January 2011

Theres The Rub
By Conrado de Quiros
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Col. George Rabusa (ret.)

ANGELO REYES had two interesting questions when the senators agreed to allow him to cross-examine George Rabusa. Rabusa had just accused him of amassing a fortune while serving as AFP chief of staff and later defense secretary.

His questions were: One, did he interfere in “the preparation and distribution of the provisions for command-directed activities”? Two, was he greedy?

These questions do not help him. They do not extricate him from his bind, they entangle him all the more in it. They do not paint him in lighter hues, they paint him in blacker ones. He has merely enlarged the scope of the guilt to include his favorite institution.

Rabusa had a ready answer for the first, which was pretty damning. No, sir, [you did not direct the allocation of the funds] because you delegated the function to me and [retired Lt.] Gen. [Jacinto] Ligot [the former comptroller]. The instruction that I heard directly from you was, ‘Wag nyo lang akong papirmahin ng alanganin (Just don’t make me sign anything that would compromise me).’”

That doesn’t just damn Reyes, though it is enough to put him in jail if today’s prosecutors, unlike their precursors, can prove their mettle. That damns the entire AFP. It shows the extent to which corruption has become so ingrained, so institutionalized, so automatic in that institution the generals do not need to take any initiative, or make overtures, to get their “due.” It gets to them as a matter of course.

Reyes of course did issue specific instructions about how to get his “due,” if Rabusa is to be believed, but he got to be found out only because Carlos Garcia, the comptroller Rabusa served under, got found out before him, turning a spark into a conflagration. As Rabusa himself testified, the system of diverting huge sums into the pockets of the generals, particularly their chief of staff, was already there when they took over. They merely inherited it. He himself was one of its beneficiaries.

They inherited it but jacked it up a few more notches. Which makes Antonio Trillanes’s mutiny—he finally turned the tables on Reyes, having turned from inmate to senator—at least perfectly understandable if not legally defensible. What can you do when mired in a system where robbery is so endemic it is no longer seen as robbery at all? Indeed, what can you do when caught in a system where honesty becomes a threat to the very institution, the honest man, or soldier, in danger of being ostracized by his fellows, or worse suffering an accident while cleaning his gun? Trillanes might have been wrong in invading Oakwood, but he wasn’t wrong in resisting wormwood in the institution he served.

Reyes’s other question is the more damning. He did not ask, “Did I take money?,” he asked “Was I greedy?” Those are two different things, as Jinggoy noted in his interpellation. You get inured to corruption, you get to believe in “acceptable” levels of corruption, beyond which lurks greed. I remember in this respect hearing the story some years ago of how someone paid off a Customs official to get his cargo released, and got back some change. The official said he had paid more than the going rate. By the standards of Customs and related agencies, that official would be called honest. Or a practitioner of honor from thieves.

By the standards of the AFP and the Arroyo regime generally, the sums involved in the Garcia case, while fabulous to the ordinary citizen and certainly so to the foot soldier, who has been quite literally turned into that because the money for his boots has gone into it, are by no means extraordinary. Arroyo’s favored generals and civilian officials have gotten more. Much, much more.

What this suggests is that corruption in this country—P-Noy will have his hands full curbing it, if not obliterating it—has become a culture unto itself. You remember again Romulo Neri’s famous line about “moderating the greed,” a line that suggests that “moderated greed” is not greed at all. No wonder Reyes thought to ask his accuser that very question, “Was I greedy?” That is the framework he is using.

Jose Mabanta, the AFP spokesperson, says Rabusa’s exposé is just “raw information, which needs to be verified.” True, but raw information works both ways. It can either be dismissed, as is likely to happen if the investigation is left to the AFP—that is a case of the accused verifying his innocence or guilt—or it can be pursued to its logical end, which is likely to implicate other generals and the ruler they propped up for nine years. It’s about time we did, under the auspices of a new government, one that vows to extirpate corruption.

I’m glad in this respect that Rabusa says he has barely started, his expose will reach more rarified heights to include Arroyo herself. As well it should: Those levels of plunder would not have been possible without the knowledge and consent, or the aiding and abetting, of the usurper herself. That was how Arroyo lasted that long. That was how she managed to get the generals, the bishops, the captains of industry, the lieutenants of civil society, if not the institutions themselves they led to prop up a rule blessed by Garci. Arroyo by no means invented corruption in the military, it was there long before she came in. But she reinvented it by every means possible, making sure it would be there long after she went out. The new government can always make sure it does not, by shining like an interrogator’s lamp the light of truth upon it.

Truly heaven works in mysterious ways. Some people, like Paul, get to be struck by light on their way to Damascus, others like Rabusa get to be struck by a stroke on their way to perdition. Both have the effect of turning sinners into saints.

Long live Rabusa—or at least long enough to tell the tale.

Calls former ex-AFP chief as ‘dead man walking’

BY JP LOPEZ AND VICTOR REYES
MALAYA

Gen. Angelo Reyes (ret.)

SEN. Miriam Defensor Santiago yesterday said the eyewitness account of former Col. George Rabusa could pin down Angelo Reyes and other former AFP chiefs for criminal charges.

“He is a dead man walking. Yang si Reyes na yan, patay na yan. His goose is cooked…dahil mayroon tayong eyewitness…sa kasong criminal,” she said in a radio interview.

She said in the case of murder, an eyewitness account is enough to convict a suspect.

“Reyes can be convicted on the basis of the testimony of one eyewitness alone,” she said, referring to Rabusa.

AFP spokesman Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta, who belongs to PMA Class ‘81 like Rabusa, said “George Rabusa has passed through all command positions but his longest stint was with the comptroller office. With that, he may know what he is saying.”

Mabanta also said PMA Class ’81 is “behind George Rabusa in terms of commitment in saying what we want but others may not be all out for what he stands for…We can say that we admire him for standing for what he believes in.”

He also said he is “quite close” with Rabusa who served as class president at one time. Rabusa was deemed resigned from the service when he ran for an elective post several years ago, Mabanta said.

Rabusa, former AFP budget officer, told a Senate hearing last Thursday that Reyes received P50 million in “pabaon” or send-off money when he retired in March 2001. He said he and his superior, who was the comptroller at that time, personally brought the money to Reyes.

Reyes denied Rabusa’s allegation during the hearing which was intended to look into the plea bargaining agreement that a former military comptroller, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Carlos Garcia, forged with the Ombudsman.

Garcia was originally charged with plunder for amassing some P303 million while he was comptroller. The agreement allowed him to plead to lesser offenses and paved the way for his release from detention. The agreement is being questioned by the government.

Garcia’s predecessor was Rabusa’s superior, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Jacinto Ligot who was also at the hearing.

Rabusa said the P50-million “pabaon” is on top of P5 million a month Reyes received while he was the military chief.

Santiago said: “Pagkatapos ang sabi ni Reyes, hindi niya maalala na tatanggap ka ng ganyan kalaking pera. Hindi mo maalala? Ginagago naman tayo nito.”

She described Rabusa as a “pearl of great price in the Bible” who should be given protection by the government.

Santiago said she expects Reyes to destroy Rabusa’s credibility, delay the investigation, or divert the public’s attention to other issues.

Senators said other AFP chiefs will be invited when the Blue Ribbon inquiry resumes, including former president Fidel Ramos, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu.

