March 2011

By Val G. Abelgas

It was providential that the House of Representatives approved the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez just a few days before the Senate was scheduled to go on a one-and-a-half month Holy Week recess. The long hiatus would give all the parties concerned time to reflect not only on their individual lives and sins, but on what to do with this crucial political exercise. The long recess would also give parties in the opposite sides of the fence to cool off and contemplate on the merits of the case, or at least on the consequences of removal or acquittal.

On the other hand, the long recess would also allow room for wheeling and dealing by both sides, an impeachment process being a purely political exercise. One can expect the Aquino administration to utilize its vast resources to convince the senators to vote for removal. Gutierrez has been pictured, after all, as the biggest stumbling block to President Aquino’s promised goals of curbing corruption and sending to jail officials of the previous administration who used their position to enrich themselves.

At the same time, the long recess would give Gutierrez time to reflect on whether it would be worth facing a lengthy and destructive trial to salvage whatever is left of her credibility and integrity. Maybe, the Lenten atmosphere during this long recess would give her enough motivation to resign before the trial and spare the country from such a highly divisive exercise, and, at the same time, spare herself from the humiliation of an impeachment trial.

I’m sure Gutierrez is aware that an impeachment trial will not only subject her to even more ridicule, but more importantly, will give the critics of her longtime friends and allies, former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, an opportunity to bring back to public consciousness two of the biggest corruption scandals involving the Arroyos.

The two – the unresolved P728-million fertilizer fund scandal and the $320-million NBN-ZTE broadband deal — are among the six charges presented in the Articles of Impeachment submitted by the House to the Senate just before the congressional recess.

The House had voted to impeach Gutierrez by an overwhelming vote of 212-47 for the following charges:

• The Office of the Ombudsman’s allegedly dismal performance as shown by its low conviction rate

• Gutierrez’s allegedly unreasonable failure to take prompt and immediate action on the complaints filed against various public officials, including former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in connection with the botched national broadband network deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

• The allegedly inexcusable delay of the Ombudsman in investigating the death of Ensign Philip Andrew Pestaño aboard a Philippine Navy vessel

• Gutierrez’s alleged inaction on the P728-million fertilizer fund scam that involved the alleged diversion of government funds into Arroyo’s 2004 presidential campaign

• Her alleged inaction on the election automation deal between the Commission on Elections and Mega Pacific Corp., which was nullified by the Supreme Court for being anomalous

• Her alleged inaction on the case of the so-called Euro Generals—ranking police officers who took millions of pesos worth of euros with them to a conference in Russia.

In effect, Gutierrez will not only be the one on trial here, but Arroyo herself. I will be shocked if the House panel tasked with prosecuting Gutierrez would not call the Arroyo couple to the witness stand and subject them to intense grilling on at least the two charges pertaining to the fertilizer scam and the broadband deal. The Arroyos would most likely be asked about their close relationship with Gutierrez, and whether they had a hand in the Ombudsman’s inaction on the two cases.

The prosecuting panel will have to prove that there were enough grounds to indict the Arroyos and the other officials involved in the five cases cited, but still Gutierrez did not file the charges. To do this, they will call on witnesses and those tagged in the anomalies all over again.

While Gutierrez may escape removal because she was not directly involved in any one of the cases and the prosecutors may not be able to gather the 16 votes required to remove her, her friends and benefactors, Gloria and Mike Arroyo, will emerge from the whole episode brutally bruised, if not criminally charged for the two corruption scandals.

Still, the impeachment trial will be a no-win situation for her because even if the Aquino camp fails to get the needed votes to impeach, Gutierrez’ integrity will almost certainly be ruined beyond repair.

Even so, I must admit I admire her courage in fighting for her integrity and honor, although I must lament that by doing so, she will be dragging the country into another highly divisive and distracting exercise.


To Take A Stand
By Oscar P. Lagman, Jr.
Business World

It has been said by constitutional lawyers, members of Congress, and political pundits that an impeachment proceeding is both a judicial process and a political exercise. Given the present composition of the Senate, the hearing of the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez would be a political act more than a judicial function.

Except for Antonio Trillanes, the 22 other senators are inveterate politicians. They had run for public office more than once, most of them several times. They are seasoned veterans of getting, by hook or by crook, the vote of the electorate and are well-versed in political machinations. Considering further that majority of the senators are not lawyers, it would be folly to expect the Senate to function as a judicial body.

I would find ludicrous Lito Lapid and Bong Revilla, neither of whom even finished high school, the clueless Tito Sotto, and the shallow Miguel Zubiri performing a judicial function. Lapid hardly attends Senate sessions for obvious reasons. Colloquial English is beyond his comprehension. Revilla understands English, he having spent a couple of years in Fairfax High School, Los Angeles, but the legal issues involved in the Gutierrez trial are well outside his area of interest, if not beyond his intellectual capacity. He is a member of the Blue Ribbon Committee, but I had not seen him in any of the committee’s many televised hearings on corruption in the military establishment.

Sotto was a senator-judge in the trial of Erap. But he totally surrendered his duty as judge. In justifying his dimwitted vote in that Joe Velarde envelope episode of the Erap trial, he said he consulted legal eagles including former justices of the Supreme Court, and all of them advised him to oppose the opening of the envelope. To have to consult legal luminaries on whether to open the envelope thought to contain incriminating evidence against Erap meant he was incapable, by his own admission, of making even a simple decision of whether to open an envelope of possible evidence or not.

There is nothing Sotto has done since the Erap trial 10 years ago to indicate he is now qualified to sit as judge in a judicial process. Yesterday, the Inquirer quoted him as saying: “People should not be judgmental and avoid speculating on the individual stand for each senator. They’re not helping the Senate any by doing that.” Why, does he find himself confused by the preponderance of opinions? I thought he also said there are 23 republics in the Senate. Does he even know what he is saying?

Zubiri should not even be in the Senate. He was placed there by the Comelec, not by the electorate. On the return of Panfilo Lacson, he said, “We welcome his participation in the impeachment trial knowing he has investigative skills. He will be a major factor in the hearings.” That statement is suggestive of his wrong appreciation of the role of the senators in the impeachment proceeding. He thinks investigation is part of their work.

