April 2011

Posted at 04/29/2011 12:01 PM | Updated as of 04/29/2011 2:43 PM


Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez signs her letter of resignation in the presence of President Benigno Aquino III in a brief meeting at the Private Office, Premier Guest House, Malacanang Friday April 29, 2011. (Jay Morales / Malacanang Photo Bureau)

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 8) – Embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez on Friday submitted her resignation letter to President Benigno Aquino III.

“I am resigning my office effective May 6. Even as a private citizen, I will still support the efforts of government in stamping out corruption,” Gutierrez said in her one-page resignation letter to Aquino.

The letter was dictated by Atty. Tomas Syquia, Gutierrez’s impeachment spokesman, to ABS-CBN correspondent Anthony Taberna.

Syquia confirmed that Gutierrez personally went to President Aquino at around 10 a.m. Friday morning to submit her resignation letter, which the President immediately accepted. Gutierrez is expected to inform her staff about her decision before President Aquino issues a statement.

Syquia said Gutierrez thanked the President for accepting her at his office even on short notice.

News of the Ombudsman’s resignation came less than a week before Congress resumes sessions. Gutierrez has been impeached by the House of Representatives through an overwhelming 212-46 vote and was scheduled to face an impeachment trial before the Senate.

She is accused of protecting former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her allies from prosecution.

‘Resignation won’t absolve her of liability’

Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, House justice committee vice-chairman, was the first to confirm news of Gutierrez’s resignation on ABS-CBN News Channel.

“It is a welcome move in that it would spare the nation a lot of trouble,” he said.

Fariñas said Gutierrez’s resignation does not necessarily mean the end of the impeachment trial against the Ombudsman.

“It depends on leadership of the House or Senate if they want her to be convicted because if she is convicted, she will not get any benefits from the government,” he noted.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile lauded the news, saying “it is the best move that the Ombudsman ever did.”

“It will spare the nation the expense of conducting a long drawn case against the Ombudsman.”

He said it is doubtful that Gutierrez’s impeachment trial would still push through. “I don’t know how we can make it go through when the person involved is already resigned. The purpose of impeachment is to remove her.”

He, however, added that Gutierrez’s resignation “will not free her of any criminal responsibility.”

Impeachment, a painful process

Senator Francis Escudero said the resignation of Ombudsman Gutierrez had always been a distinct possibility because any impeachment is a painful process not only for the person being impeached but for the country as well.

Escudero said the process may have bore heavily on the Ombudsman and pushed her to resign.

“If confirmed, I commend the Ombudsman for her statesmanship in relieving the country of this painful process of impeachment and at the same time for relieving also the Senate of this burden of going through the trial. Now we can concentrate on important pieces of legislation needed for nation building and the development of our country,” Escudero said.

The Ombudsman’s resignation rendered the impeachment trial moot and academic, the senator said.

“However, it does not give her immunity from cases that may be filed by other groups,” he added.

New Ombudsman

Public interest lawyer Harry Roque, one of the first to call for Gutierrez’s impeachment, said he hopes President Aquino will appoint an Ombudsman who “will make the office relevant in upholding public accountability.”

“I hope the new Ombudsman will also heed the Alston report and embrace the challenge for the Ombudsman also to deal with human rights violations,” he added.

The Black and White Movement said that while it wanted a conviction through the impeachment trial, it still joins the country in welcoming the Ombudsman’s resignation.

“The threat of justice must have been too much for Merceditas Gutierrez to bear…We are pleased that a major obstacle on the ‘daan na matuwid’ has been removed,” it said in a statement.

The group said it expects the Ombudsman’s resignation to “chill the hearts of Gutierrez’s former boss, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, her family and her allies accused of corruption. There will now be fewer places for them to hide, less opportunity to thwart accountability.”

The group urged Aquino to appoint an “impartial, credible person of unquestionable integrity” to the Office of the Ombudsman as soon as possible. It said Gutierrez’s subordinates should resign to give the new Ombudsman the latitude to appoint fresh, enthusiastic and competent legal eagles.

“We pray that the new Ombudsman will work with haste to restore honor to the office and grant justice to those who yearn for it – Jun Lozada, the family of Ensign Philip Pestano, the farmers bilked by the Fertilizer Fund Scam, the complainants in the Mega Pacific Deal, the AFP in the matter of the Euro Generals Scandal, among so many others. Now, indeed, justice and fairness will prevail,” the group said.

Bayan: Evidence was strong

Militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), one of the complainants in the impeachment case, said Gutierrez’s resignation shows the “strength of the allegations and evidence against her.”

“It is a development most welcome. The option to resign has been a valid one from the day the impeachment complaints were filed. The challenge now is for the Aquino government to appoint an Ombudsman that will file the necessary plunder charges against Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. GMA should be next to be held accountable,” said Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.

“We would have wanted to present evidence on how the Ombudsman not just delayed but in fact sabotaged the investigation on the fertilizer scam. In a way, her resignation shows the strength of the allegations and evidence against her,” he said.

Reyes, along with Sister Mary John Mananzan of Pagbabago, Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Ferdie Gaite of COURAGE, Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’ Lawyers, and Terry Ridon filed the second impeachment complaint in 2010.

The Bayan complaint included as bases for the impeachment the Ombudsman’s inaction on the fertilizer scam, inaction on the Euro Generals case and whitewash of the Mega Pacific scam.


By Jose Ma. Montelibano

This is the trigger of another controversy, just the trigger. The acrimony is coming from somewhere else, simply triggered to the surface by some of the words P-Noy used in a speech, and I quote from a news report,

“Aquino, in his speech at the University of the Philippines’ 100th Commencement Exercises, said he cannot stand by and watch the cycle of poverty continue amid unplanned births.

