerissa Corazon-Ruiz becomes the most connected legislator,” Tapang’s group said.

Influence and connections in the network were also measured through “betweenness centrality.”

Central to network

Using such a technique, the top 10 legislators “central” to the network were the following:

1. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile

2. Former Davao del Norte Rep. Arrel Olano

3. Former Negros Occidental Rep. Ignacio Arroyo Jr. (died in 2012)

4. Former Bohol Rep. Adam Relson Jala

5. Surigao del Norte Rep. Francisco Matugas

6. Former Sen. Edgardo Angara

7. A-Teacher Rep. Mariano Piamonte

8. Former Cibac Rep. Emmanuel Joel Villanueva

9. Former Benguet Rep. Samuel Dangwa

10. Former Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Douglas Cagas IV

The NGOs were clustered in five communities, according to the study.

Using the group’s visual data, Inquirer.net found in one network organizations linked to Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

These were the eight NGOs mentioned by COA chair Gracia Pulido-Tan at the Aug. 29 Senate hearing on the pork barrel scam:

– Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI)

– Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation (APMFI)

– Countrywide Agri and Rural Economic Development (Cared) Foundation

– Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation, Inc (Mamfi)

– People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation (POPDFI)

– Philippine Agri and Social Development Foundation Inc.

– Philippine Social Development Foundation Inc. (PSDFI)

– Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (SDPFFI)

The paper said Mamfi topped the list of important organizations in the network, followed by Cared and SDPFF.

Betweenness

The “betweenness centrality” technique applied to NGOs would also reveal the following NGOs with most influence and connections:

– Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI)

– Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation Inc. (Kkamfi)

– Dr. Rodolfo A. Ignacio Sr. Foundation Inc. (Draisfi)

– Farmerbusiness Development Corp. (FDC)

– Aaron Foundation Philippines Inc. (AFPI)

– Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (Mamfi)

– Pangkabuhayan Foundation (Pang-FI)

– Kaagapay Magpakailanman Foundation Inc. (KMFI)

– Ito Na Movement Foundation Inc. (Ito Na Mi)

– Hand-Made Living Foundation Inc. (HMLFI)

Transactions

Tapang said the preliminary study revealed connections based only on the number and similarities of transactions.

“These are just a sample of the things we can do with the network representation of the PDAF releases. Deeper knowledge about Congress and the interlocking directorships of the NGOs would also be extremely helpful in further analysis. This will be done in a future work,” the paper said.

“Nevertheless, these tools allow the average Filipino to glean information readily as opposed to tables and documents, helping them better participate in the process of democracy,” it added.

Tapang said the next study would tackle the amount of PDAF that changed hands between lawmakers and NGOs but connections alone and the frequency of transactions already showed interesting relations.

Using the group’s visual data, INQUIRER.net found Napoles-linked NGOs grouped in one community.

Sam Miguel
09-11-2013, 09:07 AM
SC orders release of 2013 pork stopped immediately

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:54 am | Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Moving in the midst of a growing public outrage against an alleged P10-billion swindle, the Supreme Court on Tuesday gave due course to a petition questioning the constitutionality of lump sum allocations of state funds and stopped their releases for the rest of the year from the congressional pork barrel and the Malampaya gas field.

The TRO is effective immediately until further orders from the tribunal, said Theodore Te, court spokesman. It stopped the Department of Budget and Management, national treasurer and executive secretary from releasing the remaining PDAF allocated to members of Congress under the General Appropriations Act of 2013.

Malacañang and members of the Senate and the House of Representatives said they would respect the court’s issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) in response to three petitions to declare unconstitutional not only lump sum allocations under the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) but also the Presidential Special Funds (PSF).

Also covered by the TRO are releases from the Malampaya Fund under the phrase “for such other purposes as may be hereafter directed by the President” in Section 8 of Presidential Decree No. 910 but not for the purposes of “financ energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government.”

PD 910 created the Energy Development Board in 1976 to regulate all activities relative to the exploration, exploitation, development and extraction of fossil and nuclear fuels and geothermal resources. The law created a special fund from the royalties collected by the board as the government’s share in the contracted projects.

Doesn’t affect budget

Asked if the issuance of the TRO stopped the current GAA and violated the constitutional prerogatives of Congress, particularly the lawmakers’ power of the purse, Te replied: “The act restrained the release of PDAF … it does not affect the GAA because it does not annul any provision of the GAA. [A] TRO cannot do that.”

“The TRO only maintains the status quo until the determination can be made as to PDAF legality,” he added.

The directive was issued in response to the three separate petitions filed by groups led by former senatorial candidates Greco Belgica and Samson Alcantara, and former Marinduque Board Member Pedrito Nepomuceno. Oral arguments for the case was set at 2 p.m. on Oct. 8.

The respondents in the cases, including Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Senate President Franklin Drilon and House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, were also given 10 days to give their comments.

All the justices voted in favor of the TRO, except for Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. who earlier inhibited himself because his wife is a party-list representative and a PDAF beneficiary.

P12.27-billion PDAF unreleased

The directive was handed down on the eve of a protest against the pork barrel triggered by revelations that businessman Janet Lim-Napoles had engineered a P10-billion scam the past decade using funds from PDAF and Malampaya and channeling them into ghost projects and kickbacks of up to 70 percent to lawmakers.

Reacting to the court order, Abad said that P12.27 billion of the PDAF for the second semester of this year had not been released in accordance with the statement of President Aquino before the Aug. 26 Million People March against the pork barrel system.

“The President’s action was official, in fact, publicly announced. The question to ask is: Will this TRO presage a doctrinal shift on the part of the SC? It’s an interesting policy issue between the judiciary and legislature. We in the executive branch can only wait and watch,” he said.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte said the House would abide by the court order. However, he told reporters, “To abolish it 100 percent, to reform it, to do anything with it, it is my position that it’s a political question which under our system of government belongs to Congress.”

Expedite case resolution

He also called on the court to expedite the resolution of the case, noting that many lawmakers’ constituents were relying on the PDAF and that they should be able to give them a concrete answer soon.

Drilon told reporters, “We will submit to the sound discretion of the court as to how to decide this issue on the basis of the allegations in the petition and jurisprudence.”

Sen. Francis Escudero, chair of the Senate committee on finance, said the subject of the TRO had been rendered “moot and academic.”

“Since the announcement of the President and the Senate President as well, we have not been processing nor endorsing any PDAF release request for the second semester. In fact, even the balance left for the first semester won’t be released anymore,” he said.

Voice of the people

Belgica and Alcantara hailed the court move.

“We thank the Supreme Court for listening to the voice of the people. We await the comment of the respondents and look forward to the oral arguments,” Alcantara told the Inquirer in a phone interview.

In a post on his Facebook account, Belgica said: “We thank the justices for giving the Filipinos justice, saving and protecting them from this justified theft system of the pork barrel. Public funds should be held by the people not by the government.”

In his petition, Belgica asked the high court to declare as unconstitutional the pork barrel system, including the President’s lump sum, discretionary funds except the calamity fund and the contingency fund.

He also asked the court to strike down for being unconstitutional a portion of Section 8, of PD 910 on the Malampaya Fund, which stated it could be used “for such other purposes” directed by the President.”

Belgica claimed Malacañang took advantage of this provision to insist that the proceeds of the Malampaya Fund could be used to finance any project of the President. He stressed that the fund could only be used “to finance energy resource development and exploitation programs and projects of the government.”

Perversion of taxation

“The pork barrel system allows the perversion of taxation by providing opportunities for the members thereof to gorge themselves in funds collected pursuant to tax legislation they have enacted purportedly for the public good,” said Alcantara, of the Social Justice Society.

He said that the pork barrel system was a “mockery” of the constitutional mandate on accountability, honesty and integrity of public officers.

He added that the system also allowed the President to have control over lawmakers in violation of the constitutional separation of powers.—[I]With reports from TJ Burgonio, Leila B. Salaverria and Norman Bordadora; Jamie Elona and Kristine Angeli Sabillo, INQUIRER.net

Sam Miguel
09-11-2013, 09:09 AM
In the Know: Who’s who on Napoles list

1:47 am | Wednesday, September 11th, 2013

Here is a list of people allegedly involved in the Janet Lim-Napoles scam based on affidavits submitted by whistle-blowers and findings of the Commission on Audit (COA) reports of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM):

– Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. allowed his pork barrel to be used by the Napoles NGOs in 22 instances. In its special audit report released on Aug. 16, the COA found that Napoles NGOs received P413.29 million from Revilla’s office from 2007 to 2009. According to 2012 reports by COA and the DBM, Revilla gave P20 million to Napoles NGOs in two towns.

– Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile allowed his pork barrel to be used by the Napoles NGOs in 21 occasions. The COA report found that Napoles NGOs received P332.7 million from Enrile’s office from 2007 to 2009. According to 2012 reports by COA and DBM, Enrile gave P10 million to a Napoles NGO in one town.

– Sen. Jinggoy Estrada allowed his pork barrel to be used by the Napoles NGOs 18 times. The COA report found that Napoles NGOs received P191.58 million from Estrada’s office from 2007 to 2009. According to 2012 reports by COA and DBM, Estrada gave P63 million to Napoles NGOs in four towns.

– Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, former chief of staff of Enrile, was dubbed the “24th senator” as she signed checks in the millions on behalf of the then Senate President and issued memos to Senate functionaries involving the funds of the chamber. She resigned in December 2012 in the aftermath of the furor regarding the selective distribution of Christmas bonuses to senators by the then Senate President. A witness said that he and another employee delivered millions of pesos in cash to her house in La Vista, Quezon City. Whistle-blower Benhur Luy also tagged Reyes as one of Napoles’ main contacts with Enrile’s office along with Jose Antonio Evangelista.

– Jose Antonio Evangelista, identified as Enrile’s deputy chief of staff, was tagged by whistle-blowers as one of Napoles’ main contacts in Enrile’s office. According to the whistle-blowers, Evangelista’s role was to provide documentation to JLN.

– Ruby Tuason is the former social secretary of former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada. According to the witnesses, deliveries were made twice between 2009 and 2011 to her house in Dasmariñas Village in Makati City. The whistle-blowers also named Tuason as Napoles’ conduit in the offices of Enrile and Senator Estrada. Luy’s record also showed that Tuason received P60 million from JLN, but it was not clear whether she received it for Enrile or Estrada.

– Pauline Labayen is the deputy chief of staff of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. According to Estrada’s chief of staff, lawyer Raquel Mejia, Labayen is the appointments secretary of the senator.

– Richard Cambe is Revilla’s chief political adviser. He was identified as among the senior congressional staff members who served as conduits for channeling funds from the lawmaker to Napoles, according to whistle-blowers. In one of the sample transactions that the whistle-blowers’ lawyer Levito Baligod furnished the media in August, it was revealed that Cambe received P9.5 million from JLN on April 11, 2007, drawn from a P20-million project of Revilla in 2008.

– Rodolfo Plaza was Agusan del Sur representative from 2001 to 2010. Plaza was among the 28 lawmakers tagged by whistle-blowers to be among those who had allowed Napoles’ dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs) to use his pork barrel for purported ghost projects. According to affidavits filed in the National Bureau of Investigation, Plaza allowed his pork to be used nine times.

– Rizalina Seachon-Lanete represented Masbate’s third district from 2004 to 2010. Lanete allowed her pork to be used 13 times by the Napoles NGOs.

– Samuel Dangwa was Benguet representative from 1987 to 1995, and from 2001 to 2010. Dangwa allowed his pork to be used eight times by Napoles NGOs.

– Edgar Valdez represented the Association of Philippine Electric Cooperatives from 2002 to 2010. According to whistle-blower Benhur Luy, state-owned National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) received P30 million in 2009 and 2010 from Valdez’s PDAF. NLDC was used as the conduit for around P1 billion of pork barrel funds by seven Napoles NGOs from 2008 to 2012.

– Prospero Pichay represented Surigao del Sur’s first district from 1998 to 2007. Pichay has been identified as an “investment partner” in Asia Star Power Resources Corp., a coal trading firm controlled by the Napoles family.

Source: Inquirer Archives

Sam Miguel
09-11-2013, 09:12 AM
Dizzying extravagance

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:34 pm | Tuesday, September 10th, 2013

In the ongoing saga of Janet Lim-Napoles, the first to be dubbed “Imeldific” was in fact not Napoles but her daughter Jeane. While the stories that have come out speak of bags of cold cash stashed in the bathtubs, closets and rooms of Napoles’ unit at Discovery Center, those enormous amounts of money found their immediate, most outrageous embodiment in the daughter’s Instagram chronicles of her glitzy shopping sprees, her champagne-addled rides aboard her Porsche, her all-stops-out birthday party in Hollywood. “Mom, sissy and I wiped out the Celine store,” she crowed at one time, referring to the international fashion house whose luxury bags alone are worth some $2,000-$5,000 a pop.

Then again, those price tags are peanuts when we’re talking of some P10 billion in funds, or about $224 million, that Napoles’ operation allegedly siphoned off government coffers for over a decade. To be clear, not all that money went to her. A big chunk had to be kicked back to congressmen and senators who clandestinely subscribed to her enterprise of gaming the pork barrel system by funneling the money to nonexistent NGOs, or ones controlled by the politicians themselves and thus easier to loot.

Millions of pesos more went to grease the hands of certain bureaucrats and underlings in various government agencies tasked with releasing the money or keeping track of its use. It was a vast operation; how it could have gone undetected for so long raises the most vexing questions about the culpability of personages up and down the political pecking order—including, it now appears, many prominent members of the country’s ruling class—and, more to the point, the government’s competence to hold the people’s money and spend it on their behalf.

Of course, spending money not one’s own is quite easy, as Imelda Marcos showed in her heyday. Using the national treasury as one’s personal ATM account—especially when so many demands a cut—is a license to ditch the less-is-more mantra and go for broke, the tackier, the better. If the whistle-blowers are to be believed, it wasn’t just the Napoles daughter who loved the high life. The mother did, too—indulging herself in milk baths, for instance, or so said the housemaid that she had sent to jail for allegedly stealing some of her pricey lingerie.

More, she is said to own some 50 properties here and abroad, and not just 28, as was first alleged. Apart from her listed addresses in exclusive Dasmariñas Village and Forbes Park in Makati, she has properties scattered across the country—in the cities of Makati, Muntinlupa, Taguig, Pasig, and Antipolo in Metro Manila, and Kidapawan in North Cotabato, and in the provinces of Laguna, Cavite, Batangas, Bulacan, and Davao. Also in the list provided by the whistle-blowers are five apartments in Primea on Ayala Avenue, each costing from P65 million to P72 million; Discovery Center units 2501, 2504 and 2506, at P18 million each; seven apartments in Dakota in Malate, Manila, estimated to be worth P40 million; two apartments in Empire Eastland in Makati worth P11 million; a unit in Eton Residences, also in Makati, worth P20 million; two properties in Beaufort Filinvest in Bonifacio Global City, worth P36 million; two properties in Mayamot Village in Antipolo, acquired from a Stanly Sy for P77 million; seven lots in the Armed Forces of the Philippines Officers Village in Taguig; a 106-square-meter apartment in Serendra in Bonifacio Global City, and another in Eastwood City worth P2.2 million.

Dizzy? The family is also said to own 30 cars even if it has only five members and one, Jeane, is not even in Manila but in Los Angeles, living in one of the swankiest high-rise addresses in the city.

How to account for this astounding, outrageous embarrassment of extravagance? Perhaps this: Because literally no sweat was expended to earn the wherewithal to acquire it. Taxpayers paid their due every month, apparently only for the likes of Napoles and her scoundrel partners in government to do what they wanted with the money. That, more than the gluttony on display, is what’s truly Imeldific about this abuse of the public purse. If the real McCoy appears to have given the law the slip, they should not get away this time.

Sam Miguel
09-12-2013, 10:24 AM
Drilon grills justices on ‘pork’ TRO

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:05 am | Thursday, September 12th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday asserted his role as the leader of the chamber to interrogate two high court justices on the nature of the temporary restraining order (TRO) that the Supreme Court issued on the congressional pork barrel, or the priority development assistance fund (PDAF).

“You come before us to ask for your budget and therefore we have the right to ask questions on policies not on the way you decide your cases,” Drilon told Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who appeared before a Senate finance committee hearing on the judiciary’s proposed P18.6-billion budget for 2014.

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta confirmed that the TRO issued by the high tribunal stopping pork barrel releases for the rest of the year meant “a prima facie but preliminary finding” that the PDAF was unconstitutional.

The high court on Tuesday gave due course to three separate petitions filed before it questioning the constitutionality of the lump sum allocations in national budget, stopping immediately fund releases from the PDAF and the Malampaya gas funds.

Congressional leaders have been ordered to appear before the Supreme Court to explain their views on the constitutionality of the congressional pork barrel at the oral arguments on the petition set for Oct. 8.

Drilon said that the Senate will comply with whatever decision that the Supreme Court will render on the constitutionality of the PDAF.

“If I will appear before the Court, that’s also what I will say,” he said.

After much prodding from Drilon, Peralta agreed that the TRO was only “on a preliminary basis.”

“As to whether or not we will declare (the pork barrel allocations) unconstitutional, that will be determined after the arguments,” he said.

Things got a little heated at the hearing, however, when Drilon insisted on getting “guidance” from the magistrates on how the high court’s TRO on the PDAF should be implemented.

Drilon wanted to get the sense of the tribunal, through the two justices, if it will be a violation of the TRO if PDAF already released the funds to such programs such as those for medical assistance for indigents in hospitals.

Leonen said a motion to clarify, if the Senate needed one, would have to be filed before the Supreme Court.

“No, I’m asking for a clarification. This is a budget hearing. I have the right to ask for a clarification,” Drilon insisted.

“We accept that you have the right, your honor, to ask for clarification but I hope that you understand that we can only move as a court,” Leonen answered.

The Senate has suspended the release of PDAF for the second half of the year but some of the releases from the first semester have yet to be fully spent by the implementing agencies like the government hospitals.

“As we talk now, there are patients lining up at the kidney institute [National Kidney and Transplant Institute]. Each one is expecting P2,000 for dialysis from the PDAF lodged with the NKTI,” Drilon said.

Drilon wanted to know if the dialysis of patients using his PDAF entitlement with the NKTI could continue availing of the services.

Leonen said the TRO enjoins the Department of Budget and Management, the national treasurer, the executive secretary or any person acting on their authority from releasing the remaining PDAF.

Sam Miguel
09-12-2013, 10:27 AM
History’s spoiled child

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:36 am | Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Faced with an unfavorable election outcome, Nur Misuari staged a violent tantrum. He declared a break with the Philippine government; his loyal followers attacked Army positions; scores of people died in weeks of fighting. That was November 2001, the tail-end of Misuari’s disastrous term as governor of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Unable to run in the special elections scheduled for the 26th of that month—and worse, rejected in insulting terms by the so-called Council of 15 of the Moro National Liberation Front, the separatist movement he had founded—the old warrior turned failed administrator sought to reclaim relevance the best way he knew how: through organized violence.

Thus was born the Misuari Breakaway Group of the MNLF. Many media reports to the contrary, this is the same group responsible for the mayhem in Zamboanga City. The mainstream MNLF, or the various rivulets and tributaries that make up the non-Misuari faction, have rejected Misuari’s capricious approach to politics, to governance, to the so-called Moro question itself.

(This is not to say that none of these other MNLF groups could be drawn to sympathize with Misuari; the national government must not make the mistake of belittling the MNLF’s role in history, or of conducting a personal vendetta against the person many MNLF ex-members even today still call, simply, the Old Man.)

The situation in Zamboanga City remains unclear. The precise sequence of events, beginning Sunday night, remains murky. (If the military knew about the breakaway group’s plans for a “peace rally” three days earlier and had braced for it, why did the initial casualty list identify mostly government troops?) The exact number of hostages, and the nature of their captivity, is still undetermined. (A picture of a number of civilians tied by rope as a group has gone viral, but other reports say that the hostages have been spotted moving freely about.) Above all, the right way to resolve the tension still seems out of reach. (The Armed Forces seems to have succeeded in containing the breakaway group, but the question of how best to free the hostages is up in the air.)

But let us point out what should be obvious. Misuari ran for governor of ARMM again, last May. He lost badly, winning only 10 percent of the vote (about a fifth of the total received by the winning candidate, Mujiv Hataman). Then he declared “independence” on Aug. 12.

Would he have made the declaration if he had won the governorship again? Conversely: If he had truly desired independence, why did he run in an election that periodically legitimizes the polity he wants to be independent of? The conclusion is inescapable: As in 2001, the outbreak of violence in Zamboanga City over the weekend is yet another of Misuari’s costly tantrums.

It is no secret that Misuari is hostile to the ongoing peace negotiations between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front; but his assertion (and that of his spokesmen) that the MNLF has been ignored in the peace talks or that the 1996 peace agreement between the government and the MNLF has been sidelined is not only based on the wrong facts; it is based on an attempt to revise history—specifically, his own time at the helm of the ARMM and of the original MNLF.

Members of the ARMM Legislative Assembly calling for an “immediate end to military hostilities” in Zamboanga base their call in part on the following crucial Whereas clause: “the 1996 Final Peace Agreement between the GRP and MNLF is still being upheld by a greater number of MNLF rank-and-file, and that the Tripartite Review of the said Agreement is almost at its closing stage.” In other words, and despite Misuari’s evident failure at the ARMM, the work on the 1996 peace compact continues.

It is work, however, that renders Misuari essentially irrelevant. Hence this attempt, made just as the government and MILF peace panels resume down-the-homestretch negotiations in Kuala Lumpur, to throw a spanner into the peace process. Hence, this calculated strike in media-accessible Zamboanga, rather than in his own stronghold in Sulu. Hence, this cruel gamble with his own followers’ lives, and of those of many, innocent others.

If he proves to form, Misuari will deny any part in the violence. History’s spoiled child, he will leave it to others to clean his mess.

Sam Miguel
09-13-2013, 09:13 AM
Misuari disowns acts of followers in Zamboanga City

By Julie S. Alipala, Michael Lim Ubac

Inquirer Mindanao, Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:47 am | Friday, September 13th, 2013

Moro rebel leader Nur Misuari on Wednesday disowned the commander of his followers who had seized coastal villages in Zamboanga City as government forces launched an offensive to dislodge the rebels.

On Thursday, the fourth day of a standoff between government security forces and fighters from Misuari’s faction of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Malacañang issued an ultimatum to the rebels, ordering them to stand down or face the full power of the state.

The rebels called for a ceasefire through the Inquirer on Thursday, saying many of their 40 hostages in Santa Catalina village, including a priest, had been injured in the fighting.

One of the hostages also talked to the Inquirer by phone, asking that the call for a ceasefire be relayed to the government so the injured could receive medical help.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda made it clear at a news briefing that the government would not hesitate to use force to end the crisis.

“While the government is exhausting all avenues for a peaceful resolution of the situation, let it be clear to those defying us that they should not entertain the illusion that the state will hesitate to use its forces to protect our people,” Lacierda said.

“Instead, it is time for you to cooperate to resolve this situation peacefully at the soonest possible time. As for others who seek to take advantage of the situation, you will fail,” he said.

Lacierda said the “armed group” in Zamboanga City could take his statement “as it is,” and the rebels could “assess the situation on their own.”

Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said President Aquino had no plans of going to Zamboanga City whether on Thursday or Friday.

Talk with Misuari

Zamboanga City Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco-Salazar said she finally managed to reach Misuari by telephone late Wednesday, and asked him to call off the attack.

“What is of interest is that Misuari disowned the actions of Habier Malik, the leader of the hostage-takers with whom I communicated separately,” Salazar said in a statement released Thursday.

Malik is the leader of MNLF fighters from the island province of Basilan who attacked coastal villages in Zamboanga City at dawn on Monday and seized civilians, using them as human shields to thwart a military assault.

But Emmanuel Fontanilla, spokesman and lawyer for Misuari, said on Monday that it was Misuari who was directing the MNLF fighters’ movements.

Santa Catalina fire

Misuari’s followers torched houses on Thursday as about 200 elite military and police units punched into Santa Catalina village, one of the rebels’ strongholds.

Santa Catalina village council member Jimmy Villaflores told the Inquirer that the fire, which the rebels set off at about 2 p.m., was spreading fast, engulfing homes on Lustre Street and Martha Drive.

“My house was included,” Villaflores said.

Interior Secretary Mar Roxas said sniper fire from the rebels prevented firefighters from putting out the fire that engulfed Zamboanga State College of Marine Science and Technology.

Roxas said the school was also hit by mortar fire on Tuesday.

“Our firemen immediately responded to the fire, but they were met with gunfire. It’s really dangerous for them to approach the area.

Soldiers and police were fighting 180 MNLF rebels holed up and holding about 100 civilians as hostages in Santa Catalina and Santa Barbara villages.



Hostages wounded

Around 5:30 p.m., Ismael Dasta, commander of the MNLF rebels from Basilan, called up the Inquirer asking to relay his call for a ceasefire because two hostages were wounded in the fighting.

Dasta identified one of the injured hostages as Clemente Almonte.

A hostage named David Nifras also spoke to the Inquirer by phone and said a priest, Fr. Michael Ufana, was also wounded.

“We are seeking help. Tell the government that we need a ceasefire. Many are injured but two are in critical condition,” Nifras said.

“We are trapped in a place where there is fire and gunfire. Please help us relay this to the government. We are about 40 people here,” he said.

Government troops also battled gunmen who attacked Army positions on nearby Basilan Island on Thursday, wounding at least three soldiers, the military said.

Apart from the three soldiers wounded in Basilan, one soldier was killed in a firefight with the rebels on Wednesday, while a village watchman who was mistaken for a rebel was shot dead by the security forces, Col. Rodrigo Gregorio, regional military spokesman, said.

The killings raised the death toll during the standoff to 14, including three civilians, one police officer, two soldiers and eight rebels in four days of fighting.

Gregorio said two MNLF “stragglers” fleeing the area were arrested on Wednesday.

With the fighting on its fourth day, Zamboanga City remained closed, with most commercial flights and ferry services suspended.

Salazar said officials were moving to bring back vital services to the rest of the city of nearly 1 million.

She called on shops to reopen, doctors to remain in hospitals and for the public to stay calm as authorities established communication lines with rebel leaders to convince them to end the crisis.

“I again [appeal] to the hostage-takers, please let go of the hostages, especially the elderly, the sick, the children and people with disabilities,” Salazar said.

Talks with rebels

In a telephone interview with the Inquirer, Maid Ajirin, leader of the rebel group in Talon-Talon village, said Cabinet officials and military generals invited them to a meeting at the Western Mindanao Command (Westmincom) headquarters in Zamboanga City on Tuesday night.

“They fetched us from Santa Catalina,” Ajirin said.

The talks ran for about three hours, but no agreement was reached, particularly on the rebels’ ceasefire demand, he said.

The officials ferried the rebels back to Santa Catalina, Ajirin said.

Dasta, leader of the rebels in Santa Catalina, confirmed the meeting.

Roxas also confirmed the meeting.

“There were authorized talks with a commander with roughly 20 men in Talon-Talon,” Roxas said. “This commander showed kindness by releasing the family (a mother and her four children) being held hostage.”

Roxas declined to give details of the talks at Westmincom.—With reports from Marlon Ramos and AFP

Joescoundrel
09-14-2013, 10:17 AM
Guarding the guardians

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:25 pm | Friday, September 13th, 2013

What we see today is the unraveling of the system of checks and balances we installed after Edsa 1. We restored Congress in 1987 precisely to check presidential abuse and corruption, but it was like letting the fox guard the chicken coop. Yet that is only the first of the many ironies that arise in the Napoles pork barrel scam.

The second is that it was in fact President Cory Aquino who restored the practice of giving pork barrel to the legislators after Edsa 1. We had the chance to rewrite the rules afresh after the 1986 People Power uprising, but we chose to restore the old pork barrel instead. The practice has flourished because it was good not just for the senators and congressmen but also for later presidents who found a new way to hold them by the neck.

The third is that the Supreme Court has stepped into the fray and frozen the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Malampaya funds via a temporary restraining order. Justice Diosdado Peralta the other day admitted that the TRO showed a prima facie finding that the PDAF is unconstitutional. Yet this same court has thrice upheld the pork barrel in the past, calling it “imaginative as it is innovative” because “individual members of Congress, far more than the President … are likely to be knowledgeable about the needs of their respective constituents.” It “make[s] equal the unequal” among “favored and less favored legislators, or those not in the good graces of a sitting President.” The court recognized the “yoke caused by graft and corruption” but still it invoked every rule in the book to validate pork: “Every presumption should be indulged in favor of the constitutionality ….”

And finally the Palace spokesman is justifying presidential discretion over special funds by invoking a Marcos-era presidential decree! It is the height of hypocrisy to excuse what has now been seen as presidential pork by saying Marcos did it first!

Pork violates the Constitution because Congress holds the proverbial “power of the purse” to allocate funds. Legislators can at best suggest specific projects to be included in the annual budget so long as they keep their hands off the actual spending. There are two powers at stake. The first is the power over policy—that is, to lay down government policy broadly through budget priorities. The second is the power of patronage—namely, to spend the money and choose the beneficiaries, the contractors and, in the Napoles business model, the NGO conduits.

The “absolutists” who will abolish pork altogether will give to Congress only the broad policy power and exclude it from the patronage power. Whenever we say “Abolish pork,” we confine the patronage power entirely to the president and exclude the legislators.

The first lesson here is that, after Edsa 1, we thought it was all about building institutions. Now we realize it’s about people, too, more specifically, the politicians we vote into power. The main solution we seek today—to abolish the pork barrel—will actually shift the patronage power to the president. We might be comfortable doing that with a President Benigno Aquino III, but would we have wanted it under a President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo?

The second lesson is that it’s more than just about the officials we elect. It’s actually about the process of governance. The congressmen are correct. Their constituents vote them for their largesse, not for big questions of national policy. (This, by far, is the best argument for the abolition of Congress, proposed tongue-in-cheek by Senate President Franklin Drilon but taken rather seriously by some quarters.) But that concern is easily answered, because even after we abolish pork, there is nothing to stop legislators from suggesting specific projects for inclusion in the General Appropriations Act, so long as they have no say in the actual spending—that is to say, choosing the project implementers and approving their final payments.

Third, this only shows that the legislators need pork barrel to finance their reelection campaigns, but this merely confirms that pork money is illicit from the beginning, just a convenient cover for divert public moneys. Yet look at the flip side. This will leave the electoral field to candidates from the moneyed classes or their pawns. The campaign against pork must include the campaign for electoral reform.

Which brings us to the last point. Who will guard the guardians? Plato is supposed to have suggested that we train the guardians’ souls. In our post-Edsa democracy, it is “we the people” whose souls need to be transformed.

Joescoundrel
09-15-2013, 10:08 AM
Twitter gives Binay ‘epal’ flak on Zambo truce: Too early for 2016

By Tarra Quismundo, Nikko Dizon and Michael Lim Ubac

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:23 am | Sunday, September 15th, 2013

He appears to be swinging into campaign mode a little too early.

At least that’s what netizens say of Vice President Jejomar Binay, known to be planning to seek the presidency in 2016, after heading to Zamboanga City in an attempt to discuss a truce with Muslim rebels holding scores of civilian hostages.

Did 2016 come early?

Virtually scratching their heads, netizens closely watching developments in Zamboanga City had this to say when Binay announced a supposed ceasefire agreement between Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) founding chair Nur Misuari and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin.