Santiago said, “Ang kailangan dito ay isa-isahin sila. Kaya ang maganda siguro ay i-lifestyle check natin ang lahat ng naging chief of staff, umpisa kay Fidel Ramos hanggang sa ngayon. Tingnan natin anong pamumuhay nila ngayon. Dahil yun ang pinakamalaking sanhi ng ating ebidensya. Makikita natin kung kaninong pangalan inilagay ang kanilang pag-aari at anong relasyon nitong mga general dahil matatalino naman itong mga generals, di nilalagay sa name nila.”

Garcia was charged by the military in 2004, a few months after his illegal activities were uncovered with the arrest of his children by US immigration authorities in December 2003.

He was accused of amassing wealth from 2001 up to 2004 when his alleged crime was discovered. He assumed as comptroller after Ligot was reassigned on March 28, 2001.

Reyes retired as AFP chief on March 1, 2001 and was appointed defense secretary later that month.

Succeeding Reyes in the AFP was Diomedio Villanueva who served up to May 2002 when Roy Cimatu assumed the top AFP post.

After Cimatu were Santiago’s brother, Benjamin Defensor, who served from Sept. 10 to Nov. 28, 2002; Dionisio Santiago, who served up to April 8, 2003; Narciso Abaya, up to Oct. 29, 2004; Efren Abu, up to Aug. 15, 2005; and Generoso Senga, up to July 21, 2006.

After Senga came Hermogenes Esperon, Alexander Yano, Victor Ibrado, and Delfin Bangit who had to go on early retirement after President Aquino assumed office in July last year.

Mabanta said AFP chief Gen. Ricardo David has given orders for his staff to be prepared in case they are invited to the inquiry of the Blue Ribbon committee.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin on Friday formed a special investigation committee to look into the claims of Rabusa and at the same time determine possible administrative and criminal liabilities of those involved.

Mabanta said many reform measures have been adopted since the Garcia controversy, including the abolition of the office of the AFP deputy chief of staff for comptrollership whose functions and responsibilities are now performed by three units.

Mabanta also said that the military has even pursued cases against some officers who were involved in the illegal “conversion.” He could not say the status of these cases, the number of the officers charged, and specifically when these were committed.

“We have ongoing cases of conversion against some military personnel. I don’t really have the list (of those being prosecuted). I just like to say the Armed Forces does not tolerate conversion. There are cases (of conversion) but as a matter of policy, we don’t tolerate conversion,” he said.

“That pabaon is already gone. That’s a thing of the past. We’ve come up with innovations, changes because of the Garcia anomaly. Now, I would say that this (corruption in the past) was only substantiated by George Rabusa,” he said.

Mabanta said the current controversy would not shake the foundation of the AFP, stressing the allegations occurred in the past.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/jan31/news1.html

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RELATED STORY:

Palace needles Arroyo to appear at AFP hearing

by Joyce Pangco Pañares

FORMER President Gloria Arroyo should attend a Senate inquiry on the alleged practice of giving “send-off money” to retiring military generals if she had nothing to hide, a Palace official said Sunday.

“We have always said that if somebody has nothing to hide, then he has nothing to fear,” deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said.

“Of course, the final decision rests with her.”

Former military budget officer George Rabusa told the Senate Thursday that he was preparing a sworn statement detailing the former President’s supposed link to the alleged practice of giving retiring Armed Forces chiefs send-off money.

The former Armed Forces chiefs under the Arroyo administration received both welcome gifts and send-off money, he said.

Valte said Malacañang would defer comment on Mrs. Arroyo, who now represents Pampanga in Congress, until Rabusa had disclosed concrete evidence against her.

“We will await his other bombshells,” she said.

“He just gave us a preview of what he knows. He said he wants to finish his affidavit before telling all.”

Rabusa said former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes received P50 million in send-off money when he retired in 2002, and on top of the P5 million in monthly discretionary funds that he received from the military comptroller’s office.

Former military chiefs Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu received P10 million each, he said.

Over the weekend, the Anti-Money Laundering Council said it could not freeze the assets of the retired generals without action from the Ombudsman.

Vicente Aquino, the council’s executive director, said Rabusa’s testimony was not enough.

“The Ombudsman must launch an investigation to establish the predicate crime because money laundering is a derivative of something else,” Aquino said.

“We can only freeze assets if the commission of the predicate crime has been established. We’re not the ones investigating the predicate crime. That’s the office of the Ombudsman.”

The law says the proceeds from the following activities, also known as predicate crimes, may be frozen by authorities: kidnapping for ransom, drug trafficking and related offenses, plunder, robbery and extortion, illegal gambling, piracy, qualified theft, swindling, smuggling, violations of the Electronic Commerce Act, hijacking, arson and murder.

Last week, Senator Franklin Drilon said Rabusa’s revelations at the Senate could be used by government prosecutors to go after corrupt Armed Forces officials.

“That’s direct testimony. The Ombudsman should now use this testimony under oath as a basis for filing charges after getting the documents to support charges against those people,” Drilon said.

“That is reason for investigating to establish probable cause.”

Over the weekend, Reyes said he would file charges before the Ombudsman today against Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Rebusa for the injuries they had caused him.

Reyes’ lawyer, Bonifacio Alentajan, said the graft charge against the senator was based on “his partial and negligent” accusations against Reyes.

Alentajan said graft was recognized in Philippine law as the “unscrupulous use of one’s position to derive profit or advantage,” and that was what Estrada did in the Senate investigation on the anomalies in the Armed Forces.

He said Estrada and Rebusa hid behind their legislative immunity during the Senate hearing and caused the malicious injuries against his client.

“We cannot charge them with slander because they have immunity,” Alentajan said. “That’s why we’re charging them with graft.” With Eileen A. Mencias

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideNews.htm?f=2011/january/31/news1.isx&d=2011/january/31

Whistle-blower to detail corruption in military

By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Col. George Rabusa (ret.)

MANILA, Philippines—Whistle-blower George Rabusa is executing an affidavit detailing corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines under then Chiefs of Staff Angelo Reyes, Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu that could be used by investigating agencies.

“I’m detailing my knowledge of corruption and the rotten system in the Armed Forces,” the former military officer said in a brief phone interview.

Following his exposé on the AFP practice of paying off the top brass with huge sums of skimmed off military funds, Rabusa is seen by lawmakers as a credible state witness against the officials.

President Benigno Aquino III has given orders to the justice and national defense departments to investigate the allegations with the goal of prosecuting liable officials.

Rabusa said he discussed in detail the “process and flow” of conversion, the standard practice of pooling funds for distribution to ranking officials.

By executing the affidavit, he said he was reinforcing his testimony before the Senate on Thursday, this time “with more facts and [details about] the personalities during my time.”

“I’m emphasizing corruption and the rotten system,” he said.

In last week’s Senate blue ribbon committee inquiry into the plea bargain between former military comptroller Carlos Garcia and prosecutors in connection with Garcia’s plunder case, Rabusa divulged a military tradition of paying off the top brass.

Recalling his experience as a budget officer, Rabusa said the payoffs came mainly from an annual payola pot collected from the different units of the military.

Rabusa said Reyes received a regular P5 million payoff in his 20 months in office, and was gifted with some P50 million as send-off money on his retirement in 2001, a charge denied by Reyes.

The next AFP chiefs of staff, Villanueva and Cimatu, each received P10 million as a “start-up fund,” he said.

Rabusa admitted that he also shared in the annual pot of P480 million, known as the provisions for command-directed activities (PCDA) and distributed by the comptroller at the discretion of the AFP chief of staff.