“Buo ang loob ko na maisabatas ang prinsipyo ng responsible parenthood. Mulat ako na may mga tutol dito. Subali’t obligasyon ko bilang pinuno na lumapit sa lahat ng sektor para kausapin at ipagpaliwanag sa kanila nang mahinahon. Kahit pa ang sabi ng iba ay dapat i-excommunicate na ako, kailangan po natin pakinggan maski na ang mga taong sa pananaw ng marami ay sarado na ang isip. Pero sa huli ay kailangan ko magdesisyon. Kailangan ko pa rin sundin ang aking konsensya kailangan kong gawin ang tama,” he said.”

It seems obvious that P-Noy predicated his conviction for a responsible parenthood program on the awful impact of unplanned births among the poor. After all, the rich have long been using artificial means for birth control. Who else has been the market for these products in the past several decades – without a peep from pro-life advocates (there used to be none according to the definition of pro-life today)? It might be coincidental, though not at all to me, that one of the lowest birth rates can be traced to the richest subdivisions in the land, especially in Metro Manila. And these same places have never been know to be bastions of natural family planning teachings and training.

To those who call themselves Pro-Lifers, the Responsible Parenthood Bill that has yet to be detailed, debated on, and finalized will be just another cover for the RH Bill they had condemned. That conclusion makes it understandable for P-Noy’s claim that there are those who are viewed with minds that are completely closed. After all, they are not waiting for the Responsible Parenthood Bill details; they have already decided that they will be against the views of Pro-Lifers.

Only the paranoid, those who had already pre-judged P-Noy, will take his statement as a challenge to be excommunicated. True, he can always decide not to be Catholic anymore. On the other hand, the Church does not have to ask permission to excommunicate him.

What is obvious is that the collision, not only of views but maybe, even more, of personalities, will bring conflict to Philippine society. As president, P-Noy has an obligation to stem the tide of poverty and its horrible consequences. As the Catholic Church, bishops and the lay communities they influence have an obligation to defend principles. I think both parties are are off the mark in their chosen paths of addressing their responsibilities. I believe that to focus on more or less births, and how to achieve either, are wrongly pointing to population as cause or answer to poverty.

Poverty has been around, varying only in degrees or in the kind of suffering it causes, when there was no debate about population. True, a poor family today with several children run the risk of experiencing hunger – and about 20 million Filipinos occasionally do. It is the intensity of the suffering that is aggravated when there are more children than food. Yet, all poor suffer. They are squatters in their own land, by birth. They are homeless, by birth. And they can go hungry, by birth. By simply being born poor, tens of millions of Filipinos are punished by a fate that is degrading and utterly painful.

A Pro-Lifer friend, who now prays for me because he must have concluded that I was for the RH or Responsible Parenthood Bills, says it not the Church that is to be blamed for poverty but the greed of the rich. How succinct, if only he can explain who the Church in the last 400 years played footsies with if not the rich, if not the powerful (and the government)? A cursory review of history will show how the greatest land-grabbing incident by the King of Spain crippled a talented and resourceful people after they were torn away from managing and operating their land. Greed, yes. And what did the Church do in the face of this greed? It asked, or accepted, land grants from the land-grabber.

As an institution that benefited directly, not only from the rich, but from the State or government, what has the Church done to atone? Has it said mea culpa? Has it returned all the lands granted or donated to it by those who land-grabbed, or were themselves favored with land by serving the land-grabbers? Does the Church realize that it is holding on to stolen goods? At least, the controversial Hacienda Luisita farm lands were paid for by the Cojuangco patriarch, not stolen or donated by land-grabbers.

As for those in government, especially those who are allegedly expert in economics, where did they get this idea that population control can control poverty? They cannot use their excruciating discomfort when they see the suffering of the poor as reason to justify a pattern of apathy, or exploitation, by pointing to the number of children a poor family cannot take care of. They poor cannot take care of themselves – so what do we do with them even if they have no or few children? What is the plan to eliminate poverty when the predicate is population? There will never be any better or convenient plan than condoms!

How about un-squatting squatters? How about rectifying a historical anomaly committed by enemies but perpetuated by our own government? How about the Church carrying the crusade against poverty by giving to the poor all the land it owns – except for those they actually paid for? How about paying damages for an extended injustice on the majority of Filipino who are poor? How about developing land where they can live, for free? How about building homes and communities for them, for free? How about teaching them to plant, to fend for themselves from the land or from technology – and support them with funds, not micro-finance? How about justice, how about Christian love?

“In bayanihan, we will be our brother’s keeper and forever shut the door to hunger among ourselves.”

By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star

Posing as the most decorated Filipino soldier of World War II, Ferdinand Marcos foisted 33 medals and awards. Bonifacio Gillego, in opposing Marcos’s dictatorship, exposed in 1982:

• Eleven of the 33 were given in 1963, nearly 20 years after the War, when Marcos was Senate President girding to run for President. Ten of the 11 were given on the same day, December 20. Three of the ten unusually were given under only one General Order.

• One award was given on Marcos’s 55th birthday, September 17, 1972, when he was President, four days before he imposed martial law.

• Eight of the 33 “American and Philippine medals,” as listed by Marcos’s Office of Media Affairs, were actually campaign ribbons given to all participants in the defense of Bataan and in the resistance.

• Awards are duplicated for the same action on the same day and place.

• One is a special award from the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

Other observations:

• Marcos earned the Medal of Valor “for extraordinary gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty in a suicidal action against overwhelming enemy forces at the junction of Salian River and Abo-Abo River, Bataan, on or about 22 January 1942.” This highest Philippine military award came only in October 1958, when he was senior congressman, 16 years after.

• Only two of the medals were given during the War. The Gold Cross came on July 22, 1945, “for gallantry in action at Kiangan, Mt. Province, in April 1945.” Supposedly “Colonel Marcos, of the 14th Infantry, United States Armed Forces in the Philippines-North Luzon (USAFIP-NL), with one enlisted man volunteered to reconnoiter area adjacent to the regimental command post at Panupdupan.” Marcos spotted well-camouflaged enemy trucks about a mile away and sent the enlisted man back to RCP to report. By himself Marcos ambushed the Japanese, forcing them to flee after 30 minutes of intense fighting.

