August 2012


MANILA, Philippines (UPDATE 2) – President Aquino on Friday appointed Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas as the new chief of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).

Roxas, 55, an economist and president of the Liberal Party (LP), will take over the position vacated by the late DILG chief Jesse Robredo who died in a plane crash last August 18.

Speaking to reporters, Aquino said Roxas was on top of a short list of candidates as Robredo’s replacement even before they had confirmed that he had died in the crash.

“When Secretary Robredo was missing, we had to entertain the possibility [of a replacement]. I told Mar that he was first on my shortlist in case we had to replace Jesse,” the President said.

“Hindi naman pwedeng patagalin ang pagtakbo ng gobyerno. Kailangan siguraduhin natin yung functions na hindi nagawa ng naitalaga ay ipasa na kaagad sa isang tao na magpapatuloy sa magandang naumpisahan ni Jesse,” he added.

Asked if Roxas’ appointment was a political move in preparation for the 2013 and 2016 elections, Aquino said he appointed Roxas because he knows that he can do the job.

“If I appoint an alter ego that cant do the work, then I will have to do the work myself. I will have to appoint someone because I have full trust in him and it will lessen the number of things that i must pay attention to every day,” he said.

Aquino also appointed Liberal Party colleague Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya as the new secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC). Abaya is the secretary-general of the LP.

A Philippine Star report earlier quoted sources as saying the President wants Roxas to take over Robredo’s post because the DOTC chief has the capability and integrity to continue the reforms in the DILG.

Like Robredo, Roxas has never been involved in anomalies, sources told the newspaper.

“It’s easy to make money in DOTC,” one of the sources said.

They said Abaya was “like-minded” and could be trusted to carry out reforms.

“We need someone with integrity. Jun (Abaya) has the credentials, even on the technical aspect. Honest people who will push for reforms, (we need people) on the same page,” one of the sources said. Abaya is an engineer.

‘It’s the LP show now’

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan, meanwhile, blasted Roxas’ appointment as another display of partisan politics meant to favor the Liberal Party of President Aquino.

Bayan secretary-general Renato M. Reyes, Jr. said Roxas’ appointment gives the impression that the LP will be given undue advantage in the 2013 polls. He said Roxas should take a leave as LP president until after the elections.

“It seems the Liberal Party has gotten the upper hand on this one. It wants control of a department that has strategic value for the upcoming 2013 elections and eventually the 2016 elections. The partisan political motivation of Roxas’ appointment is too obvious to ignore,” he said in a statement.

He added: “The so-called daang matuwid has been trumped anew by narrow, partisan politics. It’s the LP show now.”

The DILG chief would have influence over the police and local government units, which could be a crucial advantage in swinging the votes for 2013.

It is the second Cabinet posting for Roxas under the Aquino administration and the third since he joined the executive branch under the Estrada administration as its trade and industry secretary in 2000.

Roxas gave up his presidential bid in 2009 and ran instead as running mate of then-Senator Noynoy Aquino. Aquino won but Roxas lost to former Makati City Mayor Jejomar Binay in a close vice-presidential race. Roxas has a pending electoral protest against Binay.

Roxas is married to ABS-CBN TV Patrol co-anchor Korina Sanchez.

Grassroots & Governance
By Teresa S. Abesamis

I ENCOUNTERED Jesse Robredo only once in person, and only exchanged a few words with him. But even as I watched him from the audience as he addressed an local government forum among mostly civil society participants, I sensed something different about this cabinet member. He did not exude a sense of self-importance, but rather an absolute lack of pomposity. When he responded to questions from the audience participants, he was authentic, humble, direct and sincere. It was as if he was just talking to someone beside him. Walang wang-wang, (no VIP sirens) incredulously, I said to myself.

Perhaps, I concluded, he is still so new at his post, perhaps it hasn’t sunk into him yet, his new, exalted place in this world. He seemed such a contrast with the Vice-President who openly craved the powerful Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) post given to Robredo. The Vice-President soon after his election publicly belly-ached about the modest digs he had been given at the Philippine International Convention Center which, he said did not befit his rank. He also stated publicly that he should have a fancier car. I laughed when the President assigned him to the ornate Coconut Palace with its chandeliers. It seemed to me a gesture not of honor, but of exasperation, of finally humoring a pesky brat. A palace you want, so a palace you get. I sense some irony in that gesture.

Now I realize that Jesse Robredo’s simplicity and humility came not from naiveté but from a deep sense of principle and moral values. He saw himself truly as a servant leader, with “servant” in bold face. The massive outpouring of a sense of loss and yes, love for Jesse Robredo is a refreshing and inspiring sign that a change is taking place in the political culture of our people. Jesse Robredo had given flesh to the spirit of “walang wang-wang” expressed by President PNoy in his inaugural speech at the Luneta.

We now have a historic opportunity to spread this new culture of simplicity, humility and duty throughout our country. We must see to it that our voters internalize Jesse Robredo’s principles as the standard for selecting future leaders. After all, it is the voters who will decide who will lead out country.

This movement for servant leadership already quietly simmering in some circles should be expanded soon by civil society, to take advantage of widespread awareness and appreciation of Jesse Robredo’s sterling example. The many sectors, the youth, entrepreneurs, women, business executives, civil society leaders, urban poor leaders, farmers and fishers can become part of it all over the country.