He said he and his then boss, comptroller Garcia, “converted” almost P1 billion between 2000 and 2001.

From 2000 to 2002

Rabusa said his affidavit would cover the period when he served as budget officer from 2000 to 2002 under Reyes, Villanueva and Cimatu, and under comptrollers Jacinto Ligot and Garcia.

“I can’t talk beyond that or before that. Otherwise, we will not be perceived as credible,” he said.

Rabusa declined to go into specifics so as not to preempt the contents of his affidavit which he said would be completed soon.

Asked if he would appear as a witness in the investigation by the justice department, he said: “Do I have a choice? Why would I make the accusation if I will not appear in the trial?”

The government may file charges against Reyes based on Rabusa’s testimony alone, according to Senators Franklin Drilon and Miriam Defensor-Santiago.

They said past AFP chiefs of staff should be subjected to a lifestyle check and be summoned to the blue ribbon inquiry.

Rabusa credible

The senators agreed that Rabusa’s testimony was credible enough to be the basis for filing charges against Reyes in a court and that Rabusa could turn state witness.

“I view him and his testimony to be credible,” Drilon, who was present when Rabusa made his damning testimony, said in an interview. “You can’t secure a conviction without his testimony.”

Sen. Francis Escudero also found Rabusa more credible than Reyes. “He was forthright compared to Reyes,” he said.

Escudero said Reyes “is not that old or senile to forget,” referring to the latter’s claim that he did not remember receiving P50 million in send-off money when he retired.

Escudero, chair of the Senate defense and security committee, said in Davao City that his committee would summon other former AFP chiefs of staff because Rabusa had claimed that the practice of “pabaon” was a tradition in the military.

He said the practice, if true, was lamentable, noting that soldiers were dying on the field and enduring difficult living conditions while their officers were living luxuriously.

Plunder, bribery

Santiago urged the President to file charges against Reyes based on Rabusa’s testimony to show that the government was taking swift action on the exposé.

“He’s a dead man walking,” she said over the radio.

Santiago added that Reyes should be charged with plunder, malversation of public funds and bribery.

“There’s an eyewitness. Reyes can be convicted on the basis of a testimony of one eyewitness alone,” she said.

Because Rabusa was an eyewitness, his testimony was stronger than any documentary evidence, and would not require corroboration, said Santiago, a former trial court judge.

Drilon, a former justice secretary, said proof of Rabusa’s truthfulness was his tale of converting P50 million into dollars before he and Ligot delivered this to Reyes, then the AFP chief of staff.

“That’s an indication that he was telling the truth. You can’t invent that kind of story. If you noticed, Reyes and Ligot did not deny his statement. They said that they don’t remember,” he said.

To prove the case is beyond reasonable doubt, Drilon said Rabusa’s testimony should be corroborated by documentary evidence, such as checks that were signed in connection with withdrawals from the PCDA.

State witness

Drilon and Santiago said that the government could use Rabusa as a state witness against Reyes and, in exchange, drop the charges against him.

“His testimony is necessary for conviction. Secondly, he may appear to be the least guilty,” Drilon said.

He said dropping the charges against Rabusa would be a condition for his turning a witness, but it was up to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to decide.

Rabusa is facing a perjury case for allegedly misdeclaring his wealth in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. He is said to have amassed some P50 million during his stint as Garcia’s budget officer.

While the justice and national defense departments have yet to open investigations of his exposé, Santiago pushed for a lifestyle check on past AFP chiefs of staff, beginning with former President Fidel V. Ramos who served as AFP chief of staff under then President Corazon C. Aquino.

Now that a former key budget officer has opened the Pandora’s box, the AFP said it was willing to disclose past malpractices in the use of its funds.

AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Ricardo David Jr., who was appointed last July 2 shortly after Mr. Aquino assumed office, has ordered his staff to fully cooperate with the investigation.

“It’s all-out, all-out (cooperation). In fact, the chief of staff has already informed everyone to prepare, to assist and provide information,” the military spokesperson, Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., said on Sunday. With reports from Dona Z. Pazzibugan in Manila and Dennis Jay Santos, Inquirer Mindanao

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110130-317572/Rabusa-to-spill-beans-on-3-ex-AFP-bosses

By Leila B. Salaverria, Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Ex-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo

MANILA, Philippines—The call to include former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the investigation of massive corruption in the military intensified on Saturday, with a militant group saying she was the “likely architect” of the multimillion payoffs for generals.

“Any probe into the corruption among the AFP chiefs of staff should include the then Commander in Chief Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo,” Renato Reyes, secretary general of the militant Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said in a statement.

“The payoffs were likely done to buy the loyalty of the generals and ensure their cooperation even after retirement. Considering that the Arroyo regime had many crimes to cover up, the loyalty of the generals was important,” Reyes said.

He said Arroyo could have courted the generals’ support to rig the 2004 elections, cover up the ensuing “Hello Garci” electoral fraud scandal, cover up extrajudicial killings and thwart moves to unseat her.

Reyes added that Arroyo could have let the generals get away with helping themselves to the military coffers so that she could keep them on her side especially when her position was in peril.

Generals kept happy

“No wonder these generals stuck it out with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo all these years. They were kept happy by the loot that they were able to amass,” Reyes said.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño said it was impossible that Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga, was not aware of the corruption among top military officials considering that she was their Commander in Chief for many years.

“The investigation should definitely include GMA as Commander in Chief. At the very least, she is liable on the principle of command responsibility for tolerating the practice,” Casiño said.

“She could not have known that this was going on yet she failed to take steps to stop it. She should be invited to the next Senate hearing,” he added.

Retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa, former military budget officer, spilled the beans on the alleged tradition of Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) payola when he came as a surprise witness to the Senate hearing on Thursday.

Rabusa testified that then AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes received a P50-million pabaon (sendoff gift) upon his retirement from the military.

Rabusa made the revelation during the Senate’s investigation on the plea bargaining agreement between ex-military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and special prosecutors in exchange for the dropping of the P303-million plunder charge against Garcia and family.

Reyes on Saturday said the present administration should not waste the chance offered by Rabusa to uncover and punish corruption in the military.

“The biggest challenge now for the Aquino government is to ensure that cases will be filed and the concerned people will be prosecuted under the law,” he said.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone said that Rabusa’s statement would definitely dampen the morale of ordinary soldiers, particularly those in the fields fighting the communist insurgency.

“I hope that this will not destroy the military establishment as an institution. There should be no sacred cows in the investigation,” Evardone said.

Quezon Rep. Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III said Rabusa’s revelations indeed showed how corruption was consummated in the military.

“The ordinary enlisted men and junior officers must be very happy that it is not a secret anymore. The question that must be answered is: How long has this been going on? How many chiefs of staff were given pabaon?” Tañada asked.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110130-317404/Probe-Aquino-likely-architect-in-AFP-graft-militants-urge

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RELATED STORY:

Angie Reyes to get back at Jinggoy

By Leila B. Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes will get back at Sen. Jinggoy Estrada and former military budget officer George Rabusa by filing a graft and corruption case against the two before the Office of the Ombudsman on Monday.This was according to Reyes’ lawyer Bonifacio Alentajan, who said that Estrada violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, which makes it unlawful for public officials to cause undue injury to any party when they exercise their duty with manifest partiality and evident bad faith. Rabusa is liable since he acted with Estrada to malign Reyes, Alentajan said.