• The Distinguished Service Star came on April 24, 1945. The citation read: “For outstanding achievement as a guerrilla leader. After escaping from the Fort Santiago Kempei Tai, Marcos supported ex-Mayor Vicente Umali, organizer and commanding general of the PQOG… Despite his illness, he stayed at the headquarters in Banahaw to guide both the staff and combat echelons. He refused the rank of ‘general’ offered him by General Umali and organized his own guerrilla group known as the Maharlika.”

Interviewed by Gillego in 1982, Marcos’s two superiors in the 14th Infantry debunked both citations. Col. Romulo A. Manriquez, regimental commander, swore that Marcos was never assigned to patrol or combat, only as S-5 or civil affairs. Not a colonel but a captain, Marcos joined the 14th Infantry from December 4, 1944 to April 28, 1945. No Maharlika guerrilla group was formed in Kiangan on April 24, 1945.

Capt. Vicente L. Rivera, 14th Infantry adjutant, added that he had never recommended Marcos for any decoration. The sighting of Japanese trucks a mile from RCP was geographically impossible because the nearest road was too far, half a day’s hike away.

Manriquez and Rivera said that Marcos requested for transfer to Camp Spencer, USAFIP-NL headquarters, in Luna, La Union, on April 28, 1945. Gilego said this tallied with Marcos’s commissioned biography, For Every Tear a Victory, by Hartzell Spence (1964). In Spence’s version, Marcos and one Captain Jamieson had to break through a cordon of 200,000 Japanese soldiers to get to an airstrip in Isabela. The Piper Cub that arrived took only Jamieson. “An hour later,” wrote Spence, “as Marcos was about to evacuate the area because he heard a Japanese patrol, another supply plane targeted in with an airdrop. Risking discovery, Ferdinand rushed into the open but the plane merely wagged its wings. The pilot was signaling the location of the enemy. Ferdinand tuned his walkie-talkie to the plane’s wavelength and told the pilot, ‘I have a duffel down here with six captured swords in it and three gold bars. They are all yours if you pick me up.’ Instantly the pilot circled, returned, and Ferdinand climbed aboard. An hour later, he was at Camp Spencer.”

Gillego remarked of this passage that Marcos was bounty hunting: “If Spence’s account is true, he makes Marcos guilty of keeping for himself captured or acquired enemy property, in violation of the Articles of War.”

As for the escape from Fort Santiago, Gillego scoured the Kempei Tai files, including the trial papers of its chief, Col. Seiichi Ohta. No record of Marcos as prisoner. Allegedly a Jesuit priest who survived the dungeons had decried the request of Commodore Santiago Nuval to insert Marcos in the roster.

Gillego debunked Marcos’s claim to be the star of the Battle of Bessang Pass to whom General Yamashita nearly surrendered. From the many first-hand accounts, never was Marcos mentioned as a participant in the five-phase operation from February 10 to June 15, 1945.

Among the recollections was “Battle Among the Clouds” (Manila Standard, June 11, 1987) by Justice Desiderio P. Jurado (deceased), who had led the crucial capture of Buccual Ridge. Modestly this true hero of the weeks of seesaw battles, marked by frequent hand-to-hand combat, gave credit to his superiors, peers and subordinates. Towards the end he made mention of Marcos, not as combatant but as the new President who unveiled the marker on the 21st anniversary in 1966.

Research by historian Alfred McCoy confirmed Gillego’s articles belittling Marcos’s exploits. In 1986 the New York Times and Washington Post ran McCoy’s findings based on US Army records. Opposition papers in Manila reprinted McCoy and Gillego’s research. One of Marcos’s “Maharlika co-founders” sued for libel, saying, “I am filing these charges because I felt belittled, ridiculed and disgraced, not only to myself and my comrades, but including those who sacrificed their lives for the country.”

Three other veterans and Marcos comrades-in-arms, Col. Frisco San Juan, Teodulo C. Natividad and Col. Agustin Marking, attacked the reports: “If this … story weren’t so vicious, it would be ludicrous. Mr. Marcos has on his body scars more eloquent than any country’s medals in attesting to his courage, gallantry and self-sacrifice.”

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

By Eric Ellis
The Sydney Morning Herald

PERMANENT sick man of Asia? Or tiger in waiting? Once Asia’s richest country save Japan but now with reasonable claims to be one of its poorest, the Philippines confounds.

Progress in the Philippines can be measured in unexpected ways. The first time I arrived in Manila, the Marcos kleptocracy was collapsing, an Aquino had just been assassinated at the airport and his wife was still a Boston housewife in a yellow dress. One of Marcos’s goons, moonlighting as an airport immigration official, tried to sell me his badge for $US100, his clear implication being that if this offer were refused, passage through immigration would be problematic. I paid, a ”visa fee” with a souvenir. With the money trousered, he briskly waved me through.

Around this time Alan Bond was fighting John Elliott for control of mega-brewer San Miguel Corp, controlled then – and still – by Marcos crony Eduardo Cojuangco. Bond lieutenants told me the Philippines was the most corrupt country they had done business in, which is saying something.

This most recent time, however, immigration was a doddle, so that’s progress at least. This time it was Finance Minister Margarito ”Gary” Teves who confounded, in a country where politicians have rarely been garbed in glory. He was interviewed not in the ministry, where finance ministers are normally found in most countries, but in the gleaming tower of Land Bank of the Philippines, one of the country’s biggest, which he chaired.

The interview was straightforward enough: he claimed the ”dynamic” Philippines had loads of potential, had been overlooked by foreign investors and really should be looked at again as an equal to Singapore and even Taiwan. Teves said Manila’s corruption image was overblown. His spinners didn’t quite claim that the Philippines was an Asian Norway ”but things are not so bad as they can appear”.

Ministers are paid to put a gloss on things, but where there seemed a mental block in Teves’s office was the not insignificant matter of conflict of interest: that a minister making fiscal and banking policy simultaneously directed one of the country’s biggest banks. That’s not supposed to happen in a checks-and-balances democracy, a claim Filipinos proudly make. But the bank was government-owned, his office pleaded. So what’s the problem?