It was clear to me during their tribute to their colleague Jesse that the PNoy cabinet fully appreciates the concept of servant leadership that Jesse Robredo personified, and they can certainly be at the forefront of the government’s cultural transformation into widespread servant leadership. Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.

When the public clamor becomes loud enough, the politicians should be able to hear it, and get the message of PNoy when he said “Kayo ang boss ko.”

Jesse Robredo not only set an example for what a Leader should be. He also lived a life worth emulating as a loving husband and father who uncannily, always found time to let his wife and children know how much he loved them. As his wife, Leni Robredo said in her response to the Legion of Honor award given by the President in Naga, “nothing was left unsaid.” So, there were no regrets.

Jesse Robredo showed in his life that yes, a leader must truly be a servant leader. He was able to do it because he was that rare, enlightened breed who had transcendent his ego because of his deep spirituality. He was also an admirable human being who always expressed his love for his family, and for his people. This is why we know that he was truly a blessing to our country; and by his example, will continue to be, it we act on his legacy by expanding and sustaining its impact on our people and our country.

By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star

The outpouring of grief over the death of Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo was equally matched by the outpouring of paeans for his accomplishments and his person. It isn’t often that we see this kind of genuine affection from our people. Perhaps, it’s because for too often and too long they’ve been misled, exploited and betrayed by those whom they’ve elected to lead.

There was this sense of a great national loss when Ninoy Aquino was assassinated in August 21, 1983. There was, to a limited extent, this sense of a great national loss when Ka Jaime Ferrer was assassinated in August 2, 1987. There was this sense of a great national loss when Cory Aquino passed away in August 1, 2009. Now we have this sense of a great national loss with the unexpected sudden death of Jesse Robredo.

On Facebook, there was a heavy barrage of Jesse Robredo memories being shared. It’s not the kind of loss that is usually expressed when a person dies. It was much deeper than that. It was sense of great loss that we’re losing the few good men that we have. Like his fellow Bicolano, Raul Roco, Jesse Robredo is now being hailed as the best president we never had.

However, when we look back at the recent presidential election of 2010, we have to wonder that how come the float of a Jesse Robredo presidential candidacy never caught fire — quite unlike the spontaneous combustion that met the running of then Senator Noy Aquino, now president of our republic. Much of what are now being positively said of the late Secretary Jesse Robredo was already accomplished by 2009. His record as Naga Mayor made him a serious presidential contender. So how come the float of his presidential candidacy in the 2010 elections didn’t catch fire?

The reason is we have not prepared the majority of our people to appreciate the Jesse Robredos in our midst. Admit it, we’re still mesmerized by showbiztocracy instead of applying strict meritocracy when selecting our leaders. Pit Jesse Robredo against Bong Revilla in a presidential election and the odds will heavily favor Revilla. It’s a reality that we Filipinos have to live with. The question is why don’t we do something about it?

The first line of defense should have been the political party. A right thinking political party would have discouraged inane showbiz personalities from running for public office if it’s clearly established that they’re clueless or worse — not morally fit — to assume the public office. That doesn’t happen. Look at the developing alignments for the 2013 senatorial elections. The two highly stacked political coalitions, both the Liberal Party coalition and the UNA (United Democratic Alliance), enlisted showbiz personalities.

This early, the Pulse Asia poll shows that old well-known politicians and the showbiz personalities have the inside track. The candidates who display qualities that we admired in Jesse Robredo are not even in the top 12. The problem really isn’t the lack of good public servants because even from way back we’ve always had alternatives, except that our people were simply not ready to vote for them.

The problem of evolving good governance is best addressed therefore by uplifting the political consciousness and the awareness level of the Filipino voter’s mind. Unless that mind is upgraded to fully appreciate the qualities of good leadership — were not going anywhere even if we had a thousand Jesse Robredos to offer for national and local posts. Don’t you see how our damaged culture is operating to prevent our voters from selecting their real Messiahs? We must repair our damaged culture if we are to see the dawn of enlightened leadership in our country.

Charter change (Cha cha) is not the solution either. A new Constitution cannot prescribe the solutions to our damaged culture. New systems can only do so much — as when China and Russia abandoned the communist economic model and embraced capitalism. Cha cha cannot be the solution to our damaged culture simply because what Cha cha proponents are promoting are the easing of economic restrictions — allegedly to boost the economy and create jobs — and not to repair our damaged culture.

The rise of Cory Aquino and her son Noy to the presidency have to be considered as phenomenal political developments. Instead of choosing between Candidate A and Candidate B, Filipinos voted in 1986 along the lines of democracy versus dictatorship. The same thing happened in the 2010 presidential election. Until the death of Cory, many voters were expressing disappointment over the choices that were being offered for 2010 president. Cory’s death turned the national focus on her son Noy, the logical heir to fulfilling the promise of the People Power Revolution. Those who kept seeing the 2010 presidential election with the same old parameters missed the phenomenon of the Noy presidency.

We cannot realistically expect the Cory 1986 and the Noy 2010 phenomena to recur in every presidential election. As George Bernard Shaw wrote: “God is no man’s daily drudge.” The only solution is human development, the takeoff point of our economic development.

* * *

Shakespeare: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.”

* * *

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.comand

By Jose Ma Montelibano

It becomes clearer by each new visit, of which I have had quarterly for almost five years, that Filipinos in America continue to carry the flame in their heart for their motherland. The most intense evidence of this is their active attachment to family, resulting in approximately $8 billion of annual remittances.