As the military and police pursued efforts to end the almost weeklong standoff, Binay announced close to midnight on Friday that Misuari, his college classmate, and Gazmin had agreed to cease firing to pave the way for a “peaceful settlement.”

Hostilities, however, continued into its sixth day, with Gazmin and the military saying no ceasefire was implemented as the MNLF continued firing at government troops. Binay pushed through with his trip to Zamboanga accompanied by his son, Makati Mayor Junjun Binay.

The Vice President arrived in Zamboanga City Saturday afternoon and met with President Aquino.

Collective confusion

What followed was collective confusion expressed in 140 characters or more.

“Anu ba talaga (What’s the real score)? Gazmin contradicts Binay statements about ceasefire! Please lang, pwede pong magusap usap kayo (communicate with each other)!” said user Christian Medina (@ChristianMeds).

“Promoting a fake ceasefire should get you fired,” said user @tweetnirizal, a parody account of national hero Jose Rizal.

Political rival

Tweeting the Inquirer (@inquirerdotnet), user Ches (@chesaq) could not help but ask: “What the… epal move Binay? Too early for 2016.” Epal is colloquial shorthand for the Filipino term “mapapel” or attention-seeking.

Binay’s political rival, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas, has been on the ground in Zamboanga City since early last week along with other Cabinet officials pursuing efforts to end the conflict.

Froilan Grate (@GreenMinds) suspected a story line behind what was happening: “I first thought #ZamboCrisis can’t be part of a script. No decent person would sacrifice so [many] lives for political gains. Then there’s Binay.”

User Aselle Fernandez (@reynasellia) shared an exchange with a cousin about Binay’s Zamboanga visit: “Me: Pupunta raw si Binay dito (Is Binay coming over here)?! Cousin: Baka sakaling may magawa pa si Binay kasi mas bright siya kesa kay P-Noy (President Aquino) at ganun sila sa Makati.” Fernandez was making reference to the former Makati mayor’s campaign slogan “Ganito Kami sa Makati.”

Zamboanga-based Chariz Malalis @CHARIZmaatic shared the sentiment and said Binay might have wanted to share the limelight with Interior Secretary Roxas, Defense Secretary Gazmin, Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman and President Aquino in resolving the conflict.

What for?

“Roxas, Gazmin, Soliman, Aquino… Binay, ayaw patalo (would not be left behind). Papunta na din ng (He’s on his way to) Zamboanga. Para ano po (What for) Vice?” she said.

Inquirer readers also chimed in, criticizing the Vice President for the announcement that did not pan out.

A reader signed in as Bayang Magiliw said Binay’s “hunger for publicity backfired” while Oscura said the Vice President’s actions undermined the authority of Mr. Aquino, the commander in chief.

Reader Jack BW, who echoed this sentiment, said: “This will keep on happening to us until we grow the balls to take it all the way. Misuari and his commanders should be held accountable. The [Vice President] shouldn’t be allowed to make his own moves without the approval of the President.”

Told about the online reaction, Binay’s camp declined to comment and said to instead wait for developments from the Vice President’s visit to Zamboanga. (See story on Page A1.)

A spokesperson for the Vice President said, however, that Binay had talked to Misuari on Friday night to propose a ceasefire that would take effect at midnight on Saturday.

“He talked to Misuari and he talked to Gazmin, and they agreed to discuss a ceasefire,” spokesperson Joey Salgado told the Agence France-Presse early Saturday.

Binay tweeted just before noon that he was on his way to join President Aquino in Zamboanga to discuss the details of his plan with the defense secretary and representatives of the MNLF.

‘Trying to insert himself’

But a Cabinet member told the Inquirer that Vice President Jejomar Binay has not been authorized by Mr. Aquino to negotiate a truce with Nur Misuari.

The Cabinet member confirmed on Saturday that Binay was negotiating with Misuari, or his loyal followers, on his own.

There were “no instructions” from the President to send the Vice President to Zamboanga City, the secretary said.

The secretary did not want to be named since he was not authorized to comment on Binay’s actions.

“He (Binay) is trying to insert himself. He’s jeopardizing the safety of the troops because of politicking,” the official said.

The secretary also said there had been no truce between government troops and Moro rebels.

“Per Volt [Defense Secretary Gazmin], there’s no ceasefire,” said the official.

Before midnight on Friday, the Inquirer immediately contacted several Palace officials after Binay had reportedly negotiated a truce with Misuari, which was to take effect that night.

But two Palace officials, who were privy to the situation on the ground, expressed surprise.

“I’m sorry, I am not aware of that,” said National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia in a text message.

“I checked with [Social Welfare] Secretary Dinky Soliman, who’s in Zamboanga. She said Gazmin is already sleeping,” said Peace Process Adviser Teresita Deles.

Gazmin confirmed that he did talk to Binay on the phone around 10 p.m. or 11 p.m. on Friday.

“This started with the Vice President calling me up, asking me what if he talks to Misuari because he was his classmate and seatmate. [Binay said], ‘What if we talk about a ceasefire?’ I said, ‘Why not, if only to end this bloody confrontation,’” Gazmin said.

Gazmin recalled Binay saying that the government would “initiate a ceasefire.”

“I said a ceasefire could only start when they (the MNLF) stop firing because we will only be reactive to their actions. The truce didn’t happen because in the first place, [the MNLF] kept on firing that’s why the soldiers are making counter fires. So there was no ceasefire,” Gazmin said.

The defense chief also said he never spoke to Misuari.

“It was being arranged that we talked through an intermediary but I said they should show good faith first. But there was no good faith so what’s the point talking about a ceasefire?” Gazmin said.

However, Gazmin said the doors remained open for a truce.

“We will exhaust all available means of peaceful resolution but we ensure that the safety of the civilians will be paramount,” he said.

Too many cooks

While observers differ in opinion about having too many government officials on the ground, political analyst Clarita Carlos sees nothing wrong with getting the full force of government in resolving the Zamboanga crisis.

“What’s important is they are speaking with one voice and they are telegraphing only one point,” Carlos told the Inquirer.

Carlos said now was not the time to “quibble” about bureaucracy. Whoever “is trusted” in the government who can offer a way to end the crisis peacefully and reasonably should pitch in.

“I suspect [Binay] didn’t do it [arbitrarily]. The way I have known Binay, he is a peace-loving man,” Carlos said.

Heart of rampage

For Carlos, what is important too is that the government finally addresses the 1996 peace agreement, which is at the heart of the rampage of Misuari’s men in Zamboanga City.

“The big issue is the 1996 peace agreement with the MNLF … It is understandable for the MNLF to feel marginalized even if they were the first to have the peace agreement that was brokered by the international community,” she said.

Carlos said the government should “listen” to Misuari and the other MNLF leaders. “They have grown old already. They have grievances. Just listen to them,” Carlos said.

For security analyst Jose Antonio Custodio, the government’s reaction to the Zamboanga crisis is “typical of how we have responded to emergencies.”

Distracting

“It is always difficult controlling the ground. We cannot control the usiseros. What more the VIPs who want to be there as well?” Custodio said.

Custodio is concerned that the presence of the top officials led by Mr. Aquino himself could pose problems in terms of command and control of the ground commanders.

“Instead of concentrating on the hostages, the military would have to coordinate with whoever is the VIP there … there are too many people, high ranking at that, going into the critical phase of the crisis … It can distract the commanders,” Custodio added. With a report from AFP

Joescoundrel
09-15-2013, 10:09 AM
Lawmakers in scam won’t be suspended till convicted

By Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:15 am | Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Even if they are criminally charged before the Ombudsman, the senators implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam may continue to discharge their duties as legislators and cannot be suspended until they are convicted, according to Senate President Franklin Drilon.

Discipline is not automatic with the filing of charges, Drilon told a Quezon City media forum on Saturday.

“There must be a process, there must be a case filed in the Senate,” he said.

“Of course, down the road, if the conviction carries a perpetual disqualification from holding office, that conviction will effectively expel the legislators from office,” he said.

The National Bureau of Investigation, after completing its four-month investigation of the P10-billion alleged plunder of the congressional pork barrel, officially known as the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), is expected to file criminal complaints with the Ombudsman against the alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, and a number of legislators and their accomplices in the implementing government agencies.



Not guilty by photo op

Drilon seemed confident that he could not possibly be included in the group of legislators who are likely to be charged.

“I have not assigned any of my PDAF to Napoles or any of her NGOs (nongovernment organizations),” he said.

He said he was being pronounced “guilty by photography”—a phrase attributed to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda—for having been caught in a photo op moment with Napoles and members of her family.

Drilon jokingly said he was not the senator code-named “Sexy” that whistle-blower Benhur Luy said he had visited at the Senate at the height of Napoles’ operations.

“That’s not me. I’m fat,” he said in Filipino.

What happens next

Once the NBI files the criminal information with the Ombudsman against the alleged scam perpetrators, the “rational process” would be for Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales to first “evaluate” the evidence submitted.

“After evaluation, they can take two options: One, conduct further fact-finding investigation if the Ombudsman feels the evidence is insufficient, or two, consider the fact-finding stage as having been completed and therefore, require respondents to file counteraffidavits within 10 days and conduct a preliminary investigation,” he said.

“Remember that from newspaper accounts, there are a dozen of boxes of evidence, which means it will take time to assess. It is not a simple case where a one-page document is submitted,” Drilon said.

If the Ombudsman finds probable cause, a trial will take place in the Sandiganbayan antigraft court, he said.

“If the evidence of guilt is beyond reasonable doubt, there’ll be those who’ll be imprisoned,” Drilon said.

According to a Commission on Audit special audit of pork barrel releases from 2007 to 2009, among the senators whose pork barrel entitlements were allegedly channeled to dubious Napoles-linked NGOs were Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Gregorio Honasan.

The four senators have denied any wrongdoing in the disbursement of their PDAF entitlements.

Power to discipline

If his fellow lawmakers are charged before the Ombudsman, Drilon said it would be up to the Senate and the House of Representatives, not the Ombudsman, to administratively discipline their members.

“Whether or not [the Ombudsman’s] power to suspend can be exercised against the members of Congress is debatable. Why? Because under the Constitution, the power to discipline members of Congress belongs to the House or the Senate, as the case may be” he said.

Drilon cited the case of former Zamboanga Del Norte Rep. Romeo Jalosjos who, despite being charged for rape in the 1990s, went on to serve as congressman until he was convicted.

He also cited the case former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who continues to discharge her functions as a Pampanga congresswoman even if she is facing several serious charges.

“This supports the theory that indeed, the application of the constitutional principle that a matter of disciplining members of Congress belongs to both Houses,” Drilon said.



Congress to become stronger

The Senate President admitted that the multibillion-peso pork barrel scam has affected the credibility and integrity of the Senate and the House but said he expects Congress to come out stronger from the controversy.

“Admittedly, this has affected the Senate and the House. But I find this as an opportunity to strengthen the institution afterwards,” he told the same Quezon City forum.

“Yes, there may be a weakening of the institution, but I am confident we should be able to strengthen our democratic institution afterward,” Drilon added.

Sam Miguel
09-16-2013, 10:22 AM
The fog of politics

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:49 pm | Sunday, September 15th, 2013

Apparently, when Vice President Jejomar Binay negotiated with his “college classmate” Nur Misuari last Friday, to try to end the fighting in Zamboanga City, he did so on his own behalf. That is to say, he did not represent President Aquino but acted as his own principal. How else explain the astonishing statement he made, after the ceasefire that he and Misuari agreed on failed to materialize?

“There was a good start. Both were for peaceful settlement. But the President did not accept the conditions [that Misuari set for a ceasefire].”

Let us look closely at Binay’s words. In the first place, his statement suggests that President Aquino was a third party, rather than the person Binay was representing. “Both were for peaceful settlement” is non-objectionable in itself, but his next sentence (“the President did not accept the conditions”) places the President of the Philippines outside the framework of discussion—as though Binay negotiated with Misuari without the President’s objectives or conditions in mind.

According to those in the know, one of Misuari’s conditions was safe passage for all his followers involved in the adventurist incursion in Zamboanga. “But I know the President,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said, when asked about the possibility of safe passage. “He would not like that.”

It is hard to avoid the conclusion: Either Binay and his communications team erred in crafting their message (the quote from Binay was the gist of a text blast over the weekend, sent by his apparent supporters), or the perceived frontrunner for the 2016 elections has started to deliberately distance himself from the President.

Second, Binay’s statement, by emphasizing the peaceful settlement he and Misuari had agreed on, suggests that President Aquino is not for peace because he rejected the proposed terms. Binay even prefaced his remarks with “It’s a pity”—signaling to all and sundry that he thought the President made the wrong decision.

The resolution to the crisis Misuari started, however, does not consist in a mere “peaceful settlement” that would have allowed Misuari’s men to walk away from the mayhem they started in Zamboanga.

It would have been different if Binay’s statement had emphasized the aspect of justice, of the long arm of the law reaching even the remotest barangay, and then said he was conveying Misuari’s conditions to the commander in chief. That would have reflected the decision-making process outlined in the Constitution. Instead, he told the world an agreement had been reached between the two college classmates, but—“It’s a pity”—the President did not approve.

We wish to make an important distinction. Binay did right in offering to talk to Misuari, the founder of the Moro National Liberation Front, and now the head of a minority faction. Since he had access to the rebel-turned-politician-turned-renegade, it was possible he could contribute to a resolution of the crisis.

As Gazmin recalled the sequence of events, the idea to call Misuari directly was Binay’s. “This started with the Vice President calling me up, asking me what if he talks to Misuari because he was his classmate and seatmate.” Binay told him: “What if we talk about a ceasefire?” Gazmin’s response: “Why not, if only to end this bloody confrontation?”

Where we must fault Binay is in his approach to the negotiation, and his conduct after the failure of the ceasefire agreement that was the result of that negotiation. In a word, he went solo. He agreed to the terms of a ceasefire without clearing them with the President, or aligning them with government objectives regarding the Zamboanga crisis. He even flew to Zamboanga on Saturday (the subject of considerable Cabinet-level consternation, because Mr. Aquino had not asked him to go there) and brought his son, the mayor of Makati, along.

When it became clear that there were substantial reasons why the proposed ceasefire could not take place, he then distanced himself from the President on whose Cabinet he serves, and from the government whose troops were fighting the rebel forces.

We suppose he saw himself as a man with the means to save the situation. Unfortunately, his intervention in the Zamboanga crisis only added to the trauma, and the fog, of war.

MrM
09-17-2013, 12:14 PM
"But I'll show you justice with so strong a fine
That you shall all repent the loss of mine.
I will be deaf to pleading and excuses;
Nor tears nor prayers shall purchase out abuses;
Therefore use none."

Joescoundrel
09-18-2013, 10:15 AM
They remember the Marcos tyranny for their children

By Boying Pimentel

INQUIRER.net

1:22 am | Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

As we mark another anniversary of Martial Law, one point is worth noting: So many stories from that period have yet to be told.

Not just stories of heroes and martyrs, such as Edgar Jopson, Ferdie Arceo, Eman Lacaba and Lorena Barros, but also of families of activists and citizens who bore the brunt of regime’s abuses, and helped wage the fight to defeat it.

Fortunately, that shortage has been eased somewhat with the recent release of such books as the moving “Subversive Lives” about the Quimpo family and “Tibak Rising: Activism in the Days of Martial Law,” a lively collection of activist recollections of the period edited by UP Prof. Ferdie Llanes.

Now comes another family memoir of the martial law era.

Ramon and Ester Isberto have modest goals for putting out “Our 3rd Life,” an account of their struggles as a young couple during the Marcos regime.

The Isbertos are publishing the book themselves.

“We are doing this on our own for the children and apos,” Iting Isberto told me.

“Cottage industry ito, Boying,” Mon added. “Hindi naman blockbuster ito.”

It should be.

Independent filmmakers looking for new material can find a treasure of a story in “Our 3rd Life,” which is set to come out later this year. It has all the elements of an engaging film: family, love and romance, politics and revolution, comedy and suspense.

Take the book’s opening scene.

Iting Isberto is alone in a prison cell. She and Mon have just been arrested by the Marcos military. Their captors have separated them, and she doesn’t know where he is.

Is he safe? Is he still alive?

“It was very cold that early morning in December 1977, but I was wide awake,” she writes. “It was still dark and I guessed it was about 4 a.m. I listened for a few minutes and slowly, faintly, amid the silence, I could hear a tune being whistled from a distance. I smiled. It was another day and I knew Papa Mon was ‘safe’ in his cell, at the other side of the prison building where we were being held. After the whistling stopped, I started to sing several songs. Today, I began with “I Wanna Be Free.”

The memoir is told through letters to their children and grandchildren, including Kukok, Maia and Zac.

“Kukok, this is the story of how your Papa Mon and I met, fell in love and became political detainees under the government of President Ferdinand Marcos,” Iting writes. “And how we regained our freedom.”

Mon and Iting came from middle class families, went to exclusive Catholic schools, and enjoyed protected, comfortable lives. They met and fell in love when they were in high school. They were both swept up by the activist ferment in the late 1960s and early 1970s.

Like many young Filipinos, their lives changed dramatically when Ferdinand Marcos set up his dictatorship by imposing martial law in 1972.

It was an uncertain time. Still, given their backgrounds, Iting and Mon could have simply stuck to the middle class path that was there for them to take.

They didn’t.

Like many young Filipinos of their generation, they joined the underground fight against the regime.

“I joined because this was the only group of people I could see that had the determination to fight for the social and political changes that our country so badly needed,” Iting writes.

That decision cost her freedom. Iting was arrested shortly after joining the UG. But her first prison stint gave her a deeper sense of what the fight she joined was about.

“It was there in the Lahug detention camp where I understood better what it meant to love your country and to stand by your commitment in the face of great danger,” she writes. “I met young intelligent men and women from other parts of the Visayas such as Leyte, Samar, Negros Occidental and some from Luzon who had been very active in the underground movement. I marveled at their courage and composure in spite of the hardships they went through at the hands of their military captors. How they could still smile and joke with each other and be normal human beings!”

The hardships included “horror stories,” she writes.

“One lady was told to strip naked and lie down on blocks of ice while being interrogated. Some young men were made into punching bags by their interrogators and electrocuted. I could go on and on.”

After her release, she rejoined the movement, sharing a life in the underground with Mon. Iting remembers that time as “life at the razor’s edge.”

This is the era before cell phones and social media, when they were almost constantly on the run. In November 1977, the Marcos security forces finally caught up with them in a military raid.

Their arrest, Iting writes, took Mon “to one of his lowest moments in life.”

“Children, this is why one of the worst punishments that can be inflicted on a person is to put him in prolonged isolation,” she writes.

But “there is an upside to this dark episode,” she continues. “Papa Mon now says that whenever he has problems at work or in other matters, he reminds himself of his days in isolation. He quickly realizes that his current woes are trivial. In the terrifying loneliness of isolation, he learned to value the really important things in life. The only source of joy he had in his cell was the small window. Standing on the toilet, he could look outside the window and see the birds flying in the blue sky outside. A priceless Instagram moment.”

With the help of fellow detainees who secretly passed on written notes, Mon and Iting eventually came up with a way to communicate with one another — through music.

Everyday at around 4 a.m., Mon would whistle a song, and Iting would respond by singing.

“I would answer back singing a song that I knew, such as: ‘A House Is Not A Home,’ or ‘A Chair is Still a Chair,’ ‘I Wanna be Free,’ ‘Bayan Ko,’ ‘Babaeng Walang Kibo,’ ‘If,’ among others. This exchange of melodies would go back and forth for about 30 minutes. We could hear each other clearly because it was very quiet so early in the morning. So, everyone else in the prison building knew that there were two lovebirds imprisoned on the second floor.”

The memoir goes on to tell the story of their life in prison. Eventually, Mon and Iting joined other detainees in the infamous Bicutan detention center where they were later married. They were eventually released, and began new lives after detention.

Mon is now head of public affairs at Smart and PLDT, while Iting does consulting work related to the fight against tuberculosis.

“Your Papa Mon and I have never regretted joining the movement and being arrested and detained,” they write. “We are proud of what we have done, but we don’t talk about it. We felt, however, that it was important to tell you our story. This is very much a part of our 3rd life together.”

“We were very lucky. There were a few moments when – like many of our friends and comrades – we could have lost our lives as well. But, somehow, we survived.”

Why the title? Iting writes that a past-life reader told her that she and Mon had two other lives together, as pediatricians in India and as vineyard owners in Spain.

But the perhaps “3rd life” also refers to the life stages many Filipinos of their generation had to go through: from protected, comfortable middle class lives, to life underground fighting tyranny, to starting over after the end of dictatorship as they take on new and old challenges.

Some of the young Filipinos of that generation had to rebuild their lives after traumatic experiences with the violent dogmatism of the UG movement, a reality portrayed in “Subversive Lives.”

It’s a complicated history.

But as “Our 3rd Life” and “Subversive Lives” show, these are mainly tales of courage and commitment, of young Filipinos seeing so much abuse and suffering under Marcos and deciding that they must be part of the fight end tyranny and injustice in their country.

Despite the Isbertos’ modest goals, putting out “Our 3rd Life” will hopefully inspire others to tell their stories from that period.

For as I’ve written in the past, these are stories that must not be abandoned, certainly not to the military and the Marcos forces who will no doubt seek to downplay and cover up the “horror stories” of that period.

Nor should they be abandoned to hard-line elements within the UG movement who would try to sanitize and distort them to fit a rigid agenda.

And we are being reminded how important it is to remember these stories. Many of the reasons Filipinos like Mon and Iting joined the fight against dictatorship are still with us.

As I write this, one of the guardians of martial law, Juan Ponce Enrile, whom hundreds of thousands of Filipinos rescued when he finally decided to disengage from Marcos, is facing plunder and bribery charges in one of the most jawdropping corruption cases in Philippine history.

“Papa Mon and I chose this path because we wanted to help our country and our people to break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and injustice that has been our curse for hundreds of years,” Iting writes. “We still do. And we still try in our own ways.

“Many of these problems remain. In your own lives, you will have to make your own choices about how you can be of service to your fellow Filipinos. Whatever you do, you and your generation should not forget the bitter but invaluable lessons that our people learned under martial law. The most important perhaps is: Never again!”

Joescoundrel
09-19-2013, 10:48 AM
Gigi Reyes not authorized by Enrile, says lawyer

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:36 am | Thursday, September 19th, 2013

Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile on Wednesday appeared to be distancing himself from the alleged illicit activities of his controversial chief of staff, saying he did not sign any document endorsing any of the dubious agencies controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

Enrile was one of the three senators accused in the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday of plunder. The three allegedly pocketed a total of P581 million in kickbacks from the Napoles schemes in ghost projects implemented by dummy nongovernment organizations (NGOs).

Among those charged also for plunder in the Ombudsman were Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, and his deputy chief of staff, Jose Antonio Evangelista. In all, 38 people were charged with either plunder or malversation.

Enrique de la Cruz, counsel of Enrile, whose cut in the racket was said to have reached P172.8 million, described as hilaw or “weak” the government’s plunder complaint against the former Senate president.

“There is no document that links Senator Enrile to plunder. He didn’t sign any document that indicated he was allocating his funds to NGOs,” De la Cruz said in an interview over radio station dwIZ.

Funds for LGUs, not NGOs

“The documents he signed were only in relation to his allocation of funds to local government units (LGUs). No whistle-blower said that he or she gave money to Senator Enrile or that Senator Enrile asked for a kickback or a commission,” De la Cruz said.

“So there is no element of plunder. That’s why, in our view, the weak case was hastily prepared,” De la Cruz added.

The Commission on Audit (COA) and whistle-blowers have pointed to the lawmakers’ chiefs of staff and authorized representatives as among those who signed for their respective principals in documents endorsing the fake NGOs as recipients of the public funds.

Not following instructions

“Senator Enrile’s instruction was clear… In the endorsements that he signed, he allocated his funds to local government units—provinces, towns and barangays (villages). If he had employees that didn’t follow this or did something to divert the said funds to NGOs, it wasn’t in compliance with Senator Enrile’s instructions,” De la Cruz said.

“Perhaps it might not be justified to make Senator Enrile accountable for the said wrongdoing or violation of the law,” De la Cruz added.

Reyes as ‘24th senator’

On Reyes’ alleged involvement in the PDAF scam, De la Cruz said, “The legal team deemed it best not to comment on her participation because we know she also has her own lawyer.”

De la Cruz indicated that Enrile was willing to submit to the processes of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.

“Senator Enrile trusts our Ombudsman and he believes this is where there will be a fair investigation to uncover the whole truth,” De la Cruz said.

While Reyes has resigned as Enrile’s chief of staff even before the pork barrel scam, a member of the senator’s media staff said that Evangelista was still with Enrile’s office “and still reporting for work.”

As chief aide to the then Senate President, the 50-year-old Reyes was dubbed the “24th senator.” She signed checks in the millions of pesos on behalf of Enrile, 89, and issued memos to Senate functionaries involving the funds of the chamber. She resigned last December in the aftermath of the alleged selective distribution of Christmas bonuses to senators by Enrile.

Immigration authorities said Reyes left for Macau on Aug. 31.

A document submitted to the NBI said that whistle-blowers delivered alleged kickbacks for Enrile to Reyes’ house. Benhur Luy, the principal whistle-blower, tagged Reyes as one of Napoles’ main contacts in the Senate President’s office, along with Evangelista.

De la Cruz is a former managing partner of Enrile’s law firm Pecabar. He remains a member of the firm’s management committee.

A holder of a master’s degree in international and comparative business law from the London Metropolitan University, Dela Cruz is an expert in civil, criminal and corporate litigation.

He graduated with honors from the University of Santo Tomas College of Law in 2000 and passed the bar exams in the same year with a general weighted average of 86.05 percent.

‘We must see it’

Reached for further comment on whether Enrile’s camp was disowning the endorsement letters allegedly signed in Enrile’s behalf by Reyes and Evangelista, De la Cruz said, “We cannot disown it until we see it.”

“We have yet to see a copy of the complaint,” De la Cruz told the Inquirer. Without this, he said he could not say that Enrile allocated his PDAF entitlements only to LGUs and not to NGOs. However, he added, “We also don’t want to discuss our legal strategies in public.”

On Aug. 24, an Inquirer story cited the COA report on PDAF releases that said while Enrile denied signing any documents relating to the fake NGOs, “he confirmed to have authorized his chief of staff to sign on his behalf.”

Reacting to that story, Reyes then said the senator would normally designate her “or any of our deputy chiefs of staff” to sign documents on his behalf.

Forged signatures

“But specifically regarding his PDAF, Senator Enrile himself signs the endorsement to the DBM,” Reyes said. “I never signed any endorsement to the DBM to nominate any project whether under the senator’s PDAF, VILP (Various Infrastructure including Local Projects) or other sources,” she added.

Reyes at that time told the Inquirer that either she or Evangelista would sign documents required by the implementing agencies, “but only pursuant to the written authorization of the senator.”

“But the COA provided our office numerous documents where our signatures were obviously forged and we intend to present these in the investigation,” she said.

Joescoundrel
09-19-2013, 10:49 AM
^ Kaya pala umeskapo na ang Gigi.

Sam Miguel
09-20-2013, 03:39 PM
Abad rebuts Marcos Jr.’s forgery tale of P100M pork

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:27 am | Friday, September 20th, 2013

Contrary to his claims that his signature was forged, Sen. Ferdinand Marcos Jr. had written letters to then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) specifically endorsing a Janet Lim-Napoles agency to implement a P100-million livelihood project, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Thursday.

The amount was part of a P475-million facility the DBM had extended to the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to bankroll livelihood projects of local government units (LGUs) in 2011 as lump sum allocations for six senators.

However, the DAR, burned by the alleged misuse of P900 million from the Malampaya Fund in 2009, refused to have anything to do with the money, the Inquirer has learned.

A DAR official, who requested anonymity, said the department did not want to be used as a “clearinghouse” following the 2009 shenanigans.

Marcos last week claimed that his signature was forged to facilitate the release of his P100-million share to the nongovernment organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles—Agricultura para sa Magbubukid Inc. and Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc.—with the National Livelihood Development Corp. (NLDC) as the implementing agency in March 16 last year.

The namesake son of the late dictator said that his funds were sourced from the DBM’s disbursement acceleration program (DAP), which the DAR official claimed was the source of the P475-million facility.

Other senators supposedly sharing the fund were Jinggoy Estrada (P100 million), Ramon Revilla Jr. (P100 million), Vicente Sotto III (P70 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P55 million) and Loren Legarda (P50 million).

Abad refuted Marcos’ claims that his signature was faked. He insisted that Marcos sought the funding and even requested for a switch in implementing agency.

Abad stressed that the legislators and not the DBM normally determined the implementing agency “as well as the purpose for the request of funds.”

“That’s the senator’s contention but that’s not what our records show,” Abad said of the Marcos allegation. “He wrote Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile through Sen. Franklin Drilon on Nov. 23, 2011, requesting an endorsement of his request. Then he wrote the DBM on Feb. 8, 2012, requesting that the implementing agency be changed from DAR to NLDC,” said Abad in a text message.

Abad also clarified Marcos’ assertion that the P100 million given to him was from DAP.

“This is not a fund. It’s a measure we adopt to accelerate budget execution. Allotments not used—such as items not filled, decrease in interest payments, procurements deferred—with the President’s approval, are realigned to fast moving projects (such as the Department of Public Works and Highways infrastructure projects) or those urgently required (such as the rehabilitation of areas damaged by Typhoon “Pablo”) or those that need augmentation (such as hiring additional policemen) or request from officials due to urgent needs in their constituencies. The latter represents a small portion of the DAP and that is where Senator Marcos’ request to assist displaced/marginal family constituents was funded from,” Abad said.

Abad denied that the P475 million given to the DAR had any strings attached. However, he did not comment on the nature of the P475-million fund which the DAR did not request.

Corona affair payoff nixed

The DAR official claimed that the P475 million was meant as an inducement for senators to side with the government in the impeachment trial of then Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached by the House of Representatives in December 2011.

But Abad vehemently rejected this allegation, claiming this was “illogical” considering that Marcos voted against impeachment in the Senate vote that found Corona guilty of fudging his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Based on documents obtained by the Inquirer, the DBM released six special allotment release orders (Saros)—from E-11-01881 to E-11-01886 on Dec. 6, 2011—to the agrarian reform secretary for the “requirements of the program beneficiaries development component of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.” The six Saros were divided in the following amounts—P100 million (for three Saros), P70 million, P55 million and P50 million.

Attached with the six Saros were the NCAs, or notice of cash allocations, (depositing the funds at the Land Bank of the Philippines, Quezon Circle branch) issued on the same date “to cover for the requirements of the livelihood projects in various local government units with existing agrarian reform communities in support to farmer beneficiaries.”

‘Undue haste’

A DAR source noted the undue haste in releasing the funds as NCAs were normally issued months after Saros had been distributed. Both Saros and NCAs were signed by Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos who noted that the “release is in accordance with the OP (Office of the President) approval dated Oct. 12, 2011.”

The DAR source said the agency’s officials were not keen on taking a generous amount of fund on top of their regular allocation which they did not even request. The source said the agency’s officials had already been alarmed by the DAR’s involvement in the P900-million Malampaya Fund scam, especially after receiving in June 2011 a memorandum from the Commission on Audit ordering a special audit on the P23.6-billion government share in the operation of gas field off Palawan province released by the DBM directly to the agencies under the Arroyo administration.

