April 2016

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-and-Neil-LlamanzaresRecently, Teodoro Daniel Misael V. Llamanzares has come to the limelight of Philippine politics. For “Neil” – that’s his moniker — who had held a top secret job in the United States, he’d be expected to avoid publicity, let alone people spying into his background. That would certainly make him uneasy because his former employer, Scientific Applications International Corporation (SAIC), happens to be a spy outfit. SAIC has a symbiotic relationship with the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). For years, SAIC was NSA’s largest contractor, earning the nickname ‘NSA West’ inside the intelligence community. Would it be accurate to classify Neil as a “spy” when he worked for SAIC?

SAIC-HQ-HuntsvilleAccording to the article, “Washington’s $8 Billion Shadow,” published in Vanity Fair Magazine on February 6, 2007, SAIC is the biggest and most powerful of the government contractors. At that time, SAIC had 9,000 government contracts, many of which involved secret intelligence work; hence, it was called a “stealth company.” It had 44,000 employees at that time and took in $8 billion the previous year, including a lot of the “expertise” behind the Iraq War.

With all the wars and crises going on now, it makes one wonder how SAIC is doing these days? Open Source Investigations (OSI) – which is comprised of investigative journalists, researchers, analysts, and fact-checkers – said that SAIC is the largest private intelligence service in the world.

Body shop

CIA-science-of-spyingNeil Llamanzares’ connection to America’s intelligence community surfaced when a curious De La Salle professor, Antonio Contreras, checked Llamanzares’ background in the Internet. And what he uncovered was a can of worms! As it turned out, SAIC is a “body shop” that provides expertise to the intelligence agencies in the following areas: weapons, homeland security, surveillance, computer systems, information dominance, and information warfare. Neil worked for SAIC as an “Area Manager/Systems Architect” from November 2004 to April 2006. He was assigned to the U.S. intelligence agencies; e.g., NSA, CIA, DIA.

It’s interesting to note what OSI had posted on its website. It said: “In the verified answer submitted to the [Philippines’] Senate Electoral Tribunal, Grace Poe said that she returned to the Philippines in May 2005 while her husband ‘stayed in the U.S.A. to finish pending projects and to arrange for the sale of the family home there’.

Grace-Poe-mansion-US“That was a partial truth in Grace Poe’s web of lies.

“Neil Llamanzares did stay in the US until May 2006. He did sell their million-dollar mansion. And he did have very important projects to finish. But both Grace Poe and her husband kept the nature of those important projects secret.

“And that is because the Philippine presidential candidate’s husband is a former US Intelligence contractor.”

Neil’s American projects

Computer-screenIf anyone wondered what “pending projects” Neil might have been finishing, the following are some of the projects that OSI identified as within the scope of his employment with SAIC:

NSA’s Trailblazer – a new computer system able to store, sort and give meaning to the massive volume of telephone, e-mail, and other electronic communications that the NSA intercepts worldwide (including in the Philippines).

DIA and CIA’s Office of Strategic Influence – a program designed to feed disinformation to the foreign press (including to the press in the Philippines).

DIA’s Joint Intelligence Operation Center – a worldwide group of joint intelligence organizations that gather, interpret, and act on information collected by the DIA and its sister agencies, NSA, NGA, and NRO (including from the Philippines).

Military life

Prior to Neil’s employment at SAIC, he served in the U.S. Air Force from 1988 to 1992. When Neil married Grace Poe in the Philippines in 1991, the couple moved to America where Neil was then in active duty in the U.S. Air Force.

But these facts were contrary to what Grace had told a gathering of Filipino-Americans in Los Angeles on June 14, 2014. She talked about her “immigrant life in the U.S.” She claimed that her husband got a job in the U.S. and decided to live as immigrants in America where “opportunities are limitless for those who work hard.”

That was a bunch of lies! First, Neil was already in active military service in the U.S. when they got married. Secondly, Neil is an American citizen. Thirdly, they lived a military life in a military base, which by no means can be called “immigrant life.”

Mutation

Evidently, Grace tried to identify herself with the Filipino-American community, but the truth is she was detached from it. There were no records or history of Grace getting involved in the Fil-Am community for the two decades that she lived in the U.S.

Interestingly, Grace has yet to publicly acknowledge that Neil was formerly enlisted in the U.S. military and that his most recent job was with an espionage mega-contractor. One thing – and only one thing – could come to mind why she was quiet about all these. Could it be that she didn’t want the Philippine electorate to think that she could be controlled by the CIA through Neil who could still be under the influence of SAIC?