Alentajan, however, said Estrada could not be slapped with libel since he enjoys parliamentary immunity.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110130-317408/Angie-Reyes-to-get-back-at-Jinggoy

Says even wives, kids enjoy perks, too

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—A chief of staff of the Armed Forces under then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has confirmed the existence of a multimillion-peso payola pot at the Camp Aguinaldo general headquarters, as earlier revealed by ex-military budget officer George Rabusa.

But the retired general said the pot, along with other fund sources in and out of the AFP, provided the military brass sufficient sums for their retirement so that, contrary to what Rabusa had claimed, an outgoing chief of staff did not need a hefty sendoff gift (pabaon).

“I realized we had so much money in the military,” the source admitted on Saturday in an interview with the Inquirer. “The leeway given to us [in using funds] was more than enough to make us comfortable in retirement.”

The source asked not to be named at this time, saying he would reveal what he knew about corruption in the military at the proper forum. He said he was willing to testify at congressional inquiries into the matter.

Rabusa, a retired lieutenant colonel, testified on Thursday before the Senate blue ribbon committee that he and other top military officials shared an annual payola pot of around P480 million raised from various AFP units.

Also known as the provisions for command-directed activities (PCDA) fund, the collection was allegedly distributed by the comptroller at the discretion of the chief of staff.

The Senate blue ribbon committee’s inquiry is primarily intended to look into the controversial plea bargain between state prosecutors and ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia, who is accused of plundering military funds.

‘Like politicians’

According to the retired general, the PCDA fund did not entirely go to individual pockets. He said it was used mainly as a contingency fund for expenditures ranging from the emergency purchase of combat boots to expenses for a party or a funeral.

“You can’t imagine what it’s like to be a chief of staff,” he said. “We are like politicians. People also come to us for just about anything you can think of. Since we have a very small salary, where do you think we get the money for all that?”

In the process of farming out the PCDA fund, chiefs of staff set aside “something for ourselves, too,” he said. “These savings should be enough for retirement. No need for a so-called pabaon.”

Military officials have other sources of additional income such as travel allowances, the source said. He said chiefs of staff could get as much as $5,000 (roughly P225,000) for each trip.

With the trip organizers mostly taking care of the air fare and hotel accommodations, on top of pocket money, “it means that an official can keep the allowance from the AFP for himself,” he said.

The source said that soon after he was appointed by then President Arroyo, he discovered that there was even an allowance for the wife and children of a chief of staff.

“My wife was approached and told to buy herself a new dress because there was a budget for it,” he recalled. “We were surprised. So that was how things were going then.”

‘Systemic’ problem

The retired general said the problem of military corruption was “systemic,” meaning it persisted from one administration to another.

He said the PCDA fund, in particular, was structured in such a way that it was prone to abuse by incumbent officials.

“Hindi kami lahat mabait. (Not all of us are moral.),” he said. “You cannot dictate morality, but there can be safeguards that can make people toe the line.”

According to Rabusa’s testimony at the Senate, Angelo Reyes, then the AFP chief of staff, received a “pabaon” of P50 million on top of some P100 million he collected from the PCDA fund in his 20 months in office. Reyes denied the allegation.

Asked on Saturday by phone to his safe house if he had evidence to back his claims against Reyes, Rabusa said: “Susmaryosep. Kailangan mo pa ba ng ebidensya dyan? Narinig mo yung sinabi nya?” (Good Lord. Do you still need evidence for that? Didn’t you hear what he said?)

Rabusa was referring to the response of Reyes, who took some time before denying that he had pocketed millions of pesos in military funds.

“Can I ask Colonel Rabusa, if, during the time that I was chief of staff, I became greedy? Did I ask him for anything? Did I demand money from him, officially or unofficially?” Reyes said then in Filipino.

Longtime practice

Rex Robles, a retired commodore and a member of the Feliciano Commission that looked into corruption in the AFP, said it might be impossible to reform the military because the pabaon system had been in practice for a long time.

“The systems are too vague and too resilient to be changed and challenged. There’s a certain hopelessness in reforming the AFP,” Robles, also a former member of the Reform the Armed Forces Movement, told the Inquirer on Saturday in a phone interview.

He said reforming the military would need an Elliot Ness—a reference to the American lawman who took on mobster Al Capone in the 1920s.

Robles said the government should expand its planned investigation to cover all past AFP chiefs of staff.

“Why focus on Reyes? He did not invent the system. All previous commanders should also be put under the spotlight. If at all, Reyes is the least involved,” he said.

Robles said the Feliciano Commission, which was formed to look into issues in the military that led to the 2003 Oakwood mutiny, had recommended the strengthening of the powers of the Office of the Inspector General to investigate and prosecute erring officers.

He said part of the recommendation was the requirement that the Inspector General report directly to the President, as is the practice in the US military.

But the AFP never adopted the recommendation, he said.

Even Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles, who headed the Catholic Church’s military diocese from 1995 to 2005, said the practice of payola in the AFP had been “going on all the time.”

“Rightly or wrongly, I think they do that to all AFP chiefs of staff. That’s true also for the lower levels, at low rates,” Arguelles said in a report posted on the website of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines on Friday.

“It’s bad but it’s going on all the time. It must be stopped because it’s part of the corruption in the military,” he said.

Pay the price

President Aquino is considering filing criminal charges against those found to have helped themselves to military funds.

“If [the allegations are] proven, why would we settle for administrative sanctions?” he said in an interview with reporters late Friday afternoon.

As in Garcia’s case, the President will not agree to any plea bargain with those caught with dirty hands: “[If] you do something wrong, you will pay the price for it.”

He said he had spoken with candidates for the post of AFP chief of staff about their plans on addressing corruption in the military.

“There were many suggestions, among them values formation,” he said, adding that he had emphasized the importance of the prosecution and conviction of corrupt officials.

The President expects recommendations from the panels convened by the Department of National Defense and Department of Justice to look into Rabusa’s testimony, according to his deputy spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“Of course, the DoJ’s purpose is also for the filing of charges if somebody should be charged,” Valte said over state-run radio dzRB.

The DND panel is “more of a fact-finding panel,” she said. “The DND is more familiar with the systems of the AFP so it would be easier for it to gather facts about the allegations.”

Multiple probes welcome

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Saturday said the DoJ would conduct an extensive inquiry.

“If that is where the evidence will point to, yes, the probe will cover chiefs of staff other than Angelo Reyes, and for that matter, other military officers, as far back as the evidence will take us,” she said.

De Lima said the multiple inquiries being conducted by the DoJ, DND and Congress were welcome in view of the “range and magnitude” of the military corruption expected to come to light.

On Friday, Rabusa told the Inquirer that he was preparing an affidavit detailing a fraudulent $2-million military deal that would implicate Arroyo, now a representative of Pampanga.

“While the possibility of variant results is always there, I believe that the existence of several probes by different institutions would yield real benefits or advantages rather than disadvantages,” De Lima said.

She said the advantages included “the fuller ventilation of facts/issues and wider breadth of perspectives.”

De Lima said on Friday that the DoJ and the National Bureau of Investigation would look into Rabusa’s claims and determine if there was enough evidence to file charges in court.

Each distinct thrust

“Note that while each body has a distinct thrust for its investigative work on this latest scandal—Congress in aid of legislation, DND for fixing internal processes, DoJ/NBI for possible prosecution—the common goal is truth and accountability,” De Lima said.