Teves is no longer finance secretary. His patron, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, reluctantly stepped down as president last June, foiled by dogged corruption claims and pesky term limits. She would not have been re-elected even if she had been allowed to stand. As her years in Malacanang Palace were coming to a close, Arroyo was wounded by an opinion poll that found Filipinos regarded her as their most corrupt president. Coming from a people who elected and endured Ferdinand Marcos and Joseph Estrada, that’s quite a condemnation. The new president is Benigno Aquino III, son of Cory and her assassinated husband, Ninoy. He was elected on an anti-corruption ticket, as Philippine leaders often are. His Finance Secretary is Cesar Purisima, who did the same job for Arroyo before Teves took over. And, so it goes, Purisima too is chairman of Land Bank.

Such bureaucratic idiosyncrasies seem to go with the territory in Manila, and don’t much bother analysts. Some recent upbeat numbers prompted New York-based economist Nouriel Roubini to note that this “may mark the beginning of a sustained investment boom”. Foreign investment is steadily rising, particularly in telecoms and technology – Manila eyes India’s cornering of the English-language call-centre and back-office outsourcing industry – and there is a buzz that Aquino just might be the one to reform the country’s putrid bureaucracy.

This recent surge in foreign direct investment is generating thousands of new jobs. One of Manila’s biggest – and often saddest – economic phenomena is its export of labour. From the kitchens of the Gulf to the staterooms of the global cruise and shipping industry to the crooners working in Asia’s hotels, it is often claimed there are as many Filipinos working abroad as at home.

Australians have never much cared about the Philippines, their views soured partly by its image as an economic backwater. Manila is an amiable, pliable ally. Apart from the 1996 APEC summit at Subic Bay, John Howard visited only once as PM, in 2003, and Kevin Rudd and Julia Gillard not at all. When Simon Crean went in 2008 as trade minister, he said the preceding decade had been a lost opportunity, citing bilateral trade that had risen by just 17 per cent in that time.

The Philippine economy improved during Arroyo’s term, but compared with its thrusting neighbours, the country has been a chronic underperformer. Now there are high hopes for this new Aquino government. The Asian Development Bank has raised its economic forecast for 2011, citing better foreign and domestic investment and rising incomes. It believes GDP growth will be about 5 per cent in 2011, after the bumper 2010 in which the Philippines motored along at 7.3 per cent, the best rate in 34 years. With that trend continuing for this infamous basket case, maybe it’s time to take another look.


By Benjamin B. Pulta and Aytch S. de la Cruz
The Daily Tribune

Ensuring that former President and current Rep. Gloria Arroyo will be found guilty of plunder, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will be taking on the case against her, saying that it is she who has jurisdiction over the Arroyo plunder case.

It is common knowledge that President Aquino is obssessed with seeing his predecessor charged and jailed for plunder.

De Lima added, however that there will be no undue interest from her office in going after the former president who was charged with plunder before the Department of Justice (DoJ) the other day by former solicitor general Francisco Chavez.

Anti-corruption cases against government officials, former and present, always land in the Ombudsman’s office for investigation, but

De Lima yesterday said it is she who has co-jurisdiction over the case.

Unless the rules have changed, the case will still have to land in the hands of the Office of the Ombudsman, to effect prosecution or dismissal of the case.

De Lima claimed that the complaint lodged by Chavez against the former president “will have to go through the usual process. It’s a plunder case (and) it involves the former president so it’s a big case and I need to create panel for that.”

“I will be consulting the prosecutor general on the Consti-tution of the panel to handle the plunder complaint against the former president. We don’t shirk from our responsibility.”

De Lima noted that since the case had been previously been filed before the Office of the Ombudsman they will have to check the status of the pending case there, but added that her agency will also seek to recover documents already with the defunct Truth Commission for possible use in the case.

“We will just have to formally write the truth commission. The Truth Commission has not officially commenced. I will have to write the Truth Commission and ask that the case records be returned.” de Lima said.

A ruling by the Supreme Court earlier nullified the creation of the Truth Commission adding that the body will result in the persecution of the last administration.

Chavez has accused Arroyo and members of the latter’s Cabinet of alleged misuse of at least P550 million in funds collected from Filipinos working abroad. A similar case had been filed before the Ombudsman by Chavez in July 2004 but had been shelved by the anti-graft office because of the then chief executive’s immunity from suit.

Aside from Arroyo, Chavez in his 23-page complaint also named Virgilio Angelo, Francisco Duque III and Alberto and Romulo, who was then Arroyo’s executive secretary.

Duque was President and Chief Executive Officer of the Philippine Health Insurance Corp (PHIC) while Angelo was the administrator of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA).

Chavez accused them of plunder,malversation, illegal use of OWWA fund,graft and corruption, and violation of the Omnibnus election Code arising from the alleged misuse of the OWWA fund which is meant for the exclusive use and benefit of Overseas Filipino Workers from whom contributions are collection.

Chavez was also quoted as saying that he will be including a Cabinet official of President Aquino in the charges, naming current Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, who was then the chairman of the Philippine Overseas Employment Adminstration and one of the signatories in the board resolution allowing the transfer of the OWWA funds to Philhealth.

The former solgen detailed at least three instances, namely the transfer of P530 million from the OWWA Medicare to the Philippine Health Insurance Corp ., the use of P 5 million to fund the government “humanitarian assistance” to Iraq and the use of P 16 million to buy vehicles in Middle East diplomatic posts.

Meanwhile, getting into the act, Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday challenged Arroyo to come clean and explain her alleged corrupt activities during her administration as he disclosed that he has kept many documents that may strengthen and spawn new charges of graft and plunder against her.

Lacson said he plans to revisit these documents when regular sessions at the 15th Congress resumes to determine how he can help his ally, Aquino to go after the ills of the previous administration.

“I still have many documents hidden in a chest. Once the session resumes, I will review these documents in my possession and see how I can help in accordance with President Noynoy’s anti-corruption drive—to revisit the previous anomalies so that somehow we can achieve retribution, ill-gotten wealth may be recovered,” Lacson said after the inauguration ceremony for the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Extension Project which he attended with the President.