On March 15, 2012, the DBM issued a “negative” Saro for the fund signifying the DAR’s refusal to handle the money.

Joescoundrel
09-22-2013, 10:07 AM
Forwarded via Facebook ___

5 PERNICIOUS MARCOS MYTHS

MYTH 1. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PROSPEROUS

A few people were prosperous. People like Herminio Disini, Danding Cojuangco, Imelda Marcos. Ferdinand Marcos, junior -- Bongbong -- got his own island, Calauit -- as a hunting preserve. He demanded, and was handed, millions of pesos from a private company, Philcomsat. "What could we do," a company officer said later, "he was the president's son." Imelda turned the Philippine National Bank into her private piggy bank and Philippine Airlines into her personal air service. She bought condos in New York, ordered posh department stores to close their doors so she could shop inside in peace, handed out hundred dollar tips to Americans. Where'd all this money come from?

Marcos ruled unchecked for almost 14 years, free to write his own laws as he went along (after he was overthrown, investigators discovered dozens of secret decrees he'd kept handy for all possible contingencies). With those awesome powers, what progress did he bring to the country? In 1974, the poverty rate was 24%. By 1980 it was 40%. When Marcos assumed the presidency, the country's foreign debt was US$1 billion. By the time he fled, it was US$28 billion. Where'd all the money go? Investigators later estimated the Marcoses stole at least US$10 billion, most of it salted away abroad. Martial Law sustained a plunder economy run for the benefit of the Marcos family, its relatives and associates. Everyone else was just an afterthought.

MYTH 2. UNDER MARCOS THE COUNTRY WAS PEACEFUL

During Martial Law, not only did the Communist New People's Army increase in strength, from a few hundred to more than 20,000 soldiers, but crime in Manila became so bad that at one point Marcos actually ordered the deployment of "secret marshals." These were armed plainclothes military agents who pretended to be passengers in jeeps and buses, with orders to shoot and kill anybody they thought were criminals.

The worst threat to peace and order was none other than Marcos himself. Historian Alfred McCoy estimates the Martial Law regime killed more than 3,000 Filipinos and made hundreds disappear. Dinampot (picked up) entered the venacular to describe what happened to Marcos critics, who were usually labeled "subversives" or "dissidents." Another word coined under the dictatorship, "salvage" -- murder committed by the authorities -- acquired international notoriety. If there was "peace" in the country it was the graveyard silence produced by fear and repression.

MYTH 3. MARCOS BUILT MANY ROADS, SCHOOLHOUSES, DAMS, ETC

True. He could build and build because it wasn't his money that was being used, it was the taxpayers'. And of course, Marcos made sure he got a cut. The biggest, most famous construction project, the billion-dollar Bataan Nuclear Power Plant, was an overpriced, graft-ridden structure which paid Marcos millions of dollars in kickbacks. His crony Herminio Disini got such a large commission he could afford to flee to Austria, buy a castle and settle down. The country took years to pay off the BNPP. It still hasn't been used. Imelda also had an "edifice complex." She was in such a hurry to have the Film Palace in Roxas Boulevard finished, part of it collapsed, reportedly burying workers alive.

Imelda's idea of infrastructure for the poor was a high whitewashed concrete wall around Manila's squatter areas, the better to hide the poverty and misery, and so avoid depressing passing motorists and tourists.

MYTH 4. IN 1986 MARCOS COULD HAVE ORDERED HIS TROOPS TO RUN OVER THE CITIZENS ON EDSA BUT REFUSED TO DO SO, EVEN IF IT MEANT HE WOULD LOSE

Actually he was urging his generals to attack, but in front of the TV cameras made a big show of concern over civilian casualties. Reporter Sandra Burton, who was there, wrote: "Viewers had just witnessed another bit of play-acting, or moro-moro, between Marcos and (General Fabian) Ver, which seemed intended to impress upon his official US audience the president's concern for preventing bloodshed, even as the Americans' sensitive communications devices were intercepting his generals' orders to fire on rebel headquarters."

The truth was the dictator's generals were reluctant to attack. According to Beth Day Romulo, one general later said his huge amphibious assault vehicles could have "rammed through the crowds." However, "I didn't want to be known as the Butcher of Ortigas Avenue."

Marcos kept up the pretense. Burton wrote how: "…Hyperventiliating again, Ver grew more and more excited. 'Just give me the order, sir and we will hit them.' Marcos, looking reasonable, compared to his bellicose chief of staff, refused. Yet even as he spoke, his generals were ordering Colonel Balbas to stop making excuses and fire the mortars he had positioned early that morning on the golf course inside Camp Aguinaldo." Marcos never let a few broken, maimed bodies stand in his way. He wasn't about to stop.

MYTH 5. MARCOS MEANT WELL, BUT IMELDA AND THE CRONIES RUINED EVERYTHING

He refused to share power. He kept a closet full of secret decrees. His word was law. The judiciary, legislative and military were his puppets. If Ferdinand Marcos could claim credit for all the nice buildings constructed during his regime, he should also take responsibility for everything else.

The truth was, Marcos was evil from the get-go. As a young man, he assassinated his father's political opponent -- through a coward's way, sniping from long range in the dark of night. He fabricated a record as an alleged guerrilla leader during World War II. He opened a secret Swiss bank account -- under the pseudonym "William Saunders" -- with Credit Suisse in 1968, years before he declared Martial Law.

Marcos was all of a piece. He intended to run the country purely for the benefit of his family and friends, and to set up a dynasty that would continue the plunder. He was prepared to do anything to hang on.

During the snap election campaign in 1985, he sneered that his opponent, Cory Aquino, was a mere housewife with no experience. Cory fired back with a statement that summed up the dictator: “I concede that I cannot match Mr. Marcos when it comes to experience. I admit that I have no experience in cheating, stealing, lying, or assassinating political opponents.”

Joescoundrel
09-22-2013, 10:24 AM
Gigi Reyes: Betrayal of Enrile’s camp

By Juliet L. Javellana

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:06 am | Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, the once powerful former chief of staff of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile expressed hurt over the statement of Enrile’s lawyer that showed his camp was distancing itself from her role in the pork barrel scam.

“THE WORST BLOW HAS JUST BEEN DEALT UPON ME BY LESS THAN THE CAMP OF SENATOR JUAN PONCE ENRILE—THE MAN I SERVED WITH FULL DEDICATION, HONESTY AND LOYALTY FOR 25 YEARS,” an ABS-CBN report quoted what it said was Reyes’ statement posted in her Facebook account. That portion of the statement was in all caps for emphasis. “If indeed these statements are sanctioned by or coming from my former boss, then nothing can be worse than this kind of betrayal.”

Enrile’s lawyer Enrique de la Cruz had said earlier that Enrile did not give his blessings to what Reyes had done in the releases of his pork barrel funds.

Enrile was among the three senators whom the National Bureau of Investigation had charged for plunder in the P10-billion pork barrel scam engineered by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Reyes, who had been called the 25th senator because of the power and influence she had when Enrile was Senate President, was also charged by the NBI with plunder. She left the country on Aug. 31 before the NBI filed the cases in the Ombudsman.

Reyes, according to the report, said “this very tragic development is beyond my comprehension.”

Reyes was quoted in the report as saying the last time she spoke with Enrile was from abroad and that he told her they would face the charges together.

“He maintained that he will stand by the authority he issued to me and that all I did was faithful and pursuant to his instructions. He even told me to be strong; that we will fight together to prove the accusations against us are false and fabricated,” Reyes was quoted as saying in her Facebook post.

“I never once thought that this day would come. I never stepped on anyone’s toes nor abused my position in all the years I served in the Senate. But I have earned the bitter ire and enmity of some people by and large because and in defense of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile,” she said.

Enrile had described Reyes, who served him for 25 years, as his eyes and ears.

Reyes said she left the country “to seek some peace and quiet amid the barrage of adverse and downright insulting publicity and commentary against me in the mainstream and social media.”

She hit the Inquirer for allegedly having an “ax to grind” against her and for being “especially cruel.”

Reyes resigned as Enrile’s chief of staff in late January after the Inquirer exposed Enrile’s distribution of extra cash gifts to senators friendly to him. Enrile later resigned the Senate presidency himself after defending himself from that controversy.

Letter from Reyes

Inquirer had obtained a copy of a letter of Reyes, then chief of staff Enrile, dated Feb. 4, 2008, addressed to then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap informing him that Enrile had allotted P25 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to National AgriBusiness Corp. (Nabcor).

“The PDAF is for the implementation of various agribusiness, livelihood projects in different municipalities as per attached special allotment release order,” Reyes said in her letter.

“We wish to implement these projects through Nabcor as attached agency of DA (Department of Agriculture),” she said.

In the same letter, Reyes said that her deputy chief of staff, Jose Antonio Evangelista, was assigned the authority “to sign and follow up the project to ensure proper and timely implementation.”

Another document showed Evangelista’s letter to then Nabcor president Allan Javellana informing him that Enrile’s office was designating the People’s Organization Progress and Development Foundation (POPDF) as the implementing NGO for the project that would be financed with Enrile’s pork.

The letter said the POFDF, an agency controlled by Napoles, was “a duly registered nongovernment organization” and should be “your conduit in the implementation of the said project.”

A stamp on the document showed that Nabcor received Evangelista’s letter on Feb. 11, 2008, and was paid on March 11, 2008.

A handwritten check number appears on the lower part of the letter.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 08:25 AM
To young Filipinos who never knew martial law and dictatorship

By Benjamin Pimentel

3:04 pm | Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

SAN FRANCISCO — You’ve been hearing a lot about the date – September 21, 1972 — and the event — the day martial law was imposed on our country, the day the Marcos dictatorship was born.

That was 40 years ago.

This may not mean much to you who grew up after the nightmare finally ended, after Filipinos rallied to oust one of the most despicable leaders in world history.

You’ve probably heard about him. If you travel north, you might even see his corpse in a glass case. You might also see remnants of a giant bust carved on the side of a mountain.

You know how shameless Filipino politicians show off by putting up big posters with their photos in public places? Well, try to imagine living under a leader who actually thought that he was so great he should have his face carved on a gigantic rock for all to see.

Think about it.

Someone blew up that bust many years ago — which is really a shame. It was hideous, but still, it could have served as a reminder of what we went through. What your parents and grandparents went through under Ferdinand Marcos.

You probably heard about the debates on whether he should be buried with our other heroes at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. You probably heard his son, now a senator, defending his record, claiming that had Marcos not been overthrown, the country would have turned into another Singapore.

It’s a bizarre claim. And I never get tired of pointing this out: Bongbong is essentially arguing that the Philippines would have become another Singapore, known as one of the least corrupt nations in the world, under a president considered one of the most corrupt leaders in history. (Google “most corrupt leaders” and you’ll understand why Bongbong is bonkers.)

You’ve probably also heard the dictator’s supporters remember those years as the good ‘ol days. The country was more peaceful, and people were happier, they’d say.

You know what, in some ways, they were right.

I was eight years old when martial law was declared, and I remember being so happy that day. Classes were suspended, and there was nothing to watch on TV but cartoons.

Our neighbors and even my parents were glad to see an end to the student demonstrations. People were lining up to ride a jeepney. To some, it certainly looked like an entirely different country.

And it was.

But these were not the changes that most people, especially the middle class, thought were actually taking place.

For in those early months and years, middle class and upper class families welcomed Marcos’s version of “peace and order,” the orderly queues and the empty streets where activists once voiced their opposition to corruption and injustice. But behind the scenes, unknown to many, the stealing, the torture, the killing had begun.

It had grown quiet all of sudden, because those who had the guts to speak out had been silenced. Imprisoned. Tortured. Co-opted. Murdered.

Actually, back then, the term Marcos’s goons used was “salvage.” Yes, salvage, as in “to save” or “to rescue.” For that was how Marcos and his allies imposed “peace and order.” They saved the regime’s critics and opponents – by killing them.

Later on, even the phrase “peace and order” morphed into a sick joke. My father enjoyed telling it.

“Peace and order? Ah, that actually means, ‘I want a piece of this. I want a piece of that. And that’s an order.’”

Remember that the next time you hear of Imelda’s jewels or shoes, of news about some mansion or bank account linked to the Marcoses.

Then there’s the argument that goes like this: ‘What was the point of getting rid of Marcos? Look at how there’s still so much corruption and injustice in Philippine society after all these years.’

Good point.

But one thing you need to remember, and perhaps we need to remind ourselves about this too, those of us who joined the uprising to get rid of Marcos — We didn’t march thinking we would suddenly live in paradise. We didn’t face riot police and the security forces thinking that the country’s problems– the corruption, the poverty, the abuse of power — would suddenly disappear.

We joined the fight to get rid of a tyrant. And guess what – we won. And you won.

I know it’s hard to believe, especially given all the news of corruption and abuse and of people dying and disappearing.

But trust me: it was much, much worse back then. It was a much scarier, more violent time, when even the mildest criticism of government, of Marcos, of Imelda, could land you in jail or even get you killed.

Look at it this way. Some of you don’t like the current president. And you probably even joined the fad of Noynoying, making fun of the guy, calling him all sorts of names. You know what would have happened to you if you had tried a stunt like that during the Marcos years?

Marcos’s allies want you to forget that. They want you to see the long struggle against dictatorship, and the uprising that finally brought it down as wasted effort.

Which is really an absurd view if you think about it. It’s like telling our heroes and those who waged past struggles in our history that everything that happened, everything they did was a waste.

It’s like telling Jose Rizal, “You know those novels and essays and poems you wrote, including that last one you composed shortly before you were shot to death by the Spaniards, all that was a waste of time. For look at how messed up the country is right now.”

It’s like telling my own father, “Papa, joining the guerrillas was a stupid idea, given how the country whose freedom you defended against the Japanese has turned out.”

Fighting Marcos was worth it. For we took on a bully and we won.

This is not to downplay or dismiss the problems the country faces today.

And you should speak out about them. You should complain and protest. You should demand that things should be better, and you should go out there to try to make them better. It is perfectly all right for you to march, to picket and even to go Noynoying.

Just don’t believe those who say it was much better before.

You’ll hear it from Marcos’s old allies.

You’ll hear it from those who simply don’t like democracy, who find it inconvenient because it keeps them from acquiring more wealth and more power.

You’ll hear from those who just can’t stand ideas they don’t agree with, who arrogantly think they have all the answers and must therefore have all the power.

They’ll present themselves as the nation’s saviors based on twisted claims. Some would point to their military discipline and experience. Others would claim to have the correct political line base on historical truths. Some would claim to have god on their side.

Don’t trust the liars and the bullies. Democracy can be messy and chaotic. But the alternatives are even messier. They create a false, deceptive sense of “peace and order.”

A delusion.

Like the cartoon shows I watched the day Marcos’s dictatorship began its reign of destruction.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 08:43 AM
Like parents, like children

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:51 pm | Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

“My signature was forged!” cries Bongbong Marcos.

What can one say? Like father, like son.

Butch Abad refutes his claim. Bongbong had repeatedly written then Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and the Department of Budget and Management signifying where he wanted P100 million of his PDAF put. It’s not the DBM, Abad says, that initiates the projects, identifies the implementing agencies and sets the purpose for the request of funds. It’s the legislators, it’s the PDAF holders. That is their power, that is their prerogative.

Bongbong Marcos is one such legislator and PDAF holder, and he wielded that power and prerogative resolutely. He wanted his money—“his” in the entitlement and proprietary sense—into the Agrikultura para sa Magbubukid Inc. and Agri and Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. Both Janet Napoles NGOs.

His signature is all over the place and he would need forgery “experts” whose capacity to tell forged from authentic is spectacularly impaired to bail him out. Or people like Dubya’s father, George Bush Sr., whose capacity for discernment was abundantly shown when he toasted Bongbong’s father, Ferdinand, during the deepest darkness of martial law for his adherence to democracy.

All this is a good reminder of who Bongbong Marcos is, in case he’s still entertaining hopes of becoming president in 2016 in an effort to duplicate his father’s life, if not indeed vindicate him.

He is the son of the one person whose ghoulish handiwork we marked again last Saturday. Saturday was Sept. 21, the 41st anniversary of martial law. But it is one of curiously revealing things about the character of the father, which was passed on to the son: Marcos Sr. couldn’t even tell the truth about the actual date he declared martial law. He did not in fact declare martial law on Sept. 21, he declared it midnight of Sept. 22, or technically Sept. 23. Sept. 21, 1972, was a Thursday. Marcos declared martial law midnight of the following day,

Friday, or technically early Saturday, to make sure there would be no students taking to the streets to protest it.

He later antedated the date to Sept. 21 because of his superstitious belief that the number 7, or multiples of it, was lucky for him. Well, maybe it was; he got to rule as dictator for 14 years, though only fitfully in later years. But it was godforsakenly not so lucky for the rest of the country. The 41st anniversary of martial law is in fact today, Sept. 23.

Bongbong is the son of the one man who was repeatedly described in the international press as having stolen his country blind. He so stole us blind we’re still groping into the future long after he went, politically and bodily. The scale of the pillage was such that Marcos landed second in Transparency International’s 2004 list of the world’s most corrupt leaders. Not just Asia’s, not just the South countries’, but the world’s. He comes next to Indonesia’s Suharto, his loot being reckoned at $5-10 billion, compared to Suharto’s $15-35 billion. These are conservative estimates, but even just these figures give you a mind-boggling picture of epic ransacking, especially deeply hurtful as we are continuing to pay for it in debt payments. As will our children and their children, taking interest into account.

Not quite incidentally, Erap figures in the list, too, in 10th place. Two Filipinos included in the world’s most corrupt leaders! That alone must commend us to Guinness as the one country that has the best claim to being the Ladrones Islands. Erap is reckoned to have carted off $70-80 million. His son, Jinggoy, like Bongbong, leads the senatorial co-conspirators in the Napoles scam. One is tempted to say like father, like son, too, except that Erap was at least honest about his women, if not his loot.

Of course, Erap can always argue that the Transparency International list was done well before his successor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was done in this country. If the group had made that list a little later, he might have seen her ahead of him. That would give us the dubious distinction of having three of the world’s 10 most corrupt leaders. Some things at least we have the capacity to be world-class in.

The backdrop of martial law offers a good perspective from which to view corruption in this country, which is a panorama all by itself. I’m truly glad we’ve gotten incensed and stoked to fury by the spectacle of the utter waste of pork, and I’m truly glad we’ve finally done something about corruption—the haling of legislators before the Ombudsman will produce ripples far bigger and more far-reaching than Erap’s conviction.

But that backdrop should give us a sense as well that all this is just the beginning.

In the scheme of things, pork is just a small detail in our own canvas of the Inferno of corruption. The amount of P10 billion itself looks like penny ante compared to what Marcos stole, what Arroyo stole, what Erap stole. It should also remind us that lurid and scandalous as the legislators’ conduct has been, they are not the biggest predators of this country. Our presidents, real or fake, are. Our leaders, truthful or prevaricating, are.

The road stretches out before us, and it is a rocky one. But I’m at least hopeful in this respect that what has been birthed in recent months, what has been spawned by the sudden apparition of stark profligacy amid stark want, will not dissipate so easily. Indeed, will grow to encompass corruption beyond pork, will grow to encompass the need to recover what has been stolen from us, will grow to define the character of the new Filipino. I’m at least hopeful that the next generation will not end up emulating their elders but not very betters, will not end up becoming:

Like parents, like children.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 08:46 AM
Financing Misuari

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:57 pm | Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

It will take some time, but Zamboanga City will rebuild from Nur Misuari’s reckless, mortal temper tantrum. It has become clear, however, some two weeks after his faction of the Moro National Liberation Front all but declared war on the city, that one of the most important questions to ask is financial: Who funded Misuari’s indulgent spree of violence?

Columnist Solita Monsod raised the question last Saturday: “In all the discussions, analyses and reports on the Zamboanga crisis that I have read or watched, I have yet to hear the following question asked or issue raised: Who financed this Misuari-organized caper that has led to such tragic consequences?”

On the same day that column was written, President Aquino was raising a somewhat similar question. “They don’t seem to run out of [ammunition]. He has asked [military] officials to look into that,” the President’s second spokesperson, Abigail Valte, told reporters.

As far as food and water and other such supplies are concerned, it seems that Misuari has banked on standard guerrilla practice: His MNLF faction sought to control population, rather than geography, and depended on the civilians under its control to provide the necessities.

There are many stories of Misuari loyalists sourcing provisions from residents in the barangays they occupied or controlled, even of hostages forced to cook for them and other residents held captive.

In terms of arms and ammunition, however, the renegade MNLF faction commanded by trusted Misuari lieutenant Habier Malik seems very well prepared. It launched its adventurist incursion into Zamboanga City with more than adequate materiel. Two weeks in, the loyalists who have not surrendered continue to trade fire with pursuing government soldiers.

The soldiers who face the Misuari loyalists on the frontlines don’t need to carry too much ammunition; Zamboanga City is host to one of the military’s main bases, and supplies are almost literally just around the corner.

But wouldn’t the fully armed Misuari loyalist already have used up all his supplies by now?

According to the testimony of former hostages, however, the loyalists prepositioned ammunition and even critical supplies like medicine before they marched into Zamboanga. Maricel Teves, who was wounded while in captivity, recounted what she had heard: “They said they planned this a long time ago and that their firearms were already in these areas.” Junior Morte, a 60-year-old who escaped from the Misuari loyalists, said the renegades’ provisions were well-stocked. “They just go to the houses where they left their supplies.”

This kind of information will be highly useful in the rebellion case filed against the Misuari loyalists. But—to go back to the original question—how much does it cost to wage a rebellion?

Let us assume that there were a total of 300 Misuari loyalists who stole into Zamboanga on Sept. 9; let us assume further that each renegade began the plan to march into the city center armed with one M16 and a supply of 200 bullets each. At, say, P5 per bullet, it would then have cost Misuari and his leaders P300,000 to arm their troops at the outset—assuming that they had the weapons to begin with.

Not an impossible amount, although Misuari is not exactly rolling in cash. But if the rifles are new, the total cost would run into the millions. That makes the question even more interesting: Where did Misuari source the funds?

Malacañang has vowed to track the financiers down. Given President Aquino’s personal interest in the conflict (he has been based in Zamboanga City for the last several days), there is reason to believe that the Palace actually means what it says. Its report should make for revealing reading.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 10:11 AM
The Constitution and the pork barrel scam

by Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno

Posted on 09/19/2013 12:28 PM | Updated 09/19/2013 9:20 PM

Below is the speech delivered by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during the 3rd Integrity Summit at the Makati Shangri-La on Thursday, September 19. It was originally titled, “The Constitution’s Framework for Addressing Misuse of Public Funds.”

All the recent attention being given to reports of widespread corruption involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund and associated public funds has seen the emergence of several threads of discussion.

One line of discussions has tracked the politics and culture discourses, some raising questions as fundamental as whether we have a cultural genetic defect as a people that has allowed massive public frauds to be perpetrated in our sad history.

It was even a surprise to me that some of the acknowledged best management minds in the country have offered to the public, condemnatory anthropological conclusions about the Filipino, without a management solution being offered.

Twined with these culture-heavy discussions are discussions on defects in the political system, questions on the ability of voters to make wise electoral choices, the incentives that the system has created for voting, and the payback that politicians expect to reap once they emerge victorious. This has fuelled the claimed wisdom of proposals related to electoral finance reform.

At one end of the spectrum is a call to diminish discretion on the part of both the legislature and the executive to the smallest possible space, demanding that budgeting be done on narrow and specific line items where the projects are identified with definiteness, in not only the General Appropriations Act, but also in all the other statutes relevant to the appropriation of the different kinds of revenue sources.

To my mind, there is however, a vacuum that is missing in the discussion, and that is, the Constitution’s place in addressing corruption. There is general acceptance that the Constitution contains basic principles and rules that must be followed in the protection of the rights of the human individual against the possible all-powerful incursion of the State.

What is often forgotten, however, is that the Constitution also provides a practical framework for addressing issues of governance. The constitutional framework is practical because it describes with sufficient clarity, the process by which accountability over public funds is to be ensured.

And, with respect to the constitutional requirement on fidelity over public resources, statutes have been enacted in line with the Constitution. It is my hope that with this perspective be included in the discussions, the people, including public officials, can collectively strengthen the rule of law, because henceforth its elements will be scrupulously observed on an operational level.

As a cautionary note, some of the statutory provisions herein cited have not yet been subjected to a constitutional contest, thus this paper is not to serve in any manner as a basis for arriving at a specific, binding legal conclusion on a narrow point of law.

Likewise, some of the constitutional provisions likewise cited here have not yet been subjected to judicial interpretation, thus the same cautionary note applies.

The Constitution, COA and accountability

The most important constitutional body to ensure that public funds are released and expended with fidelity is the Commission on Audit.

Under Article IX-D of the Constitution:

SECTION 2 (1). The Commission on Audit shall have the power, authority, and duty to examine, audit, and settle all accounts pertaining to the revenue and receipts of, and expenditures or uses of funds and property, owned or held in trust by, or pertaining to, the Government, or any of its subdivisions, agencies, or instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations with original charters, and on a post-audit basis: (a) constitutional bodies, commissions and offices that have been granted fiscal autonomy under this Constitution; (b) autonomous state colleges and universities; (c) other government-owned or controlled corporations and their subsidiaries; and (d) such non-governmental entities receiving subsidy or equity, directly or indirectly, from or through the Government, which are required by law or the granting institution to submit to such audit as a condition of subsidy or equity. However, where the internal control system of the audited agencies is inadequate, the Commission may adopt such measures, including temporary or special pre-audit, as are necessary and appropriate to correct the deficiencies. It shall keep the general accounts of the Government and, for such period as may be provided by law, preserve the vouchers and other supporting papers pertaining thereto.

And in line with this duty must, under the same article:

SECTION 4. The Commission shall submit to the President and Congress, within the time fixed by law, an annual report covering the financial condition and operation of the Government, its subdivisions, agencies, and instrumentalities, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and non-governmental entities subject to its audit, and recommend measures necessary to improve their effectiveness and efficiency. It shall submit such other reports as may be required by law.

In addition, in a special section in Article VI of the Constitution on the Legislative Department, the COA is specifically given a role defined as follows:

Section 20. The records and books of accounts of the Congress shall be preserved and be open to the public in accordance with law, and such books shall be audited by the Commission on Audit which shall publish annually an itemized list of amounts paid to and expenses for each Member.

The COA is not an entirely new creation of the 1987 Constitution. It evolved from the Office of the Auditor of the Philippine Islands in 1899, into a Bureau of the Insular Auditor in 1901, to a Bureau of Audits in 1905.

The 1935 Constitution elevated the office to a constitutional body named the General Auditing Office, popularly known as the GAO. The 1973 Constitution renamed the GAO into its present form known as the COA, whose leadership was converted from a one-man Auditor General into a 3-man commission.

The 1987 Constitution retains the present form of the COA except for changes to the qualifications of the Commissioners. There are two very significant changes that the 1987 Constitution introduced.

The first was to declare and strengthen the independence of the 3 Constitutional Commissions, including COA. Not only are they declared independent, they are to be fiscally autonomous, the salaries of the Commissioners are not to be decreased during their tenure in office, and they shall have the power to promulgate rules of practice and procedure before it.

The second was to vest in the COA the “exclusive authority...to define the scope of its audit and examination, establish the techniques and methods required” for this audit and examination.

An analysis of the above provisions of the Constitution, together with some relevant provisions in the Administrative Code of 1987, will reveal that the COA has under its powers to examine, audit and settle all fund and property accounts of the State, the duty to achieve the following objectives:

(1) Determine whether or not the fiscal responsibility that rests directly with the head of the government agency has been properly and effectively discharged. This fiscal responsibility has been defined under the same Administrative Code as;

All resources of the government shall be managed, expended or utilized in accordance with law and regulations and safeguarded against loss or wastage through illegal or improper disposition to ensure efficiency, economy and effectiveness in the operations of government. The responsibility to take care that such policy is faithfully adhered to rests directly with the chief or head of the government agency concerned.

(2) Develop and implement a comprehensive audit program that shall encompass an examination of financial transactions, accounts and reports, including evaluation of compliance with applicable laws and regulations;

(3) Institute control measures through the promulgation of auditing and accounting rules and regulations governing the receipts disbursements, and uses of funds and property, consistent with the total economic development efforts of the Government;

(4) Promulgate auditing and accounting rules and regulations so as to facilitate the keeping, and enhance the information value of the accounts of the Government;

(5) Institute measures designed to preserve and ensure the independence of its representatives; and

(6) Endeavor to bring its operations closer to the people by the delegation of authority through decentralization, consistent with the provisions of the Constitution and the laws.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 10:13 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

For the members of the audience who are running businesses, we understand how critical the role of our internal and external auditors are. We take care to ensure that our internal auditors are armed with sufficient authority in order that our business resources are used efficiently, economically, and effectively. COA performs this critical role for government.

The Commission has regular audit teams assigned to each government agency to ensure that the agencies’ financial reports are presented fairly and accurately and their financial operations are conducted in line with applicable laws and regulations.

In addition, COA has special audit teams to look into the efficiency of programs and activities and eliminate wasteful spending. It also conducts fraud audits in agencies with probable fraudulent transactions in order to safeguard public coffers.

Special and fraud audits can be conducted any time, and any concerned citizen may request such audits. In the case of requests for fraud audits, the complainant does not need to disclose his identity. In the same manner, both the Constitution and the Administrative Code with particularity, has armed the COA with the powers to:

(1) promulgate rules to prevent irregular, unnecessary, extravagant or unconscionable expenditures or uses of government resources;

(2) adopt measures to correct inadequacies of the internal control system of the audited agencies, including, when necessary, adopting special pre-audit;

(3) examine all documents filed with other agencies in connection with government revenue collection operations;

(4) exercise visitorial authority over non-government entities that are either subsized by the State, those required to pay levies, have government shares, have received counterpart funds from the government, or are partly funded by donations through government;

(5) upon direction of the President, exercise visitorial authority over non-government entities whose loans are guaranteed by the Government;

(6) assist in the collection of all debts due Government;

(7) order the retention of money by a public officer due a person who is indebted to the Government;

(8 ) to inspect the originals of orders, deeds, contracts or documents involving public funds and failure to do so can be the basis for disciplinary action, as well as a permanent disallowance of the claim, assessment of additional levy or government share, or withholding of government funding or donation;

(9) investigate and conduct inquiries, summon parties, and subpoena for testimony and submission of documents;

(10) punish for contempt as under the Rules of Court;

(11) conduct random and periodic inspections, including ocular ones;

(12) seize the office and the contents thereof of any local treasurer or accountable officer in cases of shortage of cash on hand, close and render his accounts to the date of taking possession and temporarily continue the public business of such office and the auditor who seizes the offices shall ipso facto supersede the local treasurer until or officer until the latter is restored or another is designated;

(13) place under constructive distraint personal property of the accountable officer upon a prima facie finding of malversation, and there is reasonable ground to believe the officer is retiring from government service, intends to leave the country or remove or hide his property.

The COA is required by the Constitution to submit annual audit reports to the President and the Congress, and such other reports that may be required by law. Such reports are available at its website. Such report is not only to cover the financial condition and operation of Government but should also recommend measures necessary to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the audited government entities.

In exercising its audit function, the COA may deputize private auditors to conduct special audits, in the exigencies of the service.