Grace-Poe-Chinese-flagOr perhaps, Grace’s veil of secrecy is intended to blunt any attempt to discredit her pronounced “anti-American” campaign rhetoric, which seems to be just a ploy to mutate her image as an “American military wife living in a military base housing.”

House of cards

It did not then come as a surprise that many Filipinos perceive Grace as an “American puppet,” hence her endeavor to distance herself from the U.S. But the fact remains that her husband – who is a dual citizen — has yet to renounce his American citizenship. What’s taking him so long? Grace explained that the process has been started. However, she pointed out that renunciation of one’s U.S. citizenship requires providing information of his or her whereabouts over the last five years, which raises the question: Why is it taking Neil so long to declare where he had been? His U.S. passport should show all his travels outside the country.

But a persistent rumor is going around that Neil would renounce his American citizenship after the election. Can that be qualified to say: “…only if Grace wins”? There is a Filipino term for that – “sigurista.” But for now they are living in a “house of cards,” which could collapse at the slightest whiff of political miscalculation. But keeping his American citizenship would guarantee his return to the U.S. if and when he decides to go back. And with his experience working for SAIC before, he might even be rehired to his old job.

With all the intrigue and political games being played, the question remains: Who is Neil Llamanzares? Is he really an American spy or just an opportunist who is playing a very dangerous version of Russian roulette; that is, five bullets and one empty chamber?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Duterte-PagbabagoJust a few weeks ago, the man to beat for the presidency was Jejomar “Jojo” Binay. As a sitting vice president, Binay had the advantage of incumbency. He used his position as second-in-command to President Benigno “P-Noy” Aquino III and as the administration’s “Housing Czar.” It was no wonder then that his popularity ratings were consistently high in all the years he was residing at the Marcos-era Coconut Palace, a “gift” from his erstwhile friend P-Noy. Indeed, his power was so immense that when he declared his intention to run for president early in his term, he was considered a shoo-in for the presidency. Indeed, he was on top of the world. His time was about to come. But as the presidential campaign period goes into the homestretch, his world turned upside down! What the hell happened?

Call it fate — or misfortune — but Binay lost his primacy in an election that was his to win, but he blew it. With Election Day just a month away, the presidential race has narrowed down to two candidates – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte and Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares — who are now statistically tied in the latest surveys. However, what is interesting to note is that Duterte – who placed fourth two months ago – has surged to three percentage points over Llamanzares. What does that tell you? Any political pundit would tell you that Duterte is pulling ahead to victory in a tight sprint against Llamanzares.

But like any other presidential election, nobody has a crystal ball that accurately predicts the winner. It’s a game of political survival where the “cheatest” wins. But don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that all candidates have to cheat in order to win. An honest candidate can still win if he or she could muster the resources to prevent other candidates from cheating. But how do you prevent your opponent from cheating?

Surveys

Laylo-survey-March-2016The fact that Duterte (30%) and Llamanzares (27%) are only 3% apart in the latest survey conducted by Laylo Research Strategies, the election could go either way. The rest of the survey shows Mar Roxas with 21%, Binay with 18%, and Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago with 2%. The survey has a national margin of error of +/- 1.8%. But here’s the stinger: If you look at the trend, Duterte’s campaign is gaining momentum – he was in fourth place several months ago — and if the upward trend is unbroken, he could win the presidency.

Forget about Binay; his quest for the presidency has already gone south. He’ll never recover, not with Duterte and Llamanzares tying for first place and he a distant fourth place with Roxas in precipitous third place. With luck, Binay might be able to overcome one or even two of the three. But to deal the front-runners — Duterte and Llamanzares — a debilitating blow would take a miracle unless he resorts to massive election fraud.

Duterte vs. Llamanzares

 So let’s forget about Binay and Roxas and look objectively at a Duterte-Llamanzares face-off:

1. Family background – Duterte’s father was a former governor. Llamanzares’ adoptive father was a movie actor.

2. Citizenship – Duterte is a natural-born Filipino. Llamanzares is a foundling with unknown parentage.

3. Education – Duterte is a Bachelor of Laws graduate and a lawyer. Llamanzares supposedly took a teacher’s licensure in the U.S. but did not pass it.

