January 2011

FILIPINO OF THE YEAR
Philippine Daily Inquirer

President Benigno Aquino III

BECAUSE MOST Filipinos still believe his famous and thrilling declaration (“Kayo ang boss ko!”) that has all the ingredients of an anthem-like refrain, because many people feel he belongs to them and is within their reach (maybe because he is not perfect but appears intent on doing the best that he can, like most hopeful citizens who are the wellspring of his political power), the Inquirer voted Benigno Simeon Cojuangco Aquino III “the living Filipino who made the most positive impact in 2010.”

(The Social Weather Station survey in November showed seven out of 10 Filipinos were satisfied with President Aquino’s administration; Pulse Asia figures in October gave him a trust rating of 80 percent.)

For having answered the call to run for the highest office in the land when he did, Mr. Aquino chalked up major points—although truth be told, he was as reluctant as many fabled thoughtful warriors, like Arjuna and King Leonidas.

And he didn’t hide it. He prayed, and prayed again, each time announcing without embarrassment that that was what he was doing. And then, for one last time, he prayed some more before throwing himself into the virtual arena.

No honeymoon

Mr. Aquino won in the country’s first automated elections. But before he could dust off his armor from that battle, he found he had to will himself up to fighting form again. As Inquirer columnist Solita Monsod rightly noted, “Hardly any ‘honeymoon’ with the media and the public was observed (no time for one).”

He needed the grounding, too, for what was to come in quick succession: a hostage incident that assumed international proportions and a supertyphoon, on top of the periodic censure of his Cabinet and manmade tragedies, including only the latest—the grisly murder and torching of three men, two of them car dealers, the stunning bombing of a commuter bus and a fatal construction mishap within days of one another (the last two in the Makati central business district), as well as the exposé that monkey business was in full swing during his predecessor’s tenure.

Early on, he endeared himself to the masses by implementing quickly doable reforms that they could instantly appreciate. He banned the “wang-wang,” for one, and stopped the practice of politicians stamping government projects with their names. During his first official trip abroad, he was photographed lunching at a hot dog stand, on his feet.

‘Astig’

P-Noy is the stage name of the Philippines’ biggest rock star of the moment. Bigger than Arnel Pineda, yes.

For all of Pineda’s astonishing celebrity, he could never have secured the $434-million Millennium Challenge Corporation grant from the government of yet another rock star of this generation, US President Barack Obama. Or the more than P29 billion in dividend checks from government-owned and -controlled corporations, who are notoriously accustomed to the good life.

Neither would he (Pineda) take on the Catholic Church to support responsible family planning in this country.

Rock star. Ask the 12-year-old at home: The term no longer requires affiliation with a band; it simply means “astig” or tough guy—meaning, knows where he’s at, where he’s bound, how he’ll get there and, for good measure, exactly when.

But why would P-Noy need a stage moniker? Because his real and official name is long.

Also, because he has show-biz ties, one of them relatively strong. Plus, he walks like Willie Nep. And he seriously sang for a wildly cheering audience during his inaugural street party. Not just once, but twice.

Actually, he is known as a music aficionado, some say bordering on the obsessive. Bahay Pangarap, the one-bedroom presidential pad inside the Malacañang grounds, is equipped with a state-of-the-art sound system—and strobe lights!

Is it any wonder that this rock star’s love life is assiduously followed by fans from all sectors, like a telenovela? Or sometimes like a romantic comedy?

He broke up with pretty politician Shalani Soledad, and the whole country forgot about the yucky mess in which actors John Lloyd Cruz and Shaina Magdayao were waist-deep.

Soon after, Aquino admitted that he was dating his stylist, and the kilig-packed trivia made all the front pages.

Pacman connection

Only Manny Pacquiao’s dazzling triumph over Antonio Margarito made the country stop buzzing about the affair, and then again, only momentarily.

This is not the only P-Noy-Pacman connection. Pacquiao was elevated to the Hall of Fame the second time he was named Inquirer Filipino of the Year. P-Noy is the second Aquino on the venerable list—his mother, former President Cory, was Filipino of the Year for 1997 (jointly with Jaime Cardinal Sin) and 1999.

There are some parallels, too, between Pacquiao’s and Aquino’s manner of acquiring the title for which this paper’s editors vote annually. Pacquiao won boxing matches that were “heavily watched” worldwide. Aquino won the arguably most closely watched—and not only locally—Philippine presidential election.

In the January 18, 2009, issue, in which Pacquiao, as Filipino of the Year 2008, was lauded, his field of expertise was described as “one of the world’s most dangerous sports.”

The presidency of any country at this time in history could be more hazardous than that.

Loved still

Aquino is our Filipino of the Year, even if there are five more years before he can declare complete and absolute victory. (The size of his boxing ring, in a manner of speaking, is 300,000 square kilometers.)

Oh, okay, he bought a Porsche. There was some debate over this one but friendly opinion bailed him out. Happily for him, the love hasn’t run out. He isn’t shy about announcing that this and the people’s faith in his leadership continue to propel him to carry on with his campaign promise—an unrelenting war against corruption.

But critics there still will be for sure because, as Monsod also pointed out, “P-Noy’s administration has fumbled and bumbled and stumbled since Day 1.”