Sergio Osmeña III, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, Manuel Villar, Antonio Trillanes, Jinggoy Estrada, Ralph Recto, Lacson, and Bongbong Marcos are not lawyers. They have had no training in the evaluation of documentary and testimonial evidence. The impeachment proceeding would, therefore, be more of a political exercise than a judicial function with the majority of the senator-judges not members of the Bar.

It has also been said that former President Gloria Arroyo would really be the one on trial as the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez accused her of sting on major cases of anomalies implicating the former president and her husband. The removal of Gutierrez from the Office of the Ombudsman would pave the way for the filing of numerous cases of graft and corruption against GMA. In that case, the vote of each senator-judge would depend on what his or her relation with the former president is.

Both Lapid and Revilla are in the Senate by virtue of GMA including them in her senatorial slate first in 2004 and then last year. They will vote no to the removal of the ombudsman. Sotto would have been the vice-presidential running mate of GMA in 1998 had she found a party to endorse her candidacy for presidency. Sotto ran under the Lakas Kampi banner in 2007 but lost. He won as a PMP candidate last year. He will cast a vote of no to protect her long-time friend.

Miriam Santiago had hinted how she would vote when she pre-judged the House of Representatives Justice Committee’s case against Gutierrez as weak. After all, GMA had endorsed Santiago’s application to the World Court in The Hague.

Joker Arroyo’s vote can also be deduced from how during the Senate hearing on the NBN-ZTE deal he browbeat adverse witness Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada and how he painted Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite as a saint for “giving” cash-strapped Lozada P500,000 out of his (Gaite’s) own money. The former Scourge of the Bad (remember his campaign slogan “Kung bad ka, lagot ka”) has changed drastically since he walked the corridors of power with the bad.

When asked during the presidential campaign last year if he would go after GMA if elected president, Manny Villar sidestepped the question by saying he would not lift a finger to prevent anybody from filing charges of graft and corruption against GMA. It is likely he will vote “no” to the removal of Gutierrez. One more “no” vote is needed to acquit Gutierrez and thus save GMA’s neck — anyway until November 2012 when Gutierrez’s term shall have expired. The eighth “no” vote will not come from the Liberal Party members Frank Drilon, Francis Pangilinan, Recto, and Teofisto Guingona III and allies Osmena and Escudero.

Trillanes, who was placed under detention for seven years by GMA, will definitely vote for the removal of Gutierrez, the stumbling block to the filing of criminal charges against GMA.

No question as to how Lacson will vote. He has been after the neck of both GMA and her husband Big Mike all these years.

Alan Peter Cayetano must still be seething over the way GMA minions Benjamin “Borjer” Abalos and Nicodemo Ferrer schemed to nullify the votes for him in the elections of 2007. Now is his chance to get back at GMA. Sister Pia is expected to go along with Alan.

GMA plotted with the generals to oust Erap while GMA was still a member of Erap’s Cabinet. Well, Jinggoy has been going after GMA’s generals these past months.

It is obvious from his participation in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee investigations that his ultimate target is GMA. He will vote for the removal of the stumbling block to his wreaking vengeance on GMA.

Juan Ponce Enrile as Senate president will not vote. That means the crucial “no” vote necessary for Gutierrez to go scot-free could be cast by any of the following: Edgardo Angara, Loren Legarda, Gregorio Honasan, and Bongbong Marcos.

But Legarda and Honasan will be running for reelection in 2013. Legarda knows very well that those who voted “no” to the opening of the Velarde envelope in 2001 were repudiated at the polls the next time they ran.

In the pool game of 8 Ball, he who pockets the 8 Ball wins the game. In the Gutierrez impeachment case, who could be the 8 Ball she can pocket?

Manila Bulletin

“I lived the life of a prisoner outside a prison cell”

MANILA, Philippines – Two former justice secretaries drove me to become a fugitive from injustice.

This was how Senator Panfilo M. Lacson described his decision to go into hiding for 14 months.

“The unvarnished truth is – I was made to suffer a crime I did not commit. Two former secretaries of justice (Raul Gonzalez and Agnes Devanadera) drove me to become a fugitive from injustice,’’ he said in a press conference, the first time he went public since he went into hiding in January, 2010, to evade arrest in the Dacer-Corbito double murder case.

Lacson added that he never felt that the Aquino administration is giving him “a fair shake,” saying his being a supposed ally of President Benigno S. Aquino III could only be read in the newspapers.

“Do I consider myself an ally of the administration? Sa diyaryo ko lang nababasa (I only read such things in the newspapers),” Lacson said. He, however, stressed that from what he had heard and read, the President is sincere in his anti-corruption campaign.

“I never felt I was given a fair shake by the new administration,” he stressed.

He said that while he was in hiding, the PNP and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) never slackened their attempts to look for him.

Lacson – arch critic of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, whom he accused as the one behind his miseries – expressed this sentiment when he answered reporters’ questions during a press conference at the Senate building after he returned to the Philippines last Saturday through the Cebu gateway.

Lacson finally came out of hiding as there is no longer impediment after the Court of Appeals issued a final and executory decision thumbing down the double murder case filed against him and voided the warrant for his arrest issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court.

In his own way, Lacson helped in the successful presidential bid of President Aquino.

After self-reflections during his life as a fugitive in places abroad he refused to identify, Lacson said that “I am more inclined to just forget and forgive… that is my state of mind as I go on with my duties as a senator and I have obligations to serve.”

Asked whether the new administration was a factor in his return to the Philippines to help in convicting Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in the forthcoming impeachment trial at the Senate, Lacson simply said “never.”

He refused to comment on who could have helped and supported him during his life as a fugitive and where he hid during all those months.

He also denied seeking the help or meeting Sen. Manuel Villar in Dubai last Friday.

Asked who could be the mastermind behind the Dacer-Corbito double killing, Lacson said he knows the mastermind but “it is a matter of evidence.’’

Lacson admitted that evading arrest might be “legally difficult to justify, if not hardly defensible.”

He also conceded that going underground is politically incorrect.

As the impeachment trial of Gutierrez approaches, Lacson emphasized that he is “not a shoo-in judge to vote against the Ombudsman.”