The President, Congress, agencies and the public

It is not spelled out in the Constitution what is to be done with the COA reports. But their responses to such reports are to be the natural outcome of the inherent roles of these persons as spelled out in the Constitution.

The President, under his “faithful execution of the laws” duty under Section 5 Article VII of the Constitution, is naturally expected, through the appropriate department under his supervision and control, to act on the COA report.

The spectrum of actions he can perform under his “supervision and control” powers is wide, and for this purpose, he cannot only investigate administratively the performance of any executive department agency as a response to the report, he can execute personnel movements, and take all necessary actions to protect government assets from misuse.

The legislative department is naturally expected by the very nature of its role to enact legislative measures to ensure the lawful use of public resources, and that they are economically, efficiently and effectively used.

It is during the deliberations on the annual budget proposal of the President or on special appropriations bills that this process of examination, evaluation and deliberation is normally expected to take place. What about the public? What is its role in the context of all of the above-described roles?

Under Article XI, Section 1 of the Constitution, “[p]ublic officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency xxx” But the Constitution does not restrict itself to this statement of policy. The Constitution also provides means for the people to enforce it and make it a living principle.

The Constitution empowers the people to take an active role in checking government by allowing citizens to access information of public concern. It goes further than most countries’ constitutions by including the right to be informed as part of the Bill of Rights. Article III, Section 7 states that “[a]ccess to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

Armed with enough information, the public may file complaints with the Ombudsman. The Constitution requires, “[t]he Ombudsman and his Deputies, as protectors of the people, [to] act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the Government xxx, and shall, in appropriate cases, notify the complainants of the action taken and the result thereof.” Let me stress that complaints can be filed in any form, including anonymous complaints.

Investigation and prosecution for misuse of public funds

There are several entities critical to investigation of and prosecution for illegal acts involving the misuse of public funds.

The first is the spectrum of the investigative and prosecutorial powers lodged in the President. The Administrative Code and specific statutes locate these powers in several executive units, the foremost being the Department of Justice, especially through its constituent investigative unit, the National Bureau of Investigation and the National Prosecution Service, its principal prosecutorial unit. The other is the Philippine National Police under the Secretary of Interior and Local Government.

The second set of powers of investigation and prosecution for misuse of public funds belong to the Ombudsman. Under the Constitution, the Office of the Ombudsman can:

(1) Investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.

(2) Direct, upon complaint or at its own instance, any public official or employee of the Government xxx, as well as of any government-owned or controlled corporation with original charter, to perform and expedite any act or duty required by law, or to stop, prevent, and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties.

(3) Direct the officer concerned to take appropriate action against a public official or employee at fault, and recommend his removal, suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution, and ensure compliance therewith.

(4) Direct the officer concerned, in any appropriate case, and subject to such limitations as may be provided by law, to furnish it with copies of documents relating to contracts or transactions entered into by his office involving the disbursement or use of public funds or properties, and report any irregularity to the Commission on Audit for appropriate action.

(5) Request any government agency for assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents.

(6) Publicize matters covered by its investigation when circumstances so warrant and with due prudence.

(7) Determine the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in the Government and make recommendations for their elimination and the observance of high standards of ethics and efficiency.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 10:14 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

These powers laid out in the Constitution are reiterated in the Ombudsman Law. In addition, this law empowers the Ombudsman to:

(1) Administer oaths, issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum, and take testimony in any investigation or inquiry, including the power to examine and have access to bank accounts and records; and

(2) Investigate and initiate the proper action for the recovery of ill-gotten and/or unexplained wealth amassed after February 25, 1986 and the prosecution of the parties involved therein.

The law requires the Ombudsman to “give priority to complaints filed against high ranking government officials and/or those occupying supervisory positions, complaints involving grave offenses as well as complaints involving large sums of money and/or properties.”

There are various rules that support and provide tools for the Ombudsman to fulfill its mandates. Under Republic Act 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, public officials must give a special waiver in favor of the Ombudsman in their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth to obtain from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents as may show their assets, liabilities, net worth, and also their business interests and financial connections in previous years, including, if possible, the year when they first assumed any office in the Government.

The Ombudsman may even call on the Courts to enforce its subpoena powers in the conduct of investigations. The Ombudsman can secure the attendance or presence of any absent or recalcitrant witness through application before the Sandiganbayan or before any inferior or superior court having jurisdiction of the place where the witness or evidence is found.

Another set of powers which is narrow but very powerful is the power to investigate instances of money laundering. The Anti-Money Laundering Act includes the proceeds from graft and corruption and plunder among the “dirty money” as among the instances that may be investigated by the Anti-Money Laundering Council. After its investigation, the Council may also ask the Court of Appeals to freeze such dirty money and file complaints with the Department of Justice and the Ombudsman.

A 4th set of powers lie in the Philippine State’s ability to make use of international or foreign investigative, legal and judicial assistance. For instance, our government can request from our treaty partners, the extradition of government officials, who have committed graft and corruption.

Under the United Nations Convention against Corruption, which the Philippine Senate ratified in 2006, the 167 state parties agreed to cooperate with each other in the prevention, investigation, extradition and prosecution of offenders, and the tracing, freezing and recovery of ill-gotten wealth. The state parties are also bound to provide legal assistance in gathering evidence and transmitting them to the proper courts.

Does the citizenry have a role in the same? As I earlier opined, the Constitution does not make citizens mere bystanders in making public officials account for their actions and for their use of public funds. I mentioned the right of the public to file complaints with the Ombudsman and request audits to be conducted by COA.

Any citizen, with the endorsement of a legislator, may also initiate an impeachment complaint against the President, Vice-President, Justices of the Supreme Court, Members of the Constitutional Commissions and the Ombudsman. The ability of citizens to jumpstart investigations by the Ombudsman, COA and even the DOJ, is bolstered by their right to access information that may serve as basis for the prosecution of erring officials.

The role of the judiciary

When it comes to the final adjudication of legal liability for misuse of public funds, it will be the judiciary’s role to adjudge guilt or innocence. But it can only do so on the basis of the provisions of the Constitution or the law that are alleged to have been violated, and on the basis of the admissibility and the weight of the evidence that are before it.

If the action is civil, then only a preponderance of evidence is sufficient. If it is criminal, then the crime has to be proven beyond reasonable doubt.

While the judiciary has the power to order the arrest and continued detention of the accused, the State’s prosecutors must meet the burden of proof required for the issuance of arrest warrants and denial of bail. Bail, it must be remembered, is a constitutional right of any accused prior to his conviction.

A narrow exception is when a person is charged with an offense punishable by reclusion perpetua (e.g. plunder) but only when evidence of guilt is strong. The judiciary can also order the suspension of a person’s right to travel through hold departure orders against persons charged of crimes that fall within the jurisdiction of the Regional Trial Courts.

Unlike the two political branches of government, the executive and the legislature, the judiciary is prohibited from making decisions based on political considerations, not even in order to conform to public sentiment, especially in criminal proceedings.

Thus, it is important that the public understand that it is the duty of the appropriate bodies, the executive and the Ombudsman to ensure that the law they invoke and the evidence they present suffice to authorize the judiciary to arrest, detain and convict.

The judiciary must remain deaf, even to the public clamor for conviction, and can only hear what is appropriately brought before its halls of justice. That is why it is all-important that the country must have a judiciary that is populated by independent, competent judges who live in constant mortal fear of not doing what is right.

Sam Miguel
09-23-2013, 10:15 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Three Constitutional Principles that Need to be Further Operationalized.

Section 1 of Article XI of the Constitution provides:

Public office is a public trust. 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.

Thus far, we had been discussing mainly the financial auditing functions of the COA. Note however, that under the Administrative Code, the COA is to recommend measures to ensure the effectiveness and efficiency of the use of government resources. The Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, RA 6713 requires all government employees to: perform and discharge their duties with the highest degree of excellence, professionalism, intelligence and skill. They shall enter public service with utmost devotion and dedication to duty. They shall endeavor to discourage wrong perceptions of their roles as dispensers or peddlers of undue patronage.

The first principle I would like to ask the audience to give some thought to developing is the principle of measuring performance, not only in terms of financial fidelity, but according to the highest standards of professionalism, intelligence and skill, according to the principles that are already in law.

All of you run your organizations to achieve Key Results Areas or Key Performance Indicators. Should not every government unit also be required to have set objectives? What role should the public play in setting out those objectives?

The second principle I would like to leave you to think about is the concept of independence of the 3 constitutional bodies — COA, the Civil Service Commission and the COMELEC — as well as the judiciary and Ombudsman.

If our democracy is to be a fully functioning one, then the political branches of government must respect the independence of these bodies, and on their part, the independent bodies, the judiciary and the Ombudsman are expected to fight against any encroachment on their independence, financial or otherwise.

To what extent is this independence enhanced or weakened by the budget process and how is this affected by the amount of resources that is allocated to them? To what extent should the citizenry demand support for these constitutional bodies and for the judiciary?

If these bodies, together with the judiciary, are to act as effective checks to wrongdoing in the political branches of government, how much, as wise executives, what would you suggest for the government to allocate to preserve their independence and enhance their professionalism? At the same time, how would you measure the performance and render accountable these non-political bodies of government?

The third principle I would like you to reflect on is whether the reporting by all branches, departments and agencies of government is the kind of reporting that you, if you were the decision-makers, would want to receive in order that you can make policy decisions and undertake management actions.

Is this reporting being taken seriously, professionally, not only by those rendering the reports, but by Congress and the President, who should be reviewing them to ensure that the Philippine ship of state is proceeding according to the constitutional plan of government? If we have GNP or GDP targets, should we not also have public service delivery targets?

How will you make democracy work?

It is not for the Chief Justice to make suggestions today, and much less give directives, to any entity, private or public, on the courses of action that they should take in light of the ongoing public discussions on the misuse of public funds.

Four consolidated petitions are before the Supreme Court involving the legality of the Priority Development Assistance Fund. These will be heard and deliberated upon and it will be through the decision of the Court in those petitions that the voices of the justices, including mine, will be heard.

However, what I have shared with the audience today is the existing structure of governance under the Constitution and related laws on investigation and prosecution for misuse of public funds, and the people’s role in light of the disclosure of such alleged misuse.

While the freedom to express outrage over perceived anomalies is part of the guaranteed freedoms of the sovereign people, it is not only this collective vocal expression but the proper functioning of the constitutional and statutory bodies that are mandated to address the misuse of public funds, that make for a truly functioning democracy, one where the rule of law prevails. Therein lies the Filipinos’ potential to experience genuine constitutionalism.

At this point, allow me to just leave the audience with several questions: What would we give up to make our democracy work? How much toil and quiet hard work will we put in so that every office charged with the duty to make our system of governance work finally function in an organized and coordinated way?

How much of this monitoring of projects, this demanding for reports, this plodding through the maze of documents that are produced, are we willing to do day in and day out until accountability is finally integrated into the very fabric of the lives of private citizens and public officials?

How deeply do we believe that we can only shape our destiny as a people if we are willing to build in with painstaking patience, every nut, screw, bolt, and brick that make for a modern, accountable government? In the end, how much do we really love our country? – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
09-25-2013, 09:39 AM
Instructions in Singaporean pragmatism

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:37 pm | Monday, September 23rd, 2013

I had a chance to join 14 other Asean journalists in a wide-ranging interview with Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong last week. ANC’s Coco Alcuaz, formerly of Bloomberg, has already written of Lee’s pragmatic approach to the territorial disputes between China and some Asean member-states.

It is worth repeating the most important quote from Lee. Asked by Siti Hajar of the Borneo Bulletin whether the territorial disputes between certain Asean states and China can be resolved sooner rather than later, he replied:

“It cannot be resolved. These are territorial disputes. I say it is mine, you say it is yours. Whose is it? So either I say sorry, I made a mistake, it is yours; or you must say sorry, you made a mistake, it is mine. And no government can say that. So therefore, I do not think that the overlapping claims can be cleared up. They will remain overlapping. But what you can do is manage the situation, avoid some escalation at sea, on the land or sea itself, and where possible, do joint development of the resources which are there, which I think is Brunei’s approach from what I can see.”

It is certainly very much Singapore’s approach. From what I can see, the Singaporean success story is predicated on a clear-eyed understanding of its limits: It is a very small country, with hardly any natural resources; it cannot afford the luxury of indulgent denial. Lee’s stance on the South China Sea disputes seems to me to reflect this almost fatalistic acceptance of limits. The most that can be done, he says, is to “manage the situation.”

* * *

I thought it might be useful to run an extended excerpt from the group interview with Prime Minister Lee, the better to track his thinking. (Among other characteristics I’ve observed, he tends to tailor his answer to the questioner, in terms of specifics offered or milieu addressed.) The passage below is from the transcript his office produced; I have done some minor editing.

Nery: “Prime Minister, I would like to ask about China. How do you engage the region’s largest economy, with the largest military? Has the relationship evolved or changed since the days of Deng Xiaoping?”

PM Lee: “Yes, the relationship has evolved. China is much more developed, much more open, much more exposed to the world and familiar with the world and at the same time, our relationship with China has grown. Our trade with China has increased enormously. Our cooperation projects with China have evolved. If you look at it in terms of official government cooperation, we used to have, we started off with one major project in the Suzhou Industrial Park. We now are doing a Tianjin Eco-City. We have a knowledge city in Guangdong province, near Guangzhou. We have other science and tech IT parks in other cities in China and we have a lot of commercial projects, private sector investing in China, some properties, some infrastructure, some manufacturing, some hotel, hospitality services. In fact, we have 20, 30 billion dollars worth of investments in China. More than that, I think US$60 billion worth of investments. I just looked up the number recently. And I think the opportunities are there. So China is developing. I think that is good. China will be a strong country. We believe that China intends and sees it in its interest to be a peaceful member of the international community and we think that is good for China and good for the region and we have said so. I know that they have problems in the South China Sea, particularly the Philippines has problems in the South China Sea with China. You call it the West Philippine Sea, they call it the South Sea.”

Nery: “And Vietnam calls it the East Sea.”

PM Lee: “And Vietnam calls it the East Sea, so it is very complicated but it…”

Nguyen Thi Truc [of Viet Nam News]: “A big neighbor.”
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PM Lee: “Yes, it is a big neighbor but you can live with a big neighbor and I think it is better for us that the big neighbor is prospering than if the big neighbor is having problems.”

Nery: “At the same time, Mr. Prime Minister, you are one of the United States’ principal allies in the region.”

PM Lee: “No, no, we are not a treaty ally, you are an ally. So is Thailand. We are a friend of the United States. We have a Strategic Framework Agreement but we are not a treaty ally.”

Nery: “I was going to ask, how do you define this balancing act between China and the US.”

PM Lee: “As long as China and America are friends, it is easier. If not, it is more difficult. But we want to be friends with both. And on security matters, I think America plays an indispensable role in this region. It is not just the forces which visit Singapore, the LCS (littoral combat ships), or the aircraft but their overall security presence in the region which makes a big difference to the whole of the Asia-Pacific. And I think we will continue and that is not a role which China can take over from the United States, nor can Japan.”

Even here, in his discussion of the American security umbrella, he speaks of limits (neither China nor Japan “can take over from the United States”) as much as of possibilities.

* * *

Just before the 25th anniversary of the first People Power revolt, newly elected senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. made a bold assertion: If his father had not been ousted but instead continued in power, “siguro Singapore na tayo ngayon.”

Many have since taken the son to task, for taking liberties with history’s truths. I will not question his sincerity; perhaps he does think of his father as another Lee Kuan Yew, only betrayed by trusted associates.

But in Singapore, eliminating corruption is a simple matter of pragmatism. In that sense, Marcos’ so-called New Society was exceedingly impractical.

* * *

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 08:58 AM
Jinggoy Estrada rats on colleagues

COA slammed: ‘Selective justice is injustice’

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:29 am | Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Misery loves company.

The much-awaited privilege speech of Sen. Jinggoy Estrada predictably took to task his other colleagues in the Senate and some members of the House of Representatives for the alleged abuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

“Selective justice is injustice,” Estrada said, pointing out that out of the 371 lawmakers with “irregularities” in the PDAF noted in the Commission on Audit (COA) special report, the government seemed to focus only on himself and Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr. The three are already charged before the Ombudsman.

“We have been singled out,” Estrada lamented in his 17-page speech that curiously did not contain a single line in his defense.

Entitled “The Untold PDAF Story that the People Should Know,” the speech told a not so pretty story of how senators and congressmen are readily “rewarded, bribed,” and given “additionals” by the executive branch to get its way.

The speech was considered in the Senate as an attempt by Estrada to balance the adverse public opinion against the opposition lawmakers who have been implicated in the P10-billion pork barrel scam masterminded allegedly by Janet Lim-Napoles.

Estrada said the supposed “government-wide” performance audit conducted by the COA covered only three national agencies and five provinces.

Pilloried in the media and charged in the Ombudsman for allegedly making millions of pesos in kickbacks from the PDAF, Estrada said the Aquino administration also used the pork barrel system to get its way in Congress, such as the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona in his impeachment trial.

“After the conviction of the former Chief Justice, those who voted to convict were allotted an additional P50 million as provided in a private and confidential letter memorandum of the then chair of the Senate committee on finance [now Senate President Franklin Drilon],” Estrada said in his speech.

Incentive after the fact

“Where did the money come from? I am sure Secretary [Florencio] Abad knows the answer to this. And I am sure that this was not a unilateral decision of Senate President Drilon to hand out P50 million to each senator,” Estrada said in English and Filipino.

Estrada said he voted for the removal of Corona but did so only because he believed it was the right thing to do.

[B]“I stand by my decision in my vote to convict the former Chief Justice and assure our people that I was never influenced by this incentive, which came after the fact,” Estrada said.

Estrada also hinted at the lack of transparency on how many millions of pesos in pork barrel funds the executive branch actually released to its allies during the previous administration.

“The unclear system in the apparent secret arrangements and how much each lawmaker received could be the reason why the DBM refuses to render a complete account of releases to all lawmakers as requested by the COA,” Estrada said.

Economic stimulus fund

“The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) website only provides information on PDAF releases from 2009 onwards. Why was there no information on releases in 2008? 2007? 2006? And other years? If you open the 2009 pages, the PDAF releases for then Senators (Rodolfo) Biazon, (Mar) Roxas, (Aquilino) Pimentel and Senators (Francis) Escudero, (Antonio) Trillanes and Manny Villar are among those conspicuously not posted,” Estrada added.

These current and former senators are known allies of President Aquino.

Estrada said Drilon and former Senate Presidents Juan Ponce Enrile, Manny Villar and Edgardo Angara “all know that the budget negotiations they conduct with the House and the DBM include negotiations not only for PDAF and the infrastructure projects of legislators but also for so-called congressional initiatives or budget insertions.”

“At one point, when Sen. Edgardo Angara was chair of the finance committee, I remember he even advised the senators in a caucus that there was a so-called economic stimulus fund where legislators from both Houses were allowed to avail of allocations for projects over and above the regular pork barrels. Thereafter, we were all asked to submit our listings to the committee,” Estrada said.

Puzzling DBM silence

Estrada challenged Abad to release to the COA the complete documents so that the agency could complete the audit of P115 billion worth of pork barrel funds released from 2007 to 2009. The COA special audit managed to audit just P41 billion of the pork released during the period.

“It is puzzling that the DBM has kept silent in the midst of the discussions about the nation’s treasury,” he said.

Estrada lashed out at his colleagues, Senators Teofisto Guingona III and Alan Peter Cayetano in particular, for focusing the blue ribbon inquiry on him, Enrile and Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr.

Estrada said the blue ribbon panel failed to investigate the COA’s finding of P1.2-billion questionable transactions of some local government units funded from the PDAF of administration allies Cayetano, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago and former Senators Francis Pangilinan and Manny Villar.

“Why were they not mentioned? Was it because they are your allies? I am not saying that they have sinned. This is based on the COA report that there were irregularities in their allotments,” Estrada said.

Allies in House

Estrada also turned his fire on the irregularities involving public funds allegedly committed by staunch Aquino allies in the House of Representatives—House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II and former An-Waray Rep. Florencio Noel.

“Were their PDAF properly used? It doesn’t appear so because according to the COA special audit report, 28 suppliers of Mandaluyong City denied having undertaken 167 transactions amounting to P28.744 million,” Estrada said.

“It means there were 28 suppliers of Mandaluyong who said they had no transactions worth P28.7 million in the city of Mandaluyong so it could be said that they were also ghost projects,” Estrada added.

Never a bribe

During interpellation, Drilon asked Estrada if the P50 million given after the Corona impeachment trial was “a bribe.”

“But categorically Senator Estrada, categorically you can state that it was not a bribe?” Drilon said.

“It was not a bribe. It was never a bribe,” Estrada said.

On interpellation by Enrile, the Senate President and presiding officer during the Corona impeachment trial, Estrada said “somebody” approached him as regards the needed conviction “but did not promise any reward.”

Enrile pressed Estrada to identify the person but Estrada said, “I would rather keep it to myself since I was never swayed by the influence of this person.”

Integrity of impeachment

“I just want to preserve the integrity of the impeachment,” Enrile said.

“I was never swayed by anybody. Not even Senate President Drilon. Not even the one close to Malacañang. I was never swayed,” Estrada said.

Just as he inhibited from the blue ribbon proceedings, Estrada didn’t offer any explanation of his involvement in the Napoles PDAF scam.

He instead scored Guingona for repeatedly asking resource persons to name him, Enrile and Revilla as those that endorsed Napoles’ fake NGOs as recipients of their PDAF.

“I am not stopping nor do I plan to stop resource persons from naming names if this is part of their narrative,” Estrada said, lamenting that the names of the three senators were being mentioned “like a broken record.”

Estrada also called out Cayetano, who during the course of principal whistle-blower Benhur Luy’s testimony, asked if one of those involved had the slogan “Gusto ko happy ka” in apparent reference to Enrile.

“I know these people know they are the ones I’m referring to. My only message to them is, ‘For every finger you point to accuse and taunt, four fingers are pointed right back at you,’” Estrada said.

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 08:59 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

‘Blatantly incomplete’

“And since he is fond of quoting from the Bible, perhaps he can reflect on this. Let the one without sin cast the first stone. Don’t be too self-righteous. And most of all, don’t be too hypocritical,” Estrada added.

Estrada lashed out at the COA for its “selective and blatantly incomplete” report on the use of lawmakers’ PDAF.

“The COA report also said that it was not able to establish total releases for each legislator. Is this the reason why only P2 million was audited for Congresswoman Henedina Abad? P178 million for Congressman Niel Tupas? P197 million for Congressman Isidro Ungab? P351 million for Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano? P5 million for former Sen. Mar Roxas? P3 million for Senator Trillanes?” Estrada said.

“In contrast, the PDAF of Enrile, Estrada and Revilla are closely examined and entirely audited. What makes us so special, COA Chair Pulido-Tan?” Estrada added.

Estrada said the COA report on the PDAF only audited P41 billion out of the P115.987 billion in pork released between 2007 and 2009.

He said the COA report also failed to identify the legislators behind P69.2 billion in infrastructure projects and the legislators behind the more than P1 billion in PDAF releases.

“P70 billion are unaccounted for. Shouldn’t the public know who the legislators are behind these? Can’t they be identified or does Chair Pulido-Tan just refuse to do so?” Estrada said.

Selective reporting

Estrada also trained his guns on the report presented by Tan before the Senate inquiry.

“The special audit report also covered PDAF releases to 371 legislators. Yet during the hearing again, Chair Pulido-Tan conveniently mentioned and repeatedly named only four legislators—Enrile, Revilla, Estrada and (Gregorio) Honasan,” Estrada said.

Estrada said that when Sen. Nancy Binay asked that she name the other legislators in the COA report, Tan excused herself.

“We therefore ask why Mr. President. Why the propensity for selective reporting? Why are certain pieces of information readily released?” Estrada said.

He also scored Tan for releasing the audit report to the media and then offering her often quoted “kahindik-hindik [appalling]” commentary.

He also criticized Tan for traveling abroad too many times a year. Estrada said that Tan traveled five times in 2010, nine times in 2011 and 10 times in 2012.

“And one more thing about the COA, Mr. President. Since when did COA ever start to have its findings validated by a broadsheet?” Estrada said.

“Chair Tan’s statement in a newspaper was quite appalling. ‘The Inquirer validates our findings. It’s providential.’ Is this the kind of Commission on Audit we have now?” Estrada added.

“We all here are victims of a flawed system which is so ingrained that it has been institutionalized,” he said.

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 09:01 AM
^^^ Funny how Jinggoy only brings up the so-called "bribe" for the Corona conviction almost a year and a half after the trial concluded. If he sincerely felt that was unethical or even illegal, why did he not say so, even privately in the Senate, and return that P50 million in additional funding he supposedly got as one of those who voted to convict Rene Corona?

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 09:06 AM
Sharon Cuneta’s mega-defense: Prove it, I’ll give P10M, leave Kiko

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:47 am | Thursday, September 26th, 2013

Hell hath no fury like a “megastar” rising in defense of her senator-husband.

Soon after Sen. Jinggoy Estrada named former Sen. Francis “Kiko” Pangilinan as among the senators who misused their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), the latter’s wife, Sharon Cuneta, responded with a dare on her Twitter account.

“If anyone reading this can prove to me that my husband has stolen any amount from his PDAF in his 12 years as senator, I will give you P10 million in cash and I will leave my husband. That is how confident I am,” she tweeted.

“Hindi kami magnanakaw. Hindi kami tulad ng iba na kaya ipakain sa mga anak namin ang perang di amin o di namin pinaghirapan,” Cuneta added.

Cuneta’s dare registered 268 retweets by 6:45 p.m. Bacoor Rep. Lani M. Mercado was also tagged in some of the retweets.

Mercado is married to Sen. Bong Revilla, who is also linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

By some happy coincidence, Mercado, Revilla, Estrada and Cuneta are members of the movie and entertainment industry.

One netizen even asked Cuneta if Estrada was her “kumpare.”

“Yon na nga. Nakakagulat lang,” Cuneta tweeted back.

‘Huh??’

Sen. Pia Cayetano (@piacayetano) expressed surprise at Estrada’s statement that senators who voted for the conviction of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in May 2012 were rewarded with an additional P50 million in PDAF.

“Huh?? I voted yes to all—RH, sin tax and conviction of CJ Corona. I never got addl PDAF. So easy to check records,” Cayetano said.

In general, netizens just chided Estrada for his hour-long privilege speech,

“Bombshell??? Liar,” tweeted former Miss International @aupijuan.

‘Victim bigger lie’

“To be called ‘sexy’ is a lie. To say, I am a VICTIM, is a bigger lie,” Aurora Pijuan added.

“Sen. #jinggoy’s speech went for almost an hour when in fact, it can be said in just one sentence “ba’t ako lang, eh sila din nakinabang,” said netizen ? @nixiroll.

“Gusto na lang yata maging whistle-blower. Para daw gumanda-ganda image nya. lol,” netizen koai posted on the Inquirer.net website.

“Two wrongs do not make it right. Others may be guilty of pdaf scam, but that does not acquit you from your involvement in the crime,” Nihil also posted on the Inquirer.net website

“Debate on #porkscam after Sen #jinggoy privilege speech: flawed system or greedy hands?” Dr. Eric Tayag tweeted using his name @erictayagSays.

Desperate move

“Desperate move of a spoiled kid Jinggoy Estrada, please grow up,” netizen Anne Sop also posted on Facebook of Inquirer.net.

And @HecklerForever tweeted this: “THIS JUST IN: Statesman Claro M. Recto is listening in heaven. Every time he hears something laughable he slaps a cherubim.”

“My favorite part of #jinggoy’s speech is when he said he did not steal money. There was no such part on the speech,” netizen @justineloise posted on Twitter.

“He is NOT explaining his role in the scandal, all he is doing is involving some of his cohorts! He is saying Sama Sama na tayong lahat sa Imyerno, hnd lang ako!,” Amorsolo Sanlo posted on the Facebook account of Inquirer.net

But Cuneta was apparently requested by her husband to stop tweeting about Estrada’s accusation.

“I said na my piece, Sweetheart, no more na! :-) hahaha sowy!!” she said in a tweet where she tagged her husband’s tweeter handle @kikopangilinan.

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 09:08 AM
‘Sustain the outrage to logical conclusion’

By DJ Yap

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:21 am | Thursday, September 26th, 2013

In the furor that surrounded the unraveling of the pork barrel scam involving detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, an old friend of his complained to Cielito Habito, Inquirer columnist and former economic planning secretary.

“He said, ‘why all the fuss? The money had been spent anyway yet why are they making all this noise?’” Habito recalled at the inaugural Inquirer Conversations, a forum to discuss issues of public interest.

His words drew collective disapproval from a room full of Inquirer readers, including academics, retirees, writers and businessmen, who attended the forum on Wednesday at the newspaper’s head office in Makati City.

Habito himself was disappointed with his unnamed friend’s sentiment. “If a lot of Filipinos think this way, what will become of us as a country? We have come to that point wherein we just shrug our shoulders and never mind—people love this phrase—‘Let’s just move on,’” he said.

“But we have to sustain this. We have to carry it to its logical conclusion. Otherwise, people will never learn and by people, I mean people who are the perpetrators of this evil and those of us who allow that evil to happen,” Habito said.

First to break news

Echoing his point, Inquirer publisher Raul Pangalangan noted the role of the newspaper, the first to break the news on the Napoles scandal in a series of investigative reports, in the growing public clamor for the abolition of the pork barrel.

“The Inquirer has served as a catalyst for public action on this issue from the time we broke the story, and I hope that as Ciel said, we will sustain the energy and sustain the outrage,” said Pangalangan, a former University of the Philippines College of Law dean.

Inquirer CEO and president Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez said Wednesday’s forum was the first of a series of conversations that would take a deeper look into the day’s headlines.

“It’s only through a greater understanding of these events that we can develop and nurture our passions for change. And it is only through understanding that we can turn our passions into commitment and our commitment into action,” she said.

“We wrote about this [pork barrel] seven years ago, and it was really jolting to see that in some ways some things have not changed,” Romualdez said.

She added that the holding of Inquirer Conversations was in keeping with the newspaper’s vision to be a catalyst for social progress and change.

Finding a better way

In his presentation, titled “Pork and its Discontents, Finding a Better Way,” Habito sought to put in context the entire discussion on pork barrel in all its incarnations from the defunct Countrywide Development Fund to the befouled Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

He spoke at length about the Philippines’ economic indicators, or what he called his “PTK test,” referring to price stability (“presyo”), jobs (“trabaho”) and income (“kita”), all of which were now pointing to a “narrow, shallow and hollow growth.”

Which means the growth “benefits a few sectors; the growth sectors have weak linkages to the rest of the economy and there is low domestic value-added export,” he said.

Poverty-increasing growth

Although the Philippines has indeed grown considerably under President Aquino’s leadership and partly due to greater investor confidence, Habito described it as a jobless growth, “in fact, a job-killing, poverty-increasing growth.”

He further compared the country’s situation with that of its neighbors, including Thailand and Indonesia, saying how badly the country was lagging behind until recently.

Agriculture hardly grew

Habito noted that one sector that had scarcely grown at all was agriculture, not coincidentally the favorite area of perpetrators of graft, with much of the pork barrel funneled to bogus nongovernment organizations coursed through the Department of Agriculture.

The rationale for the existence of pork barrel was that it supposedly “enables representatives to identify projects for communities that local government units (LGUs) cannot afford,” he said, quoting President Aquino.