I was informed that in December 24, 2010, Western Union and PNB recorded 1 million transactions of Filipinos in America remitting to their families in the Philippines. Although I have never been been able to verify the exactness of the claimed number of transactions, the message is clear – the bonds of families are strong. And through these bonds, Filipinos and the Philippines retain their intimacy.

The challenge that faces Filipinos as one people is the conditioned divisiveness inculcated into our culture as our conquerors favorite method of keeping us in relative weakness and preventing unified resistance. The divide-and-rule method is an art that conquering nations traditionally apply in order to pacify subjects who greatly outnumber them. Filipinos, after four centuries under Spain, America and Japan simply and most effectively became afflicted with this conditioning – and assimilated enough of it into the culture.

The physical separation of Filipinos who have migrated to America, and their taking up American citizenship, aggravates that division or gap. But the family orientation of Filipinos struggle against the odds and, so far, has remained intact. What faces their children and grandchildren is another thing. The new generations have little or no direct connection with the Philippines. Worse, the passing of history via story-telling is a fading habit and new generations of Fil-Americans know so little about the Philippines, even and especially its geography. The younger generations may hear from their parents that they come from this or that town but have no idea where these are in the map of the Philippines.

This trip, I have been to New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Virginia, Washington DC and Tampa. Everywhere, I meet with Filipinos as part of my desire to truly understand the lifestyles, dreams and fears of our people in America. I do this because I, too, have dreams of a people united in heart and mind, in culture and evolution, and, together, in building a motherland of pride and honor. I know the immigrant generations have not forgotten, even if some memories are not all that pleasant. But their children and grandchildren have little or no direct knowledge anymore, and the old practice of storytelling is a fading habit.

It is the story of our people that has to be told – both at home and everywhere where Filipinos are. The challenge of developing that story is a major one as most Filipinos have only a faint idea of what that is. What were we before we before Spain, America and Japan? What happened to us when our lives were severely disrupted by foreign masters who forced us to adapt to their ways and sacrifice ours? How did we adapt, what did we give up, what did we did up to be? This story has to be told because we have to know why poverty is massive in a most abundant land, why our people are squatters by the tens of millions and why so many are hungry.

We have to know not only why the vast majority became poor and why the wealth or patrimony of our country fell into the hands of the few. We have to know why those who have more than others, including those who managed to pull themselves out of poverty, can comfortably tolerate the suffering and hunger of those left behind. If we cannot begin the journey towards accepting our being one people, then no nation can be built except one full of shame and only waiting to fall from infighting.

We cannot go on being a people cursed with the shame of a family so torn apart by the heart that we cannot care for one another. We cannot go on having millions enjoy and many millions more in constant deprivation, pain and fear. We cannot carry the same family name yet are completely unconcerned with the fate of fellow Filipinos. That way prepares us for the fall – and the scorn of the world of nations.

In the United States, Filipinos can become a potent force of change for the whole Filipino race because they have become the models of success. The success is not one of a million but grassroots more than selective. Filipino-American families have managed to succeed so much so that their incomes may be higher than mainstream Americans.

The influence, maybe more than their resources, of Fil-Ams can sway many times their numbers in the Philippines. They will be listened to, even followed to some extent. Should that influence be used for the collective good, the journey out of poverty and towards honor and progress will have found a powerful ally.

It is our history and story as a people that gives life to the common blood flowing in our veins. We must strive to know these as I hope those who know the fuller versions strive even harder to share them. Especially for the millions left behind so far that they have no way to reach us, only we can turn around, reach out, and take them with us. Then, the story of our people can move on to a new page, to a future full of hope.

By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star 

MANILA, Philippines – After the call for the chief justice and senior justices to release their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs), Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago urged newly appointed Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno yesterday to release the results of the psychological tests as well.

Santiago noted Sereno has been the subject of some derogatory remarks about her official conduct, which the senator believes came from Sereno’s “enemies within the SC (Supreme Court).”

“I think that all of this is very destructive to the judiciary as an institution, so as much as possible, I think she should take effort to have the JBC, (of) which she is now the chair, release the results of the psychiatric tests of the applicants,” Santiago said.

Sen. Edgardo Angara frowned on the issue of psychological tests and the standard on which these are based.

“Who judges whether your psychological test is low or below the sanity level? Who decides whether it is up to the standard or not?” asked Angara, a veteran lawyer.

In Sereno’s case, Angara thinks the issue would be on her temperament.

“Temperament is important, and what I’m saying is there might be no benchmark on what is acceptable psychiatrist threshold,” Angara said.


Meanwhile, Santiago also recommended that Sereno should reveal the real score on reports that she has not included in her SALN the compensation she received when she was part of the litigation of the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco) case.

The senator said transparency on these issues would help the new chief justice in ensuring integrity under her 18-year watch.

Santiago warned that Sereno might become the subject of more criticisms following the “subtle messages” sent by senior SC justices who reportedly snubbed her oath-taking ceremonies and a luncheon prepared in her honor last Tuesday.

“After the moment of victory, there is always the reality that the SC, particularly the senior justices, are extremely unhappy over the fact that she jumped the cue… They look on it like any innovation as a serious disturbance of the present order,” Santiago noted.

Although the senator recognizes the President’s power to appoint the SC chief, she foresees a “divided court” if other justices do not support Sereno’s leadership.


– – – – – – – – – – – – – –


SC justices release 2011 SALNs; Sereno net worth grew by P270,000

By Mark Merueñas,
GMA News 

The Supreme Court on Wednesday released the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN) of all its justices.

Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo was the wealthiest among the Supreme Court’s 14 magistrates in 2011. Del Castillo had a declared net worth of P108,904,519.37.

Newly appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno came in 10th on the list as she was worth P18,029,575.51.

Sereno’s net worth increased by about P270,000 relative to her 2010 SALN, which she had earlier released in a summarized form. Sereno was appointed to the high court in 2010.

At the other end of the list, Associate Justice Arturo Brion has the lowest net worth among the 14 magistrates, having net assets worth P1,498,509.

The SALNs of Del Castillo, Sereno, Brion and the 11 other sitting SC magistrates were released to Solar TV News after receiving approval from the SC en banc on August 10.

Solar TV News also reported the net worths of the justices, as declared in their SALNs, on its official Twitter account.

The net worth of the rest of the SC justices for 2011 are as follows:

– Antonio Carpio – P79,895,025.57
– Bienvenido Reyes – P75,146,199
– Estela Perlas-Bernabe – P67,101,327
– Roberto Abad – P42,100,000
– Jose Mendoza – P27,408,152.36
– Diosdado Peralta – P22,642,264.73
– Martin Villarama, Jr – P19,074,165.20
– Lucas Bersamin – P18,811,447.87
– Jose Perez – P 9,380,000
– Teresita De Castro – P 7,941,000
– Presbitero Velasco, Jr. – P 7,264,064

The SALN release came some two months after the high court released guidelines for releasing the SALNs of judges and justices.

Sereno was earlier reported to have agreed to fully disclose her SALN. She gave her consent during Tuesday’s SC en banc session.

However, the SC Public Information Office has still not released details on the Tuesday en banc session.

Sereno was appointed last week as the country’s second youngest and only female chief justice, replacing Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was ousted from office for failing to declare his assets in his SALN. — DVM, GMA News

By David Dizon 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The appointment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno could bring new hope to a coalition of coconut farmers pushing for the reopening of the coco levy case against businessman Danding Cojuangco involving his shares in San Miguel Corporation worth an estimated P80 billion.

Marco Sardillo, former executive director of the Presidential Commission on Good Government and now a volunteer lawyer for the farmers’ coalition, said the group plans to file a motion to reopen the case before the Supreme Court on September 10.

“We are fighting for the 20 percent awarded to Cojuangco. The Supreme Court said the decision is final and executory this year but with the appointment of Sereno, and her earlier dissent she hinted that perhaps with newly discovered evidence or other justifiable reason, there might be another opportunity to revisit this ruling and in fact honor history,” he told ANC’s “Headstart.”

The SMC shares were originally acquired by Cojuangco when he was still head of the state-owned United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) in 1983.

The PCGG earlier said Cojuangco used UCPB funds to purchase the SMC shares, in violation of fiduciary trust.

In April 2011, the Supreme Court voted 7-4-4 awarding 20% of San Miguel shares to Cojuangco. The SC also ruled there was no definition of ill-gotten wealth by citing Section 3 of the PCGG rules and regulations, and that the close association between former president Ferdinand Marcos and Danding Cojuangco had to be proven in order to establish a case for ill-gotten wealth.

Then Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dissented from the majority, saying the SMC shares should belong to the government.

“I vote to grant the Motions for Reconsideration and find the Cojuangco block of SMC shares to have been acquired with public funds and thus, public assets that are forfeited in favor of the government,” she said in her dissenting opinion.

Last January 2012, the SC affirmed a Sandiganbayan ruling awarding 24% of SMC shares to the government.

Joke of the century

Sardillo said the 20% block of SMC shares awarded to Cojuangco is now worth an estimated P80 billion to P100 billion.

He said Cojuangco’s claim is that he merely got a private loan from a private bank, referring to the UCPB, when he bought the SMC shares.

“He said that the role of a private borrower is to repay the loan. That was the decision last year. However, with the decision this year, the SC is telling us that the UCPB is not a private bank but a public corporation. In which case, Mr. Cojuangco at the time was a public officer. That changes the entire thing and it is I think one of the justifiable reasons that will call to question and pull the rug from that decision,” he said.

Sardillo said the April 2011 decision granting the 20% bloc to Cojuangco said there is no definition of ill-gotten wealth. However, the same court would later grant the 24% SMC bloc to the government by defining ill-gotten wealth based on the same PCGG rules.

The lawyer said then Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales had described the SC decision on the Danding shares as the “joke of the century” since ill-gotten wealth is already described in Executive Order No. 2 of President Cory Aquino.

“When the Supreme Court overlooked that there is a real definition of ill-gotten wealth, they made up a definition of their own. Their definition is that now we have to even prove cronyship, and that is not true. I said if we let this decision stand, we can expect all of those other ill-gotten wealth cases dismissed. True enough, the ill-gotten wealth case against Lucio Tan was dismissed,” he said.

Rush to expunge gov’t pleading

Sardillo said Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice brings new hope to farmers who have questioned the SC decision on the SMC shares.

He noted that Sereno’s dissenting opinion was not even attached to the original SC resolution when it was issued in June 2011. He said the dissenting opinion was only attached to the decision later.

The lawyer said the SC’s decision to expunge the government’s pleadings last August 16, 2011 also shows the danger of rushing to a decision on the coco levy case.