Lacson said he agrees with the position of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile that senator-judges should be guided by evidence and the rules of evidence in judging the guilt or innocence of Gutierrez.

Asked how he was able to successfully evade arrest although the International Police (Interpol) had sought him out, Lacson, a Philippine Military Academy (PMA) graduate former Philippine National Police director general, replied: “I managed to keep my head down as it was a day to day struggle since there are many Filipinos all over the world.”

Days before the Manila RTC issued a warrant for his arrest, Lacson went into hiding on Jan. 5, 2010.

During his 14-month experience as a fugitive, Lacson said he had been subjected to the vitriol of arrogance and hatred by my old and new detractors.

“I have been humiliated, unfairly eviscerated of my dignity and personal honor, even as I am humbled by an experience so surreal I never imagined could happen. Every single day that I was underground, the crucible stared each time I opened my eyes,” he said.

He said he had lived the life of a prisoner outside a prison cell and the “only difference from one who suffers in confinement is that I could, on my own will, navigate my movements using the best of my instinctive compass.”

Lacson said he felt bad that he was told that Department of Justice prosecutors “were allowed to shred the rules on evidence in favor of satisfying the last-ditch effort to pin him down.

“On a personal note, there were frequent moments that I felt the persecution had never stopped even after a new administration took over the reins of power. All I was asking for is a fair share of justice, correct its miscarriage, and trim the excesses of the past regime,’’ he added.

He also asked the Dacer and Corbito families not to close their eyes on blaming him because the mastermind is out there.

He said he decided to go into hiding because he did not want to place himself “under the jurisdiction of a court whose judicial determination of probable cause and the subsequent issuance of a warrant of arrest I was questioning before a higher court of the land.”

Asked if he would again go abroad during the current 45-day recess that started Monday, Lacson said “no” because he has no passport.

By Marichu A. Villanueva
The Philippine Star

Guess who breezed back to town? Of course, as everyone knows by now, Senator Panfilo “Ping” Lacson slipped back to the country almost undetected last Saturday. Almost, because the news about Lacson’s return via Hong Kong to Cebu through Mactan International Airport broke out a few minutes after some people recognized and alerted others to his presence back here.

Through the same wily tactics that kept him out of sight of Philippine authorities supposedly assigned to track him down, Lacson also succeeded in his cat-and-mouse game with media personnel trying to pin him down in Cebu while en route to Manila.

It should be worthwhile to mention that there was an apparent, deliberate ploy to confuse media on Lacson’s whereabouts last Saturday. Media were given misleading information and tips coming from certain authorities in government who were supposed to know the travel destinations of persons of interest.

While I would like to believe that Lacson did his best to follow his self-imposed rule “Don’t Get Caught” while on the run, the seeming efforts to help him dodge media when he came back here, showed he did it with some degree of assistance from those in and out of government.

We could not begrudge Lacson for being highly elusive to government authorities supposedly hot on his trail. After all, Lacson is a well-trained policeman and a highly decorated officer at that. His several decades in the police service were enough source of his wealth of friends and supporters here and abroad.

Naturally, he would not reveal these people who took the risk to hide him under their care and protection while he was among “the most wanted persons” in the Philippines and was included in the so-called “red list” of the Interpol. Now that he is no longer a “fugitive” who successfully evaded arrest, Lacson finally came out of hiding.

Wherever it was he ducked his head and whoever were the people who helped him for more than a year while in hiding, Lacson is keeping it to himself for now. Again, dramatically, Lacson vowed to bring to his grave the cloak-and-dagger secrets of his escapade.

After a long period of being “humbled” by that experience, Lacson announced last Monday in a press conference held at the Senate that he would immediately get back to his legislative duties as an elected Senator. He vowed to carry the cause of victims of injustice such as the innocent people in jail paying for the crimes they did not commit.

Lacson specially mentioned the case of Hubert Webb who after languishing in jail for 15 years was only recently freed after the Supreme Court ruling cleared him from the Vizconde massacre.

But obviously, Lacson has himself in mind on his new avowed advocacy to benefit directly by citing his particular case as among the victims of injustice. In fact, he described himself as a “fugitive from injustice.”

The Senator was implicated as behind the heinous killing of the late public relations man Salvador “Bubby” Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in November 2000. He was then the director-general of the Philippine National Police (PNP) during the administration of former President Joseph Estrada. It was Lacson’s former subordinate, former Senior Superintendent Cesar Mancao who pointed to him as the one who allegedly issued the order to kill Dacer.

Again, Lacson swears to high heavens he made no such orders and claims again he knows the real “mastermind” who wanted Dacer killed. Lacson admits he has no evidence to pin down the “mastermind”, except for certain information he has, but would not go into details up to now. He described his own investigation into this as a “work in progress.”

If the Dacer-Corbito double murder case was not solved while he was still the PNP chief, how much more now, more than a decade later. At least, Lacson confessed his doubts if he could finish his own investigation on this during his lifetime.

Incidentally, Lacson confirmed that a cousin of his estranged subordinate, Dr. Peter Mancao was on board the same flight from Hong Kong to Cebu who recognized him and even had his picture taken with him.

It was Mancao’s sworn testimony presented by prosecutors from the Department of Justice that was used by a Manila regional trial court as asis of its order in January last year to issue the warrant of arrest against Lacson. This, the Senator cited, drove him into hiding for 14 months to avoid arrest. Lacson emerged only after the Court of Appeals junked the arrest warrant against him.

While he engaged media last Monday with anecdotes on how he lived his life as a virtual prisoner outside the confines of jail, Lacson’s slip showed. He recalled with a smile how he moved around allegedly abroad with travel documents when his Philippine passport was cancelled after he fled the country. But pressed what Philippine consulate issued him travel documents, Lacson himself got caught in the web of his own tales. He merely replied he got his travel document only after his name was officially removed from the Interpol’s “red list.”

After checking with concerned officials, the Department of Foreign Affairs disclosed yesterday the Philippine consulates in Macau, Xiamen and Hong Kong reported to home office they have not issued any travel document to Lacson. Such denials could be expected since anyone responsible for issuing such travel document while Lacson was still a “fugitive” would be liable. But since the CA quashed already the warrant of arrest against Lacson, there is no point denying him travel document as a Filipino wanting to return to his homeland.