At the inaugural street party, the new President sang: “Ako ang nakikita, ako ang nasisisi; ako ang laging may kasalanan (They see me, they blame me; I’m always at fault).”

Prophetic?

The wise rock star drops his guard, falls to his knees and admits, when he should, that stubborn grit isn’t working, may he sing you a love song for now?

“Touch me … I am not afraid,” Jim Morrison of The Doors, quintessential icon of this music genre, implored after an urgent and swiftly heeded call, in another hit song, to light his fire.

When Aquino made a mistake, he quickly owned up, and he has repeatedly called for public participation in all aspects of his policymaking: “Let me hear from you, tell me what you think.”

E-mail him, why not?
Editor’s Note: Now on its 20th year, the Inquirer’s Filipino of the Year honors a living Filipino who made the most positive impact in the past year as voted upon by editors and assistant editors. Out of 52 votes cast, President Aquino won a lopsided victory over the other nominees. They are in the order of their number of votes: 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.

GLIMPSES
By Jose Ma. Montelibano

The optimism of the people are high, riding on a fresh administration, affirming that integrity and decency in governance was more what people needed than geniuses to wield power. I surmise it is because of the reputation that Ferdinand Marcos had been known for much of his life, as a brilliant lawyer and astute politician. Yet, he oppressed the people with the same intelligence and political expertise. Talent, indeed, does not hold water to integrity and honesty.

Gloria also had her own reputation as someone who was hard-working and an economist. These virtues, in the hands of the wrong person, become tools of plunder and instruments of evil.

It is true that the poverty of tens of millions of people deserve the most talented and decisive in the economic field. Yet, it had never been the lack of economic expertise that produced the poverty; rather, it was the exploitation of power for personal gain, the extraction of the country’s natural resources and the manipulation of the majority poor, that forced a rich land and gifted people to become marginalized.

I wonder who understands how native intelligence and a sensitive, creative culture can degenerate into uncontrollable divisiveness and a survivalist mindset. It is a classical breakdown of what is noble to what is animalistic, the damaged culture that scientists talk about. It used to be a universal pattern when colonization dominated the rest of the world. Many delude themselves into believing that a mental construct of centuries can quickly deconstruct itself when native rulers replace foreign masters. In fact, it does not most of the time. In fact, it becomes worse often enough.

The mindset of governance has always been elitist, even before Spanish colonization. The datu system could not have been less authoritarian. However, being home-grown in a culture that was very much family-oriented, it is more than probable that most datus were paternalistic more tan dictatorial. After all, the datu and his people were not enemies, just as the kings and their people belonged to one another.

Democracy, then, has upset the applecart of both tradition and human history. Democracy is dismantling a leadership mindset that has always been top down by introducing the process of a ground up participative governance. Much of the world today mouths democratic wishes. Some even claim adherence. The fact remains that democracy is struggling to survive its infancy stage in human evolution.

The need for respect is primordial in a democracy. The rule of the majority is not theoretical, not in a democracy. It must be a felt value by the people. While most decisions cannot be directly representative of what people want or don’t want, the sense that the common good prevails is a necessary belief of the people.

A credible justice system is designed to act like a guidepost. The rule of law is a foundation of all societies, but it is most crucial in a democracy. The rule of law and the application of meritocracy as the major moorings of society can make democracy work. Without them, the rule of force propping structured authority often co-opts a disturbed country. In the Philippines, the justice system is suspect, the highest judges perceived as partisan, lacking in integrity and objectivity, drawn to partisanship and loyalty to appointing powers.

We stand today inside a moment when great change is possible from the higher aspirations of a people under a new government. The key orientation then is change, a change from one point moving towards another. The starting point of change is corruption and the poverty it has spawned. Those who do not stand on the value of change do not deserve to lead the country because they will guarantee that no change will happen.

Change is not easy. Confronting corruption and its tentacles in every nook and corner of governance, with great help from a private sector who tolerated, even abetted it, requires a courage that belongs to heroes. Even poverty will be used as an excuse to compromise, as though to help the poor makes it necessary to dirty one’s soul. President Noy had heroes for parents. Maybe, he realizes today why destiny played it that way.

Many in the official family of national and local governance will relent to a reduction of corruption because they will be afraid that simple integrity and honesty will prevent them from receiving resources they need. The President can bend to Congress and the Senate, the mayors and governors to the President, the innocent to corrupt judges and justices, candidates to Comelec officials, and down the long line.

Those who compromise will tell themselves that they have to sell their souls in order to help their people. Little do they know, or try as they might not to know, people are enslaved in a national web and culture dominated by corruption. In a corrupt environment, the people are the victims, especially the poor. The people are not saved by compromise, they are punished and condemned by it.

That was why I thought that the Truth Commission was such a necessary instrument to battle corruption with. That is why I continue to believe that a Truth Commission is the only way to hit several birds with one stone. Aside from thieves and plunderers possibly getting imprisoned, the culture of honesty is once again being highlighted as non-negotiable. When the Supreme Court said that the Truth Commission was unconstitutional, I thought President Noy would bring the case to the people and establish Truth Forums everywhere.