4. Judiciary experience – Duterte was a former Prosecutor and Fiscal. Llamanzares has none.

5. Legislative experience – Duterte was a former Congressman. Llamanzares is a neophyte senator elected in 2013.

6. Chief executive experience – Duterte is Davao City Mayor for more than 20 years. Llamanzares has none.

7. Campaign donors – Duterte only accepts donations from the people. Danding Cojuangco, who was known as the “King of Cronies” during the kleptocratic Marcos regime, reputedly finances Llamanzares’ campaign.

8. Presidential theme – Duterte will fight corruption, criminals, and drug traffickers. Llamanzares said that she would continue what Fernando Poe Jr. (FPJ) had started, which makes one wonder: Other than acting, what had FPJ started that has to do with good governance?

Election fraud

Guns-Goons-GoldI don’t have to convince my readers whom I believe would make a better President and Commander-in-Chief between Duterte and Llamanzares? But in a democracy, whoever gets the majority of the votes wins.

But here is the rub: In most presidential elections since 1946 when the Philippines became a republic, various forms of election cheating were used. In the early years of the republic, vote-buying and the infamous “flying voters” were keys to winning the election. Then, cheating became more sophisticated with the use of dagdag-bawas (add-subtract) system where electoral results were manipulated to give favored candidates majority of the votes with the connivance of Commission on Elections (Comelec) officials. During the 1960s, election-cheating took a quantum leap when “Guns, Goons, and Gold” (3 Gs) became the rule rather than the exception.

Electronic vote-counting

Duterte-rally.1But elections in 2010 changed all that. Well, “3 Gs” was still popular in intimidating, terrorizing, and bribing the voters. However, the introduction of the automated Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) vote-counting machine improved the speed with which votes were counted and tabulated. Assuming that the PCOS machines were programmed correctly and insulated from manual manipulation, vote-counting is reliable.

But here is the caveat: Like any automated system, the rule of thumb is GIGO, which means “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” Although cheating was never proven during the 2010 and 2013 elections, there were numerous complaints, particularly in the 2013 elections when a citizens’ group claimed that the PCOS machines were programmed to generate what came to be known as “60-30-10,” where certain candidates were pre-programmed to get around 60% of the votes. Thus, the pejorative term Hocus-PCOS was coined. This also came to be known as “electronic dagdag-bawas,” which would be hard to detect and expose.

Who-is-the-next-president-2016In a tight election, a small amount of cheating could make the difference. And this is where Digong and Grace have to make an effort to stay on top to prevent or discourage cheating. Needless to say, preventing the other candidate from cheating doesn’t necessarily mean that he or she wouldn’t resort to cheating. It is not unusual for the financiers of a certain candidate to resort to cheating – without the express knowledge of their candidate – to protect their “investments.” They know that if their candidate loses, they’re not going to receive “dividends” on their capital. Is it then fair to presume that if there were no big-time financiers to a candidate then the probability of election cheating engineered by financiers is virtually nil?

At the end of the day, while money may still reigns supreme in an election; there are no substitutes to vigilance and a strong grassroots campaign. And if you ask me, “Can Digong beat Grace?” my answer is: With Duterte’s ability to draw large and enthusiastic crowds anywhere he goes, my answer is an unqualified “Yes.”

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

PerryScope
By Perry Diaz

Grace-Poe-white-shirtWhen Sen. Grace Poe-Llamanzares declared her candidacy for president of the Philippines, she confessed that she didn’t have the organization or the resources to run a presidential campaign. With no political party to provide the resources, manpower, and a nationwide political network — and without tons of moolah, which she admittedly lacks – Grace’s campaign vehicle would be like a Mercedes Benz 500 with a go-kart engine. It wouldn’t be able to move just like a carabao stuck in quicksand.

But the “lady in white” – she loves to wear men’s white shirt in campaign sorties – must have some kind of “voodoo” power, as someone had suggested, to generate billions of pesos for her campaign. But that’s an outlandish notion unless you believe in kulam or witchcraft. And if you don’t believe any of that, a more plausible explanation is that the money is from some mega-rich oligarch who sees in Grace the “perfect puppet” who could easily be influenced once elected. This makes one wonder: Is the government run by oligarchs? If you ask me, my answer is simple: Yes, absolutely!