“I must point out – the decision on April 2011 was very tight. It was 7-4-4. Of all the days they could take a vote, August 16 was the time when 2 justices were on leave and there were 2 vacancies in the court. August 16 was also the date when Justice Bienvenido Reyes was appointed to the SC. Before he could even assume office, the Supreme Court decided to take a vote. Exactly one month later, Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe was also appointed to the court,” he said.

SC rewriting history

Sardillo said the 2nd motion for reconsideration would have allowed the PCGG to present more evidence such as the Marcos diaries that showed Cojuangco was a crony. He said the SC took a stand that a 2nd motion for reconsideration is a prohibited pleading.

Sardillo said one challenge faced by lawyers fighting for justice for coco farmers is that many people do not understand or simply do not care about the issue.

“With this decision, the Supreme Court has effectively, with due respect, rewritten history because Mr. Cojuangco is apparently not even a crony or a close associate of Mr. Marcos based on that decision of April 2011,” he said.

In her dissenting opinion, then SC justice Carpio Morales maintained that saying that Cojuangco was not a subordinate or close associate of the Marcoses is “the biggest joke to hit the century” especially with Cojuangco’s own personal admission that he left the Philippines with Marcos and family on February 25, 1986 on the Marcoses’ way to their exile in the United States following the first EDSA people power revolt.

“Clearly, the intimate relationship between Cojuangco and Marcos equates or exceeds that of a family member or cabinet member, since not all of Marcos’s relatives or high government ministers went with him in exile on that fateful date. If this will not prove the more than close association between Cojuangco and Marcos, the Court does not know what will,” the opinion read.

Cojuangco previously served as Governor of Tarlac, representative of the then First District of Tarlac, Ambassador-at-Large and Director of the Philippine Coconut Authority(PCA).

He also held key positions in private corporations as member of the United Coconut Oil Mills, Inc. Board of Directors; president and member of the Board of Directors of the UCPB, United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation, and United Coconut Chemicals, Inc.; chairman and chief executive officer of SMC.

Sardillo said the farmers’ move is less about Sereno swaying the other justices but about the SC being asked if they will stand with the 3.5 million farmers affected by the decision. He said the case is not just about money but a moral crusade between 3.5 million coconut farmers and “one lucky individual.”

“Are they going to stand by their error or are they going to stand with the 3.5 million farmers?” he said.

GMA News  

(Updated 11:59 a.m.) – The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) on Thursday filed a P150.68 million tax evasion case against ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, his daughter Carla Corona-Castillo, and her husband Constantino Castillo III.

BIR chief Kim Henares announced at a press conference that the ousted chief magistrate was charged for allegedly attempting to avoid payment of tax liabilities, in violation of Section 254 of the National Internal Revenue Code (NIRC) of 1997.

Corona was also accused of failing to file returns, and supply correct and accurate tax information in violation of Section 255 of the NIRC for the years 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, and 2010.

A BIR investigation showed that Corona failed to declare on his statement of assets and liabilities (SALN) a condominium unit at The Columns along Ayala Avenue bought for P3.6 million in 2004, and a property in Fort Bonifacio worth P9.16 million in 2005, Henares said.

“The BIR also discovered a substantial disparity between the acquisition cost of the properties declared in his SALNs with that in the certificates authorizing registrations,” she added.

The BIR computed Corona’s tax deficiency to reach an estimated P120.5 million for the nine years he was in public office.

GMA News Online texted the ousted chief magistrate, but he has yet to respond to messages seeking his comment on the charges.

Castillo couple

Corona’s daughter was charged for allegedly also violating Section 254 and Section 255 of the NIRC in 2010. The BIR said Carla only filed tax returns for 2008 and 2009, where she declared a total income of P228,040.

Carla’s husband, meanwhile, was charged for evading taxes in 2003 and 2009, and failing to file a tax return in 2003.

The BIR said Castillo first registered with the BIR in 1998, but only filed income tax returns from 2005 to 2009. He declared a total income of only P1.933 million for those five years.

Despite the couple’s total declared income amounting to P3 million, the BIR said they were able to acquire three properties: a P10.5-million property in Project 3, Quezon City; a P15-million commercial property on Kalayaan Avenue, Quezon City; and an P18-million mansion in La Vista, Quezon City.

The BIR computed the couple’s income tax deficiency at more than P30 million: P20.25 million for Mr. Castillo, and P9.93 million for Carla.

Carla’s BGEI shares

During his impeachment trial earlier this year, the camp of Corona claimed that Carla bought nearly all the shares of stock in Basa-Guidote Enterprise Inc., the company owned by the family of the chief magistrate’s wife Cristina.

Sheriff Joseph Bisnar of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 216, during one of the impeachment hearings in May, said he implemented a writ of execution in April 2003 to collect P500,000 in damages awarded by the court to Cristina, who won a libel case against her relatives and stockholders in BGEI, including her aunt Raymunda G. Basa and uncle Jose Ma. Basa III.

Bisnar said he posted on the bulletin board a notice of public auction of BGEI and conducted the bidding on September 30, 2003.

The chief magistrate’s daughter Carla was the lone bidder and bought the 4,839 shares of Jose and Raymunda equivalent to 90.87 percent of BGEI for P28,000, the sheriff said.

Bisnar claimed he was not aware that Jose Basa III died eight months earlier, in August 2002, when he implemented the writ of execution.

He also said he was not aware that Carla Castillo was related to Corona, who was an Associate Justice at the time.