But fate is a more masterful and brave player in life. A lowly auditor who is convinced of the guilt of plunder suspect General Carlos Garcia and the support that he receives from other personalities of power, Heidi Mendoza is saying she is on a truth mission. She is showing extraordinary courage for an ordinary Filipino. She is affirming that heroism is not the exclusive virtue of personages in high places, but that it can be the result of fighting those in power and with great wealth.

Filipino. Pilipinas natin. Our country demands from us, from all of us, a personal contribution to nationhood. Corruption prevents a sense of unity, keeps people and sectors apart, exploiter here, victim there. Governance is not just about them up there; it is truly more about you and me here.


“There is always a philosophy for lack of courage.” Albert Camus

SEARCH FOR THE TRUTH
By Ernesto M. Maceda
The Philippine Star

Garcia, Ligot and Reyes

The cat or call it cut is out of the bag on the widespread corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Lt. Col. George Rabusa, former AFP chief budget officer testifying in a wheelchair revealed the existence of a P40 million a month slush fund or P480 million a year of which P5 million went to the then Chief of Staff Gen. Angelo Reyes plus P5 million for his staff and the P30 million distributed to the offices of the Deputy Chief of Staff, the Vice Chief of Staff, J-6, the House Defense Committee, the Auditor and the Defense press corps. Rabusa admitted receiving P500,000 as his share monthly. Rabusa also stated that then General Angelo Reyes accepted a P50 million pabaon upon retirement.

The slush fund known as PCDA was generated thru a process called “conversion”, by way of converting into cash budgetary appropriations, thru the use of falsified documents including requisition and disbursement vouchers.

This practice was also testified to in the Sandiganbayan by resigned COA Auditor Heidi Mendoza. The practice of conversion is practiced by all senior Commanders in both the AFP and PNP which impacted on the lack of supplies and materials and operational requirements in the field including lack of bullets, uniforms and shoes, meals, even tires and gasoline.

All previous Chiefs of Staff, Vice Chiefs of Staff, Deputy Chiefs of Staff, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force and Philippine Navy Commanders down to brigade and battalion level practiced conversion which means falsification and malversation. Rabusa said the Vice Chief of Staff and Deputy Chief of Staff received P1 million a month from PCDA.

The practice was tolerated under the 9 years of President GMA because GMA was dependent on the AFP and PNP Generals to keep her in office. She pampered and protected her Generals. No one was charged with corruption until Mrs. Carlos F. Garcia and her 2 sons ran afoul of US Customs laws trying to bring in $100,000 into the US without declaring it. In fact, during coup attempts, Generals are called to Malacañang and leave with bulging envelopes, reportedly from Pagcor intelligence funds.

The question now is: Will the new Commander-in-Chief, President Noynoy Aquino allow his new Defense and AFP appointees to continue this crooked path?

Will BIR Commissioner Kim Henares now investigate all previous top brass of the AFP and PNP for not paying the proper taxes?

* * *

NO SOLDIERS. . . The AFP lacks soldiers to fight on two fronts, against Muslim secessionists and NPA rebels. Often they had to move battalions from Luzon or the Visayas to deal with anti MNLF, later anti MILF campaign.

During our term as Chairman of the Senate Committee on National Defense and Security, we discovered during our visits to different battalion headquarters that on the average, they had only 400 men out of the authorized fill up strength of 500. Many lacked boots.

Retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa revealed in the Senate yesterday that the unfilled 20 percent positions was declared as savings and converted into cash and taken by the Generals, especially the Chief of Staff.

We also found out that the P500 per month allowance of CAFGU units was also converted into cash and pocketed by some brigade or battalion commanders. That explains why we have a 30-year-old NPA insurgency.

Will General David receive the traditional pabaon of P50 million or even P100 million when he retires? Abangan…..

* * *

CONVERTED INTO DOLLARS. . . Col. Rabusa testified that since millions of pesos are so bulky to deliver, they converted it into dollars. Does that explain how Mrs. Carlos F. Garcia and her 2 sons had so much dollars they brought to the United States?

By the way, at the next Blue Ribbon hearing, Col. Rebusa should be asked how and where he converted P50 million into dollars, or about $1.2 million? Whether in a bank or money changers, there should be a record and the Senators or the Ombudsman can ask the persons who converted or exchanged into dollars to give evidence.

* * *

VERY CLEAN AND NOT GREEDY? . . . Angelo Reyes denied at the Senate hearing that he received slush funds of P5 million plus P5 million monthly as Chief of Staff and a P50 million in pabaon from the PCDA slush fund. Reyes declared he is not “ganid” (greedy). He said he turned down P10 million a month jueteng protection money, he denied receiving money from smugglers as Anti Smuggling Task Force Czar. Previously, he denied any irregularity in the C-130 purchases of the PAF. He also dismissed earlier suggestions he was in the payroll of oil companies as DOE Secretary. If asked, he would also deny receiving P5 million for every mining permit approved as Secretary of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

He is not only an angel, he must be a saint. He should be cannonized as a martyr.

BIR Comm. Kim Henares, DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima, your move, Mesdames.

* * *

TIDBITS. . . It’s the end of the month but no Cabinet revamp announced yet.

President Joseph Estrada did a good job of pacifying the resisting squatters in San Juan. Rep. J.V. Ejercito believes the squatters were encouraged by leftist troublemakers.

MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino has now taken charge of the Commonwealth Avenue problem. But Mayor Bistek Bautista and Vice Mayor Joy Belmonte should now amend the 60 kilometer per hour speed limit to reduce it to no more than 50 kph.

The Supreme Court is ready to vote on the Hacienda Luisita case. The issue: the validity of the stock option plan in lieu of actual land distribution approved during President Cory Aquino’s incumbency.

Happy birthday wishes to Melo Santiago, Willie Revillame, Norsky Sison Garcia and Regina Raymundo.

http://www.philstar.com/Article.aspx?articleId=652387&publicationSubCategoryId=64

On Target
By Ramon Tulfo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Why should Angelo Reyes be singled out for amassing wealth while he was Armed Forces chief of staff?

Every AFP chief of staff—before and after Reyes—enriched himself while he was at the helm of the military.

The chiefs of the Philippine National Police (PNP) and its predecessor Philippine Constabulary are no exception.

To blame Reyes for enriching himself as AFP chief of staff is to blame corruption in the Armed Forces, past and present, on one man.

The AFP was corrupt long before Reyes became its chief of staff.

It continues to be a corrupt organization.

* * *

The system in the military as well as the civil service breeds corruption.

Before they point an accusing finger at the corruption in the Armed Forces, why don’t the senators and congressmen look at themselves in the mirror?

The No. 1 source of corruption of legislators is the pork barrel.
Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.

* * *

Haven’t you noticed that all military and police generals accused of corruption, past and present, all graduated from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)?

It seems the PMA—whose motto is “courage, integrity, loyalty”—should exclude “integrity” in its motto since many of its graduates don’t have it.

* * *

Only PMA graduates become AFP chief of staff or chief of the PNP.

Name me one graduate of the Reserve Officers Training Corps (ROTC) who has become AFP chief of staff or PNP chief since the time of President Cory Aquino.

The AFP chief of staff or the PNP chief chooses “PMAyers” as members of his immediate staff—including officers who hold the purse strings—to succeed him.

That’s because of the so-called “PMA Mafia” that operates within the AFP and the PNP.

The PMA is a brotherhood, and if you’re a non-PMAyer you’re out of the loop and don’t have a chance to reach the highest post.

* * *

President Noy should give equal opportunity to non-PMAyers in the AFP or PNP, those who came from the ranks or graduates of ROTC, to become AFP or PNP chief.

I know many ROTC graduates who are as competent as—or better than—PMAyers.

If the President wants to break up the PMA Mafia, the cause of demoralization and corruption within the military and police organizations, he should appoint reserve officers to key positions that will give them a crack at the highest post in the AFP and PNP.

Non-PMAyers greatly outnumber the PMAyers in the military or police service.

* * *

PMAyers can’t claim a monopoly of professionalism.

They can’t claim to be better than their non-PMAyer counterparts.

In the United States Army, West Pointers, ROTC graduates and “Mustangs,” officers who started as privates but who rose through the ranks because of sterling leadership, are treated equally.

Colin Powell, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the US Armed Forces, is an ROTC graduate.

Appointed secretary of state after retiring from the service, Powell was being pushed to become US President but never made it.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/metro/view/20110128-317219/The-PMA-Mafia-within-the-AFP-and–PNP

CULTURE OF CORRUPTION
By Fe Zamora
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Col. George Rabusa (ret.)

MANILA, Philippines—The mafia calls it “omerta,” an extreme form of loyalty that requires silence even in the face of humiliation or death. In the Armed Forces, the culture of silence and solidarity is expressed in four words: “Wait for your turn.”

It’s a culture that made a colonel rue the fate of junior officers who mounted in July 2003 what came to be known as the Oakwood mutiny. “Had they waited a year or two, … they wouldn’t be doing this,” he said as the short-lived uprising unfolded on TV.

Another colonel from Mindanao was exasperated to see on TV some of his men with the mutineers. “They complain they have rotten boots; they compare their lifestyle with that of the generals. Bakit hindi sila makapaghintay (Why can’t they wait)?” he said.

New defenders

Yet, in 1989, these two officers were among the “juniors” who were jailed for involvement in the most serious coup attempt against the administration of President Corazon Aquino. Granted amnesty under the peace process, they resumed their military careers in the early 1990s, burrowed into their assignments and never looked back.

By 2003, it was obvious that they had adapted to the establishment they wanted to change 14 years earlier. They had become “defenders” of the status quo.

A colleague of theirs who chose to leave the service said the culture was beyond change.

“I couldn’t close my eyes and ears to the sins of my senior officers. I had to get out,” he said in his office south of Manila.

“The rule is to wait for your turn at the promotion belt. … Wait for your turn to steal,” he said.

Higher, lower officers

Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez had earlier said it was impossible for former military comptroller Carlos Garcia to have plundered more than P300 million without the help of higher authorities. But neither could Garcia have done it without the help of a subordinate.

The testimony on Thursday of ex-Lt. Col. George Rabusa, Garcia’s former budget officer, before the Senate blue ribbon committee laid bare the pervasive culture of conspiratorial corruption in the AFP perpetrated mostly by graduates of the Philippine Military Academy.

(At the height of the discovery of Garcia’s unexplained wealth in 2004, text messages saying PMA stood for “Philippine Millionaires’ Academy” went the rounds.)