Lacson’s fresh threats against Arroyo, whom he criticized during her nine-year reign, sprang when he was sought for comments by reporters on the fresh plunder raps filed by Chavez against the former president Tuesday.

Lacson said Chavez’s accusation against Arroyo is timely since almost a year has passed and no one from the previous administration officials who are being accused of graft and corruption has ever been sued as yet.

“It’s about time because it’s been almost a year and we still haven’t brought to justice those who should be held accountable. That (Chavez’s allegation) is just one of the anomalies that must be unearthed, opened, investigated, and it really should be brought to the court for a logical conclusion,” Lacson said.

Lacson said he was able to speak with a lot of people whose names he did not mention who are willing to entrust him with the documents he claims they are holding which documents he said would substantiate the alleged irregularities that happened under Arroyo’s watch.

The lawmaker is convinced that Arroyo purposely left many landmines in various government agencies to cover her tracks so that the Aquino administration would have a hard time building a case against her and her loyal allies.

“But landmines or no landmines, what matters here is the evidence. If we have the evidence, this poses a challenge to the Ombudsman and our authorities to scrutinize the anomalies that have taken place… So we have an obligation to take a step further and work together to unearth those anomalies. For all we know, we might be able to recover stolen resources that should belong to the National Treasury,” Lacson said.

“It’s about time (for Arroyo) to explain before our countrymen what really happened in the last nine years—why is she being hounded with so many anomalies (and allegations of) corruption. I think Juan de la Cruz deserves an explanation or two from the former president,” added the senator.

Lacson openly described himself as a staunch critic of Arroyo during her incumbency which he then used to justify his living the life of a fugitve as he evaded arrest when he was incriminated in the Dacer-Corbito murders.

Malacañang, for its part, expressed confidence that officials of the OWWA who knew something about Chavez’s allegations would take the initiative to step up and cooperate with the authorities in the event a formal investigation is launched by the Ombudsman.

“If it is necessary to obtain certain documents from OWWA, then we see no problem with it. We’ve always engendered transparency in government…It is our mandate to be open (and make public the) records of our agencies if they’re being asked. There are public documents, they have to be made accessible to the people,” said deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte at a press briefing.

Valte, however, refused to consider Chavez’s charges as a welcome development yet insofar as the Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign is concerned. She said it is too early to make such statement because they are yet to find out just where such case is going.

Chavez earlier submitted documents which he described as proof of an “institutionalized pattern of decreasing expenditures for OFWs by systematically suspending certain programs and features of the OWWA or reducing the number of beneficiaries, or both, in an obvious attempt to free the OWWA fund for utilization in projects and other activities completely unrelated to the direct and exclusive benefit of OFWs,”

He added that “the institutionalized de facto control over the OWWA fund led to opportunities for flagrant ,unabated abuse ,prominent among which is the channelling of hundreds of millions of contributions by OFWs to the PHIC for purely partisan purposes,particularly to enhance the electoral campaign of GMA in the 2004 elections.

The memorandum he said he submitted as evidence, shows that Duque “proposed,instigated and cooperated in the channeling of no less than P530,382,446 from OWWA Medicare to the PHIC for political use in the re-election bid of Arroyo in 2004,” .

While the funds werea being diverted ,Chavez said OFWs were no longer enjoying benefits from the funds following a memorandum dated July 1,2003, where Angelo shelved the General Financial Assistance Program of the OWWa and stopped the acceptance of claims by OFWs.


by Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard Today

KAWIT, Cavite—Senator Panfilo Lacson said here Wednesday he was preparing to file more plunder cases against former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo, claiming the time had come for her to pay for the sins of the last nine years.

“There is need for retribution. Someone must pay for the mistakes of the past,” Lacson said at the inauguration of the R-1 expressway extension of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway.

He said he would review the documents against Arroyo that had been unearthed with the help of former government officials.

“These cases now have a chance to prosper. It is about time she explains to the people what really happened during the past nine years,” he said.

Arroyo is facing plunder charges stemming from the complaint filed by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez for allegedly misusing more than P550 million from the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration from March 2003 to February 2004.

Chavez claims the money was used to boost Arroyo’s 2004 presidential bid and to finance “questionable acquisitions” by several diplomatic posts in the Middle East and the humanitarian assistance in Iraq.

Meanwhile, the Justice Department said Wednesday it will take full jurisdiction over the plunder charges filed against Arroyo and three of her Cabinet officials.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said the case would go through the usual process, including the creation of a panel of prosecutors that will conduct a preliminary investigation.

“Until now, we can still feel the effects of the anomalies of the past. Maybe now we have a chance to recover the money stolen from government coffers,” Lacson said.

He said he hoped that the plunder case against Arroyo would “reach its logical conclusion.”

President Benigno Aquino III expressed happiness to see Lacson, his friend and ally, again.

Lacson said the efforts to make the past administration accountable would be in keeping with Aquino’s anti-corruption campaign.

The expressway inauguration is the third time the President and Lacson have met since the senator ended 13 months of hiding on March 26, and the first time that the two have attended a public event together.

Lacson admitted that during their first meeting at the Palace days after he surfaced, Mr. Aquino never bothered to ask him about where he had hidden and how he had been able to evade arrest and travel with a canceled passport since January last year.

“He did not ask. Maybe he did not want to talk about it as well,” he said.

“If he [had] asked, I would have given him the lowdown; that much I can say in confidence to a head of state.”

Earlier, the President played down the efforts De Lima’s to establish how Lacson was able to defy the law and cast “a cloud of doubt” over the integrity and efficiency of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Bureau of Immigration, the National Bureau of Investigation, and the National Police.

Mr. Aquino said finding out how Lacson evaded arrest was not a priority.

“She can investigate, [but] my first priority are violent crimes,” he said.

Lacson returned to the country after the Court of Appeals had cleared him of the November 2000 murder of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000.