The BGEI, a company owned by Mrs. Corona’s family, was supposedly the source of the P11-million loan secured by the chief magistrate which he declared as a liability in his SALN until 2009. – With a report from Lia Mañalac del Castillo/KG/YA, GMA News

A Cup O’ Kapeng Barako
By Jesse Jose

As I write this, “Isaac,” a category two hurricane bearing winds greater than 100 mph appears likely to slam into the Gulf Coast and right into Tampa, Florida, where the GOP convention is being held.

And according to news reports flooding and images of wind-damaged homes and memories of Hurricane Andrew that devastated Miami and its surroundings, might compete on TV with Romney’s “bid to seize the initiative” in the fight against President Obama for the White House.

ON FLORIDA AND HURRICANES: I lived in Florida for 13 years and a Category Two hurricane ain’t nothing. Well, it might blow off roofs from some houses and drown a handful of alligators living in swamps and caused the usual “panic buying” of groceries from Nervous Nellies, but other than that, as I said, it ain’t nothing. Just lay down low and sleep it off and hope for the best, and that hurricane will pass.

If the core of the hurricane hits you, then it hits you. Sorry na lang.

It’s your fault anyway for living in Florida. It’s a God-forsaken place. Two or three hurricanes come every year to slam the place. And it’s hot there. I mean, hot-hot, especially in the summer. There are two seasons: the dry season and the rainy season … just like the two seasons in the Motherland.

Mosquitoes, alligators, snakes and Rednecks thrive in Florida … and the human population consists mostly of “boat people” from Cuba and Jewish retirees from New York City.

And, when you shoot anybody there and kill him, you can always claim “self-defense.” Case in point: the killing of that unarmed 17-year-old boy, named Trayvon Martin.  Y’all still remember that, don’t you?

When I hear the word, “Florida,” those things come to mind. Of course, there were some happy moments and happy places that I remember, and happy, kind people that I’ve met in Florida. But they are far and few in between.

HOW I WRITE MY COLUMN: Anyway, that’s not what I want to write about, really. You see, when I write my Kapeng Barako column, I don’t have any plan in mind what to write about. I look at the blank screen of my computer and let my mind wander and whatever comes to mind is what I write about.

And if the ideas come out in an orderly fashion, it’s merely by accident or tsamba. And that’s because I write my Kapeng Barako column ONLY for fun.  Smiling and chuckling while the words pour out … and hoping it would come out as a “fun” column, too, for my readers to read.

If not, and it comes out corny, then I just say to myself: “Oh well, you can’t win them all, Hoosayy.”

Anyhoo, back to the hurricane.  Weather experts can NOT really predict how a hurricane might turn out. It might die down or veer away from its “predicted” path, or it might, all of sudden, become dangerous and lethal, increasing its fury from Category One or Two into Category Three, Four or Five, without too much of a warning.

Now if “Isaac” as a Category Two hurricane becomes, all of a sudden, a Category Three, Four or Five, then no more GOP convention to watch and goodbye Tampa, goodbye Mitt, and all those people there. Heavens forbid, of course.

ON MITT, THE TWIT: I like Mitt. He’s been called Mitt, the Twit, by the Brits, when he was in London for the Olympics to watch the horse that he and his wife, Ann, owned, compete in “horse dancing.”  And while there, he put his foot in his mouth when he said that the Brits don’t know anything about “security” for this Olympic event.

And that provoked the media in London to brand him “Mitt, the Twit.”  A twit, as defined by the Brits is a person who is a goof and a moron, and by us, Americans, as someone who’s a “loser and a dumb SOB.”

Whatever … I still like Mitt. In a recent interview, he was asked: “Have you ever felt like a loser? What did you do to overcome that feeling?”

Mitt answered: “I define myself by my relationship with God, my wife, and my family.  And in those relationships, I’m not a loser. I don’t worry about what happens in politics and the opinion of others, or I’d lose my hair….”

“And we all know you haven’t done that?” the interviewer asked.

“Glue keeps it in place,” Mitt, the Twit answered, laughing.  And yes, I like the Twit for that answer. That shows class. He’s also got a sense of humor of someone who doesn’t take himself seriously.  And to me, that’s classy, too.

Will he become America’s next president? I dunno. He’s got a lot of convincing to do about his overseas investments and his idea of implementing taxes favoring only the filthy rich, like himself.

ON PRESIDENT OBAMA: I also like President Obama. I think he’s a done a lot of good things for America, despite all the bad press about him and the economy.  He tried hard.  I like his Obamacare — health care for all Americans – is just and fair.  I think that’s magnificent of him to favor that.

I also like his stand on same-sex marriage. I think that shows depth of character.  And when he signed the Dream Act into law, I said, “okey ngarud, my main man, you’re a dawg.”   Because to me, that’s a show of compassion for our young TNT’s and wanna-be Americans, giving them the opportunity to pursue the much-coveted American Dream.

But then, as we all know, the economy sucks.  The unemployment rate has stood still at 8.3 percent.  And the total national debt now stands at $15.9 trillion.  Obama has also been dubbed as a man of “many eloquent words, but NOT an eloquent man of his words.” Hmmm.  Obama has got a lot of convincing to do, too, ha?

A PRIESTLY JOKE: This past Sunday in our church, the Holy Family Catholic Church that I go to here in Auburn, Washington, our parish priest, Father Joseph Nguyen, told a joke during his homily. He likes to tell jokes that are connected with the Readings and the Gospel. And we, his parishioners, truly enjoy his jokes.