According to Rabusa, he helped Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot prepare and deliver P50 million to the then retiring AFP chief of staff Angelo Reyes as a sendoff gift (pabaon) in 2001. (Both Reyes and Ligot at the Senate hearing on Thursday said they could not remember such a thing.)

The money was taken from the “provisions for command-directed activities” (PCDA), a slush fund purportedly maintained by Reyes’ office.

Among the alleged other beneficiaries of the PCDA were the AFP vice chief of staff, deputy chief of staff, the secretary of the joint staff, a senior military aide of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, military auditor, liaison officer on legislative affairs, retired generals and even the defense press corps.

Evolution

In his testimony, Rabusa said the practice of distributing payola to the military brass was a “tradition” in the AFP that was already “there when we got there.”

The “tradition” appears to have evolved through the years.

In the 1970s, a retired general said it was usual for him and others to receive cash and cars from politicians. The dictator Ferdinand Marcos himself was known to be generous to generals who were loyal to him.

“But we never touched the soldiers’ money. That’s taboo,” the ex-general said.

The ouster of Marcos and Corazon Aquino’s assumption of the presidency were said to have “reformed” the AFP. But it was only lip service.

Documents showing overpriced soldiers’ uniforms and combat equipment, anomalous purchases of military supplies and vehicles and other forms of corruption drove young officers to mount a series of coup attempts against the first Aquino administration.

Among the “idealistic” rebel officers then was Ligot.

And Ligot is not alone. The lieutenants in the 1980s who griped about the shenanigans of their commanding officers have now become brigadier generals and senior colonels, and showing hints of corruption.

And what of officers who live within their means, like a colonel with five kids who managed to live modestly?

Behind his back, his colleagues and former commanders deride him as “not smart, which is why he’s as poor as a mouse”—all because he refused to be part of the culture.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110129-317238/Wait-for-your-turn-to-steal

There’s no turning back,’ says Rabusa

By Christian V. Esguerra
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reyes and Arroyo

“There’s still more,” George Rabusa, a retired lieutenant colonel, told the Inquirer on Friday by phone from a safe house. “There’s no turning back.”

Rabusa said he was preparing an affidavit detailing a fraudulent military transaction that cost the government some $2 million and would implicate Arroyo, now the representative of Pampanga’s second district.

He said the project took place when Gen. Diomedio Villanueva was AFP chief of staff, Roy Cimatu was vice chief of staff and Carlos Garcia was military comptroller, and that he would reveal the details when he had completed the affidavit.

Rabusa said the change in the political environment under the Aquino administration had convinced him that it was finally time to come forward.

In the meantime, Rabusa wants the government to take him in as a state witness on the strength of his testimony at a seven-hour hearing conducted by the Senate blue ribbon committee on Thursday.

At the hearing, the first in an inquiry into the controversial plea bargain between Garcia and state prosecutors, Rabusa claimed that former Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes received some P150 million, including a P50-million retirement gift (“pabaon”), when the latter was the AFP chief of staff.

Rabusa also said he had worked closely with Garcia in collecting cash from various military agencies to raise an annual payola pot of around P480 million.

He said Reyes and other top military officials, as well as beneficiaries outside the AFP such as defense reporters and a House legislative office, partook of the monthly collection.

‘Nothing to lose’

Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee, on Friday said Rabusa’s testimony could boost the government’s plunder case against Garcia and prevent the implementation of his plea bargain.

Rabusa, who has been provided security by the Senate, said he was more than willing to testify against Garcia and Reyes in the event that a case was formally filed against the latter.

“I started this so I need to finish it. I won’t turn my back on this. I have nothing to lose. I’ve lost everything already, including fear,” he said.

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

Sen. Francis Escudero said the blue ribbon committee should expand its investigation to cover “all former chiefs” of the AFP in connection with Rabusa’s testimony.

But Guingona said these retired officials would just issue denials in the absence of new revelations from Rabusa or new witnesses.

‘Very credible’

Rabusa’s exposé is highly believable because he served in the military comptrollership office for a long time until he retired in 2007, according to Brig. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr., the spokesperson of the AFP.

“Coming from somebody from the comptroller family, his allegations may be deemed very credible,” said Mabanta who, like Rabusa, is a 1981 graduate of the Philippine Military Academy.

Rabusa was elected president of PMA Class of 1981 but was replaced after being slapped with graft charges. The cases are still pending.

He served as military budget officer from 2000 to 2002. He retired from the military in 2007, when he made an unsuccessful run as mayor of Sogod, Southern Leyte.

Mabanta said Rabusa could barely speak a few months ago because of a stroke. He testified at the Senate inquiry on Thursday while seated on a wheelchair.

Coming out

Rabusa said he had wanted to come forward as early as 2005. He recalled that a former classmate, then Iloilo Rep. Rolex Suplico, had tried to arrange a meeting between him and a group of opposition congressmen that included the future President, Tarlac Rep. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

He said he was considered a possible witness in the impeachment complaint against Arroyo that year.

Around two years later, Rabusa was to have met with ousted President Joseph Estrada, then under house arrest in Tanay, Rizal, to reveal what he knew about military corruption.

But none of the planned meetings ever took place because, Rabusa said, he was constantly being “monitored” by the Intelligence Service of the AFP (Isafp).