At any rate, Lacson repeatedly dismissed insinuations in media that he got help from certain administration officials because he is an ally of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.

Neither, he stressed, did he got help from certain Senators. Lacson reminded media that Senators are all individualistic persons who think and act on their own.

Being so-called “24 independent Republics,” Lacson snickered at his spoken thoughts that every Senator constantly watches out his or her self from being stabbed in the back. His obvious principle in life of not trusting even a fellow Senator proved him correct. Sen. Manny Villar who spied on Lacson in Hong Kong on their way back to Manila was the first to squeal his return. That was a chink to Lacson’s cloak-and-dagger secrets.

by Rey T. Salita
Manila Standard Today

EMERGING after 14 months in hiding, Senator Panfilo Lacson on Monday questioned the Aquino administration for pursuing him even after the Court of Appeals had cleared him of the November 2000 murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito.

“There were frequent moments that I felt the persecution never stopped, even after a new administration took over,” Lacson told his first news conference at the Senate after having fled the country in January 2010, and to evade arrest on murder charges.

“They better not treat me like someone who is still under the old regime,” he said, referring to the administration of President Gloria Arroyo, who he said persecuted him after his expose against her husband, Juan Miguel Arroyo.

Lacson also dismissed claims that he was an ally of President Benigno Aquino III, saying: “I’ve only read that in the papers.”

He said Justice Secretary Leila de Lima continued to question the Court of Appeals’ decision clearing him.

“I can tell you the administration is sincere when it comes to the fight against corruption. I am only an ally in terms of that advocacy,” Lacson said.

He said he knew it was wrong to go into hiding, and that he would no longer do so even if the case went to the Supreme Court, where the Dacer family had said it would challenge the appeals court ruling.

“If and when the Supreme Court rules against me or in their favor, then there is no higher court to question… then I will respect the decision.”

He criticized De Lima for acting “as if she’s higher than the courts” by insisting that his arrest warrant was still in force even after the Court of Appeals had rejected it in February.

Lacson said De Lima, who used to be human rights commissioner, and the two former Justice secretaries during the Arroyo administration— Hernani Perez and Raul Gonzalez—had driven him to becomne a fugitive.

He said his flight was made “inevitable” after the Justice Department allowed prosecutors to “shred the rules on evidence” to satisfy “the corrupt regime of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.”

He slammed prosecutor Hazel Valdez for allegedly coercing former police officers Glen Dumlao and Cesar Mancao to implicate him in the Dacer-Corbito case.

He said he had made no deal with the Aquino government to come out of hiding.

He denied speculation that he was flown back to vote guilty in the coming impeachment trial of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, in which the senators will be sitting as judges.

“I am not a shoo-in judge who will vote for impeachment,” he said.

He refused to say in which country he had hidden or who had helped him while he was on the run.

“I was out of the country. I was never here during the past year. That much I can tell you,” he said.

While in hiding, Lacson said, he reflected and then emerged as a more enlightened person, but said he was still undecided about what to do with all that had happened.

He felt like “a prisoner outside a prison cell” while he was in hiding, and said he could no longer count how many times he had moved from one country to another.

“I have only one rule: do not get caught,” he said.

“I was made to suffer the crime I did not commit.”


‘Ambassador Vicente is one of the most quietly efficient and dedicated officers I have known in my 36 years in the foreign service.’

WITH the overwhelming 212 to 46 impeachment vote in the House, the noose is now in place – not on Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez’ neck, but on Gloria Arroyo and her cabal’s. The tightening of the noose will in time follow.

As President Noynoy Aquino himself has intimated, the ousting of Gutierrez will pave the way towards the prosecution of corruption cases against the Arroyo regime, such as the ZTE-NBN, Mega-Pacific, fertilizer scam, NAIA-3, etc., etc., ad nauseam.

The focus now shifts to the Senate. Surely, the honorable senators of the Republic must be aware of the people’s sentiments against Gutierrez as manifested in the survey on her impeachment. The people will be watching each one of them very closely. And for those who will choose the path of political expediency, they’d better know there will be hell to pay. The people will never let them get away with it.


The news that Arroyo went to see Gutierrez in the wee hours of the morning at the latter’s house immediately after the impeachment vote brings to mind the call Arroyo reportedly made to Gen. Angelo Reyes just before he killed himself.

My guess is that Arroyo went to see Gutierrez not to sympathize with her but to persuade her to resign instead of going through the impeachment trial in the Senate. In the Senate trial, the name of Arroyo will inevitably be dragged in. Rather than risk that, Arroyo must have thought it would be better for her to face a new Ombudsman rather than the possibility of Gutierrez spilling the beans in the Senate.

I wouldn’t be surprised, therefore, if Gutierrez resigns before the Senate trial in May.


Poor Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario. A very minor functionary in his department all but shattered the image he wanted to project when he risked life and limb by going to conflict-ridden Libya, Bahrain and Yemen, as well as to disaster stricken Japan. He wanted to show the world that not only is he hands on, but also that his department is up to speed with respect to taking care of our OFWs.

The minor functionary, Michael Macaraig, who was included in one of the teams that Del Rosario fielded in several border towns between Tunisia and Libya testified before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs that the DFA was ill-prepared, lacked coordination, planning and funding in evacuating our nationals.

An ABS-CBN news report quoted Macaraig as saying that the teams were sent to Tunisia without any background and no clear instructions on what to do and where to go”.

“We are not capable of handling this crisis, nandun kami, na shock kami… Everybody has the right to know kung ano ba talaga and DFA, ano ba ang kapasidad at ano ba ang dapat naming ginagawa. I think kailangan din punahin kami, hindi parang nandun kami, guarding all the issues, akala mo defensive,” he added.

Macaraig also criticized Ambassador Al Vicente, who he claimed wanted to leave Libya.

“He was scared for his life, until we all voted for him to stay,” he said. “Being an ambassador is not a beauty contest. Pupunta ka duon at pag may nangyari duon, ikaw ang huling aalis duon. You are like the captain of the ship: kung mamatay sila, kasama ka hanggang sa kamatayan,”

I find it very hard to believe what this delusional Macaraig said of Ambassador Vicente. Al was my consul general in Bangkok in the mid-90s. He is one of the most quietly efficient and dedicated officers I have ever known in my thirty-six years in the foreign service.