And because of his jokes, there’s a happy and relax atmosphere in the church, and the solemnity of the mass is more of a joyful celebration, which is the way it should be.

OBAMA’S BACKPACK:   Here’s Father Joseph’s joke.  Four people were on a plane, a doctor, a priest, a Boy Scout and Mr. Obama. The plane suddenly developed engine trouble. The pilot ordered all four passengers to grab a parachute, put it on, and jump out.

But there were only three parachutes in the passenger cabin. The doctor said, “I am a doctor and I save lives, therefore I am important, so this one parachute here is mine.” The doctor put it on and jumped out of the plane.

Then Obama said, “I am Barack Hussein Obama, the president of the United States of America, and the SMARTEST man on earth, therefore I am important. So this parachute here is mine.” Obama put on his parachute and jumped out.

The priest took the third parachute and gave it to the boy and said, “Here, take this parachute. I’ve already lived my life and had saved a lot of souls. Whereas you, dear boy, still have a lot of living ahead of you.  Here’s the parachute, put it on, jump out and save yourself.”

But the boy said, “You keep it, Father.”

“But why, my dear boy, I surely couldn’t do that,” the priest said. “You’re more important than I am. You deserve to live more than I do.”

“You keep it, Father,” the boy repeated. “There’s another parachute under my seat. That man, who said he’s the ‘SMARTEST man on earth,’ took my backpack, when he jumped out.”

After Father Joseph finished telling his joke, I whispered this prayer: “Lordy, Lordy … Bye, Obama.  Happy landing in Kenya.”

PS: BTW, this parachute story had been told and retold.  When I first heard this story, it was George W. Bush who took the backpack.  Now, it’s Barack H. Obama.  Hehehe.  JJ

By Perry Diaz

The debate on the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill has been going on for years; long before President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III came to power in 2010.  Actually, it was a “hot” issue during the presidential campaign and Noynoy – as he was called then – campaigned on a promise to pass an FOI law as soon as he’s sworn in as President.

Well, it’s been more than three years since Noynoy… now, P-Noy, took the mantle of leadership and an FOI bill is still being crafted in Congress in a shape and form acceptable to P-Noy.  For some reason, there is something about the FOI bill that doesn’t meet his approval.  Or is he apprehensive about the unknown, like opening a Pandora’s box?

But what would he be apprehensive – or scared – about?  He seems to be uncertain of what he wants in the bill.  And the longer he vacillates, the less likely that anything would come out of this political exercise, which is causing a lot of people to ask, “Why can’t he make up his mind?”

Right to know

Indeed, some lawmakers are at wit’s end not knowing what to do with the FOI bill, which has been waiting for action in the House Committee on Public Information.  A few weeks ago, advocates of FOI began an advertizing campaign against Rep. Ben Evardone, the chairman of the Public Information committee, accusing him of blocking the bill.  The advertisers, “The Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition,” is a network of more than 150 organizations supporting the passage of an FOI bill.

But Evardone denied their accusation.  In a recent televised interview with Failon Ngayon, he said that the Liberal Party doesn’t have a stand on the FOI bill and that it was not on P-Noy’s legislative priority agenda.  Likewise, the bill’s authors, who include Deputy Speaker Lorenzo “Erin” Tañada III and Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, are helpless in getting the bill moving in the committee.  And where is Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. in this moro-moro?  Well, he was more like the team’s coach. But the team’s owner was P-Noy.  And what P-Noy says is what they do. 

When P-Noy ran for President in May 2010, he promised to pursue FOI.  But things have changed since then.  What changed his mind?

Or, what changed his heart?  Is it the “Right to Reply” amendment that is killing the “goose”?  The “Right of Reply” amendment would require media groups to give equal space and time to parties who were subjects of negative media attacks to respond to allegations against them.  Perhaps, the goose is not fat enough to produce good foie gras to satisfy everybody’s appetite.

Bill of Rights

Well, let’s go back to basics here, folks.  Section 7 of Article III (Bill of Rights) of the 1987 Constitution says: “The right of the people to information on matters of public concern shall be recognized. Access to official records, and to documents and papers pertaining to official acts, transactions, or decisions, as well as to government research data used as basis for policy development, shall be afforded the citizen, subject to such limitations as may be provided by law.”

Now, why can’t Congress enact a law that would satisfy Section 7 of the Bill of Rights?  And this is where politics comes into play.  Politicians want the “Right to Reply” amendment inserted in the FOI bill.  The question is: How does this amendment relate to the provision of Section 7?  The answer is: No, it does not.  Why can’t they then remove this amendment and introduce it at a future date as a bill by itself?  In that case, the FOI bill can then move forward in Evardone’s committee.

But is that the only obstacle to the passage of an FOI law?  Would it soothe P-Noy and encourage him to give the thumbs-up to his followers in the House of Representatives?

It is interesting to note that 26 years after the EDSA People Power Revolution that catapulted P-Noy’s mother – Cory Aquino — to power, the country is still struggling in poverty and corruption is as rampant as it was quarter of a century ago.  Although the Bill of Rights was enshrined in the 1987 Constitution – also known as People Power Constitution — not much has been done to protect the people.


Indeed, nothing has been done to promote transparency and accountability in the government.  Corruption is still prevalent in the conduct of government business.  During Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s nine-year presidency, the Philippines became one of the most – if not the most — corrupt countries in Asia.