He said that before the scheduled meeting with Estrada, he received a call from then Isafp chief Leonardo Calderon who purportedly demanded to know why he was seeing the ousted President. With a report from Dona Z. Pazzibugan

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110129-317234/Ex-colonel-to-link-Arroyo

Philippine Daily Inquirer
Source: Inquirer Archives

Gen. Fidel Ramos, PC/PA (February 1986 to January 1988)

Gen. Renato De Villa, PC (January 1988 to January 1991)

Gen. Rodolfo Biazon, PMC (January 1991 to April 1991)

Gen. Lisandro Abadia, PA (April 1991 to April 1994)
Comptroller Brig. Gen. Jose Ramiscal Jr.

Gen. Arturo Enrile, PA (April 1994 to November 1996)
Comptroller Brig. Gen. Jose Ramiscal Jr.

Gen. Arnulfo Acedera, PAF (November 1996 to December 1997)

Gen. Clemente Mariano, PA (December 1997 to July 1998)

Gen. Joselin Nazareno, PA (July 1998 to July 1999)

Gen. Angelo Reyes, PA (July 1999 to March 2001)
Comptroller Maj. Gen. Jacinto Ligot

Gen. Diomedio Villanueva, PA (March 2001 to May 2002)
Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia

Gen. Roy Cimatu, PA (May 2002 to September 2002)
Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia

Gen. Benjamin Defensor, PAF (September 2002 to November 2002)
Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia

Gen. Dionisio Santiago, PA (November 2002 to April 2003)
Comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia

Gen. Narciso Abaya, PA (April 2003 to October 2004)

Gen. Efren Abu, PA (October 2004 to August 2005)

Gen. Generoso Senga, PA (August 2005 to July 2006)

Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr., PA (July 2006 to May 2008)

Gen. Alexander Yano, PA (May 2008 to May 2009)

Gen. Victor Ibrado, PA (May 2009 to March 2010)

Gen. Delfin N. Bangit, PA (March 2010 to June 2010)

Lt. Gen. Nestor Ochoa, PA (Acting Capacity) (June 2010 to July 2010)

Gen. Ricardo David, PA (July 2010 to present)

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110129-317239/AFP-Chiefs-of-Staff-from-February-1986-to-present

To the Point
By Emil Jurado
Manila Standard Today

The opposition said that Malacañang should have listened to the travel advisories of six foreign embassies about possible terror attacks in the Philippines.

In response, President Benigno Aquino III said: “Those terrorist threats mentioned shopping malls, not buses, as targets.”

I want to laugh but I can’t. The gravity of that bus bomb blast that killed five and injured many others is certainly no laughing matter.

When those travel advisories were issued last year, the President chose to play them down. He said that the information was raw and that he needed specifics.

Santa Banana, when no less than six countries warned us about forthcoming terrorist attacks, the administration should have started preparing for them regardless of how raw the President thought the information was.

This is the problem. We have a government that acts only after the fact.

***

I have been supportive of the 2006 Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement. My support is based on the proposition that the deal would be beneficial for the Philippines and open the doors for Japan to pour in more investments into our country. There would also be increased opportunities for Filipino caregivers and nurses in Japan.

But now, in the wake of allegations that the agreement falls short of its promises, I am beginning to doubt the sincerity of Japan in adhering to its deal with the Philippines.

One concern, for instance, raised by lawmakers is that in the “trade in goods and services” chapter of the agreement, Japan managed to exclude 651 tariff lines, 238 of which are farm and agricultural produce, while the Philippines excluded only six of its tariff lines.

Coupled with this, the Philippines was not ale to get a commitment from Japan to eliminate trade-distorting subsidies, although Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand which have a similar agreement were able to secure such a commitment.

There are similar concerns like the Philippines getting stuck in low-value added manufacturing activities. Hence, we would fail to move to higher value-added activities.

Another critical concern is the arrangement with Japan to employ, initially, 400 nurses and 600 caregivers from the Philippines. I think this is urgent given Japan’s aging population.

But because of the stringent rules for the employment of nurses and caregivers in Japan, only one nurse—I repeat, one—has so far been able to go through the wringer.

I can understand the regulation for nurses and caregivers to learn Nippongo first so that they can communicate with the elderly patients who cannot speak English.

In the meantime, nurses and caregivers are paid anyway. But my gulay, how can a Filipino survive in Japan with only $400 a month when the average monthly expense in Japan is around $800 a month? It’s worse in Tokyo, where you need $1,000 a month.

In the US, the average pay for nurses is $3,500; Canada $3,250; and in the UK $2,100. Where’s the fairness and equity here?

Given these, Congress should now review the Tokyo-Manila deal.

An agreement should provide a win-win situation for both parties concerned. I believe Japan is likewise duty-bound to address all the concerns. House Resolution 828 points out clearly that the Philippine government needs to “carry out necessary steps that would push the Japanese government to fulfill its commitments.” That’s only fair.

***

Holding office must be likened to being Caesar’s wife—to be beyond reproach and suspicion. After all, one is beholden to the public, more particularly if the post involves intelligence-gathering related to economic activities and the exercise of authority over police work.

Well, at the Bureau of Customs, one almost slipped through the radar. It was a good thing that the oath-taking of a new appointee, scheduled to be done in the office of Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, was stopped at the last minute by a late-breaking background check on the would-be official.