But you might argue that, just like Uncle Sam the Philippines is a democratic country with democratically elected politicians who are mandated to preserve a government in the image of what U.S. President Abraham Lincoln aptly described in his Gettysburg Address, to wit: “This nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

“Government run like hell…”

Manuel-Quezon-government-run-like-hellWell, the bad news is that our motherland – “Inang Bayan” – has been run just like how the late Philippine Commonwealth President Manuel L. Quezon had envisioned it to be when he said: “I prefer a government run like hell by Filipinos to a government run like heaven by Americans.” That’s what most Filipinos remember to this day. But that was only the first part of what he said. Not many Filipinos recall the second part, which was: “Because, however bad a Filipino government might be, we can always change it.”

Noynoy.6Quezon might not have realized that what he declared then would become the campaign template of politicians seeking the presidency, to wit: Attack the current president and his administration’s standard bearer as bad leaders, and present yourself as the “agent for change.” Indeed, President Benigno Aquino III’s campaign slogan was “Change” or “Pagbabago.” It worked because the voters bought it, hook, line, and sinker.

It is no wonder then that most of the time Filipinos would vote against an incumbent president (or his administration’s candidate) and elect the opposition candidate whom they perceive as the “agent for change.” Indeed, this strategy was influenced by Quezon’s “government run like hell” mantra. All the candidate has to do is make a convincing appeal to the voters’ emotions.

Tip of the iceberg

Danding and Grace

Danding and Grace

But to do an excellent job of convincing the people, the candidate needs lots and lots of money. And this is where the oligarchs, plutocrats, kleptocrats, and influence peddlers come into play. Collectively, they have billions to invest in a candidate. But there are always strings attached; they want huge returns on their “investments.” And this makes the candidate, once elected president, indebted to them for a long time.

How do you think the new president would repay his or her financiers who’d expect the dividends of their investments go as high as tenfold… maybe more? And where do you think an indentured president will get the money to pay these dividends? This is where corruption kicks in and the new president will end up running the government just like Quezon had envisioned… like hell.

It’s a vicious cycle and there is no end to it. However, it can be mitigated. In other words, corruption can be minimized if the new president doesn’t have to kick back huge “dividends,” and conversely, corruption can be maximized if large amounts were donated to his or her campaign. It’s simple mathematics and there are no exceptions; which begs the question: Given that Llamanzares had admitted that she didn’t have the organization and finances to run a presidential campaign, where did she get the funds she spent for “pre-campaign ads”? That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Indeed, more money has to be pumped into her campaign to beat her closest rivals, Vice President Jejomar “Jojo” Binay and Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte. Latest reporting data show that she had bought more than 20,000 ad slots – more than any of her rivals — in the six weeks prior to the May 9th elections.

Campaign expenditures

Campaign-Expenses-2016So far, Binay had spent the largest amount for “pre-campaign ads,” which is P1.05 billion followed by Llamanzares at P1.02 billion. Roxas spent P969.2 million and Duterte only spent P146.4 million. Would it then fair to presume that if Binay wins, his administration would be more corrupt than any of his rivals? And since Llamanzares is just a tad below Binay’s “pre-campaign ads” expenditures, would that indicate that her administration would be as corrupt as Binay’s?

And by simple process of elimination, who do you think would have the least corrupt administration? The answer is in the stats, which would indicate that Duterte, having the lowest campaign expenditure, would have the least corrupt administration.

Corruption

Corruption-in-the-Philippines.2Interestingly, all the candidates had vowed to fight corruption. My reaction is: Hahaha… But what else can they say? Would anyone of them claim that his or her administration would be the “least” corrupt? Of course not! That would be the “kiss of death.”

But the candidates have been trained in the “art of denial.” By denying any knowledge of who donated to their campaigns, it would insulate them from favor-seeking donors. That’s hogwash! Do you think an oligarch who donated… say, P200 million, would want to remain anonymous? On the contrary, donations would open doors of “business” opportunities for the donors.

At the end of the day, it’s a legal and moral responsibility of the candidates to disclose the donors to their campaigns. It’s the right of the people to know who the financiers are, particularly if they are foreigners. This is so the people would know that no foreign entities – friends or enemies of the state alike – are “investing” in presidential campaigns or any campaign for that matter. It’s one thing to be indebted to Filipinos but to be indentured to foreigners smack of treason because you can never tell what those foreigners would demand once you’re elected into office. And this brings to the fore the question: Who is bankrolling Grace Poe-Llamanzares’ campaign?

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)