But Habito said the size of the LGUs’ internal revenue allotment need not be a binding constraint, as to necessitate lawmakers stepping in to fund projects.

Consultative mechanisms

He said there were consultative budget mechanisms in place, including regional and local development councils (RDCs and LDCs). “There are mechanisms in law, without having to ask lawmakers to play God as if he was in the best position to know what is needed,” Habito said.

But in actual practice, he said, the suggestions of RDCs were seldom considered in the actual budget deliberations, “which is why they are called paper tigers.”

“LGUs rarely convene or make proper use of LDCs and local executives are not keen to share governance with their true bosses. They’re not particularly hospitable to participation by civil society,” Habito said.

Participatory budgeting

But he said participatory budgeting was actually working very well in other places. He cited the example of Porto Alegre in Brazil, which pioneered such a budget mechanism in 1989 “with a process that involves tens of thousands of citizens.”

He said participatory budgeting had spread across 140 municipalities in Brazil, hundreds of Latin American cities and dozens of cities in Europe, Asia, Africa and North America.

In the Philippines, Habito said there were also moves to institute “bottom-up budgeting,” which sought to ensure the inclusion of funding requirements for the development needs of 1,233 focus cities and municipalities in the budget proposals of relevant national agencies.

“In my view, you don’t need legislators meddling in the budget at the micro- or even mesolevel,” Habito said.

So what will life be without pork?

‘Dream world’

Habito spoke of his “dream world without pork barrel” in which “legislators will focus on lawmaking; candidates will not invest huge sums just to be elected; and where worthy candidates are more likely to win.”

In that dream world, he added, “local executives are recognized for convening and using their LDCs and those who don’t are sanctioned by the DILG (Department of the Interior and Local Government).”

President Aquino may have decided that the 2014 budget will have zero PDAF, but whether there will be no more pork barrel remains a question mark, Habito said.

“We’ve heard that song before … . I don’t trust that mechanism at all, of putting money in the hands of congressmen, not literally, but giving them discretion to identify projects,” he said.

During the open forum, Inquirer opinion editor Rosario Garcellano asked Habito if he thought Aquino, who enjoyed high approval ratings, lacked good advisers.

“I hate to comment publicly on what I think about the President and his advisers. What I can observe though is in fact, as in any president, there is a variety of perspectives and sentiments that is brought to him. In the end, you may have the best advisers but you have advisers with contrary views. It’s really up to the President himself,” Habito said.

“I’d like to think he’s done more good things than things that are open to question. I will have to rely on that to hope that we can have definitive change under his leadership. So, the only way to move forward is to push for sustaining this advocacy,” he said.

Continue focus

Habito said the news agenda should continue focusing on the pork barrel scam.

“This should be no flavor of the month. We need to hold on to it. Some people said [the fighting in Zamboanga] was meant as a distraction to stop people from talking about the Napoles scam,” he said.

“Well, the Inquirer is not allowing that to happen. This is the kind of sustained pressure we need people to keep giving, and it’s a challenge the Inquirer is facing head-on,” he said.

“We should not have the attitude of my friend, that since the money has been spent, let’s just move on. This is not the kind of attitude that will lead to a great nation,” he said.

“I wish to exhort all of us to play our little role because things won’t happen automatically. Even if we have the best president, it won’t amount to much unless we, as the true bosses, are moved to action,” Habito said, eliciting applause from the audience.

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 09:31 AM
Still, getting back

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:10 pm | Wednesday, September 25th, 2013

The loot is bigger than the P900 million released through the Department of Agrarian Reform to Janet Napoles’ NGOs from 2004 to 2010. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. According to the Commission on Audit, no less than P23.6 billion from the Malampaya Fund was “haphazardly” disbursed by the Department of Budget and Management to the Arroyo administration. Some 60 percent of that was used up in the last few months of that government as its officials tried to make hay while the sun still shone. There was practically no accounting.

The “irregularities” included: cash allocations exceeding official allotments by close to P4 billion; several checks totaling P271.798 million released to unidentified people without authorization papers; no accountability in the release of P2.609 billion to local governments; recipients not obliged to report their use of the funds; and the DBM did not give disbursement vouchers to the audit. In one case, in 2010, the DBM gave P7.07 billion from the Malampaya Fund to the Department of Public Works and Highways though the identified projects had nothing to do with energy.

All this is a good reminder of a couple of things. One is that much of the thievery that pork represents happened during Arroyo’s time. Which is really obvious though that tends to be forgotten: Napoles operated her P10-billion scam over a period of 10 years. That means a great deal of it happened during Arroyo’s time, at the heart of the culture of impunity. It is a facet of that culture of impunity. That culture had to do not just with the ease with which people could murder other people, it had to do with the ease with which people, notably public officials, could steal.

Two is the astounding scale of its pillage, which made the Arroyo regime the most venal and larcenous after Marcos. The sums are almost unreal in their proportions, like play money, enough to allow it to go past the public radar, which it actually did for a long time. It’s only now we are beginning to appreciate the viciousness of it, in the corresponding scale of want and misery it spawned. It’s only now we’re beginning to grasp the reality of it, and get furious about it. Twenty-three billion pesos almost makes Napoles’ P10 billion penny-ante given particularly that much of it disappeared like a rabbit in a magician’s hat but a few months to compared to Napoles’ 10 years.

Which brings us to the question: What to do about this?

I’m glad we’ve gotten round to prosecuting not just Napoles but the legislators that took part in the scam, some of them aggressively. It’s a robust sign of political will, the current government showing a willingness and determination to push through with it. Though thankfully, P-Noy was in Mindanao over the last couple of weeks, dug in in the trenches, preventing the accused senators and congressmen or their intercessors from making a beeline to Malacañang to plead their cases. Many of them were allies in the impeachment of Renato Corona.

This is far more important than the trial and conviction of Erap, which smacked of politicking, thereby leaving no deep or lasting impressions. Or producing any ripples over space or time. Given particularly a roused and vigilant public, the Ombudsman’s work has that awesome potential today.

But there is one thing we ought to be doing as well but are not. Which is really the astonishing thing: It’s the one thing that’s right there before us but cannot see.

That is to move to recover, retrieve, get back what has been stolen from us.

Jailing them will of course go a long way toward giving order to our universe, toward giving justice to the aggrieved. But nothing punishes crooks more than hitting them right where it hurts, which is in their greed, which is their venality, which is in their katakawan. Nothing punishes them more than getting back what they stole. Nothing punishes them more than making them give back to us what they took from us.

That has always been the missing link in our anticorruption campaigns: recovering the wealth and giving it back to us, those two not necessarily being one and the same. Recovering the wealth is hard enough, never mind recovering the wealth for us. That has never really happened, notwithstanding the creation of the Presidential Commission on Good Government after martial law. Though the PCGG did manage to recover some loot, it never got the bulk of it. The loot remained with the Marcoses and their cronies, giving us the sensation, each time Bongbong Marcos talks of becoming president, of being fried in our own fat.

Today, the PCGG has reached a pass where it’s seeking its own dissolution on the ground that it can do no more. When in fact it’s needed now more than ever, not just to continue hounding the Marcoses and their cronies but to begin hounding Arroyo and her cronies. Indeed to begin hounding as well the perpetrators of pork and other scams. Why should we want to recover only the ill-gotten wealth of the past and not the present? Yet that is the one thing we cannot propose as a national priority. Hell, that is the one thing we cannot even see as a need.

It’s the strangest thing in the world, our lack of any compelling need to get the loot back. Or our lack of capacity to see that it is as naturally linked to ferreting out corruption as getting paid is to getting a job. I’ve always said that fighting corruption won’t get anywhere until we ourselves get to grasp the concept of taxpayers’ money, that what is taken from us in VAT every time we watch a movie or buy mami is our money. Well, nothing drives home that point more than recovering the loot our crooks in barong Tagalogs and butterfly dresses stole from us. It’s not Congress’, government’s, or our public officials’ money. It is ours.

It’s time we got it back.

Sam Miguel
09-26-2013, 10:01 AM
‘He did not deny COA findings’

By Paolo Romero

(The Philippine Star) | Updated September 26, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Despite ranting against the Commission on Audit, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada did not deny its findings on his alleged misuse of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), COA Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan pointed out yesterday.

Tan was reacting to Estrada’s speech criticizing COA for being “selective” in its audit of PDAF or pork barrel utilization by lawmakers.

In his speech, Estrada said COA in its special audit report had focused only on a handful of lawmakers even if there had been over a hundred others who might have misused their PDAF.

“He did not deny our findings. He did not say we made a mistake in our findings on his use of the PDAF. That’s great, that’s a vindication for us,” Tan said.

She reiterated that the special audit on the PDAF was already ongoing when President Aquino appointed her to the post in 2011.

She also disputed Estrada’s assertions that the special audit was incomplete, saying under the Constitution, “we have exclusive authority to determine the scope of our audit.”

Tan said the 58 percent coverage of the special audit was “definitely complete.”

“Even 20 percent can be a representative sample and 58 percent is definitely a big percentage,” she said.

She said the COA is “in the thick of issuing notices of disallowances” and that Estrada would be the first one to receive a notice.

Tan also disclosed that Estrada called her up sometime in July for a favor while she was in the US or before she released the results of the special audit.

She said she told the senator: “I will see what I can do.” Tan declined to disclose details of their conversation.

“Sen. Jinggoy knows what it was all about. I will leave it to Sen. Jinggoy to answer your questions,” Tan said.

‘Diversionary’

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II, accused by Estrada of having questionable PDAF disbursements, called the latter’s delivering a privilege speech “diversionary.”

“We are not the ones at issue here, it’s they who are at issue – those who have been charged with plunder and graft before the ombudsman’s office,” Gonzales told reporters.

In his speech, the senator questioned why some of those who had given funds to their own non-government organizations (NGOs) or whose names had been mentioned in the COA report were not being investigated by the Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

According to the COA report, Estrada and Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Juan Ponce Enrile, and Gregorio Honasan gave P1.1 billion to bogus foundations linked to alleged pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim-Napoles.

In the complaint filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, the National Bureau of Investigation and scam whistle-blowers claimed that Estrada, Revilla and Enrile pocketed P581 million in kickbacks from the Napoles NGOs.

Gonzales said the plunder charges against Estrada were not based on the COA report but on the complaint-affidavits of “pork” scam whistle-blowers led by Benhur Luy, who were former employees of Napoles.

“The whistle-blowers’ complaints are separate from the COA report, which cannot be made the basis for criminal prosecution. It’s unfortunate that he (Estrada) is giving political color to the plunder charges filed with the ombudsman’s office,” he said.

Gonzales admitted giving his PDAF allocations, plus additional “leadership” funds, to the lone district of Mandaluyong City, which he represents and which he once served as mayor.

He said the city was the implementing agency for his projects.

“The city has certified to the COA that all those funds were spent properly,” he said.

On alleged irregularities mentioned by Estrada, Gonzales said they were checking with COA.

“There is one finding that there was no confirmation from some suppliers. We will have to verify that. No confirmation is different from no reply. It’s possible the suppliers refused to reply because they did not want to expose themselves to possible payment of taxes,” he said.

He pointed out that he would have to check on the P6.6-million payment to a hamburger store.

“Let us remember that that’s over a three-year period – 2007 to 2009. I can’t recall now when we made the procurement and whether they were for barangay meetings or daycare centers. That’s not just one transaction. It’s 190 transactions,” he added.

Former An Waray party-list Rep. Florencio Noel also dismissed issues raised against him by Estrada.

“Why did I put some of my PDAF to Mandaluyong? Because I can,” Noel said in a telephone interview, adding his constituents are spread all over the country.

“If you look at the records, I use my PDAF mostly for LGUs (local government units), hospitals, and Waray scholars,” he said.

“If Sen. Jinggoy feels he's unfairly judged, I also feel the same way when he singled me out,” Noel said.

Interior Secretary Manuel Roxas II, for his part, said Estrada should just answer issues raised against him instead of resorting to mudslinging. – Jess Diaz, Cecille Suerte Felipe

Sam Miguel
09-27-2013, 09:06 AM
Defensor: Jinggoy Estrada’s ‘protective coloration’ no defense of plunder rap

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:09 am | Friday, September 27th, 2013

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday excoriated Sen. Jinggoy Estrada for saying in the Senate on Wednesday that she and other senators should be investigated for P1.2 billion in questionable deals involving the pork barrel.

“I would like to inform Mr. Estrada, if he’s still educable, that under the rules of the Department of Budget (and Management), the responsibility of the legislators stops at the point of identifying the project plus the implementing agency,” Santiago said in a speech in a postgraduate conference of the University of the Philippines Department of Medicine at Diamond Hotel in Manila.

Already in the papers

Santiago, who is in leave from the Senate, expressed cynicism at the blue ribbon committee investigation of the PDAF scam involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

She said some of her colleagues, especially those who have their eyes on higher positions in the 2016 elections, were only after publicity.

“If we want to investigate, we should all apply as National Bureau of Investigation agents. An inquiry in aid of legislation means we ask the witnesses what law should be made so that this scam will not be repeated. But all that the whistle-blowers have to say are already in the papers. The public already knows what the whistle-blowers are saying in their affidavits. So why still conduct hearings,” she said.

The real story

She said that what’s happening in the televised hearings is that “each [senator makes] his own scene” and that some senators end up as “drama queens.”

“The real story is this: 2016 is the keyword. We are having elections in 2016. Vice presidential [hopefuls] in the administration like holding blue ribbon hearings because the topic will be ‘talk of the town’ and most likely be televised. They just hog the limelight and then ask these questions that are absolutely fatuous as far as I am concerned,” she said.

She referred to Sen. Ramon Revilla Jr. and Estrada as possible candidates of the opposition for the vice presidency while Senators Francis Escudero III and Teofisto Guingona III are reportedly being eyed as vice presidential candidates of the administration.

“They’re wasting the people’s time in their pursuit of their vice presidential ambitions,” she added.

Meanwhile, Santiago called on Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile’s former chief of staff, Gigi Reyes, whom she described as her “personal friend” to turn state witness and tell all against Enrile.

Enrile’s lawyer reportedly said that the senator did not authorize Reyes to sign any paper in connection with any transaction concerning the release of money from the PDAF to the bogus nongovernment organizations run by Napoles.

As for Estrada’s ratting on the other senators for alleged misdeeds involving the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), or pork barrel, Santiago said, “It’s not right that you have a shotgun on your hand and shoot everyone on sight.”

In a press conference after her speech, Santiago angrily banged her fist on the table as she blasted Estrada some more for his statement that she, too, should be investigated for irregularities involving use of the PDAF.

‘Protective coloration’

“You were the ones who got the most, then why is he now pointing at us who did nothing wrong? What is your problem? He who comes to court must come to court with clean hands,” she said, pointing out that Estrada, in his privilege speech on Wednesday, never bothered to refute the allegations of plunder lodged against him.

“Silence means consent,” Santiago said.

What was happening, she added, was “protective coloration,” a form of squid-tactic defense.

“If you throw enough mud and everyone gets mud in the face then true criminals can no longer be distinguished,” Santiago added.

COA is right

She said the Commission on Audit (COA) was correct in prioritizing the investigation of misuse of the PDAF involving Estrada, Enrile and Revilla because in the cases of the three senators, public funds were spent on ghost projects and not mere kickbacks.

These, she said, were “blatant examples” of plunder.

Asked if she had a message for Estrada, Santiago replied, “If a sink hole decides to appear on Philippine territory, I hope he will be in the vicinity.”

In his privilege speech on Wednesday, Estrada pointed out that the COA special audit report included Santiago on the list of senators, some of whose PDAF-funded projects had questions about implementation.

Estrada said Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and former Senators Francis Pangilinan and Manny Villar were also on the list.

Santiago pointed out that COA Resolution No. 97-006 refers to the responsibility of the implementing agencies to make sure that the funds they received from the PDAF were used correctly.

“It is the implementing agency, not the senator, who bears responsibility for the project. The reason for listing the senators is to alert them that the agency is falling down on the job. If so, then the lawmakers should reprimand the agency and require full compliance. That is the intent of COA Resolution No. 97-006,” Santiago said.

Not contractor

She explained that she just chooses from the “menu” of projects listed by the DBM and identify the beneficiaries.

“I was elected as a legislator. I wasn’t elected as a [project] contractor. I do not have time to go around the archipelago [carrying] my measuring tape and [counting] nails and hammers,” she said.

Santiago said that as long as the PDAF remained in place, she would continue getting her share so she could give it to legitimate beneficiaries.

“If I don’t take my PDAF, some people will just steal it or [divide] it among themselves,” she said.

Why she’s eligible

Santiago enumerated the following reasons why she thinks Gigi Reyes was eligible as a state witness, namely, that there was “absolute necessity” for her testimony with respect to the senator, that without her testimony, no other direct evidence will be available for the prosecution to prove plunder against Enrile; that Reyes’ testimony could be substantially corroborated in its material point; that Reyes does not appear to be the most guilty; and that there was no evidence that at any time, she has been convicted of any offense involving moral turpitude.

According to Santiago, whether or not Enrile succeeds in transferring criminal liability to his ex-chief of staff, it appears that between the two of them there was a conspiracy.

Under the Penal Code, she explained, “a conspiracy exists when two or more persons come to an agreement concerning the commission of a felony, and decide to commit it.”

The basic effect of conspiracy in criminal law is that the act of one is the act of all, Santiago said.

House leader defended

In the House of Representatives, Speaker Feliciano Belmonte sided with Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales, whom Estrada accused of irregularities in the use of the PDAF, as indicated by the COA special audit report.

“I remain fully confident of the integrity and abilities of our majority leader,” Belmonte said.

Belmonte declined to comment on Estrada’s speech, except to say that the senator “did not defend himself but (merely) include others.”

But two Catholic bishops agreed with Estrada’s claim that the investigation of the pork barrel scam is biased against the opposition.

Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles and Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo said it was clear that allies of President Aquino had so far been spared investigation.

“That is clear from the beginning,” Arguelles said.

Like Arroyo

Pabillo said the investigation only showed that President Aquino was “no different” from former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who used the state apparatus to go after her critics.

Arguelles called on the authorities to investigate Estrada’s claim that senators who voted to convict former Chief Justice Renato Corona during his impeachment trial in 2012 were given P50 million each after the trial.—With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Philip C. Tubeza

Sam Miguel
09-27-2013, 09:08 AM
Santiago says Enrile financed Zamboanga attack

By Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:04 am | Friday, September 27th, 2013

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Thursday accused her political enemy, Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, of allegedly financing the rebellion by the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in Zamboanga City to divert the public’s attention from the accusations of plunder against him.

“Enrile is so desperate that he is like a crocodile who has left his maritime kingdom and is flapping around on land, still hoping to kill his prey. I am morally convinced of his culpability in trashing the Commission on Audit and its chair, as well as in engulfing Zamboanga City in an expensive rebellion,” Santiago said in a statement.

Santiago first hinted at Enrile’s alleged involvement in the MNLF attack on Zamboanga City in a speech at the 13th annual postgraduate course of the University of the Philippines-Department of Emergency Medicine at Diamond Hotel in Manila.

P40 million

In her speech, Santiago cited the estimate of the party-list group Magdalo, whose members come from the armed services, that the MNLF faction led by Nur Misuari and ground commander Habier Malik would have spent at least P40 million on the attack on Zamboanga that began on Sept. 9.

Magdalo Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo urged the government on Wednesday to investigate the information that somebody linked to the P10-billion pork barrel scam paid the Misuari faction of the MNLF P40 million to create trouble in Zamboanga.

Speaking at a news forum in San Juan City, Acedillo said the information, received recently by Magdalo, was “very plausible.”

While P40 million was “not enough to sway the scheme of things in one direction or another,” Acedillo said it was “enough to create trouble.”

“Any trouble outside the [pork barrel scam] is, I think, a welcome development [to those involved]. Because, without naming names, it is of interest to them that the government is preoccupied on so many fronts,” Acedillo said.

Welcome to pork abusers

In the portion of her speech where she tackled her suspicions on who the financiers of the Zamboanga attacks were, Santiago referred to “rumors” and did not identify Enrile by name. But later in the day, she issued a stronger statement implicating Enrile.

“The question now is: Who gave the P40 million to the MNLF [faction] led by Misuari? Where did he get it? He doesn’t have P40 million? Maybe [there is an] overseas [financier]? Maybe someone who wants our country to be engulfed in conflict? Or maybe a Filipino who is now being grilled over the pork barrel scam so he wants public attention diverted to Mindanao?” Santiago said in her speech.

“Can you guess who? Imagine, the charge of plunder a minimum amount of P50 million. If he stole at least P50 million—but even more, if he already stole P500 million—what is P40 million to him, right? Think about it,” she said.

In her statement, Santiago pointed out that according to the whistle-blowers, Enrile reportedly gave some P400 million of his allocation in the Priority Development Assistance Fund to a nongovernment organization set up by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

“Thus, in the buzzing public mind, Enrile could easily afford to spend P40 million on the Zamboanga rebellion as a diversionary tactic. The public should consider his background as defense secretary during martial law, with a proclivity for coddling former police and military officials, and a feckless ambition to rewrite history,” Santiago said.

Plunder charges

Enrile is facing plunder charges in the Office of the Ombudsman, along with Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., Napoles and a number of congressmen.

The MNLF faction led by Misuari denied the Magdalo information on Tuesday.

Emmanuel Fontanilla, lawyer and spokesman for Misuari, said the MNLF would “never accept funds from a corrupt source.”—[I]With a report from Kristine Felisse Mangunay

Sam Miguel
09-27-2013, 10:35 AM
Jinggoy confirms P120-M house; asset not in SALN

(The Philippine Star) | Updated September 27, 2013 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Sen. Jinggoy Estrada yesterday revealed that he sold his house in North Greenhills, San Juan and is building another house at the nearby posh Wack Wack subdivision in Mandaluyong City at the cost of P120 million.

Estrada said the construction started sometime last year after he sold his Greenhills house.

He said the proceeds of the sale financed the construction of his new home in Mandaluyong.

“OK, I sold my house and lot in Greenhills. At yun ang pinangbayad ko (That’s what I used for my new house),” Estrada said in a phone patch interview with the Senate media.

However, the line was cut as he was about to answer queries on why his new purchase was not stated in his latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

In a follow-up question by The STAR, Estrada said his Wack Wack residence has been included in his SALN for 2012.

He said it was under the category of investments, which amounted to about P122 million.

Estrada said he sold his Greenhills residence sometime in 2011 for about P100 million, which he then used to purchase the Wack Wack property.

“How can I place it (Wack Wack) in my properties in the SALN when it has not been transferred to my name?” he asked.

According to Estrada, he sold his Greenhills home because it is more expensive to renovate the old house so he preferred to build a new one.

“The house is in a state of disrepair. It would be more costly to renovate it,” he added.

Estrada later granted an interview with reporters at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), where he saw his parents, who were flying to Japan, off.

“I am not leaving,” he told reporters at NAIA, saying he was just accompanying his father, former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, and his mother, former senator Loi Ejercito.

The news about his Wack Wack property came out hours before Estrada dropped his “bombshell” Wednesday, alleging some of his colleagues in the Senate received P50 million as “incentive” for impeaching former chief justice Renato Corona last year.

Social news network Rappler reported Estrada was building a P120-million mansion in Wack Wack.

Rappler cited a source privy to Estrada’s expenses. The source revealed that the senator bought the 3,000-square meter lot in 2012.

It said lot prices in the subdivision range from P70,000 to P80,000 per square meter, which means that the lot alone costs from P210 million to P240 million.

It said it is common knowledge in Wack Wack that the huge property belongs to Estrada.

Estrada’s SALN for 2012 showed his real properties were valued at P66 million while his personal properties were at P149.16 million.

Under his SALN, Estrada incurred total liabilities at P21.66 million.

Estrada also listed another real estate property at Corinthian Hills in Quezon City. His total net worth was placed at P193.5 million during the same period.

Documents from the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) also showed the real property firm Verdant Forest, that sold to Estrada the P120-million house in Mandaluyong City, was not active in filing its reportorial statements with corporate regulators.

Estrada reportedly bought last year the lot from Verdant Forest, which owns several parcels of land in the area totaling 3,084 square meters.

Estrada’s property reportedly has Navotas Rep. Tobias Tiangco as his neighbor.

But Tiangco, for his part, said he does not know if the mansion being built on a sprawling lot near his house belongs to Estrada.

“I do not know my neighbors. I am not their keeper,” he said.

According to Tiangco, he sold his house in Greenhills, San Juan in 2010 and bought a lot along Wack Wack Road in nearby Wack Wack subdivision where he constructed his new house, to which he transferred in 2012.

Tiangco said he bought his lot from Verdant Holdings.

“They were offering me a 4,000-square meter property consisting of several lots, which I said I could not afford. So I bought two lots totaling 997 square meters,” he said.

Tiangco said there are two ongoing constructions near his property.

“There is construction work on the smaller lot to my right and there is construction work on the lot to my left which extends to the back of my property,” he said.

Tiangco added that he knows that the bigger lot, measuring about 3,000 square meters, belongs to Verdant Holdings, not to Estrada.

He revealed that another congressman, Juan Pablo Bondoc of Pampanga, is just a house away from the sprawling lot.

Responding to questions, Tiangco said he does not know who owns Verdant Holdings.

He said he only met its corporate secretary, a certain Liza Logan, when they signed the deed of sale for his lot.

– Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Neil Jerome Morales, Rudy Santos

Joescoundrel
10-03-2013, 09:24 AM
Sexy revenge

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:40 pm | Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

The roiling controversy over President Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program is exactly what Sen. Jinggoy Estrada intended when he took to the Senate floor last week to defend himself against charges that he had benefited from the so-called pork barrel scam. He did not name the DAP; he likely did not know the details behind what he called an after-the-fact “incentive” of P50 million “allotted” to each senator who voted for the conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona. But what he said was enough to start a shift in the public discussion over pork.

Still, let us not be misled. The most important task in the short term is to pursue justice in the pork barrel scam: to end the elaborate scheme to divert billions of pesos in government funds to ghost projects through ghost organizations, by jailing the operators and politicians who perpetrated the scheme. The long-term objective is to end a thoroughgoing culture of political patronage. The latter can be done, but only if the former is first achieved.

The dramatic statements from Estrada, and now from Senators Joker Arroyo and Miriam Defensor-Santiago about the DAP, have complicated the pork barrel issue. The public can still follow the now-convoluted narrative, but with at least three major politicians already charged at the Office of the Ombudsman for involvement in the scam, we must all be on guard against deliberate attempts to confuse the issue.

Necessary distinctions must be made. The pork barrel system must go—even if some of the pork went to vital or much-needed projects. Congressional pork is wrong in itself: Even the most vigorous defense offered by lawmakers implicated in the scam suggests they felt no responsibility for the outcome of the projects they helped fund. The practice of lump-sum appropriations at the Executive’s control must end—even if it is the responsibility of the Executive to choose, implement and fund projects.

More: The pork barrel system exposed by the revelations about Janet Lim-Napoles’ laundering operation for the Priority Development Assistance Fund, conducted with the active participation of a considerable number of lawmakers, including allegedly that of “Sexy,” an apparent code name for Estrada, can be brought to an end only with both operators and conniving politicians in jail. Removing the PDAF from the General Appropriations Act is a good first step, but hardly enough. Narrowing the scope for congressional participation in the Executive’s project-naming and -funding process may have seemed like a good idea in the week before the Million People March; it looks seriously inadequate today. As long as the powerful politicians who enabled the network that the likes of Napoles are alleged to have built are not convicted on corruption charges, pork-enabled corruption will remain very much a possibility.

This is why the short-term objective of finding justice in the pork barrel scam must be met, before the more important long-term goal of ending political patronage can be achieved.

But what about the DAP? Isn’t this new program unconstitutional, as Arroyo asserts? Budget Secretary Butch Abad must make a full accounting when he returns from overseas. But the information available—the fact that an announcement was made in 2011, that the projects Arroyo requested funding for (the money for which came out of the DAP) are aboveboard, that Malacañang has identified specific constitutional and statutory warrants for the program, and so on—does not suggest either unconstitutionality or corruption.

Indeed, Estrada merely implied that the DAP-funded allotment was an incentive, not a bribe. It was Arroyo, who was resolutely silent on corruption issues against the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, who called it one—proof, again, that lawmakers have no business recommending funding for projects, no matter how laudable. Apparently, Arroyo did not bother to find out where the money for his special projects came from, as long as he knew where it was going.

But it is the ghost in the system that should serve as our benchmark, for knowing whether corruption took place. If the money from a lump-sum appropriation went to a good cause, we can welcome the outcome while rejecting the process from now on.

But if the money went to ghost projects or through ghost organizations, then the implication is clear: Corruption took place, and the corrupt must face justice.

Sam Miguel
10-03-2013, 11:12 AM
Between gridlock and greed

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

8:38 pm | Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

It is difficult to say which is preferable: a party-based politics that sometimes results in governmental gridlock, or a money-based politics that runs smoothly on pork barrel privileges. America today illustrates the deep-rooted dysfunctions of the former, while the Philippines showcases the perverse pragmatism of the latter.

The other day, many offices of the US federal government were forced to shut down because a divided Congress failed to pass a new federal budget. A Republican Party-dominated House of Representatives refused to fund the Obama administration’s healthcare program that compels all Americans to secure healthcare insurance. The offshoot of this is that the entire budget is held hostage. On the other hand, a Democratic Party-dominated Senate has staunchly refused to approve a budget bill that does not include funding for the healthcare law.

The last time an event like this happened in America was in 1996 during the presidency of Bill Clinton. The Democrats exploited the political fallout created by the government shutdown and went on to win the next election. In this manner does the modern political system check its dysfunctions—by penalizing political recklessness and irresponsibility through the ballot. Veterans of the Republican Party, like former presidential candidate John McCain, are keenly aware of the political costs of ignoring the public sentiment, and are deeply fearful that the party may again have to pay heavily for the stubbornness of its ultraconservative members.

As controversial as the Obama-initiated healthcare law may have been, the reality is that it was passed by Congress after prolonged and acrimonious debate. The US Supreme Court has upheld the constitutionality of the law. But, more important, the American voters spoke for themselves at the polls. If they thought the program was a big mistake, they would not have given President Obama, who had vigorously pushed for it, a second term. Still, public opinion is never static. It’s possible that the Republicans think they can make political capital out of this debacle. That’s how modern politics works.

Contrast this with the cavalier way in which our own lawmakers tend to treat what is perhaps the most important bill that comes their way every year—the budget bill. The debates are seldom ideological; they have little to do with disputes over the priorities and directions of government. Lawmakers like to use the budget deliberations as occasions to punish or humiliate heads of agencies that have displeased them. They have no qualms raising personal issues that have absolutely nothing to do with government performance.

Officials of the executive branch learn to take these rituals of degradation as part and parcel of the budgetary process. Indeed, often, they see lawmakers’ objections as no more than a form of leverage for congressional insertions, or as a prelude to thinly-veiled requests for personal favors. Seldom, if at all, do both chambers of Congress get to the point where a budget bill hangs on the balance of a substantive ideological disagreement. If worst comes to worst, and pork barrel politics fails to soften resistance to the new budget, the previous year’s budget is merely reenacted. The government is thus never in danger of shutting down or failing to pay its debts. On the contrary, in previous years, the Arroyo administration notoriously turned reenacted budgets to its own advantage.