It turns out that the Supreme Court has already made a decision on the graft case filed against Prudencio Reyes, Jr. who was about to be sworn in as the new Deputy Commissioner for Intelligence of the Bureau of Customs.

In 2009, the Second Division of the Supreme Court ruled that Reyes be suspended for one year, or be imposed a fine equivalent to one year’s salary. The decision was penned by Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion and concurred with by acting chairperson Conchita Carpio-Morales and Associate Justices Antonio T. Carpio, Mariano del Castillo and Robert A. Abad.

The issue: A graft case involving a P600-million project of the Baguio Water Supply System filed against Reyes by his subordinates when he was still chief of the Local Water Utilities Administration in 2000.

Santa Banana, even a cursory search about Reyes’ background would have revealed this as the case had passed through the Civil Service Commissioner, the CSC en banc, the Ombudsman, the Court of Appeals and finally the Supreme Court.

Luckily, Reyes was not able to take his oath. Or else, another blunder would have been at the doorstep of President Aquino.

***

The incident involving the near-oath taking of Reyes is puzzling. It usually takes time for somebody to hurdle the painstaking procedure of the Palace search committee.

The “matuwid na daan” (straight path) campaign battlecry of President Aquino presupposes a thorough background check on those tapped to join the administration.

Apparently, nothing of the sort was done in the case of Reyes.

We have been expecting the President to act swiftly against those who continually embarrass him. But, he still has not lifted a finger.

***

If you thought that was puzzling, here’s another.

With the appointment of Reyes put on hold, Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service head Filomeno Vicencio Jr. has been tapped to take over as Deputy Commissioner in an acting capacity.

My gulay, isn’t this the same Vicencio whose academic background and credentials are in question, since the University of the East has stated that it had nothing in its records to show that he ever studied there? Vicencio claims he obtained his diploma from this university.

I ask: Mr. President, what going on in Malacañang with your appointments? Don’t you have a search committee for this purpose?

I ask this because at the beginning of your term, one of your early appointees was the brother of a congressman who used to support the Arroyo administration, but later joined the Liberal Party when he saw you were likely to win. That congressman is now chairman of a powerful House committee. This brother who was president of a GOCC subsidiary was found by the Commission on Audit to have spent P700 million of its P1.2 billion earmarked for a landmark project of the Arroyo administration on ghost projects.

And now, my gulay, he’s the President of a government authority. How lucky can he get!

It’s as bad when the President appoints buddies, former classmates, Ateneans and friends of his sisters, who end up as albatrosses around his neck. But to appoint people suspected of plunder or facing graft charges is utterly unacceptable. Where’s the change? Where’s the straight path?

It’s a double whammy on the government because that GOCC subsidiary may have to be abolished because it no longer has any reason for being. The project has been canceled with no less than P700 million going into ghost project and unaccounted for.

Santa Banana, this is reason enough for Congress to investigate. It’s plunder and a potential loss of jobs.

***

I’m glad that Energy Secretary Jose Rene Almendras was finally confirmed by the Commission on Appointments. He’s one member of the Palace’s economic team that has become the saving grace of the Aquino administration.

Indeed Almendras is a performer in the administration—in sharp contrast to the others around him who have given the President nothing but trouble.

http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideOpinion.htm?f=2011/january/28/emiljurado.isx&d=2011/january/28

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Take it from the expert: There is no crash course in stamping out “jueteng.”

It may take up to a year for President Aquino to learn the ins and outs of the illegal gambling industry and get serious about putting an end to the menace, according to jueteng operator turned antigambling advocate, Puerto Princesa Mayor Edward Hagedorn.

Hagedorn, who briefly served as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s antigambling czar, said getting rid of illegal gambling would require strict enforcement backed by strong leadership at the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Philippine National Police.

“You need a very strong DILG Secretary and a very sincere PNP chief. Once these two get serious, it will all be straightened out,” said Hagedorn, who is now on the third term of his second outing as Puerto Princesa mayor.

He only has to point to his own experience as a reformed former operator of jueteng, or the illegal numbers game.

Funded by jueteng

Hagedorn said he operated illegal gambling in his city from 1986 to 1992 and netted P500,000 out of daily totals of up to P1 million. At the time, the peso was worth more than twice it is now against the US dollar.

“The safe was never out of cash,” he said candidly.

It was, in fact, his jueteng connections that made him win his first mayoralty race in 1992, Hagedorn said. Jueteng money funded his campaign while his trusted pool of jueteng collectors won him the votes by campaigning house-to-house around the city.

“Jueteng per se is not bad. But once it becomes excessive, it’s scary because it can create warlords who could pay off the police, local officials and buy arms,” he said.

Mayor is key

Once elected mayor, Hagedorn said he was able to stop the game as soon as he resolved to do so. To those curious as to how he did it, he always has a ready response.

“I was able to stop it because I was the one operating it,” Hagedorn said with a laugh.

“If the mayor does not want it, there will be no jueteng,” he said.

He said he brought the jueteng workers from the underground economy into the formal sector, hiring them as street sweepers and logging marshals under the city government payroll.

Asked whether anyone attempted to supplant him as the city’s jueteng lord, Hagedorn was quick to respond.