She said the work of the DoJ/NBI panel was “the most crucial for accountability purposes.” With reports from Alcuin Papa, Norman Bordadora and Philip C. Tubeza

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110130-317399/Ex-chief-of-staff-confirms-payola

Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz

Illustration by Dave San Pedro

Just like the classic Italian spaghetti western, “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly,” Pinoy “gunslingers” wearing gold stars on their epaulets took center stage when the “good” gunslinger started shooting from the hip at the “bad” and the “ugly” gunslingers, who were his former bosses.  And as a backdrop to the shooting scene, the classic tune of the original “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” is being played to the lyric, “Kuarta na… kuarta na… kuarta na… hehehe…”

The actors in this Pinoy pancit western are: Col. George Rabusa (ret.), former military budget officer, as the “Good” gunslinger (played by Clint Eastwood in the original movie); former Defense Chief General Angelo Reyes as the “Bad” gunslinger (played by Lee Van Cleef in the original movie); and Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia (ret.) as the “Ugly” gunslinger (played by Eli Wallach in the original movie).

Col. George Rabusa (ret.)

The story began when Rabusa dropped a bombshell during a Senate investigation hearing on the controversial Garcia plea bargaining agreement.  Rabusa accused Reyes of receiving P150 million including a P50-million “pabaon” (send-off money) when he retired as Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in 2001.   Rabusa added that he and his boss, then AFP Comptroller Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot (Garcia’s predecessor), personally delivered the money to Reyes at his staff quarters, known as the “White House.”

But Rabusa went further.  He also said that chiefs of staff “get around P10 million monthly while in service, half of which supposedly goes to their pockets.”  Whoa!  No wonder some generals’ wives were frequent flyers to Zurich.  I guess they love to watch the snow-capped Alps.  And whom would they find there too?  Figaro.

Rabusa served two comptrollers, Ligot and Garcia, who were called the “Comptroller Mafia” in their heydays.  And, like the Italian Mafia, they had a code of silence.  The Italian Mafia calls its code of silence “Omerta” while the Comptroller Mafia calls it “Kuarta.” Indeed, “Kuarta” – which means “money” — seals their lips in silence.

But Rabusa broke the “Kuarta” code just like Sammy “The Bull” Gravano broke “Omerta” which sent the Gambino crime family’s Godfather John Gotti and more than a hundred Mafiosi to prison.  Can Rabusa accomplish the same feat as Sammy the Bull?  Abangan.

Generals Carlos Garcia, Jacinto Ligot, and Angelo Reyes

Military justice… News report says,  “The Department of National Defense (DND) is forming a special investigative committee that will look into allegations that the military leadership maintained a multimillion-peso slush fund for discretionary use of the chief of staff.”  Isn’t that like Mafia Don Vito Corleone forming an investigation committee consisting of his capos to investigate his slush fund?  Hehehe…

Crime czar… Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said that P-Noy is on top of the crime situation in the country.  “We don’t need a crime czar. We have PNP [Philippine National Police] Director General Raul Bacalzo overseeing the [country’s] peace and order, we have the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines, under Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Ricardo David, Jr.], we have the National Security Adviser [Cesar Garcia],” Lacierda said.  He said that they all report to the President.  Doesn’t that make P-Noy the Crime Czar?  Or is it “nakaka azar” (“annoying”)?  They would tell P-Noy what he wants to hear: Crime is down except for an occasional boom here and a bang over there.  Yup, it’s time to promote colonels to generals, and give P50-million “pabaon” to retiring generals and appoint them as ambassadors to third world countries in Africa or tiny republics built on guano droppings in the middle of the Pacific.

Noisy minority… At his first vin d’honneur to usher in the New Year, P-Noy criticized the “noisy minority” whom he said were out to bring back the “malicious practices of the past.”  Whoa!  Now, that’s starting the New Year with a big bang!  Hey, no guts, no glory!

Joke of the week… The “noisy minority” in the House of Representatives said that P-Noy should have listened to the travel advisories of six foreign countries about possible terror attacks in the country.  P-Noy’s response was: “Those terrorist threats mentioned shopping malls, not buses, as targets.” Duh?

Hands on… The “noisy minority” also urged P-Noy to be a “hands-on” leader.  I think the “noisy minority” didn’t notice P-Noy’s “hands-on” qualities.  Yup, he’s been seen lately with his hands on the steering wheel of a Porsche 911 twin-turbo Carrera speeding at 150 kilometers per hour in the middle of the night on his way to Hacienda Luisita.  And wait till you see him with his hands on the steering wheel of his “new flame,” a bullet-proof Lexus LX 570 SUV.

But P-Noy seems to be having some problems with his hands on the ship of State.  That’s why he asked his former vice presidential running mate Mar Roxas to be his “Chief Troubleshooter.”  In addition, P-Noy also hired his other “shooting buddy” Ronald Llamas to be his political adviser.  Well, Ronald – who is known for his leftist politics – might convince P-Noy that “power comes from the barrel of a gun.”  Hey, it worked for Chairman Mao, it just might work with P-Noy who, by the way, is a gun enthusiast.   Hey, P-Noy, it’s time to show the “noisy minority” who the boss is.

Mar said that he began advising P-Noy but would not disclose what he advised him about.  Well, the only noticeable change was the addition of the bullet-proof Lexus SUV to P-Noy’s car collection.  But Mar was surprised when he found out that his job description includes troubleshooting P-Noy’s Porsche and Lexus!  He should have just contented himself as a “houseband” of Korina.

Shooting buddies… With the addition of Ronald Llamas to his A-Team, P-Noy has now a “Chief Troubleshooter” (Mar Roxas), a Shooter (Ronald Llamas), and a “Chief Troublemaker” (Rico E. Puno).  Doesn’t that sound like “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” bunch, too?  Now, they’re ready to paint the town red!

Filipino of the Year… P-Noy was named “Filipino of the Year” by the Philippine Daily Inquirer.  P-Noy was top choice of the newspaper’s 52 editors and assistant editors.  The other nominees, in the order of their number of votes, were: The Filipino voter, Philippine Azkals, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, bar blast victim Raissa Laurel, Venus Raj, Charice Pempengco, Comelec Chair Jose Melo and Supreme Court Justice Antonio Carpio.

The past honorees were: 1991—Raymundo Punongbayan; 1992—Haydee Yorac; 1993—Juan Flavier; 1994—Overseas contract workers; 1995—Filipino Everyman (Juan & Juana dela Cruz); 1996—Fidel V. Ramos; 1997—Corazon Aquino and Jaime Cardinal Sin; 1998—Joseph Estrada; 1999—Corazon Aquino; 2000—Justice Hilario Davide; 2001—Supreme Court Justices; 2002—Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; 2003—Manny Pacquiao; 2004—Fernando Poe Jr.; 2005—SEA Games Filipino athletes; 2006—Antonio Meloto; 2007—Gov. Ed Panlilio; 2008—Manny Pacquiao; 2009—“Ondoy” volunteers; 2010—Benigno Simeon C. Aquino.

Congratulations Mr. President!

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

DEMAND AND SUPPLY
By Boo Chanco
The Philippine Star

Vice President Jejomar "Jojo" Binay

Could it be that Uncle Sam is getting worried and is checking out the alternative? Then again, it is probably just a normal invitation. But the timing of Vice President Jojo Binay’s visit to Washington is rather auspicious… not necessarily suspicious.

Binay left for the US capital yesterday to attend meetings with the World Bank on human trafficking, urban development and disaster risk management. It is the dead of winter and the East coast is being hit by one snowstorm after another. It is not the best time for someone from the tropics to be visiting, so there must be a more urgent reason.