Following is the rejoinder of Ambassador Vicente dated 25 March which, as far as I know has not yet found print, to the ABS-CBN news story about Macaraig’s idiotic comments:

“No matter if late (because we no longer have internet access here in Libya since March 3), I wish to register my utter dismay and disappointment over the comments, particularly about myself, in your report dated 21 March “DFA Ill-prepared in Libya Crisis, House Told”, quoting Mr. Michael Macaraig, that I had “wanted to leave Libya”. I read your article only after the DFA faxed a copy to the Embassy.

“It was very presumptuous of Mr. Macaraig to say that I ‘was scared for (my) life, until we all voted for him stay’. Does he want to show here that he is someone of consequence being one of those who had to decide that I had to remain in Libya? Strangely, I was never even told of such a ‘vote’. When he went to Tunisia as a team leader to help in the repatriation of OFWs from Libya, we never met as I was then here in Tripoli. What would he know about us here in Libya when he never set foot on Libyan soil?

“Which just goes to show that he is a liar and a fabricator. I do not know what his motives are, but if he wants to score some points, I will not allow him to do so at my expense.

“The fact is, we at the Embassy are still slugging it out here in Tripoli, helping in the repatriation of Filipinos.

“The comments of Mr. Macaraig on being an ambassador are asinine and gratuitous; one does not need any lecturing, especially from someone of his ilk.

“Finally, one would think that any individual given an assignment, even with a limited background, would try to rise to the occasion; in Mr. Macaraig’s case, as a team leader, he simply admitted (he was) not capable of handling the crisis.”


Who is Michael Macaraig? He is a staff officer whose job has been for a long time transportation dispatcher in the DFA. For many years, he had also been posing as the president of the DFA Personnel Association (DFAPA) without being duly elected by its members. Last November, however, the members finally decided to hold elections. A new set of officers was duly elected and sworn into office by Del Rosario’s predecessor.

How did Macaraig manage to join the teams that were fielded in the Tunisia-Libya border? One thing is for sure – he couldn’t have been included in the list without the recommendation of his immediate supervisor, assistant secretary for administration Catalino Dilem Jr. Dilem in turn has to go through undersecretary for administration Rafael Seguis who must have endorsed the list to Del Rosario. Del Rosario, not knowing any better, must have relied on Seguis’ endorsement and signed the order for the teams to go.

As I have written before, this Macaraig appears to have some kind of hold on Dilem, Seguis and ex-foreign secretary Alberto Romulo.


DFA sources also informed me that last year, Macaraig requested funding for the annual DFA sportsfest which was endorsed by Seguis and approved by his former master Romulo. Allegedly, the amount of P272,400 was sourced from the DFA budget and another amount of P474,000 from the Passport Revolving Fund, or a whopping total of P746,400!

Recently, Macaraig allegedly submitted to Seguis a similar funding request for the sportsfest. The sportsfest is traditionally organized and sponsored by the DFAPA. So how come Macaraig is again requesting funding for it when he is no longer DFAPA president? And what will Seguis recommend this time?

Incidentally, the incumbent DFAPA president has been asking Macaraig to turn over the books and funds of the association over to her. Up to now, he hasn’t done so. Why? And what are Seguis and Dilem doing about it? Are they so shit-scared of Macaraig that they couldn’t order him to do so? Maybe it’s time Del Rosario did it himself! And maybe it’s time he also asked Seguis and Dilem what it is exactly that Macaraig has on them, if any. He should ask Macaraig too.


Going back to Dilem, word is that Del Rosario has allegedly already signed his assignment order as consul general to Barcelona, Spain.

In earlier pieces, I cited the accusation against Dilem for nepotism which Romulo simply ignored and which obviously Seguis and Del Rosario paid no mind to either. Shouldn’t Dilem be asked to at least tell his side of the story? If the accusation is true, should he be rewarded with a plum assignment? Is this the kind of decision we can expect of Del Rosario in running the department? He would be no different from his predecessor.


The entire DFA staff complement is anxiously awaiting Del Rosario’s action on 1) Macaraig’s testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee and on Seguis and Dilem for recommending Macaraig’s inclusion in the teams that went to Tunisia; 2) assignment of Dilem to Barcelona; 3) assignment of career ambassadors as envoys to posts formerly occupied by political appointees. There was apparently nothing Del Rosario could do about the retention of political ambassadors Francisco Benedicto and Manuel Teehankee in Beijing and WTO Geneva, respectively. Pity. Are we going to have more of the same as in Arroyo’s time with respect to political ambassadors?

Too, the whole DFA staff complement is carefully watching Del Rosario’s action on retiring DFA personnel. Will he be recommending their extension beyond the retirement age of 65 as was done during Romulo and Arroyo’s time?

I reiterate what I have said in an earlier piece – good administration is essential to the effective pursuit of foreign policy. As a successful businessman, Del Rosario should know that… or does he?


The American and British ambassadors in Manila have urged the Philippines to give strong support to the UN Security Council Resolution 1973 for a no-fly zone over Libya.

With what, pray tell? …Never mind. We do support the resolution for a no-fly zone, but not the wanton destruction of property and innocent lives in Libya.

As DFA spokesman Ed Malaya quite succinctly put it, “as a member of the UN and as signatory to the UN Charter, the Philippines abides by the decision of the UN Security Council in imposing a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace. This UN action is a humanitarian measure which is meant to safeguard the civilian population in Benghazi and other contested areas of said country.”


Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, the would-have-been chairman of the stillborn Truth Commission, came out very strongly against the Reproductive Health Bill.

He is, of course, entitled to his own belief but he should have just kept quiet about it knowing that Noynoy supports the bill… unless, of course, he had decided to lock horns with the latter on an issue that is very vital to the country’s welfare because the commission he was to head is already dead in the water.


Today is the 335th day of the fourth year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

The authorities concerned should pay heed to Ms. Edita Burgos’ (Jonas’ mother) fears that people behind the disappearance of Jonas might want Maj. Harry Baliaga silenced. Baliaga was identified by investigators of the Commission on Human Rights as one of Jonas’ abductors.