“Even gangsters and goons have their own ethics,” he said.

High hopes

Hagedorn expressed “high hopes” that the Aquino administration can stop the illegal numbers game, saying he was confident in the new leadership of the DILG and the PNP.

“I think they just haven’t given it time yet because they are still busy with other concerns. Let’s give Aquino a year. By that time, he would already know everything,” Hagedorn said in a meeting with Inquirer reporters and editors late Thursday.

The Aquino administration was confronted with the jueteng issue last year, when the names of Interior Undersecretary Rico Puno, a close friend of the President and an Aquino appointee, and the then PNP Chief Director General Jesus Verzosa, an Aquino ally, were dragged into jueteng payola allegations.

“I have high hopes but right now, it appears that it’s not yet part of their agenda,” Hagedorn said.

http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/inquirerheadlines/nation/view/20110129-317240/Aquino-gets-masters-tips-on-how-to-beat-jueteng

By Aytch S. de la Cruz
The Daily Tribune

Bothered by the latest alleged intrigue about his new bullet-proof sports utility vehicle (SUV), President Aquino came down to the media’s quarters late afternoon yesterday to personally explain how he got the Lexus LX 570 which was reportedly worth P8.5-million.

Reacting to the report published by the Tribune’s Friday edition, Aquino claimed the new SUV was actually a replacement for the presidential limousine, a Mercedes Benz, which was left to him by his predecessor upon learning that it has been damaged when typhoon “Ondoy” ravaged most parts of Metro Manila, including Mala-cañang’s freedom park.

The Mercedes Benz was the vehicle that then outgoing President Arroyo and incoming president, Noynoy Aquino, utilized for Aquino’s inaugural at the Luneta Park which was after the Ondoy-Pepeng typhoons.

Aquino said he never purchased the Lexus because it came from his brother-in-law who is actually leasing the vehicle for him, for security purposes, to spare the government from spending just to buy an alternative vehicle for his official use.

Aquino, however, did not identify his brother in law. He has at least three, not counting the estranged husband of his sister Kris Aquino, who is seeking an annulment of her marriage to the basketball star.

“The vehicle I was using earlier and I’m using now is a security vehicle. I cannot discuss with you its security features, what capacities, because it would be tantamount to informing my enemies how to prepare. But I did not buy it. If you don’t mind, let’s leave it at that. I do not want to go into any detail because they might think about researching on its capabilities,” Aquino explained.

Aquino was seen on TV in a top of the line Lexus, while on his way to a hospital in Makati City, after the Edsa bus bombing incident.

According to other reports, aside from his recently purchased 2007 white Porsche, Aquino allegedly was also spotted driving a red Lamborghini which the Chief Executive vehemently denied, claiming that he never even saw such kind of luxury car being driven in Metro Manila.

In a separate phone interview, Social Welfare Secretary Corazon ‘Dinky’ Soliman also denied having owned a Mercedes Benz.

Soliman said the only cars registered under her name were a Toyota Vios, Toyota Revo, and a Hyundai Santa Fe. She has branded the reoport as “fresh intrigues” being leveled against her and that this was “unfair” adding that the person who fed the information to the Tribune should have verified the facts first.

The Tribune source stands pat on his story. The Tribune report never said that Soliman owned the top of the line dark brown Mercedes-benz, only that she has been seen being driven in one.

Aquino was first spotted with the Lexus when he visited the victims of the recent Makati bus blast at the St. Luke’s Medical Center. He used the same vehicle when he attended an official engagement Friday morning inside Malacanag’s Rizal Hall.

The Chief Executive also appealed to the media that instead of creating a fuss over his new presidential vehicle, they could have paid more attention to the P24-billion dividends turned over to him by the government-owned and –controlled corporations.

Malacañang also yesterday asked those who are reportedly planning to organize an anti-Aquino administration movement to refrain from raising speculations and predictions that Aquino won’t be able to finish his six-year term should he fail to address all the security issues presently challenging his administration.

The said group is composed of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino’s followers, who apparently have added themselves to the growing number of people who are disillusioned at the younger Aquino.

“We are always open to them. If they have any concerns, they could have easily approached us. But, again, this is a free country. They have the right to express whatever grievances they have. But we can assure them that we are doing everything that we can. In fact, if they are less myopic, they will see that there is development going on,” said presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda in a post-briefing interview when asked on the Palace’s thoughts on this latest set of Aquino’s detractors.

Lacierda maintained that the ongoing issue about the perceived rise of criminality in the country is just a product of mass media’s sensationalism because they have the statistics to prove that crime rates have actually gone down since Aquino assumed the presidency.

“Against all sensationalized reporting of criminality going on, the truth of the matter is, it has gone down and whenever there is a situation and incidents such as the bus bombing, we immediately convene the security cluster, the National Security Adviser is there, the Secretary of Interior and Local Government, Chief PNP, AFP units are also there. So there is a coherent attempt, effort to solve the problem and this has been going on,” Lacierda insisted.

“Do not go ahead of our intelligence groups. They are all studying the matter. Our security forces are on top of the situation. If ever there are no responses of it (being felt as yet) this is because the information is still being validated… So there is no truth to assertions that the government does not take these information seriously,” Lacierda added.

http://www.tribuneonline.org/headlines/20110129hed3.html