A system like ours makes it easy for a president with a clear sense of purpose to implement his/her vision for the country. As we have seen, compared to that of the United States, our political system places such an enormous amount of resources in the hands of the president as to enable him/her to easily neutralize a recalcitrant Congress. By the same token, however, one can imagine how much damage a corrupt presidency can do if it can easily buy Congress.

There is no real recourse available within this system to get rid of a president or, for that matter, lawmakers who have betrayed public trust. Money easily overrides the check and balance mechanisms built into the Constitution. I believe this explains the eagerness with which, after 1986, we turn to people power to fix the dysfunctions of our political system.

The current government shutdown in the United States will likely not last more than a few days. It will compel the two political parties to forge a compromise if only to avert serious damage to the economy. The next elections will then tell if the public looks upon this brinkmanship as an act of irresponsibility or welcomes it as the coming of age of Tea Party conservatism.

Though prone to episodes of gridlock in a sharply bifurcated society, democratic politics ultimately finds its way through recurrent crises without having to step out of the available institutional mechanisms. In contrast, political crises in less modern societies like ours are seldom resolved through elections. Worse, they tend to engulf the rest of society’s key institutions—the mass media, the courts, the economy, the family, the Church, the educational system, etc.

We have seen in the last two months how chronic greed has compromised the functioning of our legislature. If our democracy were mature, the pork barrel scandal could result in the jailing of easily half of the members of Congress. It would spell the downfall of the nation’s most powerful political families. But, we are not so sanguine that this will come to pass soon. The reason lies in the continuing power of money to shape judicial and electoral outcomes in our society.

Sam Miguel
10-04-2013, 10:33 AM
The grim reality of growing old poor in PH

By Sherry Legislador

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:53 pm | Thursday, October 3rd, 2013

I was walking in downtown Iloilo when I passed a little old lady very gently taking a bite of some kind of kakanin. She looked so frail and her hands and head were shaking as she ate while sitting next to her little cart filled with the candies and chichirya she was selling. I thought to myself that she should be home relaxing, not out here still trying to make a living.

Later in the day, as I headed home in the outskirts of the city, I saw a very old man, hand tremors evident as he flipped sticks of pork inasal on a grill on the side of the street. I thought he was a customer just taking part in the cooking of his order, but I soon realized that he was actually the inasal vendor.

Perhaps we won’t see scenes like this often if the government did a better job of caring for old people. It is some relief that at 60, one can apply for a senior citizen’s card and avail oneself of discounts on goods and services. But why is it that indigent people have to wait until they reach the age of 77 before they can collect a senior citizen’s pension, when most of the poor don’t even reach 65?

Sixty is the universal commencement of pensionable age, which is why government employees and private insurance pension beneficiaries in the country are able to start collecting their pension at such an age. Then why is it that indigents get to start collecting only at a much later age? Are they less important than the rest of us just because they are poor? Are they not the people who should be among the top priority when it comes to social assistance, precisely because they are indigent and elderly?

A coordinator of the Department of Social Welfare and Development was once asked: “Why 77 years old when senior citizenship starts at 60?” Her reply: “It’s for the simple reason that the older we get, the more help we need.”

I’m sure everyone will agree with that statement, but why create a pension program with an almost-next-to-nothing probability of pension payment to intended beneficiaries? Based on the latest census, those who are 75 and above make up only 22 percent of the total population of those 60 and above. The number of those who qualify for the DSWD pension for indigent senior citizens is even smaller than this figure, as it includes the 75-76 age group and those who don’t qualify as indigents.

To add insult to injury, the monthly benefit that pensioners receive is highly insufficient. The amount of P500 a month is hardly enough to cover food expenses, and there will be nothing else left for medical and other basic needs. The per capita income of those who fall below the poverty level is P16,841 a year, or about P1,400 a month. And the pensioners receive only about a third of what’s already considered below-the-poverty-line income.

The Extended Seniors Citizens Act implemented in 2010 stipulates that the monthly amount for pensioners is subject to a review every two years by Congress. Three years have now passed and there’s still no review. This, again, leads me to ask: Has this promise been relegated to the sidelines because of the indigent pensioners’ insignificance to our society? Are our government officials immune to the sight of elderly people squatting on sidewalks hoping to sell a few pieces of dried fish, or walking dark and dangerous streets at night carrying a heavy basket of balut?

Sadly, we live in a society where the alleviation of poverty is not the only thing given the least priority. It seems that the older one gets in the Philippines, one tends to be discarded and eventually forgotten. Even the Philippine labor market is marked by age discrimination. When one is past the age of 30, one is no longer considered bankable as most job postings have an age specification: One must be between the ages of 20 and 30.

Of course, there are jobs where age limitation is necessary; I am referring to those in which youthfulness is not a significant factor in a person’s ability to perform the job properly or affect the level of productivity. But it is the older people who have more experience and better knowledge, and who should therefore be given preference. Is this something that is yet to be realized by Philippine employers, or is this just their way of saying, “Hey, we’re cheap, we don’t want to pay higher salaries”?

Perhaps the DSWD’s means-tested social pension program was only established as the government’s attempt to paint a perception of the Philippines as a socially conscious country. But does it truly take care of its elderly people, including the poor, when it sets the eligibility age at a level that is barely attainable to most, and furnishes a provision that is way below the minimum standard of living?

All of us have elderly relatives and friends, and we are all heading in that direction. Some of us are blessed with financial security or receive a substantial pension from years of government service or from private contributions. But there are those who have worked as hard, maybe even harder, but are still struggling. The least the government can do is to help them breathe a little easier in their twilight years by providing an adequate and timely pension.

Sam Miguel
10-08-2013, 08:00 AM
Mikey Arroyo hasn’t liquidated pork–COA

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:58 am | Tuesday, October 8th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Former Pampanga and Ang Galing Pinoy Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo channeled P1.955 million of his pork barrel to a questionable nongovernment organization that failed to liquidate the fund, according to the Commission on Audit.

In the 2012 audit report on the Technology Resource Center (formerly Technology and Livelihood Resource Center), the son of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo gave the sum to KKAMFI in March 2010. The COA report was released last Oct. 3.

It was also KKAMFI that received P525.679 million from other legislators based on the COA Special Report on the Priority Development Assistance Fund dated Aug. 14, which was made public by COA chair Grace Pulido-Tan.

State auditors said the NGO had submitted three different office addresses, one of which could not be found.

Arroyo’s pork allotment to TRC has not been liquidated to this day, prompting the COA to require the agency to comply immediately.

The COA likewise noted another P100,000 fund release from Arroyo to Guagua Municipal Employees Multi-purpose Cooperative, which has remained unliquidated.—Cynthia D. Balana

Joescoundrel
10-08-2013, 10:17 AM
A bad time

By Conrado de Quiros

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:56 pm | Monday, October 7th, 2013

It was the complaint of several speakers in last Friday’s rally in Ayala. That government was prosecuting Janet Lim-Napoles and the senators and congressmen who conspired with her to defraud the public of P10 billion was well and good. That none of them were current government officials and allies was unwell and bad. It spoke of selective perception. It spoke of selective morality.

Come now Joker Arroyo and Miriam Defensor-Santiago bolstering that argument. There’s someone in government, they say, who should clearly be joining the ranks of the prosecutable. His transgression may not have to do with the Napoles scam, but it has to do with pork as well. His offense may not have to do with outright pillage but it has to do with abuse of power as well.

That someone is Butch Abad, the budget secretary. He is the inventor of the DAP or Disbursement Acceleration Program, a lump sum given in a, well, accelerated way to legislators. The need for it arose from government’s, specifically the Department of Budget and Management’s, experience in its first year-and-a-half of being reticent about public spending, causing the economy to contract. Freeing public spending, quite apart from other policies, almost immediately sent growth soaring.

Right diagnosis, wrong prescription, critics now say. Sure, spend more, but spend wisely. The DAP is a rotten way to spend. Any way you call it, it is pork. Any way you slice it, it is ham. The very thing the country now derides.

In fact, says Arroyo, the DAP is illegal. Its creation was never authorized by Congress or by law. It was only justified by the Administrative Code, a thing none of the last four presidents ever used.

Joaquin Bernas and Ben Diokno agree. Malacañang, they say, has no authority to transfer items in the General Appropriations Act from one department to another. Santiago agrees with them too, and charges that the giving of DAP funds to the senators who voted to convict Renato Corona is bribery, its author deserving of prosecution. “You can see the criminal mind of the one who thought of this,” she said of Abad.

What to make of all this?

Well, first off, a sense of proportion. Arroyo and Santiago are not exactly the most credible persons to talk about law and morality and what needs to be done with public officials who flout them monstrously. Their utter silence, if not blindness, to the doings of the second most corrupt despot in this country, including the theft not just of money but of the vote, not just of the Treasury but of the Palace, testifies to it. There’s something way, way off-key when you see people finding everything wrong with P-Noy and nothing wrong with Gloria.

Proportion does matter. Scale does matter. Size does matter.

But of course too when the pot calls the kettle black, the pot may be accused only of hypocrisy, not of defective eyesight. Or, more properly in this case, when the Ampatuans call the Reyeses murderers, they may be accused only of myopia, not of total blindness.

The people who call for Abad’s head have something going for them. The DAP may pale before Napoles’ scam, it may pale before the Malampaya scam, it may look like a molehill against the mountain of the past regime’s crookedness. But it looms large against the canvas of P-Noy’s anticorruption campaign, it cuts a wide detour in P-Noy’s daang matuwid. The problem won’t go away, whether the effort to make the public notice it comes from pure or impure motivations, from tainted or principled reasons. The least Abad can do is resign to spare his boss the embarrassment or loss of esteem in the public’s eyes. The most Abad can do is to appear before the Ombudsman for being a bad boy.

Abigail Valte defends him by saying, “What is important in this case is not just the fund but if there is misuse.” Not really. The point is whether the fund itself has a right to exist, its use or misuse being just secondary. It’s like Edgardo Angara’s creation of his own NGO where he put part of his PDAF into. The point is that a senator putting up his own NGO, not to speak of putting his pork there, does wrong. Or indeed does crime. Whether he used his pork wisely or not—and the waywardness of the primordial act raises serious questions about it—is incidental. It merely constitutes possible additional ground for prosecution.

You can always justify the most patently unethical, or wrong, thing. Abad has. His daughter currently heads the Presidential Management Staff, giving the country to see a father-and-daughter team holding gatekeeping positions in government. Is his daughter qualified for the position? Maybe. Is she the only, or most, qualified person for the position? No. Greed takes many forms. This is one of them.

Just as well, Abad has poured hundreds of millions of pesos into Batanes, a small place that storms like to visit. Is Batanes deserving of uplift as one of the country’s fairly depressed areas? Yes. Is Batanes the only, or most ravaged, area deserving this scale of uplift? No. Again, there’s greed and there’s greed. This is another one of them.

The first doesn’t speak well of his character, the second of his ability to husband resources. And now this.

What fate lies in store for him, however, remains a question mark. The P-Noy administration is the only administration whose people do not ask to take a bullet for their president, they ask their president to take a bullet for them. One thing is clear, which is that the fate of the government’s prosecution of Napoles and the erring senators—no, more than that, of its daang matuwid itself—rests on how well it resolves its present crisis with the DAP and its uses. The best position from which to throw a stone, as the bishops like to preach but are loath to practice, is being reasonably sinless.

A good thought for a bad time.

Joescoundrel
10-08-2013, 10:25 AM
The elusive straight path

By Cielito F. Habito

Philippine Daily Inquirer

7:58 pm | Monday, October 7th, 2013

Last week, a friend went to the city treasurer’s office in her home city to claim the tax declaration certificates for a house and lot she had recently bought. The application had been filed weeks earlier, and she got word that the documents were ready. But the man who attended to her said it was not possible to get the papers on that same day because certain steps were still needed, and the official who will sign them was not in the office. She explained that she had taken a leave from work in another province to be able to attend to the matter, but got the same indifferent response.

In the course of their conversation, my friend mentioned the name of another friend who turned out to be this official’s friend as well. Suddenly, he changed his tune and told her to wait while he checked to see what he could do. After some waiting, he came back to tell her that her documents were ready, and she would have to pay a fee of P140. She handed the payment over and got her documents, but to her surprise, the official receipt was only for P100. Annoyed at the arbitrariness and brazenness of this official, she desisted nonetheless from raising a fuss; she already managed to get the needed papers, after all. I chided her for reinforcing the behavior of that corrupt petty bureaucrat by letting it pass unquestioned.

Two weeks ago, I was riding with a friend in her car when she was stopped by one of those mobile teams testing for smoke emissions. Asked if it would take long as we were late for a meeting, the man promised it would only take “a few minutes.” Five vehicles had already been stopped ahead of us, waiting to be tested, and I could tell that they had been there for much more than a few minutes. The officer took over the driver’s seat and pumped the gas pedal full force. Naturally, smoke blew out of the exhaust pipe, so he told her they would have to test her exhaust emissions, and we would have to wait for our turn. We were told that if the vehicle failed the test, they would confiscate the license plate of the car. Meanwhile, these men were oblivious of numerous jeepneys belching profuse smoke as they passed by. When we protested that they were ignoring obvious offenders, they told us they were only testing private vehicles that day. My friend, worried about our meeting and resigned that these men would eventually tell her that her car failed the test anyway, instructed them to just take away her license plate, just so we could be on our way. After a huddle, the men surprised us and told us we could go, even as the others ahead of us were still waiting. We couldn’t help wonder whether we were let go because my friend had made it quite obvious she was not about to negotiate.

Three weeks ago, my son’s Korean girlfriend left to return home. It proved to be an unnecessarily annoying, tedious and expensive departure. When she attempted to leave on her appointed date, the immigration officer at the airport stopped her for lack of an exit clearance certificate (ECC)—something she, and we, had never heard of before. The officer took her to task, saying “she was supposed to know about these things.” Yet she swears that through two visa extensions, she had never been informed nor seen any notices regarding the ECC at the Bureau of Immigration (BI) offices. Her aborted departure forced her to waste a long-held nonrefundable airline ticket and buy a new one for two days later, at much higher cost.

In this information age, it’s a wonder why we can’t have the same databases that are checked by the issuers of the ECC be directly accessible at airport immigration computers. That way, we can spare foreigners the trouble of trooping to the BI offices to obtain a piece of paper. Even granting the need for such document, there are several reasons why my son and his friend were justifiably annoyed with the situation. For one, the requirement does not appear to be adequately publicized. It doesn’t help that the BI website seems constantly unreachable. (I have yet to succeed in accessing it since the incident happened.) My son has since learned from various online blogs of many similar cases of aggrieved foreign travelers being stopped at the airport for lack of an ECC—as if it were the best-kept secret in town!

The airport immigration officers told my son and his friend that the ECC could only be obtained at the BI main office in Manila. So they dutifully traveled the following day to the main office in Intramuros (all the way from Los Baños, Laguna where we live), only to be advised to go to the North Edsa branch office, where processing was supposedly faster (and indeed it was, they learned). But why the conflicting information from the BI people themselves? Moreover, they were advised not to buy an airline ticket before obtaining the ECC as under new rules, the ECC must be obtained within three days prior to departure. This forces the passenger to pay much more for his/her departure ticket; we all know that tickets purchased well in advance could be much cheaper. Why make such an unfair imposition on our foreign visitors? And we wonder why we couldn’t attract as many foreign visitors as our neighbors do?

Many of us are led to lament how too many people working in government still seem to find great difficulty with genuine public service, honesty, consistency and even common sense. Instead we find too much of unnecessary hurdles, brazen corruption, arbitrariness and ineptness. While I do believe that “daang matuwid” is making real progress, I can’t help feeling that the road ahead remains quite long indeed.

Joescoundrel
10-08-2013, 10:33 AM
Where do we go from here?

By Randy David

Philippine Daily Inquirer

10:05 pm | Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Toward the end of his privilege speech on the pork barrel scam last Sept. 25, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, one of the lawmakers who have been charged with plunder, claimed that he and his colleagues in the opposition were being unjustly singled out and persecuted for something that is widely known and/or practiced by perhaps every member of Congress.

He said: “I believe that we all here are victims of a flawed system which is so ingrained that it has been institutionalized. However, the recent events which unfolded before us have given us the chance to finally reform the system and do away with the ‘pork barrel’ mentality.”

Senator Estrada’s speech could have been written by an observer with a sociological mind. There is more than a grain of truth in it, for indeed, the pork barrel system has become an essential mechanism in the “normal” functioning of our political system. It is the grease that lubricates the patronage machine. Only lately has it become clear that the system is “flawed,” in the sense that it is vulnerable to brazen abuse. But it is ridiculous for the senator to claim that practitioners of the pork barrel system like himself are “victims” of this flawed system.

To say this is to depict himself as bereft of any sense of agency or personal responsibility for what he does. One might understand the predicament of a new lawmaker who decides to suspend judgment and keep silent even as he or she is shocked to see the corruption of his/her venerable colleagues. But Senator Estrada is no neophyte politician. Though he may be relatively young in age, he is an old hand in the world of politics.

He rails against the hypocrisy of his colleagues who assert the power to investigate even as they themselves are not exactly blameless. He has a point. But he forgets that ours is supposed to be a government of laws and not of men, that Congress as an institution is bigger than the sum of the individuals that constitute it. Accordingly, the Senate has no choice but to distance itself from the criminal actions of its members if it is to preserve its credibility as an institution. There is no denying the fact that politics lurks at every single moment of these investigations. But the blade cuts both ways. The investigators can easily end up being themselves the investigated.

In itself, that is not a problem—so long as we don’t allow the code of partisan politics to dictate the functioning of the legal system, or of the mass media, or, indeed, of the protest movement. If we are so minded, our society has enough institutional means available to correct itself. The key lies in the protection of the autonomy of these different institutions.

Right now, all eyes are focused on the mechanisms of the legal system and how well they can insulate themselves from politics. Every effort will be made by those who stand accused in this pork barrel scam to impugn the credibility of the Department of Justice, the National Bureau of Investigation, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the Sandiganbayan. The heads of these institutions owe it to the country to be professional and undeterred in their work during this critical time.

The same goes for the mass media. The enemies of reform may be able to corrupt a few media people, but, in the age of social media, it is almost impossible to capture all of mass media and assimilate these into any of the other systems, like politics. Which is not to say there won’t be sustained attempts at disinformation and deliberate obfuscation. There will be, but it will not take long for the public to realize where these are coming from. It may be easy to mislead people, but today it is not difficult to verify information. This is largely because of the astounding diversity of information sources to which the public can turn.

The social media’s various platforms have made protest movements the complex affairs they are today. People are now more prone to participate in mass actions at short notice, without fully grasping the issues and nuances behind the protest they are joining. But, for this same reason, their commitments tend to be shallow and easily withdrawn at the slightest suspicion that they are being manipulated.

Watching the twists and turns taken by the antipork movement in the last few weeks, for example, one can’t help noticing the deliberate attempt to redirect public outrage and focus it on President Aquino. This is done by depicting him as the chief dispenser of pork, and, therefore, the one most responsible for perpetuating a rotten system. The shift in focus draws attention away from the criminal liability of the lawmakers and the public officials and private individuals who enabled them to pocket their pork barrel allotments. At the same time, by targeting the head of government, this strategy raises the political crisis to a level where change can now be equated with the toppling of a president.

No sensible person can possibly believe that the resignation or overthrow of P-Noy can put an end to our pork-barrel-driven political system—unless one thinks the Vice President who will replace him is in a better position to press the plunder cases, and institute necessary controls in the expenditure of public funds. All this is not to say that pressure should not be applied on the executive branch in the effort to plug the loopholes by which public funds are stolen or wasted. Indeed no one should be spared.

But, any enduring solution has to lie in the last analysis on the ability of the various institutional spheres of our society to demand accountability, as well as on their capacity to look into themselves and reflect critically on their own performances.

* * *

Joescoundrel
10-08-2013, 10:37 AM
The ‘Peanut Butter Defense’

By Edilberto C. de Jesus

12:56 am | Saturday, October 5th, 2013

Senator Jinggoy Estrada wasted few of the 6,000-plus words in his privilege speech on the Senate floor to refute the plunder charges filed against him in the Office of the Ombudsman. He forfeited, therefore, the chance that he claimed he was denied “to confront the evidence.”

He did not explain why he decided to direct his Priority Development Assistance Fund to the Napoles NGOs. He did not detail the benefits that his projects delivered to the community. He took a different strategy, the essence of which the Inquirer banner headline on Sept. 26 distilled as: “Jinggoy rats on colleagues.”

Litigation lawyers, when confronted with damning evidence, joke that the respondent’s recourse is to hide behind the “Peanut Butter Defense”—spread the blame. One website condensed the thrust of this strategy thus: “I am a thief, but I am not the only one.”

But Senator Jinggoy spreads the blame beyond personalities. After brushing his colleagues with the black paint of corruption, he generously excuses them and himself by blaming the system: “I believe that we are all victims of a flawed system, which is so ingrained that it has been institutionalized.”

By casting all who work within the flawed system as “victims,” he again suggests that all senators disposed of the PDAF as he did, even as he graciously covers them with the protective cloak of victimhood. But Senator Jinggoy’s assessment of the system as “flawed,” even if self-serving, is one point in his speech few will dispute.

The spin recalls another old joke, morbid, cynical, and, because factually accurate in its details, black-humor-funny. A young man not yet of legal age kills his father and mother to collect on their insurance benefits. He then appears before judge and jury and pleads for clemency—because he is a minor and an orphan.

Apart from the fact that he is no minor, Senator Jinggoy takes an altogether too narrow a view of the “system.” Thus, his concluding statement in Filipino, narrowly focused and innocuous, fails to rise to the challenge of changing what he acknowledges as an “ingrained” mentality:

“We can only speak of a truly straight path once the rotten system has been changed, the corruption corrected and the wrong made right” (my free translation).

The senator omitted the issue of punishment of the guilty—an element essential to excising a defect deeply embedded in the system.

Variants of the pork barrel system have been in play for many years. The pained response of various legislators to the proposed abolition of the PDAF suggests their familiarity with its uses for political purposes. Far from being surprised by the system, they looked forward to participating in it.

The Peanut Butter Defense is weak because, sadly, prevailing laws still permit the lawmakers to receive pork barrel funds. But Senator Jinggoy did succeed in muddying the waters. The media have played up the question of whether the administration had the authority to channel budgetary savings to legislators through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

No one has so far surfaced evidence of corruption in the use of DAP funds. But the issue that has provoked public outrage about PDAF is how the legislators used the funds entrusted to them.

Given the family background and track record in politics, can anyone believe that Senator Jinggoy reached the Senate virginally innocent of potential pork barrel opportunities? Like the appeal of the orphaned young man in the joke, Senator Jinggoy’s self-portrayal as “victim” strikes a discordant note.

The “Orphan Defense” is both weak and offensive, especially to those who voted for the accused legislators. Granting that the system was flawed, it begs the question of responsibility for creating the conditions that corrupted the system.

Senators are not ordinary mortals helplessly caught in a web of structures they are powerless to alter. They hold political positions of enormous powers. As movers and shakers at the center of the web, they cannot easily disclaim responsibility for cultivating and embedding the pork barrel mentality.

It was the individual and collective obligation of Senators Jinggoy, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile—as well as their colleagues in the legislature—to correct the flaws of the system, not to institutionalize and exploit them for personal gain. With their potential involvement in crimes now exposed, they bemoan their plight as victims of the flawed system they helped to create and now promise to reform.

How many Filipinos truly benefited from the millions of pesos released from the senators’ PDAF through the Napoles NGOs? How many lives might have been lost because funds were unjustly denied to the right programs and their rightful beneficiaries?

If people raging against the pork barrel corruption now appear bloodthirsty in their demand for justice, can they be blamed? They know they are the real victims.

Joescoundrel
10-15-2013, 08:46 AM
Not only SSS but 19 other state firms gave bonuses

By Gil C. Cabacungan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

In spite of widespread public outrage, the presidential body tasked with overseeing the pay and perks of state corporations justified Monday the bonuses that the Social Security System (SSS) had rewarded its managers while ramping up contributions of members, noting that 19 other state corporations have also handed out such management windfalls.

Paolo Salvosa, the spokesman of the Governance Commission for Government Owned or Controlled Corporations (GCG), talked to reporters after the panel members went to Malacañang to defend the much-maligned P1 million that the SSS board, headed by Emilio S. de Quiros as president and vice chair, ordered for each of its directors.

De Quiros announced at the same time that employees’ contributions to the SSS would be increased by 0.6 percent, raising their monthly salary contributions from 10.4 to 11 percent.

He said this would stretch pension funding capability “to perpetuity.” He indicated further increases in premiums were forthcoming.

The SSS chief has been roundly criticized, among others, for taking trips abroad, first class, all expenses paid, every two months since he took over the pension agency.

Salvosa said executives of 20 government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs), including the SSS, had been granted bonuses for hitting at least 90 percent of their income target in 2012.

TV Patrol reported that among these corporations were Development Bank of the Philippines (P10.56 million), Government Service Insurance System (P10.448 million), SSS (P9.392 million) and Land Bank of the Philippines (P7.854 million).

At least nine other state firms have pending requests for bonuses, including the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Local Water Utilities Administration.

Salvosa told reporters that the SSS management had met revenue targets and that the bonus was approved by the commission amid a nationwide outcry against raids on government coffers following revelations of a P10-billion racket that diverted government funds meant to uplift the rural poor and typhoon victims.

Profit for pension, not bonus

Former Makati Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. has slammed the bonus, saying in his Twitter account, “the purpose of profits is so you can pay pensions for it, gago (stupid).”

Salvosa told reporters that the GCG had approved the release of similar incentives to 19 other GOCCs for meeting their self-imposed targets for last year. He could not recall the names of the other lucky GOCCs.

He said it was “moral” to have a system that rewarded the best and brightest citizens who joined the public service and that it was wrong to assume that these bonuses came from members’ contributions that the board wanted to jack up this year.

“One hundred percent of members’ contributions still go to the service and benefits of SSS members. The GCG will not issue any authorization if such bonus is immoral. If they did something to increase the fund of the SSS, they should be given compensation but it should always be reasonable,” said Salvosa in Filipino.

Salvosa, however, refused to weigh in on the morality of raising SSS premiums while stuffing the pockets of its directors with perks. “That issue should be addressed to the SSS itself because it is not the mandate of the GCG to tell the GOCCs how to run their business.”

“If we will force them to fix all problems in just one year, we might not be able to give recognition to their good performance ever,” he added.

Based on his explanation, Salvosa said the SSS board members deserved their bonuses because they at least attended the meetings to earn an extra P1 million unlike the previous administration where the board members earned the same bonanza regardless of their attendance and their performance.

Aside from being opaque in its bonus system, Salvosa pointed out that the previous administration tolerated the practice of directors pocketing the dividends of the stock options and board perks of private corporations partially owned by the GOCCs. He said this administration had stopped this practice as all stock options were not remitted to the GOCCs.

The GCG is an initiative of the President which started in late 2011 to end the excesses of presidential appointees in GOCC boards in the previous administration. It covers a total of 123 GOCCs where board directors are limited to compensation solely from per diems for attending a meeting—ranging from P24,000 to P40,000 each for major corporations such as the SSS—and other perks tied to corporate performance.

Joescoundrel
10-15-2013, 08:47 AM
What Went Before: Aquino hit ‘excessive’ paychecks in Sona 2010

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:53 am | Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

In his first State of the Nation Address (Sona), President Aquino denounced the “excessive” paychecks and lavish benefits received by the executives of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), saying that members of the MWSS board of trustees received P2.5 million annually apart from car benefits, technical assistance and loans.

“The entire payroll of the MWSS amounts to P51.4 million annually,” the President said in his July 2010 Sona, adding that MWSS executives received additional allowances and benefits amounting to P81.1 million. “In short, they receive P211.5 million annually. Twenty-four percent of this is for normal salaries, and 66 percent is added on,” the President said.

He added that board members who attended meetings got P14,000 and an annual grocery incentive of P80,000.

“And that’s not all. They get a mid-year bonus, productivity bonus, anniversary bonus, yearend bonus and financial assistance. They not only get a Christmas bonus, but an additional Christmas package as well,” he said.

Perks were not limited to board members. “The average worker receives up to 13th-month pay plus a cash gift. In the MWSS, they receive the equivalent of over 30 months’ pay if you include all their additional bonuses and allowances,” the President said in 2010.

In an interview in August last year, MWSS Chairman Ramon Alikpala said that until 2009, an MWSS driver received about P97,000 a month.

As a response, the President signed the GOCC Governance Act in 2011. Otherwise known as Republic Act No. 10149, the law ended the terms of all GOCC executives on June 30, 2011, and created a Governance Commission for GOCCs. Attached to the Office of the President, the commission has the power to review and reorganize the corporations, as well as fix the salaries, allowances, per diems and bonuses of board members.—Source: Inquirer Archives

Joescoundrel
10-15-2013, 08:54 AM
INC medical mission paralyzes metropolis

By Erika Sauler, Nathaniel R. Melican, Niña P. Calleja

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:00 am | Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

The government came under fire on Monday for allowing the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) to hold a medical mission in Metro Manila that snarled traffic across the metropolis, shuttered schools and forced the suspension of work in the courts in the afternoon.

Angry commuters and motorists who arrived late for work saw politics in the INC outreach program and chided Malacañang for buckling to the bloc-voting sect’s “show of force.”

But most excoriated was the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) for making the metropolis “adjust” to the INC instead of asking the Christian sect to adjust its activity to the limitations of the city.

Malacañang brushed aside the public anger, denying that the partial shutdown of government services was politically motivated.

“We see this as a medical mission,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said, responding to reporters’ questions about the INC activity as a protest against President Aquino’s handling of allegations of corruption in his administration.

“We have no reason to believe otherwise,” Valte said.

Valte also evaded questions about the Palace not being suspicious about the timing of the INC medical mission.

She said she did not know whether the government asked the INC to hold the medical mission on a weekend to minimize the inconvenience to the public.

Reacting to the talk of a show of force, the INC denied the outreach program, called “Kabayan Ko, Kapatid Ko” (My Countrymen, My Brethren), had political color.

“This is not a show of force,” INC minister Edwil Zabala told a news conference.

“No. There is no politics here,” he said.

5 sites

The INC dispensed medical and dental services at five sites in Manila: Plaza del Carmen, including the Lacson, Nagtahan and Mendiola areas; Quinta Market in Quiapo; the Manila Post Office area; and the Isetann area at C.M. Recto Avenue and Quezon Boulevard.

The MMDA rerouted traffic around those locations to give way to the Iglesia event, compounding vehicular congestion in the surrounding areas and doubling commuter time on the road.

Served by the mission were not only INC followers from Manila, but also thousands of members from nearby provinces.

The INC reportedly hired 5,000 buses to ferry its followers from the provinces to Manila. The buses started to arrive as early as Sunday night, disgorging INC followers seeking medical and dental services and relief goods that would be given away during the event.

Iglesia apology

Zabala said the INC chose Quiapo as one of the sites for the mission on the request of residents of that district.

He apologized for the inconvenience to the public.

“We held the [mission] in response to requests coming from residents [of] Quiapo who [had been invited to previous missions or] had heard about them, because this is not the first time,” Zabala said.

The INC expected 1 million to 1.5 million people to come to the mission on Monday.

To ease the expected traffic congestion, the government called off classes in elementary and secondary schools in 13 of the 17 cities and municipalities in the metropolis.