The World Bank provides a good cover excuse but I am told the real invitation was from Foggy Bottom. It seems Uncle Sam is in a hurry to know what his options are in the Philippines. I am almost sure the local US Embassy’s political officers, as Wikileaks will likely tell us some time in the future, have been sending worrisome assessments of our Great Leader lately.

Based on what Wikileaks have revealed of such assessments of Third World leaders in the past, one can only imagine what is now being said of our Porsche-loving President today. I am sure the early cables are as hopeful as our early columns. But most likely, more recent cables can’t be too different from what we have been writing lately too.

I am also somewhat sure that reports of P-Noy’s late night driving of his Porsche and the potential dangers of an accident must have made some folks in Foggy Bottom more than a little concerned. Unlike our government, Uncle Sam’s boys take their contingency planning seriously. If something happens to the Porsche while P-Noy is in it, they will want to know who they will have to deal with. And the name is Jejomar… Jejomar Binay.

It helps Jojo that last Thursday, SWS released its trust ratings and Jojo is up there with a plus rating of 57 percent (69 percent satisfied and 13 percent dissatisfied). That’s not too far from P-Noy’s at plus 64 (74 percent satisfied and 10 percent dissatisfied). Other top officials are pretty much distant: five percent satisfied and 21 percent dissatisfied with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile for a plus 34, 33 percent satisfied and 26 percent dissatisfied with Speaker Sonny Belmonte for a plus seven, and 26 percent satisfied and 33 percent dissatisfied with Chief Justice Renato Corona for a minus seven.

It could be just protocol but I was told Vice President Biden will spend a bit of time with our VP Jojo. Whatever it is Uncle Sam is looking for, I am confident our VP Jojo would more than impress. After sizing him up, I am sure Uncle Sam will be able to sleep knowing that whatever happens to that Porsche, the Philippines will be in very capable hands… in fact, in more capable hands.

I wonder if VP Jojo will meet up with DILG Usec Rico Puno while in DC. Mr Puno is on a three month crash course in law enforcement at the FBI training facilities in Quantico, Virginia about 36 miles outside Washington, D.C.

Puno needs to burnish his credentials for the job he is holding. It was clear from the Luneta hostage debacle and the current sad state of the PNP that being a shooting buddy of P-Noy is not enough qualification to be the civilian officer in charge of the police.

Then again, Puno is also probably being interrogated on what he knows about P-Noy’s moods and way of thinking. He would probably be asked to expand on his claim that he is the only one who can control P-Noy. It also wouldn’t hurt if Puno keeps an eye on Jojo just to see what he may be up to.

Public float

I totally support the position taken by BIR Commissioner Kim Henares that listed companies should comply with the minimum public requirement to continue enjoying preferential tax rates. The problem with our business elite is that they want to get all the benefits but forget why the benefits are being given in the first place.

Commissioner Henares is correct to point out that the preferential tax rates enjoyed by listed companies were instituted to help develop the country’s capital markets. It is her job to make sure that this objective is met.

“The reason why this sector enjoys lower tax rates as against the others is that the government wants to fully develop and promote the capital markets. But up until now it has not yet developed and the preferential tax rate and fiscal incentives given to them at the expense of the government continue,” the BIR Chief said.

Henares also pointed out that it is the Philippine Stock Exchange’s mandate to make sure that the companies under its supervisory and regulatory powers are compliant on the minimum public float requirement set by law. A number of large supposedly public companies like San Miguel and Petron are no longer in compliance with the minimum float rule. In fairness to both, their managements have expressed their plans to do something about it.

The BIR said it will collect the capital gains tax beginning Jan. 1, on some PSE-listed firms that could no longer be considered publicly listed, and therefore no longer entitled to tax perks. The PSE required listed firms to maintain their public float, or the level of public ownership, at 10 percent, late last year, and gave those that did not meet the threshold a grace period of one year.

“In order to qualify as a publicly listed company, initial public offering (IPO) requirement is set between the range of 10 percent to 33 percent depending on the market capitalization, as such all listed companies should maintain nothing less than their initial public offering as continuing listing requirement,” the BIR said in its letter to the SEC.

Actually, even a 10 percent float is too little. The PSE actually requires firms seeking to go public to have a 33 percent float or P50 million worth of shares, whichever is higher, for companies with a market capitalization not exceeding P400 million.

“Listed companies should continually maintain, if not surpass their IPO requirement to continually enjoy the preferential tax rate of 1/2 of one percent of gross selling price of gross value on money on disposals by stockholders of publicly-listed shares through the exchange,” the BIR said. Erring companies will be subject to the five to 10 percent capital gains tax, the BIR said.

There are very good reasons why listed companies should maintain the required public float. A high level of public float would encourage wider market participation. It will provide liquidity to investors, ensure fair prices, guard against manipulation of prices, and serve as a tool for redistribution of wealth. It will also make it more difficult for any price manipulations on the stock market.

I googled the issue and found out that all global stock exchanges have implemented rules to enhance public float. On London Stock Exchange, the public float is fixed at 25 percent for IPOs and continuous listing. In Singapore, the rule stipulates 25 percent of public shareholding at the time of IPO if market cap is less than S$300million, and 20 percent if the market cap is in excess of $300million but less than S$400 million. On New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and Nasdaq, the public float is not based on the market cap, but the number of shares.

Government should be tough on this requirement. This should be non-negotiable. Hopefully top government officials will give Commissioner Henares full support on this issue. The old boys club at the PSE has played around with the rules for too long, which explains why our stock market cannot win a more widespread local investing public.

Ms. Henares is right: government gives something in terms of incentives but expects something good in return.

Terror warning

Here’s something hilarious from the Professional Heckler.

“Dear Terrorists: Next time, kung aatake kayo, umatake kayo sa pinagbantaan n’yong lugar, okay? Kung mall, mall! Huwag n’yong lituhin ang aming pangulo.”

“Dear Foreign Governments: Next time, kung maglalabas kayo ng travel advisory, puwede ba isama n’yo na pati bus, train, at iba pang PUVs dito sa Pilipinas? Ayan tuloy, nasisi pa kayo.”

Boo Chanco’s e-mail address is bchanco@gmail.com.

REY O. ARCILLA
MALAYA

‘What is happening in Egypt is reminiscent of the four days in February 1986 in Manila.’

Mubarak and wife

I LIKED the statement of the American head of delegation to the recent dialogue between the United States and the Philippines.

“We expect and want the government of the Philippines to have a close and growing relationship with China. We also want very much for the government of the Philippines to want a good relationship with the US,” Assistant Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told a press conference.

Exactly our sentiments, Sir.

Taken at its face value, Campbell’s statement does seem to reflect a more mature US approach to dealing with her staunchest ally in these parts. It is, of course, in line with President Barack Hussain Obama’s thrust of regaining the trust and confidence, if not friendship, of her allies all around the world, a marked departure from the bullying and “you are either with us or against us” attitude of the unlamented Bush administration.

***

Neither of the statements issued by the two sides in the dialogue made mention of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) although the DFA, stressing the talk’s significance, said: “For the first time, a fusion of foreign policy, trade and economic, and defense and security issues will be discussed in one forum.”

I asked the DFA spokesman if a final statement was issued at the conclusion of the dialogue. He said no.