By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

Erlinda Ligot, wife of former AFP comptroller Gen. Jacinto Ligot (beside her), cries as senators question her during the resumption of the Blue Ribbon committee hearing on corruption in the military. Manny Marcelo

MANILA, Philippines – The jetsetting wife of beleaguered former military comptroller Gen. Jacinto Ligot named yesterday the wife of the late Armed Forces chief Gen. Angelo Reyes as her frequent companion in various travels abroad during their husbands’ terms in early 2000.

Pressed to answer questions from Senate President Pro-Tempore Jinggoy Estrada, Erlinda Ligot confirmed that her frequent companion was a certain “Dara” who was believed to be Reyes’ wife Teresita.

“Sabi po ninyo kilala ninyo yung constant companion ko, puede po sabihin ninyo at sasagutin ko nalang po kung ano (You said you know who is my constant companion, if you can identify her I will tell),” said Mrs. Ligot, eliciting laughter from the other resource persons and spectators at the gallery.

But Estrada seemed exasperated by Mrs. Ligot’s attempt to derail the proceedings and make funny statements that tended to skirt the topic.

He showed Mrs. Ligot’s travel records from the Bureau of Immigration that revealed she traveled 43 times from 1999 to mid-2000. Thirteen times she traveled with Mrs. Reyes, and they were together 10 times coming back to the country.

“I cannot recall the specific dates,” Mrs. Ligot said, prompting Estrada to narrate one by one the foreign trips of Mrs. Ligot and Mrs. Reyes, mostly to Los Angeles, California.

“I cannot recall if we traveled together,” Erlinda said, asking further in Filipino if the senator compared their travel records.

“Alam mo, wag mo na lang kaming pagtawanan dito, kasi (You know you should not make fun of us here) we mean serious business here,” a more serious Estrada told Mrs. Ligot.

“I am sorry, your honor,” Mrs. Ligot said at once, apparently trying to prevent a possible order of her detention at the Senate. She has been cited for contempt because she failed to attend the hearing last week.

The Senate had cited the Ligot couple for contempt for feigning sickness, but only Gen. Ligot was detained after the senators gave more leeway to his wife “for humanitarian reasons.”

Mrs. Reyes was earlier identified through her real name and nickname in the past hearings by former military budget officer George Rabusa as the constant travel companion of the generals.

Estrada was surprised over Mrs. Ligot’s answer because the general earlier testified that his wife does not inform him nor ask his permission whenever she traveled abroad.

Mrs. Ligot later admitted shopping in Singapore and Hong Kong, but she was unsure on who paid for the foreign trips. “Mas marami po siguro (There were more) personal (trips) kaysa sa official (trips),” she added.

She said she used her travel mileage points to get free trips to the United States, and she personally paid for four of her trips.

Mrs. Ligot said she was not privy to information on the rest of her trips. She also identified a certain “Amy Sales” as one of her travel companions.

Rabusa had testified in the past hearings that allowances and perks were also given also to the wives of generals during their local and foreign travels.

Interviewed after the hearing, Estrada said he did not mention the real name of “Dara” out of respect for the late AFP chief and later Defense Secretary Reyes, who committed suicide last February at the height of the Senate’s inquiry into the pasalubong (welcome gift) and pabaon (sendoff gift) and other forms of cash conversion at the Armed Forces during his tenure.

“It goes without saying,” Estrada told reporters.

Unlike in the past hearings when the couple repeatedly invoked their rights against self-incrimination and privacy on questions regarding their properties and multimillion-peso and dollar bank accounts, the Ligots provided more detailed answers this time.

Combined, the couple invoked the right against self-incrimination at least seven times.

Mrs. Ligot also admitted the names Erlinda Ligot and Erlinda Yambao were one and the same person, but she invoked her right against self-incrimination anew when asked why the property in Anaheim, California was sold after documents showed that the transaction was made between the same person.

When confronted over another house in Stanton Avenue, California, Mrs. Ligot also invoked her right against self-incrimination.

She, however, denied knowledge of another house – a wrong one that was deliberately presented by Estrada.

Gen. Ligot goes home

After five days in Senate custody, the Senate released Gen. Ligot after he answered some questions on what properties he acquired after his marriage to Erlinda.

He then invoked his right against self-incrimination when asked about the properties he acquired while he was comptroller because such were subject of a forfeiture case.

“We are releasing (you) from the custody of the Senate on the condition that you will cooperate in the future when we call you,” Sen. Teofisto Guingona III told Gen. Ligot, who expressed gratitude to the senator with a promise that he will be present in the next hearings.

“Sana sa susunod hindi na kayo makalimot ulit ha (Next time I hope you will no longer be forgetful),” Estrada added before the hearing was temporarily suspended.

The committee issued a release order and Gen. Ligot was allowed to go home with his wife after a medical checkup last night.

At the start of the hearing, the Ligot couple appealed for the indulgence of the Senate.

Minority Leader Sen. Alan Cayetano urged the couple to spill the beans on somebody or other persons possibly in higher position in the government who may have been involved in the massive cash conversion in the AFP.

“I don’t believe that you are the biggest fish, we believe that there is somebody else higher than you,” Cayetano added.

“Despite how you feel, we have to know the truth,” Cayetano said. “How can you travel many times during that time? How were you able to acquire that much deposits?”

“We want to show compassion to you but you have to talk with each other,” Cayetano said.

In his opening statement, Guingona, Blue Ribbon committee chairman, said the Senate hearings might have been taking “too long” that some parties may have “unnecessarily dragged by those who find it to their personal benefit to make of discovering the truth next to impossible.”

“Many of our countrymen share that sense of exasperation,” Guingona said. “But move on, we must. We must take one more single step today. That is the trust reposed on our shoulders by our countrymen. That is trust we cannot betray,” Guingona said.

At the start of the hearing, Sen. Franklin Drilon lashed out at the Ligot couple for continuously evading questions pertaining to their alleged illegal wealth acquired during Gen. Ligot’s time as comptroller when the late Defense Secretary Reyes was AFP chief.