The Palace on Wednesday said it was hoping the extradition of former police officer Michael Ray Aquino would bring closure to the case. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Rey E. Requejo


By Marichu A. Villanueva
The Philippine Star

Is there a dearth of talents who would be more than willing, or patriotic enough if you will, to serve in the government? Are there no qualified young men and women professionals ready to become public servants? This seems to be the situation bedeviling the 10-month old administration of President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. If his latest appointee to the poll body would be used as gauge, it seems PNoy is not able to attract nor interest any willing, qualified, and capable men and women to fill in vacancies in his administration.

PNoy’s appointment of 71-year-old Augusto Lagman to join the seven-man Commission of Elections (Comelec) is a case in point. At his age, Lagman was given a term until Feb. 2, 2018, or two years after the next presidential elections in May 2016. The President signed the appointment of Lagman on April 20 but it was only last Wednesday that Malacanang announced Lagman’s appointment.

Lagman was billed as an information technology (IT) expert who President Aquino purportedly wanted to have at the Comelec now that we have successfully implemented our country’s first-ever nationwide automated polls from voting to counting and canvassing.

Per his curriculum vitae, the new Comelec commissioner is presently the chairman of Vinta Systems Inc., a developer of AI (artificial intelligence)-oriented software products, and sits as director of STI College in Recto (Manila) and Biometrix Technologies Inc. Lagman is acknowledged as the founding chairman of the STI College and its various college campuses.

He was a member of the National Citizens Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel) from 1992 to 2006. He headed Namfrel’s systems committee from the time it was formed in 1984. The Namfrel and the Makati Business Club – which he listed as among his affiliations – reportedly nominated Lagman to the remaining vacancy at the poll body.

However, Lagman’s recent rise to national consciousness started when he actively campaigned in public against the kind of automated election system that Comelec wanted to pursue for the May 2010 presidential elections. He bitterly fought with Comelec on the use of the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that the Comelec eventually adopted in last year’s elections.

Lagman was then pushing for the Open Election System where voting would be done manually while counting and canvassing are done by machines. With his anti-PCOS stand, how could he be an impartial judge in election protests by losers in the last automated polls?

But Lagman’s skirmishes with the poll body started with his group’s winning the petition at the SC that nullified the P1.3 billion contract of Comelec with Mega-Pacific eSolutions Inc. for the production of the automated counting machines for the May 2004 mid-term elections.

In fact, Lagman is among those being lined up as witnesses in the forthcoming impeachment trial at the Senate against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. One of the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez was her alleged failure to charge in court Comelec officials involved in this contract. Now, we can connect the dots.

For all ironies, Lagman got to be named commissioner of the Comelec. For Lagman, it might as well become his Pyrrhic victory.

Interviewed over the ANC yesterday immediately after the Palace officially announced his appointment, Lagman strongly indicated he has not given up his fight against the PCOS. He declared his every intention to push for the use of other poll automation technologies in the country’s succeeding elections. Lagman said he also intends to “request” the Comelec to implement the SC ruling requiring them to make public the source code and other documents in last year’s automated polls.

For someone who used to be an outsider looking-in, Lagman must realize he is now a Comelec commissioner. It is positive to note that the new commissioner expressed hope he could work harmoniously with other poll officials despite being a non-lawyer. He believes he can contribute his expert opinion about IT and other non-legal matters with fellow commissioners under a system of one-man, one-vote in a collegial body like Comelec.

But there is one disturbing fact that Lagman must clarify first before he comes to the Comelec with clean hands. The Department of Justice approved on June 17 last year the criminal indictment against Lagman for the alleged unauthorized sale of his Vista IT firm he partly owned to the Philippine Investment Management Inc. (Phinma) in 2007.

It was former Justice Undersecretary Linda Malenab-Hornilla who signed the resolution that ordered the filing of estafa charges against Lagman. It was based on the complaint by businesswoman Nora Bitong, majority owner of Systems Standard Inc. (SSI) that owned Vinta Systems. Hornilla reversed a resolution of the Makati City prosecutor’s office two years earlier that cleared Lagman.

Lagman explained his estafa case was “quickly dismissed” by the Makati prosecutor two years ago for lack of probable cause. “But the DOJ under the previous administration reversed that, just like they did with the libel case filed against me by Mega Pacific,” he said.

Lagman has a pending motion for reconsideration with the DOJ now headed by Secretary Lilia de Lima. “I’m sure they will be fair, unlike the previous one,” Lagman cited.

We certainly can not question the presidential prerogative to place in office his own appointees. But it’s worrisome to think of the kind of vetting process of nominees being submitted for President Aquino to appoint, especially to sensitive government positions like in the Comelec.

Thankfully, the Comelec is a constitutionally autonomous government body where all seven commissioners are required to go through the confirmation process by the congressional Commission on Appointments. It the Palace talent search committee failed to carefully vet presidential nominees with pending cases, we have at least the CA screening body to do a better job. That is, if politics would be set aside in favor of meritocracy that the Aquino administration has vowed to institute at the bureaucracy.

In any case, the Comelec is now complete with the installation of its new chairman Sixto Brillantes and the appointment of commissioners Christian Robert Lim and Lagman. But first things first, P-Noy’s new Comelec men must pass the CA with flying colors, not just yellow!

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By Cito Beltran
The Philippine Star

If you ever get to visit Shanghai you will certainly reformat your points of reference and perhaps delete “lumpiang shanghai” or spring rolls and the term “Shanghaied” because they unfairly misrepresent what the city is all about.

The only reason “Shanghaied” was used as an expression for kidnapping was because of a severe shortage of seamen or boat crew in the 1800’s. To fill the roster, Crimps or today’s version of human traffickers would go around town looking for able bodied men, either convince them, get them drunk, or simply knock them unconscious and put them on board waiting ships many of which headed for Shanghai to pick up cargo.

As you drive into Shanghai, on a cool and sometimes cold April day, the first visual overload you will experience is the fact that the architecture is not typically “Chinese”. In fact Shanghai is more European than it is Asian, but it is also very new as it is very old.