I wanted specifically to know if the VFA was discussed. No one would tell me. If indeed it wasn’t, that would be rather unusual. The agreement is a linchpin in PH-US relations. In fact, defense officials were among the members of both panels.

If the agreement wasn’t in the agenda, two questions arise: 1) Has President Noynoy Aquino changed his mind about having the VFA reviewed, or 2) Is it being, or will it be, “quietly” reviewed separately? If so, it is incumbent upon Noynoy to be transparent and to inform his bosses, the people, about it.

***

The recent spate of car thefts coupled with murder, several killings including that of a journalist and the bombing of a passenger bus have triggered a clamor for Noynoy to appoint a crime czar.

Quite rightly, Noynoy rejected the idea. He said there was really no need for one. However, people are wondering what his shooting buddy, DILG undersecretary Rico Puno who claims to be the only one who can “tame” him (from doing what, many ask), is doing.

It will be recalled that Noynoy put Puno in charge of the Philippine National Police (PNP), not DILG secretary Jesse Robredo. After the tragic Luneta hostage-taking fiasco last year and after he was linked to jueteng, Puno has become virtually invisible. If there has to be a crime czar, he should be it. What’s up? Will he be one of those to be affected by Noynoy’s announced “minor” cabinet revamp?

Speaking of which… it doesn’t look like future ex-foreign secretary Alberto Romulo will be one of those to be affected, at least not in the immediate future. In fact, DFA insiders claim he is planning a trip to Russia in May when the harsh winter in that country starts to wane. Ano ‘yan, huling hirit?

Incidentally, Romulo decided at the last minute, as is his wont, not to join his Asean counterparts in their retreat in Lombok, Indonesia. He also decided to skip, again at the last minute, the three-day train trip with his colleagues from Bangkok to Phnom Penh to Vientiane and finally to Kunming in China to meet up with the Chinese foreign minister. The trip was to commemorate twenty years of Asean-China dialogue relations and to discuss, among others, the Asean connectivity master plan and regional security issues.

The man simply has not been up to the essence of his job.

***

After some 25 political envoys appointed by Gloria Arroyo vacated their posts, career ambassadors had been hoping they would be considered to replace them. It looks like it’s not going to happen. Noynoy has so far appointed political envoys to Brunei, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Japan, United States, Holy See, Spain and Chile.

Only two very junior career chiefs of mission have reportedly been appointed, one to the Czech Republic and the other to Indonesia. Ironically, the appointments were received by the career corps with ambivalence. Although happy because the two are career people, they are unhappy because there are many more senior and experienced ones among them who have no posts.

Insiders say the two obviously managed to wangle their assignments through political patronage. Others are now expected to do the same thing to get postings. That would henceforth be the name of the game in the DFA. Sad.

***

DFA Undersecretary for Administration Rafael Seguis insists that Romulo had recommended only career officers to vacant posts. Not everyone believes him though. According to some sources in Malacañang, there was no such list submitted. But, definitely, if indeed there is such a list, it could only contain names of Romulo’s favorites and those who meet his comfort level, not necessarily deserving ones.

***

Going back to political ambassadors, I have received reports that up till last week, Manuel Teehankee, former Philippine permanent representative to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, has not vacated the post notwithstanding the DFA notice that his duties ended last September 30.

Up until recently, Teehankee was reported to be still attending WTO meetings, using the official car and going to his former office. The DFA, in fact, assigned a charge d’affaires to the mission last October.

Also, I am told that former ambassador to China Francisco Benedicto has reportedly returned to Beijing for reasons nobody in the DFA seems to know. His tenure also ended in September last year and a charge d’affaires assigned there the following month. Benedicto was appointed by Arroyo to Beijing less than six months before she left Malacañang. She also had him named (before Beijing) to New Delhi where he stayed only for a few months.

But the worst case involving a political ambassador is that of our thick-skinned envoy to Chile, Consuelo Puyat-Reyes.

Reyes had been in Chile for about twelve years until she was finally recalled last September. She made her farewell calls on her hosts and diplomatic colleagues. She was also reportedly given an award for departing envoys by the Chilean government. She then came back to Manila.

But lo and behold, she got Noynoy to sign her appointment as ambassador to Chile again! Incredible!

I hope she went back there with a Letter of Credence duly signed by Noynoy. Pero, maski na, nakakahiya!!!

I blame not only Noynoy for Reyes’ embarrassing re-appointment to Chile, but also the Commission on Appointments. That inutile Commission proved once again that its members always, but always, render their decisions not on the basis of merits and qualifications of a nominee, but only on political considerations. And it is supposed to “check and balance” the executive branch?! Like hell it does!

***

Last week, I drew the attention of Seguis and head of personnel Catalino Dilem Jr. to an allegation that they have not implemented the recommendation of an investigating team for the suspension of some employees in the DFA Consular Affairs Office for certain offenses.

Seguis asked Dilem to verify if the information given to me was correct. It appears Dilem has chosen to ignore Seguis’ directive. Otherwise, I assume Seguis would have informed me of Dilem’s report, unless of course the former himself was merely putting me on.

Perhaps Seguis should have Dilem himself investigated for nepotism, having allegedly hired or favored the appointment or promotion of two close relatives over more deserving ones.

***

It looks like a winter of discontent has descended upon Egypt, just as it did on Tunisia earlier. Yemen may well be next. Libya, Syria and, who knows, Saudi Arabia.

What is happening in Egypt is reminiscent of the four days in February 1986 here, i.e., a critical mass building up in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and other population centers in the country, people stopping tanks and fraternizing with soldiers, etc.

My fearless forecast is that Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year rule is about to end for two reasons: 1) A popular rallying figure for the Egyptian people has emerged in the person of Nobel laureate and former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohammed Elbaradei and 2) The statement of US President Obama to the effect that a leader must have the support of the people to be able to continue to rule and the US State Department’s statement that Mubarak’s shuffling of his cabinet is not enough. Both statements reflect a broad hint that Mubarak should now consider stepping down. Mubarak would be hard put to resist the US call. The US is the biggest aid-giver to Egypt.

At this time, we can only wish the situation will not deteriorate further for the sake of our Egyptian friends and, of course, our people living and working there.

***

Today is the 281st day of the fourth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

***

Email: roacrosshairs@yahoo.com

ANALYSIS
By Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer

People power in Egypt

VIOLENT people power revolutions are engulfing the Arab world as President Benigno Aquino III smugly struggles to halt the erosion of his popularity built on the flimsy legacy of his election as heir to the bloodless 1986 EDSA I led by his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

Egypt Sunday continued to be rocked by violent clashes that began last week between police and protesters demanding the immediate resignation of President Hosni Mubarak and return of democracy after 30 years of autocratic rule.

The interior ministry reported at least six people were killed and 900 injured in clashes, while protesters torched six police stations in the main cities of Alexandria and Suez in the most violent challenge to Mubarak’s rule and a string of authoritarian rulers in the Arab states of North Africa for nearly three decades.

Mubarak, 82, came under siege from street protests on the heels of the ouster two weeks ago of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali of nearby Tunisia, who fled with his family with a huge loot to Saudi Arabia, in the first people power revolution in the Arab world where regimes long viewed as invulnerable were being challenged.

The Tunisian uprising, dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution,” ended Ben Ali’s 23-year dictatorship and raised questions of the domino effect in the Arab states of the Middle East.

Egypt is the most populous Arab nation, and the collapse of the Mubarak regime is feared to have a domino effect similar to what happened in Eastern Europe in 1989, when the fall of the Berlin Wall triggered other people power movements in the Soviet bloc.