P-Noy’s ascension to power somewhat curbed graft and corruption but not as much as the people would like it to be.  His “matuwid na daan” (straight path) policy seems to be more of a political slogan than a code of conduct for government employees to adhere to.  In the vast labyrinth of the bureaucracy, corrupt officials continue their nefarious activities.  To most of them, it’s business as usual.  Why?

P-Noy should – nay, must! – realize that his anti-corruption drive is not going to succeed without dismantling the patronage system that is protecting the corrupt.  Only the passage of an FOI law could end corruption in government.  Indeed, FOI is the key to winning the war on corruption.

I don’t blame P-Noy for not using his authority to enact an FOI law.  Perhaps he is under tremendous pressure from his political allies who might be hurt politically – and economically – by an FOI law.

But in the end, it is P-Noy’s legacy that is at stake.  Will he succeed?  Which reminds me of George Harrison’s popular song, “The Answer’s at the End.”  It goes: “Scan not a friend with a microscopic glass.  You know his faults, now let his foibles pass.”


Says Judiciary needs to undergo reforms


My way. New Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno appealed to the public to allow her to lead the Judiciary in her own way in her speech at the 23rd Conference of the Presidents of Law Associations in Asia at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City. PHOTO BY JONAS SULIT

AFTER shunning media interviews, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno yesterday begged the indulgence of the public to allow the judiciary to undertake a “process of reflection” and for her to lead the Supreme Court in her own way.

Speaking before Filipino and foreign delegates in the 23rd Presidents of Law Association in Asia (POLA), held at the Marriott Hotel in Pasay City, Sereno said the judiciary bore witness to significant changes in the country’s political, social and economic landscape, but it has yet to be responsive to the demands of its stakeholders.

To do that, she said, the judiciary has to undergo a process of “redefining itself,” by implementing reforms which she wants under her 18-year watch.

“For the judiciary then, to be a responsive judiciary, considering the way our society is evolving, it has to undergo a process of redefining itself and the terms of engagement with direct users of its services… How should the judiciary define itself in the increasing demand for transparency, when the judiciary is by constitutional definition required to be removed from the passion of politics and from intense discussions on the shaping of society?” she said.

“I therefore ask for help from the Filipino people to give the judiciary room to undertake a process of reflection and to allow the chief justice to lead in that way. As I stated in my public interview, I believe that judicial reforms must not revolve around and be dependent solely upon the personality of the chief justice. Rather, it must be the product of collective vision, one forged under the leadership of the chief justice. I think that inevitably, these dialogues among members of the judiciary will lead to significant changes in governance,” she added.

In a statement Tuesday, her first day of work as chief justice, Sereno said she is declining media interviews to bring back the Court’s golden days of “dignified silence,” when the court keeps to itself, removed from political partisanship, and magistrates are just heard or read through their decisions.

Yesterday in her speech, her first speaking engagement since she was appointed to the top judicial post, Sereno said that while the Philippines earned the distinction of being the “first democracy” in Asia, it must not rest on its laurels and fall into an “untempered pride,” lest the people set themselves up for a deep disenchantment once their ideals do not materialize.

“Thus, I would like to suggest that we look at ourselves as a young country in terms of our social and political interactions in the sphere of governance, and young as we are, we should be thankful for we have thus accomplished. We have ushered in to the world a unique phenomenon such as the People Power, and we have started introducing into governance structure manifestations of people power in different forms,” she said.

Among reforms she wants to implement, Sereno said, is a paper-less judicial system, to lessen the dependence of the institution on written records yet still sustain its physical integrity.

“We have to accept environmental and technological realities facing us. We in the judiciary must watch, and respond effectively to these changes taking place. We need to think of our judicial records and ensure their physical integrity when disaster strikes. We have to rethink our paper-based system, and usher in a judicial system that is less paper-dependent. We have to do our share in minimizing the amount of trees cut down with more paper demands,” she said.

She also urged the public to be more patient as she confirmed reports on the full disclosure of her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

She told media, “As earlier conveyed to you, a statement will be issued soon that will indicate what has taken place in yesterday’s (August 28) en banc session and that will include disclosures of the SALN of the chief justice…Please be patient as I take very good care in ensuring that I am exact, deliberate and careful at all times.”

May Catapay, executive assistant in the Office of the Chief Justice, said Sereno’s SALN will be released today.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the best “megaphone” for the Supreme Court is the decisions it would issue.

He also said Sereno’s “dignified silence” policy is nothing new and is observed in other countries like the United States.

“It has always been stated not only in this country but also in the United States that they are better heard through their decisions…they interpret the laws and therefore, ang mas importante sa atin, sa bansa natin, (is) how they interpret the laws through the decisions they make,” he said.

House majority leader Neptali Gonzales II said Sereno is only moving to insulate the judiciary from politics and giving it a “fresh start.”

“Iyon ay isang bagay na I take my hats off, kay Chief Justice Sereno, talaga naman ang SC is not a political office na talagang mabuti talaga iyon na ang kanilang boses ay madidinig sa pamamagitan ng mga desisyon nila,” he said.

Gonzales appealed to the public for understanding, saying Sereno is facing big challenges.

“Ang sinisigaw talaga dati doon, judicial reforms, at yung nababalitang graft and corruption sa hanay ng hudikatura kaya malaking hamon talaga ang kanyang haharapin,” he said. – With Jocelyn Montemayor and Wendell Vigilia