Drilon said the more the Ligots evade the senators’ questions, “the deeper you sink into the quagmire of shame and disgrace in the eyes of our people.”

“They do not see innocence, not even cleverness, each time you dodge our questions. What they see is a vain attempt to deceive the Filipino people. I warn you that the more you continue to do that, the more you fuel their anger,” Drilon said.

Drilon also warned the couple’s lawyers “that they are not doing their clients and our country a favor by taking advantage of the weaknesses of the system in order to hide the truth.”

Drilon said the Sandiganbayan has only filed cases pertaining to about P135 million in cash deposits and certain real properties, which are just a fraction of the more than P740 million in dollar and peso denominations that were deposited in various bank accounts from 2001 to 2005.

The senator also bared that the Ligots have invested about P30 million in bonds aside from the P740 million which were traced to them by the Anti-Money Laundering Council.

Drilon asked Gen. Ligot if he “recalls” having transferred to Elma Yambao $100,000 on July 9, 2003 and to Elsa another $100,000 on the same date.

“I cannot recall your honor,” Ligot said.

The senator said the transfers were made from dollar accounts with Citibank under account number 8-143020-917, wherein Gen. Ligot invoked his right against self-incrimination.

“I’ll accept that,” Drilon said.

Drilon then turned to Mrs. Ligot, first asking if she recalled having ties with Meridien Development Group, which she denied knowledge of.

“Is it not a fact that you purchased Essensa apartment Lawton Tower Unit 19-A from Meridien Development Group in 2001,” Drilon said, which prompted Mrs. Ligot to invoke her right against self-incrimination.

She said the property was the subject of a forfeiture case.

Drilon early on bared that the Ligots bought the Essensa property for P25 million in 2003.

But the 290-square meter unit with three parking spaces was transferred to Mrs. Ligot’s brother, Edgardo Yambao, who was also grilled at the Senate on suspicion that he was used as a front by the Ligot couple in hiding their alleged illegal wealth.

During yesterday’s continuation of the Senate hearing on the alleged corruption in the military, Drilon also revealed that Mrs. Ligot invested in some bonds and stocks.

Mrs. Ligot prematurely revealed that she invested in San Miguel stocks sometime in 1976 while she was still single.

Mrs. Ligot invoked her right anew when Drilon asked if she invested in bonds at Deutsche Bank. “But it’s incriminating, your honor,” she said when told that the bonds were not included in any forfeiture case. Drilon did not insist.

Citing bank records, Drilon revealed that Mrs. Ligot “purchased investment instruments” from Deutsche Bank on July 23, 2003 in the amount of $600,000 and $100,000, both with maturity on July, 23 2013.

By Juan Manggagawa*

The Philippine Airlines Employees’ Association (PALEA) lambasted President Benigno Aquino and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa in an indignation rally today at Mendiola to protest the decision of the Office of the President (OP) allowing the mass layoff of 2,600 employees of Philippine Airlines (PAL). “In the OP decision that he penned, Ochoa exposed who the real boss of this government is. It is Lucio Tan not the Filipino people. This decision ends the myth of PNoy’s ‘Kayo ang boss ko’ slogan,” exclaimed Gerry Rivera, PALEA president and vice chair of Partido ng Manggagawa (PM).

Some 200 PALEA members and supporters from PM and the anti-contractualization coalition KONTRA assembled at Morayta in Manila this morning and then marched to Mendiola. They brought placards and streamers that say “Lucio Tan: No. 2 richest Filipino, No. 1 workers enemy,” “Sa desisyon ng Malacanang, may bagong mansion ba si Ochoa?” and “Si Lucio Tan ang boss ko—PNoy.”

PALEA has already started the countdown to its first nationwide strike since the crippling 1998 PAL work stoppage. The ban on a strike at PAL ends on April 1, seven days after PALEA submitted the results of the strike vote. An overwhelming 95% of PALEA members who participated in the strike poll voted yes compared to the 86% yes in the strike vote last December.

“In drafting the OP decision as the little president, Ochoa undermined the Constitution, ILO conventions and the PAL-PALEA CBA which all guaranteed the job security and right to bargain of workers. In the decision Ochoa found utterly nothing wrong in PAL’s contractualization scheme and he turned a blind eye to all the evidence on PAL’s profitable operations. We will not be surprised if a second glass mansion is the reason behind this decision,” Rivera insisted.

“In the conflict between the second richest Filipino and thousands of PAL workers, PNoy chose to side with the capitalist rather the workers. For PNoy, it is ok for PAL to retrench 2,600 workers at a time when the company will earn $1.6 billion in annual profit and when thousands of OFW’s are returning home to escape unrest and disaster abroad. What is this government’s employment policy? Demolish all the regular jobs and turn workers into contractuals!” argued Rivera.

Tomorrow a labor unity press conference will be held by different groups in Quezon City to condemn the decision of the Office of the President to allow outsourcing at PAL and to express solidarity with PALEA.

On Friday, a big rally will be held near the airport as a dress rehearsal for the actual strike. Hundreds of PALEA members are expected to participate in the early evening and torch parade from Nichols Gate 2 to the Our Lady of the Airways Parish. The Friday big rally will be nationally coordinated with similar mass actions to be held in the airports of Cebu, Davao, Bacolod and General Santos City.

# # #

*JuanManggagawa is based in Manila, National Capital Region, Philippines, and is Stringer for Allvoices

By Alex P. Vidal

Before he left the Philippines last March 22, Top Rank CEO Bob Arum gave boxing fans something to worry about: that Rep. Manny Pacquiao may still not be facing Floyd Mayweather Jr. after wrapping up his commitment versus Sugar Shane Mosley on May 7 at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada.

In fact, Arum, 79, became the number one endorser of a possible Pacquiao vs Juan Manuel Marquez trilogy.

Only the dotted lines have reportedly remained unmarked for the Pacquiao-Marquez III pending the outcome of the Pacquiao-Mosley fisticuffs and Pacquiao’s willingness to tangle once more with the most dangerous fighter he has ever faced.

It was reported that Arum had arrived in the country for a three-day visit to his most prized ward in a high-altitude training camp in Baguio City. Arum may have brought up the Marquez deal in his meeting with Pacquiao as a “contingency” measure in the event Mayweather, 34, remains elusive post-Mosley war, sources said.