Unlike in the Philippines, the people power movements in the Arab states are not at all emulating the Yellow Revolution of EDSA I. They are cutting a path of violence—a revolt not driven by Islamic forces but mainly by secular groups in a region where the conventional wisdom prevails that authoritarian regimes keep a tight lid on popular democratic movements from succeeding.

Mr. Aquino sits on the electoral mandate built on the mystique of EDSA I. The revolutions seething in Egypt and Tunisia are influenced by a culture of political violence and regime repression.

Mr. Aquino, therefore, cannot be complacent that the Yellow Revolution vehicle on which he rode to power can buy him immunity from erosion of his legitimacy that has come increasingly under attack over alleged incompetence, blunders (especially during the bungled hostage rescue attempt in August last year), his insensitive lifestyle, and meager accomplishments during his first hundred days in office.

Lost goodwill

Most recently, Mr. Aquino has lost a certain amount of public goodwill after it was reported that he bought a top-of-the line Porsche sports car, drives like a car-racing demon, and is a gun lover, reveling in target practice shooting with his cronies.

All these activities leave a reputation that he is a fun-loving leader who does not take his heavy responsibilities as head of state seriously and have taken a toll on his political capital built on the perception he has fostered that he is the heir to Filipino-style people power.

EDSA I, whose 25th anniversary is due to be celebrated next month, cannot forever be used by the Aquino dynasty as a birthright to rule, even though its heirs cannot deliver results to spur economic growth, to alleviate poverty, and promote agrarian reform (i.e., the Hacienda Luisita redistribution).

The EDSA I political capital can be squandered quickly by Mr. Aquino’s unimpressive performance over the past 100 days. It cannot be replenished quickly by an endless production of slogans, such as “Kung Walang Corrupt, Walang Mahirap.”

No appeal to Arabs

The Arab world is not enraptured by our EDSA I model and is cutting its own style that involves blood shedding as a supreme sacrifice for political change and removal from power of aging dictators.

In a review of the turbulent developments in the Arab world, BBC reports that Egypt has many similarities with Tunisia—tough economic conditions, official corruption and little opportunity for its citizens to express dissatisfaction with the political system.

In January, several cases of self-immolation were reported in Egypt—apparent attempts to mimic actions of the young Tunisian, Mohamed Buoazizi, who set himself on fire in mid-December and died on Jan. 4, triggering the unrest which ultimately overthrew President Ben Ali.

Tunisia’s example

The Tunisian example has spread widely in the region.

In Amman, Reuters reports that Jordanian activists rallied outside government offices on Saturday as they stepped up their campaign to force Prime Minister Samir Refai to step down.

Inspired by the unrest in Tunisia and elsewhere in the region, a group of Jordanian activists gathered outside the prime minister’s office shouting, “Our government is a bunch of thieves,” and holding banners reading “No to poverty, hunger.”

According to BBC, on Jan. 25, ordinary Egyptians spilled over in numbers into the streets of Cairo, issued demands for Mubarak to resign, and called for an end to poverty, unemployment and police abuses.

In Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation, where nearly half of the population lives on less than $2 a day, there have been several days of protests.

Youths and opposition groups have taken to the streets of the capital, Sanna, demanding the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh. As in Tunisia, the trigger appeared to be economic, in particular sharp increases in the price of food.

What follows next?

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi reacted sharply to the ouster of Tunisia’s Ali. “There is none better than Zine to govern Tunisia,” Gaddafi said. “Tunisia now lives in fear.”

The reaction appeared to reflect Gaddafi’s nervousness about a possible domino effect. After 41 years in power, he is the longest serving ruler in the Middle East and also one of the most autocratic.

The Egyptian military holds the key to the outcome of the challenge to Mubarak. Although the military has moved in to calm the streets after the feared Egyptian police force fled.

The military has refrained from opening fire on the demonstrators, but this has also raised fears that it would take power if Mubarak were removed.

This a conundrum of revolutions: What follows next? Filipino-style people power offers no answers.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110131-317578/People-power-revolutions-in-Arab-world-puzzle-Aquino

Business Insight
Malaya

Frat war in PGH

It turns out that the fight for the position of director of the Philippine General Hospital is a fraternity war among doctors who graduated from the University of the Philippines.

One physician told this space that Dr. Jose Gonzales, a competent surgeon, is a key member of the Phi Kappa Mu. His bitter rival Dr. Eric Domingo, who was duly elected by the board of regents of the UP, belongs to another fraternity, the Mu Sigma Phi.

Dr. Gonzales told friends that he will spend everything he has to be director of the PGH. He is now director not by virtue of an election by the regents but by a preliminary injunction issued against the sitting director, Eric Domingo.

The monthly salary of a competent physician like Dr. Gonzales is smaller than a week’s income in private practice. But the position of director has clout or authority over the rest of the physicians in the PGH who help the poor, not to make money.

The feud is fraternity politics which does not help the hospital at all.

Cristino Naguiat, decent man

Not long after the Arroyo government took over the presidency, courtesy of then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Alice Reyes resigned as chairman of Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Her finance man, Cristino Naguiat from Pampanga, also quit. So did Senen Leynes, the communications consultant.

Naguiat did not have to resign. But he suspected he might be ordered to mess up the books of accounts of Pagcor. He would not do it. In which case, he might either be fired or assigned to some corner.

He had no choice if he had to keep his scruples. So he quit.

President Aquino must have been told about all that. He appointed Naguiat as chairman and chief executive officer.

Having been a functional tandem, Naguiat hired Alice Reyes as consultant. All is well with the present Pagcor.

Common denominator

The buzz in Malacañang is that there is a common denominator among Executive Secretary Jojo Ochoa, Lucille Ortille, and former Vice President Noli de Castro.

The man, very close to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., is said to have cornered public works contracts in Quezon City.

The denominator is supposed to transmit vital – oftentimes financially rewarding – information among the trio.

It is possible that the unholy trio is running rings around the President. Their other objective is to save Gloria Arroyo’s neck from the gallows in the event she is charged with plunder and proven guilty.

Lucille Ortille’s house

Lucille Ortille, top assistant of the executive secretary, lives in a multi-million peso home on Paraiso street in Dasmarinas bordering Forbes Park. The lady is rumored to have a close relationship with a former ranking elected official in the Arroyo government.

Based on what her own friends say, Lucille does not have enough money to pay for the house. So, it is presumed that her once-powerful friend coughed out the amount.

Wrong. The home was paid for by a man who has borrowed billions of pesos from Pag-IBIG.

This is a clear suggestion that the businessman who paid for the home has extensive influence with the man who, apart from being a high elected official, also ran Pag-IBIG for years and almost succeeded in turning it belly up.

In whose name is the house?

The expensive house where Lucille Ortille lives is in the name of a certain lady with the family name of Carlos. If I remember correctly, the former owner of the home is Lucille Carlos, daughter of a friend of mine, Vince Carlos, who was at one time secretary of tourism.

The circumstances that attended the purchase of the home are dizzying. First, it was bought by a former ranking official for his supposed girlfriend. Then, the home was paid for by a businessman who borrowed a loan from Pag-IBIG.

Now it turns out that the home is not in the name of the occupant. The registered buyer is also a Carlos.

The government of President Aquino should look deeply into this matter if only because a few of the people who know about it all are working for him.

http://www.malaya.com.ph/jan27/bus_incidental.html