The only dead giveaway is the swarm of Chinese people that crowd the streets and alley ways, either rushing to work, hawking some article, smoking (they maybe the heaviest smokers in the world) or shout-talking since they seem to always communicate in the loudest of voices.

In fact if you observe closely, people “shout-talking” seems to generate more noise than honking horns.

I noticed that even if the drivers in Shanghai use and destroy their horns faster than Filipino drivers do, there seems to be a rule around here that you can only use government approved horns. So no matter how much they all honk their horns, it is not as irritating as Metro Manila.

Perhaps it’s about time that the DOTC did something for their part.

Another thing I noticed was that in our whole week of moving around Shanghai, I never once saw a policeman with a gun. I did notice one or two men in black who seemed to pay particular attention to our group, but certainly no guns.

I guess Mao Tse Tung’s big words that “Political power comes from the barrel of a gun” has now been replaced.

Shanghai may be part of a communist country but it makes Rodeo drive look like a garage sale. Never have I seen more Louis Vuitton outlets, Hermes, Prada, Jaguar, Porsche, Maseratti, etc., from glorified 168 shopping malls to world- class venues. So now, Chairman Cito muses that political power comes from manufacturing all the trinkets the world wants to buy.

But all that glitz and seeming glamour can be very deceiving. A week walking around crowded streets will either turn you into a pulp or send you home black and blue. The locals don’t think much of personal space or avoiding on-coming human traffic, they walk straight and oblivious to the fact that they just dislocated your shoulder or caused you to drop all your belongings. “Manners” is a word that applies to very different things in “Shanghai”.

If you love to haggle, bargain, and drive the sales people crazy, Shanghai is just the place for you. Bring a VERY BIG calculator, a ton of patience and a boatload of cash. But most important of all come ready with a thick face and shameless bargaining attitude because you will need it.

It takes five to 10 minutes to haggle over every item and their list price is usually four to five times. If the sales person acts desperate or pushy, it does not make them a bad person, they simply see you as a fish on their hook and they don’t want to let you go because the sharks down the corridor or down the street will start offering you 25 percent off.

But there was a lesson to be learned on this “Motoring trip” courtesy of Foton Motor Corporation.

During the traditional city tour, we came upon a towering figure of a man I mistakenly thought of as the young Chairman Mao. But our guide told us that the statue was of Chen Yi, who was a former mayor of Shanghai and whom they now look up to as a hero.

Can you just imagine that in the Philippines? A city mayor achieving genuine hero status? But there before us was the monument to the man who managed the socialization of Shanghai, eradicate vice and prostitution, was removed from office during the Cultural Revolution and then later hailed as a national hero.

So far all we actually have in the Philippines for mayors are characters. Good or bad, they become feared or faulted because of character but so far no modern day mayor heroes.

The second eye opener for me was when our tour crossed over to the Pu Dong side, which they call the “future of Shanghai”. There before us was a modern city both in planning and architecture. There you will find the third tallest building in the world. But what was amazing as we viewed this completely developed metropolis was the fact that it only took 20 years!

Lesson three is that in order for a nation to develop, even the Philippines, we must have institutions, the same way China has the “Party” to insure the continuity of our visions and our plans. The Philippines fails because we put our trust in men who rule for the moment and then step down or die.

The last and sad lesson I learned is that “comrade” is now an empty word.

I saw with my own eyes, the elderly, the weak, the poor, scrounging from garbage can to garbage can, hoping to find something worth selling. Yes, even in a nation of comrades, there is economic injustice.

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By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star

Bonifacio Gillego was among the first of political foes to debunk Ferdinand Marcos’s World War II heroism. In 1982 the retired Army officer researched the sitting martial ruler’s past. Gathering from primary sources that Marcos was a bogus hero, Gillego spread the news.

At that time Marcos had convinced Filipino voters that he was their most decorated soldier of all time. In For Every Tear a Victory: The Story of Ferdinand E. Marcos (1964), biographer Hartzell Spence credited him with 28 Philippine and US military awards. Supposedly when Gen. Omar Bradley in 1947 saw Marcos’s six rows of ribbons headed by 22 medals, he saluted him.

Col. Uldarico Baclagon hailed Marcos, in Filipino Heroes of World War II (1980), for guerrilla exploits. His section on “Heroes of Kiangan” listed the outstanding fighters of the 14th Infantry Regiment, US Armed Forces in the Philippines-Northern Luzon (USAFIP-NL), in the jungles of Panupdupan, Ifugao. The bravest of the brave supposedly was Col. Ferdinand Marcos. Baclagon recounted:

• On March 17, 1945, though ill at the Regional Command Post (RCP) infirmary, Marcos left his sickbed and single-handedly held at bay an attacking enemy battalion. When counterattack failed, Marcos with one enlisted man penetrated the enemy lines, forcing them to withdraw with “two loads of dead and wounded.” Saving 200 women and children and 20 patients, he earned the Distinguished Conduct Star.

• On March 25, 1945, Marcos, as head of the 14th Infantry’s combat and engineering companies, repelled a Japanese attack on Hapid airstrip. The several days of seesaw battles, marked by hand-to-hand fighting, saved the RCP from routing, meriting Marcos the Silver Star.

• In April 1945, Marcos with one enlisted man on patrol spotted enemy forces in well-camouflaged trucks only a kilometer away from RCP. Sending back the enlisted man to report the sighting, Marcos, with a Thompson submachine gun, forced the Japanese to retreat after 30 minutes of fighting. For that he got the Gold Cross.

• Also in April 1945 Marcos allegedly participated in the Battle of Bessang Pass. He intercepted a Japanese suicide force tasked to capture the USAFIP-Northern Luzon supply depot. Baclagon did not specify what awards Marcos earned that time; the latter claimed during the 1986 snap presidential election to have been the reason for General Yamashita’s subsequent defeat.