Mayor Joseph Estrada of Manila suspended classes in colleges and universities in the city as well.

But it did little to save people from getting to work on time.

Half day in courts

With most court employees stewing in traffic in different parts of the metropolis, the Supreme Court called off afternoon work in the highest court and the Court of Appeals in Manila and the Court of Tax Appeals, the Sandiganbayan in Quezon City and all trial courts in the two cities.

Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te was among those caught in the gridlock. He ranted against the INC medical mission and the MMDA from his car.

Te complained about how España Avenue and peripheral roads had been converted into parking lots for the buses and other vehicles used to ferry Iglesia members to the medical mission and about the traffic snarl on the so-called alternative routes designated by the MMDA to accommodate the Iglesia.

“Someone allowed this to happen, right? The mayor of Manila? The department of the interior? The head of the MMDA? So far no one has man’d up,” Te said in one of his tweets.

“The LGU (local government unit) power to regulate TPM (time, place and manner) of public assemblies has been upheld in the CPR (calibrated preemptive response) case. Instead LGU and DepEd (Department of Education) suspend classes? Duh!” Te followed up.

The Inquirer tried to call MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino for comment on the Metro residents’ complaints, but he did not respond to this paper’s calls and text messages.

In radio interviews Monday morning, however, Tolentino explained that he had asked the Department of Education to call off classes to avoid inconvenience to students.

“If we did not suspend the classes, our students might not find a ride going home later in the afternoon,” Tolentino said.

Charlie Nozares of the MMDA Metrobase said the INC event brought traffic on the stretch of Edsa from Quezon Avenue to Buendia Avenue to a crawl from 6:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. as motorists looked for other routes to Quezon City and Manila.

At the Commission on Elections (Comelec) office in Intramuros, Manila, many employees failed to report for work because of what one female worker called “Iglesia medical mission related hassles.”

“The INC should have held the event in places like Rizal Park, CCP complex and Quezon Memorial Circle, among other places, instead of smaller venues,” said a security guard at the Comelec who asked not to be named.

“Work here is half day because only few employees reported for work,” he said.

Aura Marie Dagcutan, who lives in Marikina City and works in Manila, said she arrived more than an hour late for work at her office on United Nations Avenue because she had to walk more than a kilometer and fight for a jeepney ride early in the morning.

“This is worse than the situation during storms,” Dagcutan said.

Not just medical mission

Asked what she thought about the INC event, Dagcutan said she believed it was not just a medical mission.

“For me, it’s a show of force of the Iglesia ni Cristo. For me, this shows how much the sect has done for [Manila Mayor Joseph] Erap Estrada, that he had to allow this to happen on a Monday morning when they could have done it on another day, maybe on a weekend or a holiday,” she said.

Dagcutan also had a message for Estrada.

“He should also have canceled work throughout the city. Because it’s not only students who get affected by these events. We workers are affected too,” she said.

Estrada laughed off the “show of force” line, which was suggested by people who claimed he brought the INC event to Manila to warn his opponents who were seeking to reverse his victory in May’s mayoral election.

“It’s nothing like that,” he said. “It never occurred to me, not even in my imagination.”

Estrada called the INC event “heaven sent” for the poor of Manila.

“They gave relief goods to victims of calamities. That’s heaven-sent. Very timely, because Manila has the highest incidence of poverty in (Metro Manila),” he said.

But not only ordinary people read political meaning in the INC event.

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said politicians who failed to get the message of the event were fools.

Not siege of Malacañang

The sites of the INC medical mission were all close to Malacañang, but Zabala said there was nothing to it.

“The people who went there were evenly distributed. We had no plan to lay siege on Malacañang,” Zabala said.

“If that is how our activity was seen, that’s inadvertent,” he said.

A project of the Felix Y. Manalo Foundation Inc., the outreach program was launched in Manila’s Binondo district in April, combining the INC’s two major activities: evangelization and charity work.

Zabala said the program was also part of yearlong celebrations across the country to mark the lead-up to INC’s centenary next year.

He said the INC had brought the outreach program to other places, including Zamboanga City at the height of fighting between government forces and rebels from the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) faction led by Nur Misuari last month.

An INC press statement said the outreach program had been taken to other countries as well.—With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Donna Cueto-Ybañez, Jerry E. Esplanada and AFP

Joescoundrel
10-15-2013, 08:56 AM
^ As one of those adversely affected by this INC mess putangina na lang ng Iglesia.

Kahit anong paliwanag ninyo, kahit gano karami natulungan niyo, mas marami naman ang pininsala ninyo.

Just think about all the guys who get paid by the day, if they were late, or didn't make it to work altogether, or their work was cut to a half-day.

I-stupido

N-a

C-ulto

Joescoundrel
10-15-2013, 09:20 AM
The $20-hotdog: thinking about pork

By John Nery

Philippine Daily Inquirer

9:28 pm | Monday, October 14th, 2013

Some thoughts on the pork barrel scandal as it now stands, but first a short anecdote.

Last Thursday, on a busy street corner in midtown Manhattan, I stopped to buy a Sabrett hotdog. I paid for my $3-lunch with a $5-bill. When the vendor gave me my change, it was a sheaf of bills—considerably more than the $2 I was expecting. I gave the bills back to him, and said, “Thanks, but I only gave you five.” He gave me a quizzical look, then handed me two singles.

I stepped off the curb, feeling pleased. I headed straight for my next meeting, eating the hotdog along the way. (It was as good as I remembered.)

Later that day, on the way back to my hotel, I started doing the day’s totals in my head: How much in cash I started the day with, how much I spent for breakfast, and so on. (The arithmetic of the cash advance.) That’s when I realized something was wrong with my numbers.

After some effort, I remembered that I had received $38 in change after paying for breakfast: a twenty, a ten, a five and then three singles. But I also remembered that I had made sure to check my wallet before paying for the hotdog, and saw the $5-bill in it. I walked as fast as I could, and as soon as I reached my hotel room, I opened my wallet. No twenty, no ten (I had used that to buy subway tickets); just a couple of $1-bills and, pushed halfway down the wallet, the recalcitrant five.

As it turned out, I had mistakenly used the $20-bill to pay for the hotdog; the sheaf of $1-bills the vendor attempted to give me must have added up to $17. I had thought that the look on his face when I returned the money was the visual equivalent of “I can’t believe I made a mistake.” Turns out it was probably closer to the thought bubble, “Suit yourself, buster.”

The point of all this is not that we make mistakes; we all do, all the time. Rather, it is that a sense of certainty can be based on a misappreciation of the facts. In other words, even false certainty can seem true.

* * *

In an effort to help myself think through the pork barrel controversy, especially as it has evolved over the last three or four weeks, I have begun compiling a list of theses about the issue—not so much guidelines as working distinctions, reminders to myself that while the issue is absolutely vital and urgent, it is also more than merely black or white. I realize, however, that the same spirit of felt certainty, genuine but possibly erroneous, may in fact describe my list.

* * *

1. The pork barrel system is fatally prone to corruption and fundamentally contrary to the separation of powers; the use of political resources, however, cannot all be reduced to pork.

2. The system must be dismantled, even though there is “good” pork and “bad” pork.

3. Good pork means a politician’s use of his pork barrel allocation is legitimate: lawful and to good purpose. Bad means it was used to line the politician’s pockets, and those of his partners in corruption.

4. The pork barrel scam associated with the controversial businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles is extraordinarily bad pork; it represents the perfection of corruption. Funds are released, but nothing gets built.

5. The best reference to make a distinction between good and bad pork is not someone like Senate President Franklin Drilon, even though his commitment to building Iloilo’s infrastructure is evident and his classroom-building with Filipino-Chinese businessmen exemplary. Rather, it is someone like Teddy Casiño, the former Bayan Muna party-list representative who has defended his own use of the pork barrel—and wants the entire system abolished.

6. Bayan Muna is not the only party or political force which put pork barrel funds to legitimate use.

7. All the same, public anger has changed the equation; when it comes to the use of the pork barrel, the burden of proof now lies with the politicians involved in the process, rather than on any accuser.

8. The same thing with the Disbursement Acceleration Program. As I understand it, it is not a pork barrel-like fund; but the participation of lawmakers in endorsing certain projects, thought uncontroversial in 2011, gives the DAP the aspect of pork. This means that its uses since 2011 should be deemed suspect until or unless proven otherwise.

9. I cannot place too much significance on the legal interpretation of someone like Fr. Ranhilio Aquino—because he has never read a law or a bill or an initiative in any way that can be construed as favorable to the Aquino administration. I do not mean to say he is always wrong (or always right), just that he is never neutral. The same cannot be said, however, about Fr. Joaquin Bernas (in legal matters, quite literally the Inquirer’s esteemed Monday-morning quarterback).

10. I believe not only in the integrity but also in the competence of Butch Abad, and first welcomed the news about the DAP precisely as an inspired innovation, the clever use of political resources in the exercise of a clear political mandate.

* * *

Headlines and column titles can be misleading. The hotdog did not in fact cost $20; since I got $2 in change, the real cost was $18. It took me some time to realize that too.

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 08:38 AM
Santiago: INC rally has political undertones

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:56 am | Wednesday, October 16th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—Monday’s paralysis of the capital by the Iglesia ni Cristo carried political undertones, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago said Tuesday.

When its mammoth medical mission ground traffic to a stop and prompted the suspension of classes and work, the INC was railing against widespread corruption and calling for a “political climate change,” Santiago noted.

Despite an earlier denial by the INC that there was anything political in their mass action, Santiago asserted: “There is a message behind the INC event… If you are a politician and you don’t get it, you are a fool,” she curtly said in a statement on Monday.

Santiago, sought for comment a day after the shutdown, said the INC congregation had clearly shown discipline because millions of its members responded to its call for the medical mission, and proved that it had the capacity to paralyze the metropolis.

“That’s a civic tsunami we saw yesterday. They (politicians) never saw it coming,” she said in a phone interview.

But more important, the INC was also registering its protest of the large-scale misuse of pork barrel and other lump-sum appropriations in the national budget, the feisty senator said.

“It cannot be gainsaid that clearly the INC does not find the Aquino administration fully competent to face the challenges of the times, meaning to say, the outrage, the titanic outrage over massive and deeply rooted corruption,” she said.

“As a politician I would put it bluntly: that the INC, with all its inherent virtues, discipline, capability and principled leadership, isn’t going to engage in mere rhetoric or discourse over what it feels very strongly,” she added.

Instead, “it’s putting its money where its mouth is,” she continued.

“The envelope has been pushed too far. As a matter of faith, they (members of the INC) want a regime change, even only in attitude, among our present corrupt politicians,” she said.

What form and shape the INC’s “frustration” would take “is for them to know and for you and I to speculate,” the senator said. At the least, “they’re calling for political climate change.”

It would be prudent then for the President, and leaders of Congress to sit down with INC leader Eduardo V. Manalo because the INC “has very deep roots in honest governance,” the senator said.

“Remember, the INC founder chose to brave an entire colonial regime because he found it corrupt,” she said, referring to Felix Manalo who founded the congregation in 1914.

Busloads of INC members from around the metropolis and provinces, numbering in the thousands, converged at five areas in Manila to conduct medical and dental services as part of its outreach program.

While the government suspended classes as early as Sunday, the caravan of buses and the massive crowd virtually closed major thoroughfares to traffic in many areas, resulting in mayhem, and forcing courts to suspend work in the afternoon.

Soon, social media was deluged with rants mostly from motorists stewing in traffic.

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 08:38 AM
^^^ Miriam Santiago brown-nosing the INC, fantastic...

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 10:35 AM
Our traffic hell, an exit strategy

by Dean Tony La Viña and Danielle Guillen, PhD

Posted on 10/15/2013 7:21 PM | Updated 10/15/2013 7:47 PM

These past two weeks, due to floods or bomb threats, many residents of Metro Manila were caught in monstrous traffic jams.

Based on social media and radio reports, it is clear that citizens are reaching a breaking point. The anger is palpable, the blame laid squarely on the government and especially the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

It is our sense that we have reached a new low in the transportation crisis in the city and that the people’s frustration is reaching a new peak. Unfortunately, this will not necessarily translate into rational and good decisions by government bodies, including local governments.

Take Manila’s ordinance regulating the entry of city and provincial buses — allowing only those with terminals in Manila, to enter the city. This ordinance has been controversial, with complaints from both bus operators and commuters accompanying perceived gains in traffic reduction.

Questions have also been raised about the consequences of locating bus terminal hubs in strategic places in the north and south outskirts of Metro Manila. This is now being implemented by the MMDA for buses coming from the south, and it has been terrible seeing the chaos in the terminal during its first weeks of operation. Commuters are not only suffering major inconveniences but their commuting budgets have also increased considerably.

Indeed, if Metro Manila were a human body, it would be suffering from a terrible disease. It is a disease that, as of 2011, is costing us P137.5 billion, according to a study made by the UP National Center for Transportation.

The challenge is how to treat this disease immediately since it can also spell the difference in the country’s inclusive growth. But can we really say the disease has been properly identified?

Assured destruction

In this piece, we argue that traffic is not the main problem. If this is the lens we use to frame what we are facing, we are likely to make matters worse. The better approach is to see the challenge as one of inclusive mobility – that what we need in Metro Manila is a public transportation system that is affordable and can move people efficiently from their homes to their work places, and to and from centers of commerce and community life.

We credit Manila and the MMDA for exerting efforts to solve the problem, but we contend that their approaches are wrong and will lead only to MAD-ness. By MAD, we mean the concept of Mutually Assured Destruction, a concept popularized in the Cold War when nuclear war was deterred by the assurance of such destruction.

In the case of our transportation crisis, if this continues, other local governments will retaliate against Manila, and commuters will defy the rules, and worse, resort to even more colorum vehicles. Certainly by punishing the commuting public, those who take public transportation will now resort to private vehicles and just exacerbate traffic and chaos in our streets.

At the end of this think piece, we suggest options that could help us overcome the mobility challenge, a way out of MAD.

Statistics and the big picture

Available statistics cover mostly the number of buses but seldom the number of passengers during peak hours. Earlier, Rappler reported that according to the MMDA, there are 13,067 buses running in Metro Manila each day and around 60% (7,368 ) are from the provinces. If we used this data and the average reported bus loading capacity of 40.5 passengers (vis-à-vis 60 for full capacity), this will mean that the current bus system carries 529,213.5 passengers a day.

Other reports also say that EDSA can accommodate only 1,600 bus units daily. If we used the current bus average loading capacity at 40.5 passengers, this number will conservatively carry only around 64,000 commuters. However the current reported statistics show that out of the estimated 300,000 vehicles using EDSA, only 1.2% (or 3,600) are city buses.

The data means that 24-km EDSA carries 145,800 commuters and 444,600 motorists (on average 1.5 occupancy level per private vehicle) daily.

The MRT is designed to carry around 350,000 passengers but according to estimates, as many as 540,000 passengers use the MRT daily. Metro Manila has a population of around 12 million (night time) and 14 million (day time). Given that 80% of this daytime population takes public transport, then obviously, the current number of buses and train coaches is inadequate. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why it is very difficult to weed out “colorum” buses.

However, this is not to say that “colorum” buses are good. Anything illegal is always wrong. And anything that disrupts the smooth flow of traffic, especially those vehicles carrying the most number of individuals/commuters like buses, is bad.

But we believe it is time to look beyond the obvious. It is time to look at the big picture and learn to understand what matters most — mobility or the lack of it. At the end of the day, every Metro Manilan would love to have the option to choose which would be the easiest route, the most environmentally-friendly, the most socially friendly, or the cheapest one.

Research and the implementation cycle

In the transport sector, one of the most important data to study is the travel survey data which contain the origin-destination (including transfer points), trip purpose, transport modes, and travel time used, among others.

In most developed countries like Japan and the US, this kind of survey is already institutionalized. In the US, it is even being done periodically and the goal is quite clear: to assist transportation planners and policy makers who need comprehensive data on travel.

In Guangzou, China — winner of the 2011 Sustainable Urban Transport — there were before- and-after studies (http://www.chinabestpractices.net/) for every project. They tracked down changes in physical aspects, movement, and how the public feels about them. This then becomes the basis for further improvement and for communicating information to the public.

In most cities of developed countries, a typical sustainable transport planning and mobility management cycle includes research (data collection); policy (if new ones or some revisions are needed); policy/project implementation; evaluation (research again); and improvement. More importantly, mayors, transport leaders and policy makers “walk the talk.” In other words, they also use the public transport system and have a feel of the city to guide policy formulation.

Manila is the classic case that uses the cycle of “policy-implementation-evaluation-improvement” without seriously looking at the number of commuters affected.

The same seems to be true for EDSA.

MMDA has tried so many schemes on EDSA but most of these are related to regulating bus traffic. In fact, various versions of dispatching schemes have been tried and so far, none have worked very well.

It is important to note that MMDA is also limited by its mandate where buses are concerned. There is also the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) which is tasked to address franchise violations and enforce rules in such a way that bus companies are encouraged to improve their services.

It would be interesting to know how many of these erring companies were sanctioned, but it’s also worth knowing how many commuters were directly affected.

On the other hand, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC), the agency mandated to come up with solutions to our mobility needs, has been known to be working on a number of mass public transport projects.

In particular, it has been working on the acquisition of additional coaches to address the long overdue capacity expansion of the MRT Line 3. But the MRT Line 3 is considered a light rail transit that was built along EDSA despite the need for a higher capacity system. There could be new coaches, there might be improvement in the system, but the reality is, they will never be enough.

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 10:36 AM
^^^ (Cont'd )

Transport hierarchy

The road-sharing concept supports the belief that the movement of people and things should follow the simple principle, “those who have less in wheels must have more in roads.” This is incorporated in the Philippine Environmentally Sustainable Transport Framework (DOTC 2011). According to the report, the system should favor non-motorized locomotion and collective transportation systems.

As most transport scientists will attest, it is important to take note of this transport hierarchy: pedestrian, cyclist, mass public transport (trains like PNR or Philippine National Railways, MRT, LRTs, bus, and paratransit modes like PUJs, FXs), then private vehicles in that order.

Any roads built should prioritize pedestrians, cyclists, and mass public transport first. It is important to realize that only when we move the majority of people instead of vehicles can we effectively decongest our roads.

There is a need to also learn the lessons from abroad on how this concept is effectively applied using various innovations in improving bus systems or implementing bus rapid transit (BRT) systems. For instance, one can learn from the experience of Rochester-Genesee Regional Transportation Authority in the US, wherein officials secured partnerships with the community once the bus services improved.

They had partnerships with college campuses, shopping centers, apartment complexes, and then asked them to pay for the better service. With a number of school campuses and growing Central Business Districts (CBDs) in Metro Manila, such partnerships are certainly worth considering.

There are instances that a city decides to enhance transit in a densely populated corridor or build an entirely new system for the metro region and more often than not BRTs and LRTs are considered. The two have many similarities, including (when done properly) exclusive lanes and attractive stations.

BRT proponents often highlight the price, while LRT proponents usually point to capacity and style as marketing points. BRT as a comprehensive transport choice is best seen in Curitiba, Brazil, Bogota, Columbia, Guangzhou, and the People’s Republic of China, among others.

What’s best

At the end of the day, it is best to consider what the commuters want, as well as to learn from past mistakes and from international models. The motorists may want speed, but for commuters it is the frequency of available modes of transportation.

Rather than debate on the technology, it is best to consider road geometry. Instead of focusing on direct service, there should be more seamless connections among the different public transport modes available, which, in turn, are connected to every community.

Jarret Walker summarizes it well in his book, “Human Transit,” which says that most efficient transit systems focus on frequency, duration, speed, reliability, and capacity.

The implementation of the bus ban and integrated bus terminal in Manila has created ripple effects on the rest of the metropolis. But rather than debate on its merits, we should get our act together and start having truly inclusive mobility. – Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
10-16-2013, 10:39 AM
Revilla, Estrada and Marcos

by Marites Dañguilan Vitug

Posted on 10/15/2013 1:10 PM | Updated 10/15/2013 1:56 PM

Look where this phenomenon called “name recall” got us. The 2 top-grossing senators in the pork barrel mega-scam—Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Jinggoy Estrada—own surnames that have been grafted into Philippine politics by way of show business. (Juan Ponce Enrile, the 3rd top grosser, is another story.)

Revilla channelled P413 million of his pork and Estrada, P191 million, to fake NGOs linked to Janet Napoles, the Commission on Audit found out. Their plunder cases are pending with the Office of the Ombudsman.

Another senator tainted by the scandal, Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., appears to be in a minor league compared to the stars. State audit reports show that he endorsed P100 million of his pork to dubious NGOs, some of which are creations of Napoles. Marcos did this through the National Livelihood Development Corporation, one of the favorite conduits for PDAF. Marcos claimed, though, that his signatures were forged.

Every election season, those with popular family names make it, those whose surnames belong to fathers, spouses and siblings who dug their heels in politics. Others belong to both politics and show business, fields that seamlessly blend into each other in the Philippines.

The billion-peso PDAF fraud, which has become a turning point in our politics, is a painful reminder that choosing candidates based solely on marquee names is bad for the country. Political parties should stop spicing up their line-ups with these types whose only claim to fame is their surname. And, most of all, the public should reject them.

This is not the first time, of course, that we’ve learned this lesson. But this time around, we’re learning it big-time. Now, we have billions of reasons to say no to candidates who strut around with their mass-appeal surnames —and not much else.

Amnesia

Many would have thought that we’ve had traumatic experiences with past presidents Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada. Wrong. Many still voted for their sons into the Senate.

Let’s look back.

Marcos was estimated to have embezzled worth US$5 to $10 billion in his 20 years in office. How did he amass all this? The World Bank says that, among others, Marcos directly raided the national treasury and financial institutions, squeezed kickbacks and commissions from firms working in the Philippines, and skimmed off foreign aid.

In his 2 years in office, Estrada accumulated $87.3 million in unexplained wealth derived from bribes, kickbacks, and protection money from illegal gambling. He was convicted of plunder but this turned out to be short-lived. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo granted him pardon a month after his conviction.

By making Bongbong and Jinggoy senators of the republic, it’s as if the country got amnesia. We forgot their fathers’ sins and tucked these away into the farthest recesses of our minds, never to be retrieved again.

One of 70+ children

Bong Revilla, for his part, made it to the Senate because of show biz fame and pedigree. He is one of 72 to 80 children (by more than a dozen women) of movie actor and former Senator Ramon Revilla Sr. Those who know the old Revilla say that he takes pride in the fact that he supports all his children.

One of his many families, it was reported, received a monthly allowance of P1 million. Multiply this many times over, then that’s a hefty sum for the old man to fork out, past his halcyon days as a movie actor and politician.

While no corruption charges have been filed against the old Revilla, various news reports have cast doubt on his integrity. He was a senator for 12 years, during which he headed the public works committee, said to be a plum post.

When he left the Senate, he chaired the Philippine Estates Authority and Philippine Reclamation Authority, known to be lucrative positions. He was always in the good graces of whoever was in power. He served in the PEA, his last job, till his early 80s.

Columnist Ellen Tordesillas opined that Revilla is an amazing study for business students on how a movie actor parlayed a showbiz career into politics, winding up with a financial bonanza.

Entitlement in DNA

Pop psychology says that children take after their parents. They imbibe their values and inhale their daily work ethic. They grow into the lifestyles of their parents, get to enjoy fabulous riches and the trappings that come with public office. All this entitlement becomes part of their DNA.

By the time they follow in the footsteps of their parents, there is no longer any divide between right and wrong. Boundaries are blurred and a strong sense of entitlement prevails.

We hear of only a few cases of children rebelling against their parents, pursuing opposite paths. They didn’t like what they saw and they chose to be different.

But in the still-unfolding multi-billion pork barrel scandal, the sons did not stray from their fathers. - Rappler.com

Sam Miguel
10-17-2013, 07:46 AM
Senate faceoff: COA chief tells Estrada he may get ‘P200-M bill’ soon

By TJ Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:30 am | Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Despite his protestations, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada may yet get a notice to refund close to P200 million of his pork barrel released to questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs) from 2007 to 2009, Commission on Audit (COA) Chair Grace Pulido-Tan indicated on Wednesday.

Grilled by Estrada for more than an hour over her agency’s report on the pork barrel scam, the COA chair turned the tables on him and said lawmakers were “jointly liable” for the “disallowed fund.”

“Why are we being asked to return the fund? We never received the money,” Estrada protested during the Senate hearing on COA’s 2014 budget after Tan confirmed that lawmakers would be asked to refund the money.

Tan replied: “That’s the consequence of a notice of disallowance (ND). Those who will get such a notice would become jointly and solidarily liable for the return of the money, and that is a matter of law.”

She earlier said that NDs would be issued over some P6 billion worth of pork barrel that a special audit from 2007 to 2009 found was illegally funneled to questionable NGOs.

In that special audit, the COA reported that P6.2 billion in the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) was transferred to 82 NGOs from 2007 to 2009, including at least eight controlled by Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains of a P10-billion pork barrel scam.

The funds were sourced from Senators Bong Revilla (P413.29 million), Juan Ponce Enrile (P332.7 million), Estrada (P191.58 million) and Gregorio Honasan (P14.55 million), among others.

At the hearing, Estrada told Tan it was premature for her to announce the issuance of NDs for legislators. He insisted that it was the heads of implementing agencies, not the lawmakers, who had control of the funds.

“Why gang up on the legislators who don’t have control of the funds?” said the senator, who was charged in the Office of the Ombudsman with plunder together with Revilla and Enrile over the Napoles racket.

At this point, Tan indicated that Estrada might get one such notice.

Tan replied: “Sir, with due respect, I can’t answer your question now because once the notices of disallowance are issued, you have the right to appeal in the event that you get one of these. And it will come to the commission proper, so I don’t want to prejudge.”

Taken aback, Estrada asked why she was giving such a statement. Tan retorted that she was just replying to his question.

“It is our function to issue notices of disallowance, and the effect of a notice of disallowance is that we’re asking you to return the money,” Tan said.

When Estrada pressed her on why the COA was bent on issuing the notices to legislators, Tan said this was a “proper matter for appeal.”

Estrada’s questioning used up close to one and a half hours of the finance committee’s hearing on the COA budget to grill Tan, who held her ground.

Nobody in the committee, chaired by Sen. Francis Escudero, managed to ask about the COA’s budget. Another hearing was set for this.

Sam Miguel
10-17-2013, 07:47 AM
Charges of cover-up prompt Drilon to subpoena Napoles

By Norman Bordadora

Philippine Daily Inquirer

2:50 am | Thursday, October 17th, 2013

Saying he was appalled by allegations that his refusal to summon Janet Lim-Napoles was an attempt at a cover-up, Senate President Franklin Drilon on Wednesday announced he had decided to subpoena the alleged brains of the P10-billion pork barrel fund scam to appear at a Senate inquiry.

Napoles’ much-anticipated testimony at the Senate blue ribbon committee is expected to complete the narrative on how she, some lawmakers and certain government officials coursed allocations from the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) meant for the rural poor into ghost projects and kickbacks.

Her testimony also could identify other lawmakers and government officials apart from those in the opposition who have already been charged with her in the Office of the Ombudsman.

“As a former justice secretary, I have always believed in the paramount pursuit of justice. I am therefore appalled that there are talks of a cover-up,” Drilon said. “I have never been a part of any cover-up and I will never be.”

In a text message to the Inquirer Wednesday night, Lorna Kapunan, Napoles’ lawyer, said her client would invoke her right against self-incrimination when she testifies.

“She will issue her sworn statement before the Ombudsman which is the appropriate venue,” Kapunan said.

Drilon’s announcement came on the day he had scheduled a caucus to get a feel of the chamber on his refusal to subpoena Napoles, to the chagrin of Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the chair of the investigative panel.

Napoles’ appearance will probably take place next week, Guingona said.

Drilon, whose photograph with Napoles in her parties has been widely publicized, had blocked demands to summon the businesswoman to its inquiry.

To justify his decision, he sought the opinion of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, who advised against it because of the investigation her office was conducting.

Second letter

Faced with unrest in the chamber, Drilon sent a second letter to Morales, who forthwith told him that in fact “the Senate is supreme in its own sphere.” Which was why Drilon scheduled Thursday’s caucus.

The subject, however, was not discussed there because he had by then decided to summon Napoles, a matter he discussed likewise during the day with some of his colleagues.

In his privilege speech, Drilon adverted to a purported vilification campaign against him and the Aquino administration by the opposition, “particularly those who seek to block our anticorruption reforms.”

Senate image injured

He didn’t name names but Sandra Cam, a whistle-blower on “jueteng,” a widespread illegal numbers racket during the Arroyo regime and which continues under the Aquino administration, has been reported as saying that Drilon has close ties to Napoles and that the businesswoman was a major election contributor to the ruling Liberal Party.

“It is unfortunate that my decision to adhere to the advice of Ombudsman Morales—to which I concurred at that time was the more prudent and responsible action to take to ensure an orderly administration of justice—has been misconstrued as an effort to hide the truth,” Drilon said.

“The public criticism that came our way has undoubtedly injured the image of the Senate before a public hungry to see Napoles being grilled in the Senate halls,” he added.

The National Bureau of Investigation’s probe into the Napoles pork barrel scam has resulted in the filing of plunder charges in the Ombudsman against Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla.

Estrada welcomed Drilon’s move. “We ought to know the truth,” he said in his interpellation of Drilon. “I hope she bares everything, she will tell the truth,” he said, adding “as you said, punish the guilty and acquit those who are innocent.”

Asked to explain his decision to consult Morales, Drilon said: “It was a question of prudence and caution on our part that we sought her advice. And in fact when she said in her second letter, that I defer to the collective judgment of the Senate, we took that to mean that her investigation will not be hampered by any investigation with that statement that she made.”—With a report from Nancy Carvajal

Sam Miguel
10-17-2013, 07:48 AM
Road user’s tax spent faster than Malampaya

By Christian V. Esguerra

Philippine Daily Inquirer

5:53 am | Thursday, October 17th, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—The government’s third-biggest source of tax revenues appears to be getting depleted even faster than the now controversial Malampaya Fund, which represents the royalties from the Malampaya oil and gas operations off Palawan.

As of December last year, the government has collected some P90.72 billion of the Motor Vehicle User’s Charge (MVUC), or the road user’s tax, based on the Department of Budget and Management’s Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF) report.

But only P10.69 billion is left of the fund as of the end of 2012, meaning a total of P80.02 billion has been spent since the MVUC was first collected in 2001.

When former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo stepped down in 2010 after nine years in office, only P8.34 billion remained of the MVUC, despite an average annual collection of P7 billion.

In the case of the Malampaya Fund, administration Sen. Ralph Recto earlier claimed that of the P170 billion in royalties collected since 2002, a total of P130 billion was “gone.”

Recto said the Arroyo administration had used up P25 billion while President Aquino has so far spent P15 billion.

Janet Lim-Napoles, the alleged brains behind the P10-billion pork barrel scam, is facing another set of charges for allegedly pocketing P900 million in Malampaya funds that were supposed to have been spent for typhoon victims. Also charged were Arroyo and three of her Cabinet members.

The MVUC was created by Republic Act No. 8794 in 2000. The proceeds from the tax were supposed to constitute a “special road fund” to be spent “exclusively” for the improvement and maintenance of drainage systems in national primary and secondary roads.

The General Appropriations Act of 2013 expanded the scope of the fund’s use to cover the “maintenance of roads and bridges.”

The total MVUC collection and how it is spent are contained in the BESF, a report made available together with the President’s National Expenditure Program, under “earmarked revenues, special accounts in the general fund.”

A comparison of the BESF and the Bureau of Treasury reports suggested discrepancies in the amount of MVUC collections deposited since 2001. That year, the BESF showed a deposit of P3.69 billion, but the Bureau of Treasury amount was lower at P3.17 billion.

The P90.72 billion in total MVUC collections can be broken down into four items: special road support fund (P72.57 billion), special local road fund (P4.53 billion), and the special road safety fund and the special pollution fund, which represented an identical amount of P6.8 billion.

Joescoundrel
10-18-2013, 10:22 AM
Stampede

By Michael L. Tan

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:43 am | Friday, October 18th, 2013

The Inquirer’s front page had a headline quoting survivors of the Tuesday earthquake as saying: “We were lucky it was a holiday.” I can imagine people saying it was “good”—“Buti na lang” in Tagalog, “Maayo na lang” in Cebuano—that it happened on a holiday (thank the Muslims for Eid al Adha), which meant fewer people were in offices and schools.

But when I hear that, I immediately shift into a “what if” mode, and here, it’s “What if the earthquake had happened in Manila, on Monday?” Yes, I’m referring to the Iglesia ni Cristo medical mission that practically paralyzed Metro Manila because it was held in the most crowded transportation hubs in the metropolis.

The fact is that in the provinces of Cebu and Bohol, even if it was a holiday, we did see what could have happened in Metro Manila. I’m referring to the stampedes that occurred in several places because the Department of Social Welfare and Development was issuing payments under the Conditional Cash Transfer (Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino) program on that day in several public centers. A four-year-old child was trampled to death in one such stampede in Pinamungahan, Cebu. In Toledo City, a stampede during a CCT activity led to some 20 people being injured.

Disaster risk

There’s so much talk now, even a law, about DRRM (disaster relief and risk management) but we forget that stampedes are disasters, too, which can occur with or without an earthquake. The risks come from our culture which, put simply, includes a love of crowds. Because we are such a densely populated nation, we’ve grown too accustomed to being with lots of people. When my westerner friends see a crowd, they sense danger and turn back. When Filipinos see a crowd of people, they think, “Ay, masaya!”—this looks like fun—and run into the crowd.

There’s the “uzi” mentality at work here (from the word “usisero” or kibitzer, a person who wants to poke into other people’s business). You see that whenever there’s a traffic accident—the gridlock does not necessarily result from the vehicles blocking the road but from all the motorists who just have to slow down and check out what’s happening, as well as the crowd of pedestrians (mainly jobless males) flocking in.

More than the “uzi” mindset is the idea that the crowd is there because of some attraction, maybe an “artista,” a celebrity. Now who can miss out on being able to see the celebrity (and these days, it’s not enough to see your idol, you need to have yourself photographed with him or her, and never mind if the object of adulation is 10 meters away from you)?

Then there’s the idea that the crowd is there because some politician, the government, or, lately, the INC, is giving out free groceries, or T-shirts, or medical services. If indeed there are freebies being distributed, the risks of a disaster are amplified as people push and shove, fearful they won’t get their share.

We greatly underestimate the risks of disasters that come with crowds. I’ve written several times about our problems with the LRT/MRT and, each time, readers will agree about the ordeal, but mainly cite the long lines and waiting times rather than the crowding. In contrast, I’ve had readers who write in and say the crowds are worse in Seoul or in Tokyo’s subways.

No quarrel there, but there’s order in those subways, even staff assigned, in Tokyo, to push people into the subway trains. I shudder to think of what could happen here. What if an earthquake happens? What if some jerk calls out “Bomba! Bomba!”? I look around and don’t see exit signs. Then I try to reassure myself that there can’t be a stampede because there’s no space left for it to happen.

Seriously, it can and will happen, with or without an earthquake, with or without a bomb scare. Whether it’s an INC medical mission or the DSWD giving out CCT payments, the organizers should be thinking of the risk of stampedes as part of disaster risk management. The Central Visayas earthquake can be cited to warn people during these events about crowd control, and about not panicking if something adverse happens. The briefings should be more detailed, for example, telling parents to keep watch over their children, and to care first for their children and elderly relatives if there is a need to evacuate. These briefings need to be repeated during any public activity or mass mobilization.

We should learn from organizers of sports events and concerts, who do know about stampedes and employ crowd control personnel, often functioning as well as bouncers to throw out troublemakers. We could have something similar, such as training the barangay tanod in crowd control—and hoping that they will not be the first to run out when there’s an earthquake.

Culture change

I’ve mentioned that this love of crowds is cultural, which means we need to think now of culture change. We can start with ourselves and our families. It won’t be easy: I already see my children getting excited when they see crowds. It started out with “free taste” booths in groceries, usually for junk food (or, as the writer Michael Pollan calls them, food-like substances). But I see the kids attracted to crowds, too, in Sunday markets, in theme parks. I’ve talked with them and explained that crowds can also be dangerous, mainly because they might get lost. But they’re not quite convinced, growing up Filipino with a love of noise and frenzied activity.

On another front, I do hope the INC and other groups would rethink these medical missions. At the University of the Philippines’ health sciences colleges, we have endless discussions about the limited usefulness of these missions, which really should be limited to disaster relief. The dole activities, like what we saw last Monday in Manila, do little to educate people about healthcare, and often end up being used by private companies who give a few samples of drugs or, worse, useless supplements, knowing that these will pay off by creating a demand from the recipients.

Last Monday’s INC event reinforced the already strong biases among Filipinos against the sect. INC elders should recognize that they will be better remembered through their many progressive programs, in the way they provide schools, housing, and other social services for their members. In the area of healthcare, their money will be better spent for community education programs than through doles.

I will repeat, the risk of a stampede during a medical mission, INC-sponsored or not, is very real. If it happens and lives are lost, people may not be as charitable in saying, “Buti na lang…”

* * *

Sam Miguel
10-22-2013, 09:09 AM
Execs can’t account for Malampaya Fund

Revenue commingling cited

By TJ A. Burgonio

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:07 am | Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

If the Malampaya Fund is “intact,” where’s the money?

Cabinet officials on Monday had a tough time explaining the status of the P136-billion balance of the proceeds of the government’s share in revenues from the gas project off Palawan province, part of President Aquino’s pork barrel funds, the use of which has been questioned in the Supreme Court as unconstitutional.

Briefing senators on the National Expenditure Program (NEP) for 2014, Treasurer Rosalia de Leon and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima agreed that the balance was lodged in a special account in the general fund.

Both officials, however, admitted that there was “no cash” to speak of. But De Leon qualified that the fund was commingled in the general fund and that cash would always be available when needed.

Earlier in the day, during the hearing on the 2014 budget on the Department of Finance, Sen. Ralph Recto managed to elicit an answer from De Leon on the whereabouts of the Malampaya Fund.

“Don’t mislead the public and make them think there’s P137 billion available in cash by saying it’s intact,” said Recto, who chaired the hearing on the finance budget.

“There’s something wrong there. Tell the public what is the truth. That this is commingled with the general fund; that’s what it is,” he said.

De Leon replied: “We can use the cash … If there’s an expenditure to be funded, the cash will be made available.”

When Recto asked if that entailed borrowing money, De Leon said yes. Recto said: “Let’s call a spade a spade.”

De Leon explained that the fund was intact “in the sense” that the Bureau of the Treasury was monitoring the disbursements out of the fund.

Asked if there was a separate item of the fund in the bank, De Leon said this was a special account in the general fund.

Recto later explained to reporters: “If they need to borrow money, they will make it available because that is what you call an appropriation balance. That’s all accounting. If we talk of proper cash management, it’s not a good practice. Even the secretary of finance said so.”

Constitutionality

The constitutionality of the discretionary manner in which the President can use the government share in the operation of the Malampaya gas and oil fields is one of the twin issues to be decided by the Supreme Court next month, along with the congressional Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

Widespread public indignation over the channeling of PDAF into ghost projects and kickbacks has prompted three petitions to the high tribunal to declare lump sum allocations to lawmakers unconstitutional, along with the Malampaya Fund disbursements.

During the NEP hearing, Sen. Serge Osmeña III asked why the government had not spent the balance of the Malampaya Fund on projects. Purisima said: “The cash has been spent but there is no borrowing.”

Purisima explained that there was an “unusual account”—Account No. 151 created by Presidential Decree No. 1234—allowing the Malampaya Fund to be used by the government. He said the Aquino Cabinet tried to understand this when it took over in June 2010.

Then De Leon butted in: “There’s no more cash.”

Osmeña retorted, “You know you’re going to get us in trouble.”

De Leon and Purisima, together with other members of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), briefed Osmeña on the NEP.

Automatically appropriated

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, a DBCC member, explained that the Malampaya Fund was “automatically appropriated.”

“Anytime we need to fund an energy-related project, you will always have appropriation to fund that project,” he told Osmeña. “In case of balance, what you have is available appropriation. If we need appropriation, we provide it with cash.”

“The P130-billion balance is really P130 billion of appropriations that is available,” he added.

According to the Treasury headed by De Leon, the government had collected P183.57 billion for the Malampaya Fund from 2002 to Oct. 9 this year. The balance stands at P136 billion.

Presidential Decree No. 910 of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos provides that royalties and proceeds from the exploitation of energy resources should form part of a special fund to finance energy development projects of the government.

However, it also authorizes the use of the fund for other projects approved by the President without seeking legislative sanction. Critics said that this undermined the constitutional mandate to the legislature of its power of the purse.

Purisima blamed PD 1234 for the confusion on the nature of the Malampaya Fund.

“It authorizes double accounting. It says it’s a revenue every year from 2002 and yet, on the other hand, it has a ledger that says there’s a number that represents authorized appropriation that can be used in accordance with the law,” he told Osmeña.

Confusing decrees

Earlier in the day, Purisima explained to Recto that Account No. 151 under PD 1234 allowed the Malampaya Fund to “straddle between a special fund and a general fund.”

“It’s not a special fund in the truest sense of the word. But if it’s a special fund, it can’t be… under the general fund. If you use the cash from the special fund to the general fund, there’s some liability to the special fund,” Purisima said. “With Account No. 151, you have to be in two places at the same time.”

Purisima agreed with Osmeña and Recto that the martial-law era decree should be amended to include the fund in the General Appropriations Act, or the national budget.

A couple of weeks ago, Recto commented that the fund could not be accounted for. Treasury officials later said this was “perfectly intact.”

The Treasury said that from 2004 to 2009, P23.3 billion worth of nonenergy-related projects and P303 million worth of energy-related projects were financed using money from the Malampaya Fund.

Under the Aquino administration, it also said, releases against the Malampaya Fund, amounting to P18.45 billion, were all for energy-related projects.

Off-budget items

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago has filed a resolution expressing the sense of the Senate that the President submit all off-budget items, including the Malampaya Fund, to Congress’ scrutiny every year.

Santiago said money from the Malampaya Fund, Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. should be included in the Budget of Expenditures and Sources of Financing (BESF).

Santiago said these off-budget funds violated the constitutional provision that states: “No money shall be paid out of the treasury, except in pursuance of an appropriation made by law.”

She said these funds were created during martial law and excluded from the national treasury in violation of the “one-fund” concept, which she said is a “sound concept.”

“At present, these off-budget funds are under the complete control of the President, without an appropriation made by Congress. The practice of off-budget funds is an evil that should be struck down on its face for violating the Constitution,” Santiago said.

While the President submits the BESF report and the NEP to Congress, it’s the latter that has the sole power to appropriate the revenues earned by government, the senator said.

“The BESF report contains the sources of government revenues and their corresponding amounts, and a proposal on how these funds shall be spent for the next fiscal year,” Santiago said.

While it’s supposed to contain all the sources of government revenues, in reality, the BESF Report does not include the off-budget sources of revenues. “These three major sources of national revenues are used, distributed, and disbursed outside the budget process,” she said.

Sam Miguel
10-22-2013, 09:11 AM
Pulse Asia: 54% unaware of lawmakers’ projects

Philippine Daily Inquirer

1:35 am | Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

Over half of adult Filipinos are not aware of any project or program by a lawmaker in their respective districts over the past six years, while three in every four believe that at least half of the budget for the project goes to corruption, according to a Pulse Asia Research Inc. survey.

Despite these, one in every four Filipinos said lawmakers should give importance to having projects and programs for their constituents.

The survey was conducted nationwide from Sept. 14 to 27 in the wake of a P10-billion pork barrel scam allegedly masterminded by Janet Lim-Napoles.

It found that 54 percent of the respondents did not know of any project or program implemented by a senator or their representative in their place in the last six years.

This figure was higher than the 43 percent recorded in October 2004, the last time Pulse Asia conducted a similar survey.

Whistle-blowers told a Senate blue ribbon committee hearing last month that legislators involved in the pork scam-funded ghost projects. Fifty percent of the supposed cost of the project went to the lawmakers, 40 percent to Napoles, and 10 percent to government conduits.

Thirty-nine percent of the respondents said they were aware of the projects of lawmakers, down from 52 percent in 2004. Seven percent could not say whether such projects or programs were implemented, up from 5 percent nine years ago.

Across geographic areas and socioeconomic classes, lack of awareness of a lawmaker’s project or program ranged from 46 percent to 64 percent.

The survey showed that 77 percent of the respondents said at least half of the money allocated for a project or program of a lawmaker was lost to corruption.

Of this figure, 30 percent said half of the budget went to corruption, 27 percent said more than half of the budget went to corruption, and 20 percent said almost the whole budget went to corruption.

Between October 2004 and September 2013, those who said that almost all of the budget went to corruption increased from 11 percent to 20 percent and those who said that more than half of the budget went to corruption rose from 22 percent to 27 percent.

According to Pulse Asia, 17 percent of the respondents said less than half of the budget was lost to corruption, while 6 percent said hardly any of the funds went to corruption. These figures were basically the same as those in 2004.

Legislator’s task

Asked what duties lawmakers should prioritize, 42 percent said implementing projects and programs for their constituents. Thirty-two percent said making laws; 14 percent, investigating scandals and other issues; and 12 percent, reviewing and passing the annual budget.

The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 respondents aged 18 and above who were randomly selected across the country. It had a margin of error of plus-or-minus 3 percentage points for national percentages and plus-or-minus 6 percentage points for regional percentages.—Inquirer Research

Sam Miguel
10-23-2013, 07:54 AM
EARTHQUAKE RELIEF DISTRIBUTION

Bohol mayor drives out Red Cross team

‘Don’t set condition in doling out relief’

By Carmel Loise Matus, Tina G. Santos

Inquirer Visayas, Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:11 am | Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

MARIBOJOC, Bohol—Insisting that the municipality should handle the distribution of relief to earthquake survivors, Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. has told volunteers of the Philippine Red Cross to leave after they refused to hand over their items.

Evasco said he was slighted by the “arrogance” of their representative who, he claimed, demanded a list of beneficiaries so they could distribute the relief. “If they want to help, then give,” he said. “Don’t give any conditions.”

Local officials have demanded that relief brought by nongovernment groups for the survivors be handed over to them for distribution in line with the municipality’s centralized distribution system, two sources told the Inquirer in separate interviews.

Others would “help” in the distribution of the goods only to claim credit later, the sources said. They asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from the officials.

In Manila, Red Cross secretary general Gwen Pang on Tuesday confirmed that Mayor Evasco had stopped the organization’s relief distribution because he wanted the stocks turned over to the local government.

“The local government knew the team was going there. In fact, we were there since Wednesday to assess the situation in the area, to identify who will be given the goods since our priority are those who are really in dire need,” Pang told the Inquirer.

“The people had lined up already when Mayor Evasco asked our people to stop. He told one of our personnel, ‘I’m very disappointed with you. I’m disappointed with the Red Cross. What I wanted was for you to endorse the goods to us and let us distribute the goods,’” Pang quoted the mayor as saying.

“He said that if we insist on doing it our way, we better stop and get out of the place,” she added.

Evasco, a former chief of staff of the tough-talking Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte, said he also confronted Red Cross chair Richard Gordon who went to Maribojoc on Friday.

“I’m not the one who is using an organization to promote his own political agenda,” Evasco told the Inquirer.

“Don’t turn us into puppies who follow you around because you have relief items,” he added.

Pang said the Red Cross could not endorse relief to politicians. She explained that the agency was following strict criteria in selecting beneficiaries because it did not have enough for all residents.

Moreover, it is accountable to their donors, she said. “Our system has been globally accepted, that is the same reason we get funds from our donors.”

Probe ordered

“But the mayor (Evasco) insisted that the barangay (village) captains can just receive the relief and sign on behalf of the affected families,” Pang said.

In Manila, Interior Secretary Mar Roxas directed the Philippine National Police to look into reports that some unscrupulous local government officials were arbitrarily keeping relief stocks in Bohol.

“There’s no reason to delay the delivery of relief to the victims of the earthquake. The government is ensuring that there will be enough supplies for the people,” Roxas said in a statement.

“It’s wrong to keep relief provided by the national and provincial governments inside their offices. If the reports are true, those responsible should be held accountable for relief hoarding,” he said.

Aquino returns

President Aquino will return to Bohol on Wednesday, ostensibly to bring a sense of order to the distribution of relief on the ground.

As many survivors have complained of receiving too little aid from the government a week after the earthquake, the President ordered national government agencies in charge of relief operations in the Visayas to implement an efficient system of distributing relief stocks, according to Secretary Herminio Coloma.

Aquino will personally check the progress of the relief efforts in at least three towns—Loon, Sagbayan and Tubigon.

He ordered national government agencies led by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) to intensify their coordination with local government officials, said Coloma, head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office.

Centralized scheme

In an interview, Evasco said he imposed the centralized system of distribution to ensure that all 27 villages would receive relief.

He said the local disaster council and the barangay captains had agreed that all relief be coursed through the municipal government while they would identify the victims who would receive the items.

The mayor said he told the barangay officials to set aside politics at this time and focus on bringing help to the villages.

The public market has been converted into a repacking center where each barangay has a representative, Evasco said. The village chiefs would then pick up the relief for their constituents.

To ensure that the intended recipient would receive it, Evasco said the chapel leaders would monitor the distribution.

One of the Inquirer sources expressed fears that the nongoverment organization’s relief packs—intended for a family of six and good for five days—would be given by the barangay officials in smaller quantities to reach more families.

He said it would be useless to provide packs good for a day because the survivors would need another round the next day.

Barangay polls

“The danger is that they might use it in the campaign. That was my impression,” the source said, referring to the barangay elections scheduled on Oct. 28.

The barangay chair of Aliswag stopped volunteers from distributing the goods in the evacuation center on Monday, claiming that any donation should be coursed through the municipal government, another source said. The source, however, said she failed to get the name of the official.

At first, the source said, the local leader told the volunteers that he had yet to discuss the matter with his councilors. Later, he told them that he was following orders from Mayor Evasco.

“We stood our ground. We told him that there is no law that stops us from distributing,” she told the Inquirer. “At least, they didn’t tell us to pack up like what happened to the Red Cross.”

“Proper authorities should know about this so something can be done. A lot of people want to help but they cannot trust the LGUs (local government units),” she added.

Playing favorites

The residents were hesitant to accept the relief from politicians because they might call their attention if they wouldn’t vote for them in the elections, the source said.

Some have complained that the distribution of relief had been politicized, citing the case of Barangay Candavid, she said.

Randy Camoras, the chair of the Sangguniang Kabataan in the village, said the barangay captain, Julio Barace, had given priority to his allies in the distribution of relief.

Secretary Coloma called on municipal mayors and barangay captains to refrain from playing favorites. “We continue to urge [the local officials] to adopt a very proactive and a very positive outlook and, if possible, to minimize the issues that obstruct instead of help the victims,” he said in a media briefing.

The President “wants to eliminate things that hamper the efficiency of distribution of relief,” Coloma said while acknowledging that the relief agencies were experiencing “challenges” in logistics.

“Those are the guidelines of our officials who are on the ground … efficiency of distribution and the quality of support we give to our people,” Coloma said.

‘Ambush relief’

Because of the meddling politicians, the source said her group had adopted what it called an “ambush relief operation” that allowed the volunteers to go around the province and give the goods directly to the families.

In some areas, she said, barangay councilors would volunteer to help in the distribution but would later claim credit for the relief work.

Interior Secretary Roxas said he received a report from the DSWD that survivors had been complaining about some erring municipal and village officials who were keeping relief items.

Roxas ordered Chief Supt. Danilo Constantino, Central Visayas police chief, to make sure that relief delivered to town officials would be distributed to the intended beneficiaries.

“I also instructed all chiefs of police in Bohol to help in monitoring the delivery of relief. They should make sure the items will reach the earthquake victims even in far-flung areas,” he said.

“There’s no need to hoard for fear that the supplies may run out. The DSWD has enough supplies to feed residents affected by the earthquake every day.”

Roxas said members of the Armed Forces and other volunteer groups were helping DSWD personnel in sending relief to distant villages.

“DSWD personnel in the province are also stepping up their repacking operations in order to increase their delivery to 30,000 a day for at least another week,” he said.

Citing a report from the department, the interior secretary said government and volunteer workers had already distributed a total of 94,300 food packs, or an average of 22,000 packs a day, in Bohol as of Sunday night.—With reports from Michael Lim Ubac and Marlon Ramos in Manila; and Connie E. Fernandez, Inquirer Visayas

Sam Miguel
10-23-2013, 07:56 AM
Relief goods distribution in Bohol delayed by meddling, campaigning politicians

By Carmel Loise Matus, and Connie E. Fernandez

Inquirer Visayas

8:05 pm | Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

MARIBOJOC, Bohol, Philippines — Politics have apparently intruded in the distribution of relief goods in Bohol, which is still reeling from the devastation caused by a magnitude 7.2 earthquake.

Some local officials have stopped private groups from distributing relief goods, demanding that these should be coursed through them. Others offered to “help” in the distribution only to claim credit later.

Picture of sample ballots inserted in the relief packs has gone viral in Facebook.

Two sources involved in relief operations in Bohol told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in separate interviews that local officials of Maribojoc insisted that any help for the municipality should be turned over to them.

Both sources asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from the local officials.

A nongoverment organization (NGO) worker said Maribojoc town Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. told them their relief goods should be turned over to the municipality because the distribution should be centralized.

He said that village chiefs would then determine who should receive the relief goods before these were distributed.

But the source said that the village officials would usually prioritize their relatives and allies instead of those who needed the relief goods most.

“The danger is that they might use it in the campaign. That was my impression,” he said.

He added they also feared that their relief packs – good for five days for a family of six – would be chopped up to reach more families. He said it would be useless to provide relief packs good for a day since the victims would need another round the next day.

Another source, a volunteer of a private group involved in relief operations for Bohol, said that a village chief in Marijoboc had stopped them from distributing relief goods in the evacuation center on Monday because any donation should be coursed through the municipal government.

The source, however, said she failed to get the name of the man who claimed to be village chief of Aliswag.

At first, the source said, a man told them to stop the distribution because he had yet to discuss the matter with his councilors.

The official later told the group that he was acting on orders of Mayor Evasco because they had their own system of distribution.

But the source said they had already received complaints from residents that only those allied with the local officials got the relief goods.

“We stood our ground. We told him (village chief) that there is no law that stops us from distributing (relief goods),” she said.

The stand-off lasted for an hour until the village chief relented.

“At least, they didn’t tell us to pack up like what happened to Red Cross,” she told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“But proper authorities should know about this so something can be done. A lot of people want to help but they cannot trust the LGUs (local government units),” she added.

Red Cross volunteers were reportedly told to leave the town by Mayor Evasco after they refused to turn over the relief goods to the municipal government.

Mayor Leoncio Evasco Jr. of Maribojoc town said he was slighted by the “arrogance” of the organization’s representative last Wednesday when they came to the town.

He said the Red Cross representative demanded for an immediate list of beneficiaries so they could distribute the relief packs.

Evasco said that he wasn’t able to provide them the list since their information at that time was not available.

“Giingnan man hinoon ko nga ug way lista ihatag, dili mi maka-benefit sa relief goods (I was instead told that if I didn’t have the list, we would not be able to benefit from their relief goods),” he said.

“Ug motabang, ihatag (If they want to help, then give). Don’t set any conditions,” he added.

Evasco said he also confronted Red Cross Chairman Dick Gordon who went to his town on Thursday.

“I’m not the one who is using an organization to promote his own political agenda,” Evasco told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

“Ayaw mi himoa ug mga itoy nga magsunod-sunod ninyo kay naa ninyo ang relief goods (Don’t turn us into puppies who follow you around because you have relief goods),” Evasco added.

Evasco said he welcomed other groups and organizations that extended assistance to their town like the P1 million cash assistance from Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Evasco is the former chief of staff of Duterte.

He also admitted that the system of distribution in the municipality – among the hardest-hit towns in Bohol – has been centralized to ensure that all 27 villages would receive relief goods.

He said the local disaster council and village chiefs agreed that all relief goods be coursed through the municipal government while the village chiefs identify the victims who would the relief goods.

Evasco said he told barangay (village) officials in his town to set aside politics at this time and focus on bringing help to the villages.

He said the public market has been converted into a repacking center where each barangay would have a representative. The village chiefs would then pick up their relief goods for distribution to their constituents.

To ensure that the intended recipient would receive it, Evasco said the chapel leaders would monitor the distribution.

But some residents of Maribojoc complained that the distribution of relief goods had been politicized like in the case of Barangay Candavid.

Randy Camoras, Sangguniang Kabataan chairman of Candavid, said village chief Julio Barace prioritized his allies in the distribution of relief goods before the other residents were given their share.

A volunteer of the private group told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that that they noticed that every time they distributed their relief goods, some earthquake victims would ask where the goods came from.

When they told them that these were from private groups, she said the victims were thankful because the distribution was not selective.

She added the victims appeared hesitant to accept relief goods from politicians who might get angry should they decide not to vote for them in the barangay elections.

Due to politicians’ intervention, the source said they had adopted what they called as “ambush relief operation,” which would require them not to stay in one place for too long.

They would go around the province, distribute relief goods directly to families and then leave, without allowing village officials to participate in the distribution.

She said there had been cases where village councilors would volunteer to help in the distribution but would later claim credit.

The source said they didn’t leave their relief goods in the municipal government or with village officials because there had been instances when sample ballots were inserted in the relief goods.

A picture of a sample ballot in the relief goods had gone viral in Facebook.

The photo was posted by one Verti Bullercer who wrote that the relief goods distributed to earthquake victims in Calvario, Loay town had been inserted with a sample ballot.

“It is so difficult and sometimes, discouraging. It’s just hard and sad some officials using this suffering of the people to market themselves, to sell themselves to the people,” she said.

She said they met with other private organizations in Bohol and vowed that they would not allow “these challenges” to stop them from helping the earthquake victims.

Sam Miguel
10-23-2013, 07:59 AM
Toxic cycle

Philippine Daily Inquirer

11:05 pm | Tuesday, October 22nd, 2013

If Taiwan can do it, why can’t we?

Jail erring high officials, that is. Just last Friday, the Supreme Court of Taiwan upheld the bribery convictions of five senior judges in what has been described as some of the worst cases of judicial corruption in the island nation’s history.

With the ruling, former high court judge Tsai Kuang-chih is off to serve a 20-year term and pay a fine of Tw$3.5 million (US$119,000) for taking bribes of around Tw$3 million to absolve fellow judge Chang Ping-lung in a corruption trial in 2005. Tsai’s accomplice in this crime, Fang A-sheng, another chief high court judge, was sentenced to 10-and-a-half years in prison, while Chang got a jail time of one year.

In a second case involving Tsai, the judge facilitated the payment of Tw$3.5 million in bribes to his colleagues Chen Jung-ho and Li Chun-ti to acquit a former legislator belonging to Taiwan’s dominant Koumintang Party who was indicted in 2004 of cornering kickbacks in a land development case. Convicted in 2006, the legislator appealed the verdict to the high court, where Tsai, Chen and Li found him not guilty.

It was money, as usual, that did the trick. The ex-legislator reportedly gave Li Tw$2 million and another Tw$2 million to Tsai’s girlfriend. The couple kept Tw$500,000 for themselves and gave the remaining Tw$1.5 million to Chen, right in his office. For their crimes, Chen and Li were sentenced to 18 years and 11-and-a-half years, respectively.

This isn’t the first time that Taiwan has clapped in jail high and mighty citizens who transgressed the law. The most high-profile case involves ex-president Chen Shui-bian, whose election in 2000 heralded so much promise as it marked the first time in half a century that Taiwan’s chief executive didn’t come from the entrenched Koumintang Party. Chen survived an assassination attempt while campaigning for reeelection in 2004, but was eventually convicted of bribery charges along with his wife. He is now serving a 20-year jail term for the misuse of some Tw$14.8 million of government funds.

And so on. Elsewhere in Asia, South Korea has jailed at least two ex-presidents, Singapore has kicked out the chief of its anticorruption agency over an underling’s misappropriation of more than S$1.7 million (US$1.34 million) in public funds (a rare case of governmental scandal in what is universally seen as Asia’s least corrupt country), and Indonesia’s anticorruption court has, in the last five years, scored a raft of successful convictions against prominent politicians and public officials.

A research paper by Emil P. Bolongaita published online by the U4 Anti-Corruption Resource Centre compares the record of the Corruption Eradication Commission of Indonesia (KPK) and the Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines, and sees a huge difference. “Why was the KPK, in just five years, able to reach a 100-percent conviction rate against top officials in all major branches of the Indonesian government, while the Philippine Ombudsman has scored only few convictions in its 20-year history?” it asks.

“Part of this success can be explained by considerable investigative powers given to KPK, which the Philippine Ombudsman does not hold. Also, rigorous pretesting of every prosecution and a highly efficient anticorruption court contribute to KPK’s success.”

That’s a valid explanation, but an incomplete one. The bigger question is why the Philippine Ombudsman does not hold the same extent of investigative powers—and there is only one answer: Because those running the political system and thus potentially in the cross-hairs of any Ombudsman investigation refuses to thus empower it. The self-serving nature of the country’s political system simply thwarts any meaningful attempt at sustained transparency and irreproachability in public governance.

The grasping, circle-the-wagons mindset of the ruling system is what accounts for the lethal apathy at prosecuting wrongdoing that has allowed the Marcoses to escape accountability for over two decades now for their well-documented pillage. It’s the same penchant for short-term political accommodation that allowed Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to get away with pardoning Joseph Estrada for the crime of plunder, and herself to so far dodge any reckoning for, say, stealing the elections, and caught on tape at that—a crime of such enormousness that in other countries would have merited the severest punishment.

And because no one gets punished, the cycle of official crime and corruption goes on—grows more toxic, like the cancer that it is.

Sam Miguel
10-23-2013, 08:01 AM
Court junks 13 Customs collectors’ plea to stop their transfer

By Jerry E. Esplanada, Jerome Aning

Philippine Daily Inquirer

4:20 am | Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013

MANILA, Philippines—A Manila court dismissed Tuesday a petition by 13 port collectors seeking to block their transfer to another office as part of an ongoing revamp at the Bureau of Customs (BOC).

But it was only a partial victory for Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon. The Manila court also dismissed the bureau’s petition to junk the case because of the court’s lack of jurisdiction.

In a statement on Tuesday, Biazon directed the group of protesting port collectors to immediately report to the Customs Policy Research Office (CPRO), a newly created office under the Depa