Pacquiao had been declaring he was leaving the selection of his opponents to his promoter “while my job is to fight anyone of them.” However, sources said Pacquiao may decide to dodge Marquez—if he has a choice.


Marquez (52-5, 38 KO’s) was the only fighter who gave Pacquiao plenty of trouble in their two previous showdowns—first on May 8, 2004 (12-round draw) and on March 15, 2008 (12-round split decision win for Pacquiao).

Marquez had insisted he won the rematch held at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino despite being decked for a mandatory eight count in the third canto. Like Mosley, Marquez pursued Pacquiao’s promoter and personally begged to give him another chance to prove his mettle against the popular Filipino speedster.

Arum has made a categorical statement that if Mayweather (41-0, 25 KO’s) will not yet surface in their radar after the Mosley (46-6, 39 KO’s) fight, “Pacquiao might settle” for the 37-year-old Mexican gladiator who currently holds the world 135-lb crown.

Since Pacquiao (52-3-2, 38 KO’s) now campaigns in the 147-lb division, Arum hinted that the Filipino and Mexican protagonists might agree to fight in a “catch weight”.

In the event of a Mosley upset win over the much-adored Filipino ring titan, the proposed Pacquiao-Marquez may still push through since the Pacquiao-Mayweather fight remains in the doldrums.

Both Mosley and Marquez have been defeated on points by the unbeaten Mayweather.

Mosley, 39, admitted that he is the underdog against Pacquiao “but I love this role and this will motivate me to prove my worth,” he said in the recent Las Vegas leg of the fight’s thee-city press conference.


Balitang Kutsero
By Perry Diaz


The following is the transcript of my interview with Ombudsman Merceditas “Merci” Gutierrez several days after the overwhelming vote to impeach her in the House of Representatives at past midnight last March 22, 2011:

Perry:  Good morning ma’am.

Merci: What’s good about this morning?

Perry:  Well… ah… eh… um… It’s not hot and humid like last week when the House of Representatives overwhelmingly voted to… uh… impeach you, ma’am.

Merci:  Ang mga walang hiya! Mga hayop, animal!  Lapdogs silang lahat ni Peenoy!

Perry:  Oops! I’m sorry ma’am. Did I touch a raw nerve?

Merci:  As if you didn’t know! First of all what they did was a “midnight” thing.  As far as I am concerned it’s not legal.

Perry: Oh, just like Gloria’s midnight appointments, illegal, ha?

Merci:  Pwe! What do you want?  Did Peenoy send you?

Perry: No, ma’am, I’m a journalist from Global Balita, “where the truth comes first.”

Merci: Global Balita!  Ano ito, another balitang kutsero?

Perry: No, ma’am.  I’m doing feature story about you.  I just have a few questions to ask to fill some of the holes in my story.

Merci:  Okay, I’ll try. Go ahead with your questions.

Perry:  Good!  My first question is: Is it true that you are intimately close to Gloria and her husband Mike?

Merci: That depends what you mean by “intimately close.”  Intimate friends, yes. Intimate this or that, no.

Perry: What do you mean by “intimate this or that,” ma’am?

Merci: Look, Mike and I were just classmates in college.  “Intimate this or that” was nothing, it’s just… this or that, nothing else, okay?

Perry: We’ll keep it at this or that, then.  Next question: Is resignation an option that had crossed your mind?  Some senators suggested that you resign for the sake of the institution.

Merci: No way!  I will not resign!  I will fight to the last drop of my blood!

Perry: Well, as you probably know by now, Sen. Ping Lacson returned home last Saturday, March 26.  What’s your reaction to that?

Merci: Nothing, wala, nada, zilch! It’s not going to affect my trial.  I have seven senators on my side.  They will set me free!

Perry: But you need eight senators to acquit you.  Did you do your math?

Merci: I only need the “Magnificent Seven.”  Pa ocho ocho ka pa diyan. Pwe!

Perry: No, ma’am!  Let’s do the math: 23 senators divided by three equals 7.67.  That .67 fraction requires one full vote.  It’s eight… ocho!

Merci: Then I’ll get another one.

Perry: Oh, really?  By the way, who are your “Magnificent Seven”?

Merci:  Well, I have Villarroyo and his three Nacionalista party mates — the two American-born siblings and the third is the heir to the “Great Again Society.”   I also have that old joker, and that fiery woman who quack-quacks a lot, and that gringo snake charmer. And I have somebody who’ll help me get another vote.

Perry: Is that somebody, Gloria?  Is that the reason why she visited you at home two hours after the House’s “midnight” vote to impeach you?

Merci: Huh? Gloria went to my house?  I don’t…

Perry: You can’t deny it, ma’am. Your neighbors saw Gloria enter your house in the Santa Ana district.

Merci: Okay, she came to my house for a tête-à-tête.  We’re friends.

Perry: A tête-à-tête at 2:00 AM?  Hmm…

Merci: What’s wrong with that?

Perry: It’s not illegal but it certainly raises some questions.

Merci: Questions?  Naloloko na ba sila? Omigosh! Ha ha ha…

Perry:  Well, it reminds people of what happened when Gloria phoned Gen. Angie Reyes during the “slush funds” exposé in the Senate.

Merci: What are you talking about?

Perry: Well, Gen. Reyes took his own life two days after Gloria called him.

Merci:  Are you suggesting that I should take my own life, too?

Perry: No, ma’am.  But that is always an option, di ba? By the way, didn’t you know that Gloria left for Los Angeles the other day… with her favorite kumadre, the Jueteng Queen?

Merci:  She did?

Perry: Yes!  I think Gloria has abandoned you, ma’am.  After that tsunami of a “midnight” vote in the House, I think you’ve lost all your supporters.  I suggest that you resign!  You’re a loser, Merci! You’re history!  You’re kaput! He he he….

Merci: Walang hiya!

She took one of her shoes and hit me on the head.  I fell.  Then my phone rang.  “Hello,” I answered. “Perry, you’re late for your appointment,” the caller said.  “What?” I looked around and that’s when I realized that I was still in my bed.  I overslept, again.  Gee, that was a weird dream.