Gillego noted that Baclagon had culled the Marcos stories from belated Philippine military citations alone. These were prepared not by the commanding officer (CO) right after battle, as is usual, but by a politicized General Headquarters in 1963 nearly 20 years later. It was so unlike the US Court of Claims, Gillego wrote. That court in 1947 had rejected as unfounded Marcos’s claim for $594,900 war reparation for the US Army’s alleged commandeering of 2,366 heads of cattle from a nonexistent family ranch in Mindanao.

Gillego learned that 27 of Marcos’s 28 medals were awarded between 1948 and 1963. Spence’s account of General Bradley saluting Marcos’s 22 medals in 1947 was baseless.

Gillego sought out Marcos’s COs, Col. Romulo A. Manriquez and Capt. Vicente L. Rivera, 14th Infantry commander and executive officer respectively. Both by 1982 had retired from the service and taken up law in America. Manriquez was working at the US Veterans Administration in Washington, Rivera a Detroit Filipino community leader and author.

Shown the general orders for the issuance of the Marcos medals, Manriquez belittled these as “typewriter decorations.” These were based solely on affidavits made long after the events. Angrier was Manriquez when given General Willoughby’s book, The Guerrilla Resistance Movement in the Philippines. For there he is listed as one of the officers of Marcos’s “Ang Mga Maharlika” guerrilla force with the nom de guerre “Pigsa (Carbuncle).” He called the group fictitious.

Manriquez said Marcos had reported to him in December 1944 months after the Leyte Landing. Given his lawyer training, Marcos was posted as S-5 in charge of civil affairs. Marcos never was assigned to any combat mission or fired a shot at the enemy, Manriquez swore. One day a sergeant came running to RCP to report the sighting of an enemy patrol a mile away. Whereupon Marcos “ran to a nearby creek raising his .45-caliber pistol with a quavering hand.”

Rivera recalled helping incorporate the USAFIP-NL into a veterans association, and serving as chairman for awards and decorations. Never did he recommend Marcos for citation. On March 17, 1945, the day Marcos supposedly held at bay the attacking enemy, there was not much action. Except that, as recorded in Rivera’s memoirs, Marcos as Officer of the Day left for duty around the RCP perimeter. At around 3 a.m. the men were awakened by gunfire. Investigating, Maj. Arturo Dingcong reported that it was Marcos firing at rustling leaves he had thought to be Japanese snipers. A phantom force had earned him the Distinguished Conduct Star, Gillego exclaimed.

Rivera averred that Marcos never participated in the Battle of Hapid, where he gained the Silver Star, or the Battle of Bessang Pass. As for the sighting of camouflaged Japanese trucks a mile away from RCP that ensued in a firefight and the Gold Cross, Rivera cited geography to belie Marcos. The RCP in Panupdupan was half a day’s hike from the nearest road.

Gillego ended his research with a dig at Spence: “For every medal, a fakery?” He signed it under the title, “Marcos: the Hero of Kiangan Who Never Was.” The manuscript was cleared by first-hand sources Colonel Manriquez and Captain Rivera, who signed each of the 11 pages.

On September 2, 1982, Gillego met with opposition leaders Ninoy Aquino, Raul Manglapus, and the latter’s son-in-law Benjamin Maynigo. Over coffee at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington, they reviewed the piece, with Manriquez and Rivera clarifying certain points. Then, Aquino and Maynigo too signed in concurrence.

Gillego entrusted the original to Manglapus. Manglapus’s son Francis rediscovered it two years ago in the father’s files.

* * *

Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ, (882-AM).

E-mail to: jariusbondoc@workmail.com


De Lima claims concurrent jurisdiction with Ombudsman


A PANEL of prosecutors will be created to handle the P551-million plunder complaint filed against former president and now Rep. Gloria Arroyo in connection with the alleged misuse of funds of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration.

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima also said yesterday that she is considering looking into other cases filed against Arroyo before the Ombudsman which shelved investigations because Arroyo then had immunity from suit

She said the Department of Justice, aside from the Ombudsman, is given the mandate by the Constitution to investigate criminal offenses committed by public officials.

“It’s a plunder case that involves a former president and it’s a big case so I need to create a panel for that…I have concurrent jurisdiction, concurrent with the Ombudsman. We need to accept that and take cognizance of that and it should go through the usual process,” she said.

The plunder charge, the second, was filed Tuesday by former solicitor general Francisco Chavez. The DOJ is also hearing the first plunder case filed by tax informer Danilo Lihay-lihay against Arroyo over the alleged anomalous sale of an Iloilo airport lot to a private company in 2007 without remitting the P72 million tax proceeds to the national treasury.

A graft complaint was also filed by the militant group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) on July 1, 2010, a day after Arroyo stepped down as President after nine years. The complaint is in connection with the anomalous ZTE broadband deal.

De Lima has put on hold the hearing on Bayan’s graft complaint in deference to the Truth Commission which was created by Aquino to look into the alleged anomalies in the Arroyo administration.

De Lima said the DOJ is now ready to take jurisdiction over these cases and separately investigate them, considering the Supreme Court’s ruling declaring unconstitutional the creation of the Truth Commission.

De Lima said she will formally ask the Truth Commission to return the case records of other charges filed against Arroyo for reference by the investigating panel.

In the Chavez complaint, it was alleged that OWWA funds were misused by Arroyo and three other Cabinet officials in three ways: to finance the acquisition of several vehicles by several diplomatic posts in the Middle East; as humanitarian assistance to Iraq; and to enhance her 2004 presidential bid.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson, in an interview after Aquino inaugurated the R1 Extension Project of the Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway Project in Kawit, Cavite, said it is about time Arroyo is made to answer for the numerous anomalies during her presidency.

“It’s been almost a year. At hindi pa natin napapanagot ang dapat managot,” he said.

He also said he would go over his exposés at the Senate and documents in his possession and determine if these could help in the prosecution of the pending cases, or if more plunder charges could be filed.

Lacson said numerous individuals have promised to provide him documents on the alleged anomalies in the Arroyo administration.

“Ngayon maglalabasan iyan from the woodwork. Alam nila ito ang pagkakataon nila at ito ang kanilang pag-asa na may maaring umusad na kaso,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor