Friday, July 31, 2009

Penniless Priest for President

by Fr. Shay Cullen
from PREDA Foundation

Is he a priest, prophet or president-to-be? These are the questions that are surrounding the public announcement by Pampanga governor, Father Eddie Panlilio that he will seek the Presidency of the Philippines, “if the support is there”, says this penniless priest-on-leave turned politician. He won an extremely popular mandate as governor of Pampanga in 2007 in a phenomenal election that narrowly dethroned the bid of the powerful Pineda family clan, a close ally of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is also from the province. The defeated clan leader Lillia Pineda deposited four million pesos to the election commission as fee for a recount to unseat Governor Panlilio despite the fact that he has only 11 months left in office.

The decision of the highly-respected priest, known affectionally as “Among Ed”, who was suspended from his priestly duties as social action director of the San Fernando Archdiocese when he ran for governor, is very courageous. He entered the political arena as a means to bring the Church’s moral and social teaching to bear on the corrupt-ridden province.

”It was not a failing of Among Ed’s priestly ministry or that of the Church that allowed evil and abominable practices to prevail but because of corrupt unscrupulous politicians”, said a close supporter of the governor who asked not to be named for this article. He was referring to the politically approved and spread of the sex industry and illegal gambling. The city of San Fernando and Angeles city and surrounding towns are flooded with trafficked and prostituted women and children, some as young as 11 years old.

The widespread availability of child pornography, cyber sex dens and foreign sex tourists that are embraced and feted as economic saviors has shocked the good people of Pampanga. “They have turned our beautiful province into a Sodom and Gomorra, money is their God and Among Ed was the only one leading us to stand against it”, he said. They took a stand and elected Father Ed Panlilio as governor whose prized worldly possession is a 1999 model motorbike and an old battered car.

They were not to be disappointed. In his quite unruffled manner he eliminated corruption in the provincial tax collection office and in construction projects and poured the money into education, health and social welfare for the poor. This infuriated the entrenched political lackeys that ruled every town and village and got a share of the largest of the provincial treasury. Abandoned by police protection, pipe welding goons broke into his office in the capitol building and threatened to beat him and his staff to death. Supporters rushed to his side to protect him.

Following his announcement to run for president last 18 July, Archbishop Paciano Aniceto spoke of his deep disappointment and objection at these plans that will require the governor to apply for a dispensation from the priesthood. The archbishop told the media “He is drifting from his original priestly mission. A priest is a servant of the City of God, not of the city of man”.

The church has maintained a strict line of separation between Church and State although progressive bishops have spoken out on politically-sensitive issues such as corruption and social evils, the environmental destruction and irresponsible mining.

The church leaders have been rightly urging the Catholic laity to “evangelize politics” and to make Christian values and social teaching a driving force in national policy. What no one could foresee was that the laity have been taught to trust and respect the clergy so much and they depend on church leadership for so long, they couldn’t but choose a priest to lead them in that evangelical quest.

Are they to be chided or admired for electing this penniless priest and pushing him towards the presidency? This rare uncorrupted man of God who is free of debts to family or party, tycoons and multinationals, church or clergy or any earthly power, is a powerful attraction for many Filipinos that hunger and thirst for social justice and honest government. They want such a candidate to be president. He is the one candidate that is the nightmare of all the rest. END

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Why Arroyo seeks an Obama audience




WHY is the 14th president of the Philippines, Gloria Arroyo, going to Washington for a 30-minute meeting with the water-walking American president? The easy answer is that she's tried four times so far to meet him, to get some burnish off his shine, to help with her rock-bottom image back home.

She even all but broke into a prayer breakfast in Washington to which heads of state were not invited (other than the host president), in hopes of a meeting. She flew all the way from Dubai on hearing of the breakfast, got herself attached to a congressional delegation, and then didn't get even a minute with Barack Obama.

She reportedly chewed out the Philippine ambassador for not being camera-ready to show the folks back home how close she came.

Now, as an American I don't like to say it, but visits by or to an American president are always valuable back home. Bill Clinton, planning a visit to Africa and choosing Ghana as main stop, wouldn't commit to the visit until strongman Flt Lieut Jerry Rawlings had publicly committed to stepping down after the impending elections. Once there, Clinton put his fingers back in the fire to get another commitment. Rawlings did indeed step down.

Everyone in Manila is hoping that's the real reason why Obama is receiving Arroyo. She just refuses to commit to ending her term next June peaceably. Oddly, the American embassy thinks she won't make a fuss (something small like martial law, locking up all the opposition, for example) and they may know things that I don't. Or they are asleep on the job.

There's good reason for her to want to linger at the palace, where she also spent four teenage years during her reformist father's presidency. Believed to be the most corrupt president in Philippine history, according to popular polls, Arroyo knows she can be slapped with multiple criminal charges the minute she surrenders immunity.

And not just in Manila but elsewhere, like San Francisco, where she and her husband reportedly own properties, and injunctions can be laid against questions of laundered money.

Now what does Obama know about all this? The president might only get a 15-minute briefing from an assistant secretary in these circumstances, because the president already has a feel for Southeast Asia. But one thing he's sure to hear about is a CIA report alleging that her husband bagged a vast amount of money in the Middle East, intended for Filipino development, and promptly handed over half of it, for safekeeping, to his brother, a congressman.

He forgot that his sister-in-law is a Phil-Am Californian, where property is divided 50-50 in case of divorce. So what did the wife do? According to this report, she sued for divorce, leaving the "First Gentleman" with the choice of going after the money and thus revealing its source, or just writing it off. But that's just for starters.

Obama will know of the report of a highly regarded jurist, Phillip Alston, that the almost 1,000 "disappearances" of non-governmental organisation workers and journalists ("extra-judicial executions" is the term he used) in the provinces didn't pass the straight-face test at the palace; that nothing like this could have happened without some blessing from on high.

"Soldiers don't go around killing civilians just for the hell of it," an elder statesman in Manila commented -- and he's a retired general at that. "They'd only do that if pushed from the top."

Obama, of course, is concerned with terrorism, and there's revolution still in the Muslim parts of Mindanao, with long arms reaching into al-Qaeda. And the Philippines is an important and long-time ally of the US. But to argue that this is why Obama is seeing Arroyo doesn't pass the straight-face test either. Not for a 30-minute meeting; not even a "working visit".

What's happened is that, in contrast with Indonesia where high-level prosecution of corruption is moving steadily forward along with the economy, the Philippines is being dragged lower and lower: its place on the world corruption index has fallen precipitously, there's an atmosphere of impunity at the top, and investors are running scared.

Last week, I briefed a group of European bankers, and the only thing they wanted to know was whether Arroyo would step down. They are correctly calculating that if she doesn't, all hell will break loose here, with the economy careening accordingly.

No president has ever had lower popularity ratings. But Arroyo is safe from impeachment by a compliant House of Representatives. Everyone's willing to let her sit out her term, if only because everyone is tired of "people power" in the streets.

But if she breaks ranks and declares martial law on some trumped-up reason (like the recent bombings, widely believed to have been planted to condition the population) or finds another way to trump the constitution, everyone will once again pour out into the streets -- and this time it will be bloody.

The writer is professor emeritus at the Fletcher School of Law & Diplomacy, Tufts University

Rice Shortage in the World: Its Implications on Poor Countries


Foodstuff prices remain unstable in lesser developed economies despite the recent stability from price fluctuations. Subsidies mean rich countries are undercutting the poor countries’ farmers and discouraging investments where they are most needed. No one doubts the system of distribution is tied tightly into the commodities market, if less so than before. The “players” having recourse to those funds have interests far from those of the end-consumer.

There is the currency problem that in its entirety hinges around the weak US dollar. Trades are largely affected in that international currency commodity prices reflect the volatility presently seen in currency trades. Dealers are still buying ahead to secure their accustomed profits not in the least concerned about the effects of those essentially unenlightened capitalist practices that lift prices indiscriminately. All the evidence points to the intentionally weakening their dollar under the previous administration to offset the country’s impossibly huge debt as the dollar is getting cheaper as each day passes and the Iraq-Afghanistan invasions continue.

Then, in parallel, there are the protectionist moves disguised as the promotion of environmentalism, fair trade and labor rights where developed-country style provisions are lobbied into undeveloped countries’ manufacturing sectors. The effect of these policies in countries, such as Bangladesh, was to put many young girls in the textiles trade on the street, as factories closed for reasons of no under-age employment. But it wasn’t as if there were schools for the unemployed young people to go to instead.

This kind of protectionism is also going toward the defeat of China as manufacturing giants invincible, ad factories are moving out of the special zones into the remoter regions, e.g., Chengdu in Sichuan and Changsha in Hunan, and factories are even abandoning China altogether and moving to Vietnam and Cambodia, and even India. The trend is for large multinational corporations to adopt a “China-plus-one” strategy out that Asia manufacturing presence and to minimize risk by having that open-ended choice to pick the cheapest and leave the others and move on. Even Chinese manufacturers are opening up plants in other parts of Asia – TLC Corps is upgrading its facilities in Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines. The same is happening in agribusiness.

Farming today in most places is controlled by vested interests like the innocent-sounding graziers unions that hold courses where corporate outsiders or government officials—of governments that have sold out to those corporations—come in and inform of the latest seed varieties and their associated fertilizers, weed killers and pesticides, the schedule of planting plus applications, the sources where you get those—and yes: “…we stock them and offer free delivery and you get a juice blender if you join up today.” Those graziers unions are locked-in to larger corporations and when investigating the origins of those corporations to get back to a Dow Jones or Nestle. It is amazing how far and deep the tentacles of those multinational conglomerates stretch. Farmers need to be able to operate freely but in making their own decisions, they need free access to information, not information dovetailed by others.

As eager-for-dollar countries earmark more land for industrial use and residences lose their own high flyers because this money-go-around is creating a bubble of the upper moneyed-class in economically undeveloped countries, the small- and medium-sized farmers are getting squeezed and the landless are increasing in number and are in some instances on the rebound from the big cities--having learned the hard way that to be destitute in a city is much worse than being unemployed in one’s own home town among relatives. It is as though everything is out of control, but that is really a fallacy. In the end, it all depends on the little man seeing that what is done on the micro level really does make a difference—immediately, to that one, that family, that company in its local situation—thus the country as a whole. That’s where the effort needs be placed. The whole shebang needs to be decentralized. That, in turn, can affect changes at the macro level.—“the trickle-up effect.” Then, people can cease worrying about the macro-news so daily repeated as problematic. There is quite enough to do locally and within the immediate situation to keep everyone busy—and fed.

In the case of rig prices in the Philippines, the world’s largest rice importer, beyond the affordability of the poor sector, the government response, the promise by the Arroyo crowd of putting lots of money into rejuvenating farming, is so predictable. Where will that money go? Will it get to the small farmer? No! It will go to the already well funded institutes like the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), into high-yield variety research. While the IRRI has done and is doing excellent research--they have been into that for 20 years—how will they solve any problem now? They have already supplied the answers: These need implementation.

Then there is the matter of land security and legal titles. Unless a small grower has title to his land there is no guarantee of security and it takes time consuming TLC to build a good soil; thus legalization of ownership is an imperative. For the big landowners this is not a problem because they can buy their way through the legal process if someone arrives on the doorstep threatening security of tenure. Most of Asia is without that infrastructure of laws that make the carrying of capital possible. Capitalism works within a legal framework and without that there is now way to accumulate capital, to organize vale, and to be able to transfer it. It is the rule of law that makes the market economy—a legal property system, good contracts, good administration of justice and proper representation on paper. No contract means no credit, no way of constituting a company that can issue shares, thus nothing to sell against investment.

The smaller scale rice farmer can opt out of the agri-biz approach and bring imethods of cultivation where preparing the land prior to planting is the norm, using locally available leaf toppings and green manuring with much less reliance on synthetic fertilizers—also falling back on old proven varieties that cannot match the HYVs in terms of volume of product but are less (up-front financially) demanding and versatile, hardier, meaning less disease and pest worries—as slower growth means a stronger, more resilient plant. Ice and other products fro hardy plants also store better.

Many learned farmers argue that a lack of genetic variation makes specific strains more susceptible to getting wiped out by a single pest or pathogen, or to gradual climate change. In 1970, 15% of the US corn crop was destroyed when blight swept the grain belt. In the mid-19th century, the Irish potato crop crashed, causing famine that killed a million people. The reason? Dominant plant varieties were too genetically alike and therefore vulnerable to he same enemies. Local produce needs to feed the locals first with only the surplus going to export to far away place. Of course, a region can have cash crop but profits must go to regional coffers, not the central government-business groups. This will wrest away from others control over the distribution and assure neighbors are fed first. This done countrywide would have the desired decentralization effect.

The Little Man holds the key to the door of the path to the only way out. He must regain control. It’s the David and Goliath scenario in the 21st century. On the macro level, governments as country managers need to tae another look at the benefits of unenlightened industrialization of everything. What is the real merit in producing the cheapest shoe? Will your cheap shoe be the one chosen by Wal-Mart? What is the reason to sacrifice an entire strata of working-class people on the altar of consumerism? The price of foodstuffs needs to be locally contained. The distribution and marketing controls must be wrested away from those whose motives are profit-based. Decentralization is the key. The rich-poor gap must be bridged locally, hen the Big City will also look after itself and live in a more proportionate way with the lifestyles that do not marginalize the countryside.

*Tony Hen is a free-lance journalist who is based in Hong Kong (since 1980). He is chairman of the Humanist Association of Hong Kong.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Damaged Control

by Antonio C. Abaya
from Standard Today
21 July 2009

Malacañang went on damage control mode after the clumsy handling by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita of the inputs of a reader to my blog, that she heard from some relatives of Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno that Puno “had a devious plan to be president of our disoriented countrymen and become someone like (North Korean “Beloved Leader”) Kim Jong il…” (Puno’s ‘Devious Plan’? July 06, 2009)

After Puno left for the US on June 27, DILG assistant secretary Brian Yamsuan said Sec. Puno had gone to the US to attend the wedding of her daughter Tami in San Francisco on July 04. Sec. Ermita said Puno had gone on medical leave. Yamsun said Sec. Puno had no medical problem and would be back in Manila on July 13.

Sec Ermita said Sec. Puno’s leave was “open-ended” and would last “for weeks.” In anticipation if this “open-ended leave” that would last “for weeks,” Ermita appointed an officer-in-charge (OIC), none other than one of President Gloria’s favorites, Public Works Secretary (and former general) Hermogenes Ebdane.

Well, Puno came back, as per his schedule, on July 13 and forthwith resumed his duties at the DILG, making Ermita’s OIC superfluous.

The score in this soft-shoe confrontation is: Puno 3, Ermita 0.

But it was not a minor flap. Ermita was obviously protecting the Queen from the “devious plan” of one of her own Knights to unseat her, soon. But Ermita’s ham-fisted defense has made the Queen even more fatally vulnerable.

A second reader, who claimed to have known Puno for years, had emailed me on May 28, that he would not be surprised if Puno, who has helped make three other persons (Fidel Ramos, Joseph Estrada, Gloria Arroyo) president, in 1992, 1998 and 2004 respectively, would now concentrate on making himself (Puno) president. Even if it means betraying Gloria Arroyo, he emphasized.

And why not? According to a third reader, Puno, at 19 years, promised his bride of 18 that he would make her First Lady one day. And that day may be approaching soon.

Puno, who has declared for the vice-presidency in 2010, with Gilbert Teodoro (Gloria’s choice) as his presidential partner, knows his life-long ambition to become president is being blocked by Gloria’s maneuvers to remain in power as Prime Minister for Life.

(She intends to run for congresswoman for the 2nd district of Pampanga in the May 2010 elections while she is the sitting president. The Vladimir Putin scenario, as I predicted as early as September 2007). ChaCha through a constituent assembly in June 2010 would make her Prime Minister for Life)

By the time the Arroyos (Gloria and one of her sons) and the Teodoros (husband and wife) decide to step down from power, if ever, Puno, who is now 61, would be 80 to 90 years old. And his wife would be a 79 to 89 year-old First Lady.

Puno is not likely to take that sitting down (in a geriatric wheelchair).

While Malacañang goes on damage control mode and tries to figure out what to do, Puno held a press conference on July 16, showing off a VIP (Very Important Pooch) that he said he picked up near Washington DC. This was an oblique and subtle way of saying that he met with Very Important Persons in DC, perhaps as part of his “devious plan.”

Puno’s relaxed demeanor during the July 16 press con was that of somebody who knows that he has won or is about to win..

It is in this light that I interpret the sudden 12-hour visit of newly appointed CIA director Leon Panetta in Manila, and the sudden announcement that President Obama will meet with President Arroyo in Washington, not “before the end of the year,” as US Ambassador Kenney had announced only two weeks ago, but next week, on July 30.

Whether it will be a state visit or a working visit is immaterial. President Arroyo is being summoned by the Great Black Father, and she is being summoned to read to her the Riot Act. .

She may be told, or I am hoping that she will be told, to forget about running for the congressional seat of the 2nd district of Pampanga, to forget about amending the Constitution so that she can remain in power as Prime Minister for Life, to forget about declaring emergency rule or martial law, and to forget about putting into play Oplan August Moon. (Two Women: Gloria, July 13, 2009)

Oplan August Moon is said to be the game plan, scheduled for August 06, of generals from PMA Class ’78 allegedly loyal to her, for a self-coup or auto golpe, by which she declares emergency rule (using the bombing incidents in Mindanao as rationale), cancels the 2010 elections, and remains in power as ‘transition revolutionary president’ preparatory to becoming Prime Minister for Life.

(This was more or less the scenario floated twice in recent months by National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales).

Which would explain the sudden arrival of Panetta, and the sudden summons to the White House, only days before August 06.. Was this the handiwork of Puno as part of his ‘devious plan’?

(The recent bombing of two five-star hotels in Jakarta is much more serious than the Mindanao incidents. Yet President Susilo Bambang Yodhyono, who recently won a landslide electoral victory for a second presidential term, has not been summoned to the White House and is not on the verge of declaring emergency rule or martial law.)

What this boils down to is this. The legendary ability of Gloria Arroyo to control people and events may have been severely damaged, perhaps beyond repair. Hence, damaged control.

Simultaneous with the decline of Gloria Arroyo will be the rise of Ronaldo Puno. I would not be surprised if Puno were soon to declare himself available for the presidency and take with him a breakaway faction of Lakas-Kampi-CMD, the Palaka Alliance. He would most likely be supported by two of his former clients: Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada.

As devout and practicing opportunists, the bulk of the Palaka Alliance trapos, seeing that the vastly unpopular Gloria Arroyo would now be a lame duck, even a dead duck, would come running to Puno’s side. That is the disgusting nature of Philippine politics. *****

Reactions to Other articles in and


Tony on YouTube: I was interviewed by Harry Tambuatco on July 9, on Ronnie Puno, and the trapo and non-trapo presidential contenders. The interview can be watched at the following URLs:

part 1
part 2
part 3
part 4


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PerryScope: Gloria’s Swan Song

By Perry Diaz

Finally, the much awaited ninth -- and final -- State of the Nation Address (SONA) by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo came to pass. With all the hoopla in the press about what she was going to say, one thing was very apparent, it’s all about self-glorification. It was her farewell address -- her “swan song.”

Interrupted 120 times by applauses and laughter, Gloria boastfully trumpeted her achievements last year. The members of Congress unabashedly praised her to Heaven. It was the crowning moment of her political life, the pinnacle of her presidency. She was on cloud nine.

As she was addressing the members of Congress, including the cream of the elite seated at the gallery, it probably brought nostalgic moments in her life. Daughter of the “poor boy from Lubao” who became president. And, now, she, too, is president. Father and daughter. The first dynasty to reign over what was once called the “Pearl of the Orient Seas,” and now, the “Sick Man of Asia.” She’ll change all that that if they’d only give her more time. Yes, her dream of an “Enchanted Kingdom” is still alive, she tells herself. But why won’t the people allow me to make that dream a reality, she asks herself? Why don’t they trust and love me, she laments. I have one shot to change that and now is the time to do it, she tells herself.

So, she started her address by lowering her audience’s expectations: “Throughout the world tens of millions lost their jobs; billions across the globe have been hurt -- the poor always harder that the rich. No one was spared.” Silence. No applauses. Great! That would put the audience’s gloom at par with her popularity with the people, -31. That’s minus 31.

And then she said, “But the story of the Philippines in 2008 is that the country weathered a succession of global crises in fuel, food, then in finance and finally the economy in a global recession…” Applause. “Good news for our people, bad news for our critics…” Applause. “I did not become President to be popular. To work, to protect and preserve our country, our people, that is why I became President…” Applause. “I want our Republic to be ready for the first world in 20 years…” No applause. Ooops! That didn’t sell. Nobody was ready for that, I guess.

Gloria then recited a litany of work she accomplished. She went on and on…

And then came the moment everybody was waiting for: “At the end of this speech I shall step down from this stage but not from the Presidency. My term does not end until next year. Until then, I will fight for the ordinary Filipino. The nation comes first. There is much to do as head of state -- to the very last day.”

Like the pugilist Manny Pacquiao who was grinning from ear to eat in the VIP section in the gallery, she attacked her critics, heartlessly pummeling them left and right. “I have never done any of the things that scared my worst critics so much. They are frightened by their own shadows.”

And then she finally said, “I have never expressed the desire to extend myself beyond my term.” Yes, in words she didn’t. But her actions seem to suggest otherwise, that she had -- or still has -- a strong desire to stay in power beyond 2010. But let’s defer to her on that issue for now. Certain things can still happen between now and June 2010. But for now, let’s presume that this is it -- she’s is stepping down from the presidency at the end of her term on June 30, 2010.

As to her achievements, let the chips fall where they may. It is, however, interesting to note that while Gloria was delivering her SONA, the IBON Foundation released a report titled, “Arroyo’s Presidency’s Economic Legacy: A Distorted and Disintegrating Economy.” It says that “the main drivers of growth have been in activities essentially disconnected from the domestic economy and unable to contribute to any broad-based economic dynamism especially overseas work but also such as low value-added export manufacturing and business process outsourcing (BPO).” Further, it says, “With a population of 90 million, a labor force of over 38 million, and poverty of at the very least 28 million. The national economy needs to be directed to meeting the needs of all of these Filipinos which entails, without exaggeration, radical structural changes breaking the inertia of decades of backwardness.”

The IBON report concludes: “Certainly there is still much work to be done in building economic and political democracy in the country even as, slowly and painstakingly, there has been progress. The Arroyo presidency has set back that progress, even as the growing struggle of Filipinos build the foundations of expanding what is politically possible in the period to come.”

Gloria’s SONA and the IBON report are like day and night in comparison. Gloria painted in broad strokes a vibrant economy and a bright future for the people framed in gilded opulence. IBON cut it to the chase and said it as it is -- no frills, no bells, no whistles. Just the facts. And facts don’t lie.

As Gloria stepped down from the dais after delivering her SONA, the final chapter of presidency begins: “Lame Duck.” This is the period in a president’s life that is unthinkable… and detestable. Just the thought of stepping down from power and all the perks and privileges that come with it is enough to drive into depression those who thrive on power.

Recently, President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras tried it… and failed. Zelaya maneuvered to add a referendum in the upcoming November 2009 general election to ask voters whether they want to convene a Constituent Assembly (Con-Ass) for the purpose of writing a new constitution. On June 28, 2009, soldiers seized Zelaya on orders of Honduras’ Supreme Court and sent into exile.

I hope that Gloria would realize that she’d be taking a big risk should her allies in Congress proceed with convening a Con-Ass. She survived several attempts to remove her from power only because cooler heads in the military prevailed in supporting a duly installed president. The question is: Will the military protect her if she decides to cling to power after her term ends in 2010? I don’t think so. What do you think?

Monday, July 27, 2009

The prostitution of Venezuela’s electoral system

I hope that what to happened to Venezuela during the 2005 elections would not happen to the Philippines’ 2010 elections. Venezuela’s voting equipment were bought from SMARTMATIC, the same company that will be providing the voting equipment for the Philippines’ 2010 presidential elections. — Perry Diaz

The prostitution of Venezuela’s electoral system

By Gustavo Coronel

22.05.06 | A few days before the December 2005 Venezuelan legislative elections the voting machines were being tested in a group including international observers and members of the opposition. A mock vote took place and one of the members of the opposition told the observers: I can tell you how each one of you voted. And he did! On that basis the National Electoral Council had to correct, at the last minute, a “faulty design” detected by the opposition, one that allowed the machines to violate the secrecy of the vote. In spite of this correction, the opposition withdrew from the elections and this withdrawal generated a massive abstention of almost 90%. Not even the Chávez followers went to vote! The observers from the European Union could not understand why the opposition had withdrawn “since the faulty design was corrected right away by the National Electoral Council.” Let me say this to our good friends, the European observers, who produced a largely fair report and one highly critical of the Chávez regime: If you are playing golf and you see that your opponent changes the position of the ball and only puts it back where it belongs when you call his attention to the attempt at cheating, would you like to play regularly with him? Is he to be trusted? I think not.

The Venezuelan electoral system under the Hugo Chávez regime is a classic example of how absolute power prostitutes national institutions.

The prostitution of the Venezuelan Electoral system started with the naming of the Board of Directors of the National Electoral Council, done in violation of the Venezuelan Constitution. The Board was made up of 5 members, only one of whom was truly independent, the other four being totally servile Chávez followers. This National Electoral Council went on to plague the electoral processes with numerous irregularities, most of which have well documented. As a result of these irregularities, the increasing frustration of the opposition culminated in the massive abstaining in the December 2005 legislative elections mentioned above. The reports of observers to that process from the Organization of American States, OAS, and of the European Union, EU, coincided that the National Electoral Council was not a transparent body and did not enjoy the trust of Venezuelans. They recommended that this Board should be removed and replaced by an impartial group. The Board was removed and replaced … by five new members, four of whom are as shamelessly loyal to the Chávez regime as the previous ones. This farce is little known to international public opinion, too busy watching the critical situations developing in Iran, Iraq or Palestine. As a result of this farce the doors to a transparent Venezuelan presidential election next December have been essentially closed, moving Venezuela several steps closer to a violent solution to its political problems.

What are the two main components of the electoral system that illustrate its corruption? One is the Electoral Registry. This registry is a black box. The National Electoral Council has resisted all attempts by the opposition to have proper access to it. The registry seems to have more than 15 million voters, a statistical imposibility in Venezuela, that has a population of 26 million and at least 60% of this total are younger than 18 years old, therefore unable to vote. Worse still, the registry has increased to this new level in the last three years, a rate of growth 8 to 10 times faster than the historical rate. Who are these “new” voters? No one knows (see “Red Flags on Venezuela’s Electoral Roll,” by Adolfo Fabregat). Half of the registered voters, denounces Enrique Naime, a leader from the opposition, do not have adresses and cannot be located. No one in his,her right mind would go to vote in these conditions of uncertainty.

The other component of the Venezuelan Electoral system that illustrates its prostitution is the voting equipment, bought from a company called SMARTMATIC, a very mysterious outfit apparently owned by Venezuelans including Antonio Mugica, Alfredo Anzola and Roger Piñate. This company has a very short history since it was created only in 2000. The company was a tiny outfit until an equally small company, also owned by the shareholders of SMARMATIC, Bizta Corporation, received an injection of money from the Hugo Chávez regime to develop a voting machine prototype. Through this money input, the regime became a shareholder of Bizta in 2003, owning 28% of the shares. Orlando Ochoa, a Venezuelan journalist, revealed that the owners of SMARTMATIC and of Bizta are the same persons and that they are very close to the Chávez regime. Journalist Richard Brand (”Forget Dubai — worry about Smartmatic instead,” The Miami Herald, March 27, 2006) mentions that a $100 million contract for the acquisition of the voting machines was awarded to SMARMATIC by the regime. At this point in time, one should ask: is it ethical that the Venezuelan government acquires voting machines from a company where they have or had shares? Is it honest that a huge $100 million contract can be awarded without much competition to a newly formed company without previous experience with voting machines? Is the ownership of SMARTMATIC well known? Can Venezuelans reasonably expect that a company having partial government ownership and having close ties with the regime can be impartial and transparent in its management of the machines? As late as 2004, a member of the Science Ministry in the Chávez regime, Omar Montilla, was also a member of the Board of Bizta, the company receiving the “loan” from the government. This total lack of transparency would be hard to accept in any type of government activity but it becomes intolerable when the electoral process is involved.

The electoral process has to be built on trust. If the electoral officers cannot be trusted, if the voting machines cannot be trusted, if the electoral registry cannot be trusted, how can we have transparent elections in Venezuela? This is a question for the OAS and for the European Union, entities that still have much to say regarding the venezuelan political process. This is no longer a question for The Carter Center, organization which became, through cowardice or indifference, an accomplice of Hugo Chávez in the process of prostitution of the Venezuelan electoral system.

After contributing to the prostitution of thre Venezuelan electoral process SMARTMATIC is extending its tentacles into the U.S. Due to inexplicable ignorance of the Venezuelan tragic electoral situation, several cities and counties in the U.S. have hired SMARMATIC to conduct their electoral processes. They did it in Chicago, and they are trying to do it in Pittburgh, Florida and Colorado. In several of these places SMARMATIC and its new acquisition SEQUOIA have run into major problems of transparency and conflicts of interest. Edward Burke, a member of the Chicago City Council has referred to the Chicago performance of SMARTMATIC as “part of an international conspiration organized by the president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, to undermine the electoral processes in the United States,” (”Asocian con Chávez a fabricante de máquina de votar usada en EEUU,” Casto Ocando, El Nuevo Herald, May 14, 2006). The representatives of the cities and counties retaining these companies should have spoken with the Venezuelan opposition, in order to know what kind of services they were retaining.

Michael Shamos, a professor at Carnegie-Mellon in Pittsburgh found that “the machines of SMARTMATIC-SEQUOIA allowed the machines to multiply a bunch of votes by the thousands” (quoted by Casto Ocando, see above).
Rebecca Mercuri, a PhD from the University of Pennsylvania specialized in direct-recording voting machines flatly says; “They are not auditable.” And, adds Matt Zimmerman, from the Electronic Frontier Foundation in San Francisco: “Without the capacity for meaningful audits [direct-recording machines] are unfit for use in actual elections.”

In Venezuela Hugo Chávez has structured a fraudulent electoral system. By using this fraudulent and prostituted electoral machinery he pretends to keep title to political legitimacy, in spite of his now obvious ilegitimacy derived from performance. Too many political leaders in Latin America still tolerate him, some in exchange for monetary considerations, some for vague ideological affinities, some out of resentment for the U.S. These political leaders are guilty of nurturing a monster that is not only rapidly ruining his own country, my country, but also threatens to set the whole Western Hemisphere on fire.

© 2006 Gustavo Coronel

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Insulted twice over in Cebu

25 July 2009

by Emil Jurado
from Manila Standard

My wife and I were in Cebu last weekend, both for business and pleasure. And since we were booked, along with our group at the Shangri-La Hotel Resort and Spa at Mactan Island , I expected to get a good rest and some quality time.

Instead, I had an unpleasant experience at the exclusive Aqua Coffee Shop at the Ocean Wing of the hotel.

During our flight back home, I debated with myself whether or not make this public; after much thought, I decided to tell my story here in my column.
The management of the Shangri-La Hotels all over the country may well regard this as my public complaint—and I can produce so many witnesses to back up my story—if only to make the hotel management aware that their services, which I have always regarded as impeccable, can still be found wanting.

If only to emphasize the fact that I have always held the Shangri-La Hotels in high regard, I have earned enough points to be a Golden Circle member by staying in so many Shangri-La Hotels in Asia .

Unfortunately, my experience at Cebu ’s Shangri-La negates everything.


On the second day of our trip to Cebu , my wife decided to eat just the mangos that were in our room. Cebu is known for its delicious mangos. I went down to the Aqua Coffee Shop to take my breakfast.

When I entered the place, I asked the attendant where I could have my breakfast since the place was already teeming with Koreans. This is not an exaggeration, but if you go to Cebu , you will wonder why there are so many Koreans—and Korean establishments—all over.

Koreans have indeed arrived—to Baguio and Angeles City to Metro Manila and now Cebu !

But back to my story. The attendant pointed me to a vacant table at the end of coffee shop. I headed for the buffet table first. Then, carrying my plate, I saw my group—but I could not sit with them because the table was full. When a staff saw me holding my plate, she took it from me and put it on the table which had been earlier shown me.

I was already seated and taking my breakfast when the service manager told me to find another table since a family of Koreans wanted to sit on my table.

It was at that point when I hit the ceiling. All these years, my wife and I have been going around the world and staying in five-star hotels. I have never been told to leave a table, while I was already eating, and for the benefit of others.

My gulay, me, a Filipino, paying good money only to be sent away from a table which I was led to in the first place? Me, a Shangri-La Golden Circle member, insulted by fellow Filipinos?

This is the height of colonial mentality!


It was a double insult, actually. First, the ill-trained service manager insulted me in front of my friends and travel companions. The second insult was for the benefit of foreigners—Koreans whom I suspected the staff was beholden to.

When I refused to give up my table, and when I raised my voice, the Koreans decided to move to another table. My traveling companions told me that if I ever raised a complaint to management, they would testify in my favor since they witnessed everything.

On my way out of the coffee shop, the service manager caught up with me, apologizing for the incident. I told him that any apology was unacceptable because I had already decided to raise my complaint to the hotel management. Inside my room, I called and asked to talk to the resident manager—a foreigner. I was told he wasn’t around. No wonder the service quality in Shangri-La in Mact an has deteriorated.

In any case, I complained to the duty manager, who afterwards brought along with him the coffee shop service manager when I was taking my lunch at another hotel coffee shop. They profusely apologized. In the end, I told them I accepted their personal apology but still found the double insult unacceptable.

When you are slapped in the face and the person slapping you says he is sorry, it doesn’t change the fact: you were still slapped!


While the Cebuanos in that hotel are courteous and friendly—as Visayans normally are—the staff seems to be beholden to Korean tourists who chose the hotel, obviously because of its prestige.

Clearly, the Korean tourists have all the money to throw around.

Lest I am misunderstood, I have nothing personal against Koreans. My wife and I have been to Seoul many times, at one time with other journalists upon the invitation of the Korean government. But the Korean tourists coming to the Philippines , even some of their expatriates, actually, are20normally rowdy, brusque and ill-mannered. I am told that many of them have become rich because industries and real estate developers have paid them for their farms and other real property. In many golf courses, they are refused entry because of their uncouth manners.

Perhaps it is in Koreans’ culture to be aggressive, the South Koreans having been colonized for many years by Japan , and now being threatened by the North Koreans. Recall, too, that it was a contingent of Koreans serving under the Japanese Imperial Forces during the Occupation that raped Manila when the Japanese were already on retreat.

The treatment I got from the Shangri-La coffee shop brings to mind the fact that it was a Filipino—Lapu Lapu—who killed Magellan, the first foreigner invader and tourist in the island of Mactan . Sadly, the only accolade Lapu Lapu got in history was to have a fish named after him.


After relating my sad experience to a Cebuano— Bob Gothong —of Gothong Lines, he recalled a story how the Filipino Club in Cebu City started.

Bob said that all Cebuanos knew the story of Manuel L.. Quezon, the first Fi lipino president of the Commonwealth was not allowed entry of the defunct Cebu Golf and Country Club, then composed of foreigners—Americans and British. The Cebuanos got so mad that they started the Club Filipino in the city.

Bob added that now, Koreans have put up an all-Korean shop near the airport, selling exclusive Korean goods for the benefit of their people. And then perhaps out of curiosity, Mrs. Tom Osmeña , the wife of the city mayor, tried to enter the shop. She was refused entry. The city mayor blew his top and ordered the shop closed.

Santa Banana , can you imagine Koreans preventing a Filipino from entering a shop right in his own country?


Coming to the many Korean abuses which the Labor Department and immigration bureau seem to tolerate and even coddle, the 19 deaths and the 35 labor-related injuries at Hanjin Dockyards in Subic seem to indicate to what extent many Koreans regard Filipinos.

For a while labor and immigration agents were even prevented entry by Hanjin. It was only after some senators visited the place that Hanjin abuses were exposed.

To add insult to injury, the Korean ambassador even threatened “serious negative repercussion” if Hanjin were to be investigated, hinting that the many Filipino migrant workers in South Korea could be arrested and deported. My gulay, are we Filipinos getting threatened in our own country?
And even discriminated against, just like I was in Shangri-la Hotel?

Thursday, July 23, 2009

PerryScope: Gloria’s Wish Comes True

by Perry Diaz

After chasing President Barack Obama all over the United States for more than a year, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s wish has finally come true. She will be meeting the man on July 30, 2009, in the most sacred nook in the White House -- the Oval Office.

It would seem that Gloria’s visit would be nothing more than a customary courtesy call to the newly “crowned” leader of the Free World. “The visit to Washington DC is an affirmation of the strong partnership between the two countries that share historical and cultural ties and common democratic values,” the Philippines’ Department of Foreign Affairs announced.

However, considering all the unusual events that had happened recently in the Philippines, Obama’s invitation seemed more of a summon. And, as if to emphasize the urgency, Obama’s spy master, CIA Director Leon Panetta paid Gloria a lightning visit on Sunday, July 12, when all government offices were closed and most of the citizens were enjoying their siesta.

Indeed, Gloria must have been tickled pink that, finally, she is going to have that “photo op” with the elusive Obama. Her spin doctors would have a heyday heralding her visit to the Oval Office as a recognition of La Gloria as America’s unwavering and indispensable partner in the fight against global terrorism.

Forget that Gloria withdrew the Philippine troops from Iraq when Iraqi insurgents threatened to behead a captured Filipino worker. Forget that Gloria tried to sell the Spratly islands to China. Forget that Gloria failed to create a Bangsa Moro state. Forget that Gloria has been labeled as the most corrupt President in the history of the Philippines. Forget that Gloria did nothing to stop human rights violations in the country.

But what Uncle Sam did not forget was that Gloria extended the controversial Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) which would have provided the US with key logistical bases to maintain an effective military -- and political -- presence in Southeast Asia.

Given all that, what would be on the agenda when the brand-new American President meets the lame-duck Philippine President? With less than a year left in Gloria’s term, what could she do that would enhance US-Philippine relations? Or would it be possible that they are both pursuing their own agenda or “wish list”? If so, what would each of them bring to the table?

Here’s a possible scenario: Gloria tells Obama, “Mr. President, thank you for your support and recognition of my government as your partner in fighting international terrorism. As you well know, I’ve done everything possible to maintain peace and order in Mindanao. I am doing my best to stop the Abu Sayaff bandits, Muslim separatists, Jemaah Islamiyah terrorists, communist insurgents, drug dealers, and everybody else who opposed my grand design to transform the Philippines into an enchanted kingdom in 20 years.”

Obama’s response is: “Wow! You are a visionary, Madame President, err… shall we address each other on a first-name basis from now on… Gloria?” “Absolutely! Shall I call you Barack or Barry?” she asks. “Barack would just be fine, Glory,” Obama replies.

At that time, Obama’s top aide at the back of the room is pointing to his watch which means that 10 minutes have transpired and there’s only five minutes left to wrap up the meeting and photo op.

“Well, Gloria,” Obama says. “This is indeed a very productive meeting and I’m glad that we finally met considering that, from what my CIA Director told me, you’ve been chasing me around for more than a year. He he he… This just proved that you really have a high regard for me and that you would love to hear my advice and guidance. After all, you and I are partners in not just fighting international terrorism but global recession as well. One of these days, perhaps at the end of your term in June 2010, we can meet again in a less official setting so you can share with me your secret on how you dealt with your economic problems. It would certainly help me a lot because by then I’d be half-way through my first term and I would have to show the American people that I have what it takes to deal with the worst recession since the Great Depression. What do you think, Gloria?”

“Mr. Pre… I mean, Barack, hopefully, with your support I’d still be the President or, perhaps, umm… Prime Minister after June 2010. By staying in power beyond 2010, I would be in a position to advice you on economic issues. You see, I graduated from Princeton with a degree in economics…”

“Fantastic!” Obama interrupts her. “I knew you really are an expert on economics. I never for a moment believed what that Filipino-American columnist in Sacramento was saying about your ‘boo-boo economics.’ Nah!”

Then in a serious tone, Obama says, “Madame President, it’s been a pleasure to finally meet you. I hope that as you finish your term in June, you’ll be remembered for all the things you have done for your beloved country. I hope that you and I would continue our communication, even after you’ve stepped down from power. CIA Director Leon Panetta, whom you have met earlier this month, would serve as our liaison. By the way, lest I forget, I’ll give you a copy of my speech before Ghana’s parliament last July 11, 2009. I highlighted a paragraph near the end of my speech which I hope you’d take it to heart. It would really mean a lot to me and would certainly benefit your people as well.”

After leaving the Oval Office, Gloria reads the highlighted paragraph which says, “As I said in Cairo, each nation gives life to democracy in its own way, and in line with its own traditions. But history offers a clear verdict: governments that respect the will of their own people are more prosperous, more stable, and more successful than governments that do not. This is about more than holding elections - it's also about what happens between them. Repression takes many forms, and too many nations are plagued by problems that condemn their people to poverty. No country is going to create wealth if its leaders exploit the economy to enrich themselves, or police can be bought off by drug traffickers. No business wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top, or the head of the Port Authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, and now is the time for it to end.”

When Gloria arrives in Manila after an unannounced side trip to the Cayman Island, a photo is waiting on her desk. It’s her photo op with Obama. Obama is grinning from ear to ear. But she is not smiling. I wonder why?

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Scandals of the Arroyo regime (2001 - 2009)


Research by Lei Chavez


‘Payola’ for FG

Barely had President Arroyo warmed her seat when the first in a series of scandals involving the first family erupted. Correspondence secretary Veronica “Bing” Rodrigo accused first gentleman Mike Arroyo of taking a P50-million bribe in July 2001. The bribery was said to be for President Arroyo to recall her veto on two franchise bills. The first bill involved the Philippine Communication Clearinghouse which sought a franchise to operate a clearinghouse where telco firms were to interconnect for a certain fee. The second bill granted APC Wireless Interface Network a franchise to build a wireless telecommunication system nationwide.

The companies were allegedly owned by Jaime Dichavez, a close friend of former President Joseph Estrada, who allegedly used Pacifico Marcelo as his dummy. According to Rodrigo, a woman named Malou Nuñez from the office of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office under Gabriel Claudio approached her, inquiring about the request to veto the bills.

Rodrigo is a friend of the president, having been classmates in grade school and high school. Their parents were close friends.

Marcelo alleged that President Arroyo called him to stop lobbying for the franchise and that the three of them—the First Couple and Marcelo—will establish their own company. Marcelo turned down the offer.

The president did not recall her veto of both bills. Arroyo also said that the First Gentleman never asked her to recall the veto. Her husband denied receiving any money and claimed that Rodrigo was the one who received the bribe. Rodrigo later retracted her allegations in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.

PCSO funds for admin candidates’ campaign

In October 2001, Roberto Rivero, former consultant of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO), claimed that the first gentleman used almost $5 million of PCSO funds to finance the campaign of some senatorial candidates and to bribe radio commentators. President Arroyo asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate her husband. The PCSO denied Rivero’s accusations. When asked by the Ombudsman for evidence, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who exposed this, was unable to present any.

Years later, in May 2007, another former PCSO senior executive, Cirilo Avila, said the funds were made to appear as payment for ad placements but were really used as People Power Coalition (PPC) campaign funds. Avila narrated that the PPC requested the funds and manager Ver Angelo took it up with the board. The request was approved.

Nani Perez’s ‘extortion’

Four days after assuming office, Arroyo awarded a $470-million contract to Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) to rehabilitate a power plant in Laguna. A few months later, former Manila Representative Mark Jimenez, the man who brokered the deal, accused Justice Secretary Hernando Perez of extorting $2 million in exchange for a justice department opinion that favors the deal.

Jimenez told Senator Lacson that the entire amount was actually $14 million: Perez received $2 million, the National Power Corporation “boys” got $1 million, Malacañang was given $4, and $7 million went to Jimenez.

In April 2008, the office of the Ombudsman, headed by Merceditas Gutierrez, filed graft charges against Perez, his wife Rosario, Ernest Escaler, and Ramon Antonio Arceo Jr.

But the graft and robbery charges were junked by the Sandiganbayan in November 2008 as the Ombudsman failed to expedite the complaints, making Perez immune from the charges, indirectly acquitting Perez.

Perez’s pending case with the Sandiganbayan is on his falsification of public documents.

In May 2009, Perez filed his third petition asking the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges of unethical practices filed against him for allegedly not declaring $1.7 million in his 2001 Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) saying that Arroyo herself approved his SALN when she assumed office. Perez was then a member of her cabinet.

The godmother’s ties to the Pinedas

President Arroyo agreed to be the godmother of alleged jueteng boss Bong Pineda’s son. In an interview with Time, she said that she sought advice from Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who said, “The sins of the father are not the sins of the son.”

Later events revealed the nature of Arroyo’s ties to the Pinedas. In 2005, during the height of the Senate probe on the “Hello Garci” scandal, Army Capt. Marlon Mendoza quoted Virgillio Garcillano and said Pineda gave P300 million to fund Arroyo’s presidential bid in 2004.

Another witness, Michaelangelo Zuce, nephew of Garcillano claimed that Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda, handed out envelopes containing P30,000 each in January 2004 during a party hosted by the president in her La Vista home in Quezon City.

Profit from anti-poverty bonds?

Conceptualized by the Caucus of Development (Code-NGO), the PEACe bonds (Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificates) were issued by the government supposedly to help raise funds for the anti-poverty activities of its member organizations. But there were allegations that Code-NGO used its political connections to profit P1.4 billion in a series of transactions from the PEACe bonds worth P35 billion pesos.

Code-NGO was chaired by Socorro Camacho-Reyes, sister of then Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho. Camacho-Reyes denied, in a Senate hearing, that her brother helped him.

Silencing the Marines

Rear Adm. Guillermo Wong, then Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, exposed irregularities in the Philippine Marines’ procurement of equipment worth P3.8 million.

This did not sit well with Marine officials. Then Armed Forces chief of staff Angelo Reyes offered Wong another post, chief of the Northern Command, practically demoting him. This forced Wong to resign.

When asked to comment, President Arroyo said Reyes had done “the right thing.” Fresh from retirement, Reyes was immediately appointed defense secretary.

A foul deal

In 2007, the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC, formerly Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines or CDCP) and Radstock Securities signed a compromise agreement obliging the PNCC to pay Radstock P6.2 billion in the form of: 19 pieces of real estate properties; 20% of the outstanding capital stock of PNCC; and 50% of PNCC’s share in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corporation for 27 years.

Senators Sergio Osmena III and Franklin Drilon cried foul because it disposed of almost all the assets of PNCC, a company acquired by the government after President Marcos forced government financial institutions to exchange debt owed to them by the company for stocks.

The deal, they said, gave Marubeni/Radstock preferential treatment over other bigger creditors, particularly government. As of December 2002, the PNCC owed the government through the Assets Privatization Trust P41.39 billion, according to the Commission on Audit, and has pending liabilities amounting to P6.9 billion, a bulk of which was from the Philippine government.


Overpriced Macapagal Boulevard

Sulpicio Tagud Jr., then board director of the Public Estates Authority (PEA), exposed the P600-million overprice of the construction of the GSIS-funded 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in the Manila Bay reclamation area. The contracts were approved during the Estrada administration and were given to three companies: Shoemart Inc., DM Wenceslao, and Jesusito D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC).

A series of supplemental contracts with JDLC were later approved by the PEA board under the Arroyo administration that increased the original approved cost of their section of the highway. According to Tagud, while the SM group of companies constructed its part of the boulevard at P54,000 per lineal meter, JDLC built its section at P302,000 per lineal meter.

Arroyo asked PEA and the Government Service Insurance System officials to submit a full report on the project to Presidential Legal Counsel Avelino Cruz. After the the report was submitted, Arroyo asked the entire PEA board to go on leave until the Presidential Anti-graft Commission submitted the results of its investigation.

In February 2008, the Sandiganbayan said it will continue the probe on JDLC despite the firm’s motion to dismiss the alleged overpricing of the boulevard.

The garbage contract

The Jancom controversy involved a $360-million (P18 billion) incineration project in which the Jancom Environment Corp. (JEC) would burn 3,000 tons of Metro Manila garbage a day for a tipping fee of $10 per ton. During his term, President Ramos did not approve the contract and President Estrada likewise debunked it because JEC raised the tipping fee from $10 to $59 per ton.

Despite the passage of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (both banned the use of incarcerators), the Supreme Court declared the contract valid in April 2002 in a decision penned by Justice Jose Melo.

Still, Arroyo said the deal had many flaws. Arroyo passed the decision to the Manila Metropolitan and Development Authority (MMDA) to decide whether the deal is disadvantageous to the government or not. Although negotiations had started between the MMDA and Jancom, Arroyo called off the deal in April 2002.

Mismanaged funds

Issues on mismanaged funds by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the GSIS caught the public eye in 2002. PAGCOR had been experiencing negative cash flows that bloated to P850 million in 2003. A Pagcor manager gave three reasons behind the financial difficulties: ‘onerous’ contracts, profligate spending, and massive, mindless donations.

GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia ordered its units to stop the processing of claims and loan applications because of financial difficulty. The Kapisanan ng Manggagawa attributed the financial problems to the following: Garcia’s cash advances amounting to P3.4 million, the establishment of district offices worth P4 million each, and the appointment of outside legal counsel for P200,000 a month.

Garcia allegedly used GSIS money to purchase Juan Luna’s Parisian Life painting. Likewise, Garcia was said to earn P540,000 a month and appointed some 130 vice-presidents who earn P70,000 a month. There were allegations that GSIS contributed at least P100 million to the campaign funds of Pres. Arroyo. Garcia was retained in his post despite appeals from GSIS employees.

In 2004, before the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, Garcia dismissed the charges and said GSIS is “the country’s top performing government-owned and controlled corporation.” He did not comment on the Juan Luna paintings.

FG as OFW envoy

In December, President Arroyo designated Mike Arroyo as an OFW envoy so he could represent her in the countries she could not visit. However, critics assailed Arroyo’s announcement when they learned that his activities as OFW envoy would be funded by a proposed overseas workers legal assistance fund. They feared that the Arroyo couple would use the funds for her 2004 campaign. While the President did not recall her husband’s designation, the First Gentleman voluntarily resigned.

Naia’s Terminal 3

In 2002, Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez obtained overpriced subcontracts for public works projects related to the terminal. Among these is Wintrack Builders Inc., owned by Alvarez, which bagged a site-development project.

Piatco was also accused of paying huge sums of money to Alfonso S. Liongson, PR consultant and said to be an associate of the First Gentleman, for permits or supplementary agreements to the contract. In 2003, Arroyo revoked Piatco’s build-operate-transfer contract and the government took over the airport in 2004. After almost a decade, the airport was partially opened in 2008.


Rotten rice!

In February 2003, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla revealed that 600,000 metric tons of rice imported from India were found to be rotten and moldy. Kishore Hemlani, an Indian trader allegedly close to Arroyo, reportedly bagged the P9.5 billion contract for the rice importation.

Anthony Abad, head of the National Food Authority, had to dispose of some P2.2-million worth of moldy rice stocks and tried to dispose of the remaining sacks in order to recover at least P2.5 billion.

Undeclared wealth in San Francisco

Since she got elected in 1992 as senator, Arroyo had failed to declare in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth the properties her husband Mike Arroyo bought in San Francisco through his California-based LTA Realty Corporation. According to Newsbreak, Mike acquired, resold, and managed at least five properties with a total value of at least $7.1 million in the Bay City from 1992 to 2000. The First Couple said the properties were bought in trust for Ignacio or Iggy Arroyo, Mike’s younger brother.

Mikey Arroyo’s imported horses

In August, news broke out that presidential son Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo planned to import 32 thoroughbred horses from Melbourne, Australia worth P384 million (at P12 million per horse). Mikey denied the allegation but admitted that he was in the horse-trade business.

He owns Franchino Farms along with cousin Franchino Pamintuan and friend Ralph Mondragon. (We requested for Mikey’s SALN but it has not been granted as of press time.)

Jose Pidal accounts

In August, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of money laundering: he allegedly siphoned off at least P321 million in campaign funds and contributions and put these in a secret bank account under the name Jose Pidal. He also supposedly used the names of his aides in three other accounts. According to Lacson, among the donors was then Rep. Mark Jimenez who gave P8 million. Arroyo’s younger brother, Iggy, came forward and admitted he is Jose Pidal.

Oakwood mutiny

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes’ alleged involvement in selling arms and ammunitions to guerilla and bandit groups moved 300 young officers and enlisted men of the AFP to rebel against the government in July. Reyes was forced to resign a few weeks later. The rebel soldiers were detained.

The 321 armed soldiers apologized for the failed rebellion. In 2004, 133 of the soldiers were freed. Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, one of the alleged leaders, escaped in December 2005. Four other leaders escaped after Faeldon did. Faeldon was captured in 2007 but escaped again a few months after.

Reyes, since then, has held other Cabinet posts: environment secretary and energy secretary.

Congress vs. Supreme Court

The clash of the two co-equal bodies was all about the billions of pesos in Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and how it was spent. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and its allies in Congress, peeved that they were being ignored by the Supreme Court, went after Chief Justice Hilario Davide. They almost impeached him.

President Arroyo acted on the controversy only when it reached crisis proportions. She was balancing between competing interests: her political support from Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s NPC and Davide’s tenure on the Court.


The super-rich general

In December, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia’s son was apprehended by US Customs officials at the San Francisco airport for carrying $100,000 in undeclared cash. AFP Chief of Staff Narciso Abaya asked Garcia to explain and transferred him to another position.

Later in the year, US Customs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation transmitted to the office of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo a list of the amounts that General Garcia had brought into the US from 1993 to 2003, which was estimated at P71 million.

In October 2004, Garcia was charged with violating Articles of War 95 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman) and 96 (acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline) for failing to declare all his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and for possessing a US green card. In April 2006, the military court sentenced Garcia to a two-year confinement without pay and allowance and dishonorable discharge. Garcia also faced graft charges in the same court.

In February 2009, Garcia’s sons, Juan Pablo and Ian Carl were indicted in the US with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, failing to file a report of monetary instruments, and making false statements to a US government agency. The sons were placed in US custody until proven innocent. On the same month, Garcia was found guilty of misdeclaring his assets and liabilities in 2000. He was acquitted from two other perjury cases.

On June 2009, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Garcia of the last perjury case, saying there was no proof that the retired general lied in his 1997 SALN. However, the retired general is still facing plunder and forfeiture cases in the Sandiganbayan and is still being detained in Camp Crame.

No bidding for Northrail

The Northrail project started during Ramos’s administration but it was only in February 2004 when Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong entered into a credit loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China. The agreement granted the Philippine government a $400-million loan facility to finance the construction of the project.

Critics said the interest rate on the loan per annum (3%) is much higher than the rate on other loan packages that the Philippines could have availed itself of. China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation was designated as the prime contractor for the project without public bidding. The Senate probed the issue but the hearings were stalled in 2005 after Malacañang issued EO 464, requiring Cabinet members to seek presidential clearance before they could testify in congressional hearings.

Fertilizer fund scam

The controversy started when President Arroyo was accused of using fertilizer funds for the 2004 election. The fund, worth P728 million, fell under the Ginintuang Masagana Ani Program. Jocelyn Bolante, agriculture undersecretary and regarded as the architect of the fund, left the country and sought asylum in America. He came back to the country in 2008 and faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Bolante told the Senate that (1) he does not know who nominated or recommended him to be an agriculture undersecretary, (2) it was former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo who requested the release of the funds, (3) the fertilizer fund was valid and legal and was approved by the DA, and that (4) when he left the department in August 2004, 91% of the fertilizer funds had been liquidated already.

The committee recommended the filing of plunder and other criminal case against him and nine other persons but no case was filed. In January 2009, the panel who investigated the fertilizer fund scam submitted the proposed resolution to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

No reports on the investigation have been released from both the Ombudsman and the justice department. In March 2009, Bolante disclosed a plan to run either as governor or congressman in Capiz, Roxas.

Philhealth cards for campaign

Six weeks before the May 2004 elections, two lawyers filed a disqualification case against President Arroyo, saying she was behind the enhanced Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Greater Medicare Access or GMA program. Public funds were allegedly spent to enroll families in PhilHealth for one year. The premium cost of P1,200 for each family member was chargeable to PhilHealth and the PCSO. The IDs, bearing Arroyo’s picture and name, were coincidentally distributed during the start of the election campaign.


Hello, Garci

More than a year after the election, a recording of a telephone conversation between President Arroyo and election commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano was released to the public. In this conversation, Arroyo directed him to make sure she wins by one million votes. After weeks of ducking the issue, Arroyo apologized for “a lapse in judgment” in talking with an election commissioner but explained that she merely wanted to protect her votes.

Hyatt 10

Eight cabinet members and two bureau heads, called the Hyatt 10, filed their irrevocable resignations in the aftermath of the “Hello, Garci” scandal and requested Arroyo to resign. The Hyatt 10 is composed of Secretaries Florencio Abad (education), Juan Santos (trade and industry), Emilia Boncodin (budget and management), Cesar Purisima (finance), Dinky Soliman (social welfare and development), Rene Villa (land reform), Alberto Lina (customs), Guillermo Parayno (internal revenues), Teresita Quintos Deles (adviser on the peace process), and Imelda Nicolas of the national anti-poverty commission.


In Senate hearings on jueteng that began in May 2005, jueteng operators and bagmen said the President’s husband, Mike, her son Mikey, and her brother-in-law Ignacio or Iggy were among those who received monthly payoffs from gambling lords. The payoffs ranged from P500,000 to P1 million.

One of the key witnesses, businesswoman Sandra Cam, testified that in December 2004, she personally delivered the cash to Mikey and Iggy at the House of Representatives; the money came from retired Chief Supt. Restituto Mosqueda, former police director for Bicol and alleged protector of jueteng operations in Luzon.

Richard Garcia and Demosthenes Abraham Riva also told a Senate hearing that the three Arroyos had been receiving payola from jueteng operations in Bicol. Michaelangelo Zuce, an aide of former commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and a former staff member of presidential adviser on political affairs Joey Rufino, directly linked the President to jueteng by saying that before the 2004 elections, the President distributed money to several election officials in her house in La Vista, Quezon City, in the presence of Bong Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda.

Garcia and Riva retracted their statements a few months later and said they were merely “coached” by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Zuce’s testimony failed to take off after one witness did not corroborate Zuce’s claim. Former Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr. who was also said to have been present at the La Vista meeting, flew to the US and refused to come to Manila to testify.

Aragoncillo, the spy

Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino American in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was arrested for allegedly taking classified documents from computers in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the FBI and sending them to opposition leaders in the Philippines. The documents were primarily analyses of the Philippines’ political situation by US Embassy officials.

Among others, the documents said that: “Arroyo has always exhibited paranoia and the need to control every aspect of the Philippine economy and politics. As time ticked out for her administration, it was clear the biggest problem was Arroyo herself.”

Aragoncillo was charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government or official and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Mega-anomaly in Comelec

According to Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo, the botched P1.3 billion poll modernization project of Comelec was overpriced by P500 million. Comelec ignored its own bidding rules and changed these to suit one favored bidder: MegaPacific Corp.

The SC deemed the process flawed and declared the contract null and void. The Office of the Ombudsman committee created by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez initially indicted Commissioner Resurreccion Borra but cleared him a few months later. Abalos and company were ruled to be not liable for the voided contract.

Lozano’s complaints

Oliver Lozano filled an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo during the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Congress declared the complaint to be technically deficient. Oliver Lozano filed another impeachment complaint against President Arroyo on 2006. Like the first one, his second complaint was defeated due to insufficiency in substance.

For the third time, Lozano filed his impeachment complaint against the President on 2007. Like the second version, this impeachment rap was dismissed for insufficiency in substance. Critics say Lozano’s impeachment complaints were moves to hinder the submission of a solid complaint against the President.

Weeks after former Arroyo ally Jose De Venecia filed his impeachment complaint in 2008, Lozano took his fourth try with a four-page impeachment complaint penned with his daughter, Atty Evangeline Lozano, and another lawyer, Elly Pamatong.

Imelda’s jewelries

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos asked a Manila court to stop a Philippine Commission on Good Government auction of her P15-billion jewelries. Marcos claimed the jewelries belonged solely to her. No restraining order was issued by the court.

The PCGG has two of the three jewelry collections in the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Philipinas and planned to auction off majority of the jewelries in May 2009, with strong resistance from Mrs. Marcos.


FG in $20,000 hotel suite!

During Manny Pacquiao’s match with Erick Morales in Las Vegas, the First Gentleman allegedly stayed in a $20,000-a-night suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mike said that there was nothing corrupt about accepting the free luxury suite offered to him by the hotel. He argued that as the husband of a head of state, he was entitled to such perks.

No German bank account

Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that a member of the Arroyo family maintained a bank account in Germany amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. First Gentleman Arroyo flew to Germany and secured a certification from the bank to disprove Cayetano’s claims. Upon his return, he sought Cayetano’s expulsion from Congress but without success.

Toxic JPEPA?

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was signed between Arroyo and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The treaty aimed to promote investments and trade between the two countries. Various civil society groups contested the agreement because the government did not consult them. According to these groups, although the agreement secures employment in Japan, the treaty includes an “environmentally unjust bilateral trade.”

In 2008, the Senate finally ratified the agreement by a vote of 16-4 as the agreement was favorable since 95% of exports from the Philippines to Japan will have zero duties.

Meanwhile, numerous representatives from the House questioned the Senate decision as the agreement “will bring a tsunami of unfair trade and toxic wastes.”


Estrada pardon

After spending six years in detention for plunder and graft and corruption charges, former President Estrada was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Sandiganbayan in October 2007. Three days after, President Arroyo granted him pardon citing a policy to release prisoners aged 70.

Fallout from ZTE

The scandal was exposed in August 2007, a few months after Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp Vice President Yu Yong signed a $329.5 million contact for a national broadband network deal in April. President Arroyo and the First Gentlemen were said to have visited China for the contract-signing.

Rep. Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) said that Comelec chairperson Benjamin Abalos also joined the President in China to broker the deal. Abalos denied brokering the deal but admitted going to China four times. In September 2007, the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr testified that he was with Abalos in China and that Abalos demanded money from ZTE officials.

The following day, the Supreme Court promulgated a TRO stopping the deal between the Philippines and China and gave ZTE 15 days to comment.

NEDA chair Romulo Neri testified in the Senate hearings and said Abalos tried to bribe him with P200 million but he refused to answer some senators’ questions, citing executive privilege. Abalos resigned as Comelec chair in October 2007 as President Arroyo cancelled the deal in a trip to China.

Jun Lozada, former chief executive officer of Philippine Forest Corporation and NEDA consultant, testified in February 2008 that Abalos and the First Gentlemen were to receive kickbacks once the deal was signed. Speaker Jose de Venecia was unseated and got dragged into the deal when his son said he was also in China.

On July 2008, the SC dismissed three petitions that question the constitutionality of the deal and declared it moot and academic.

Impeachment: Pulido’s version

Lawyer Roel Pulido filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. Endorsed by an administration ally, Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis, it was seen as a move to foil another complaint against the President.

Congress thrashed the complaint.

Money from Malacañang

Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio revealed that he was given a paper bag containing P500,000 in a Malacañang meeting in October 2007. The money was allegedly for community projects. The bags were handed out by a female Malacañang staff. Panlilio said he accepted the money because because no conditions were attached; he did not consider it a bribe. Various versions of the source of the money came out as other local officials present in the meeting admitted receiving either P500,000 or P200,000.

Other officials who confirmed receiving money were Governors Joselito Mendoza, Leo Campos, and Representatives Rachel Arenas, Antonio Cuenco, Bienvenido Abante, Mauricio Domogan, Tomas Dumpit Jr, and some others who refused to be named. The named 9 officials were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving bribes. Due to numerous versions on the source of the money, Sen. Miguel Zubiri said during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that the money has no direct link to the Palace.

Glorietta 2 and Batasan bombings

After the string of controversies hounding the Arroyo administration, bombing incidents happened in Glorietta 2 and the House of Representatives. The police, in a speedy investigation, found that the bombing of Batasan was initially intended for Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar.

The Glorietta 2 bombing, on the other hand, resulted from gas leakage. Rumors spread that the bombings were perpetrated by the government to divert the public’s attention away from the Arroyo scandals.

The Batasan bombing happened the day before Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio was set to testify on the bribery of local officials in the Senate and a day before the House justice committee was to hear the impeachment case.

The Glorietta 2 bombing happened during the height of the bribery case which took place in Malacañang.

Manila Pen siege

Antonio Trillanes IV, together with Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and 25 other Magdalo officers walked out of their trial and marched on the streets of Makati City. Former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona and some soldiers from the AFP joined the march that ended in Peninsula Manila Hotel. After several hours, the group surrendered to the government forces after a military assault. They were arrested and several journalists were detained.

Missing: Jonas Burgos

Of the numerous human rights violations, political killings, and abductions during Arroyo’s administration, the case of activist Jonas Burgos has become the most prominent. Burgos was missing since late April and eyewitnesses said he was dragged from a mall in Commonwealth to a Toyota Revo by five men. The license plate of the Revo was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Bulacan.


Teehankee pardon

In 1991, Claudio Teehankee Jr was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of killing Maureen Hultman, John Roland Chapman, and wounding Jussi Leino. Last November 2008, President Arroyo granted Teehankee pardon. It was reported that the Hultmans “approved” the pardon and received a settlement of P6 million. The Hultmans were enraged that the pardon was “kept secret” and denied receiving the money.

Euro generals

In an Interpol conference in Moscow, police comptroller director Eliseo De la Paz and his group were detained because of carrying undeclared cash worth 105,000 euros (P6.9 million). At the time of the conference, De la Paz had already retired from service.

When the group returned, the Senate called for hearings on the issue. De la Paz said the money was “cash advance” for “emergency cases.” His statement was questioned as PNP Chief Jesus Versoza said the money was for purchasing intelligence equipment.

The Senate recommended that the justice department and the Ombudsman conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly as the group violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103, the law on allowable travel expenses, and the rule on retired officials or those about to retire. The report also proposed a preliminary investigation on interior and local government chief Reynato Puno and Versoza for allowing the group to travel and for ignoring the travel ban.

As of March 2009, De la Paz settled the remaining 65,000 euros, fully paying for the cash advance and avoiding a civil law suit.

C-5 insertion

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal spilled the beans on Senate president Manny Villar when they exposed his double insertion of a P200 million C-5 project in the 2008 budget. After a few months, Villar resigned as Senate president when he learned about the planned “ouster” led by Lacson. Enrile became Senate president.

In May 2009, although Villar was out of the country, the Senate ethics committee deliberated on the alleged C-5 insertion and declared the ethics complaint filed by Madrigal as sufficient in substance.

Meralco and the tainted court

What started out as a tug-of-war between the Lopezes and GSIS over control of Meralco ended up tainting the reputation of the Court of Appeals. The scandal started when Justice Jose Sabio Jr told the media that he was offered a P10 million bribe by an alleged Meralco emissary, businessman Francis Borja.

The Supreme Court conducted a public investigation on the CA justices. Lapses in the justices’ decisions and CA procedures were unearthed. The verdict: Justice Vicente Roxas was dismissed, Sabio and Justice Bienvenido Reyes were suspended, and Justice Myrna Vidal was reprimanded.

Impeachment: Joey’s complaint

Joey de Venecia, son of former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, particularly because of the overpriced NBN-ZTE broadband deal. The complaint was found sufficient in form but was dismissed after House representatives voted 42-8, ruling the complaint as insufficient in substance.

Resurrecting nuke power plant

Tarlac Rep. Mark Cojuangco and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo filed HB 4631 or the Bataan nuclear power plant commissioning act, a bill aimed at rehabilitating the mothballed power plant for $1.4 billion. Various groups were strongly against the re-opening of the plant, stating that more viable and cheaper options are available like renewable energy. A feasibility study was requested from Cojuangco to prove that BNPP’s structures are still in good condition. A consolidated HB 6300 was submitted to the House and will be deliberated after the legislative break in July.

The failed ancestral domain agreement

In June 2001, President Arroyo signed the GRP-MILF Tripoli agreement in Libya, paving the way for peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. By May 2003, due to numerous bombings in Mindanao, Arroyo canceled the peace talks. Talks resumed two months later in Kuala Lumpur.

In January 2004, peace monitors from Malaysia, Brunei, and Libya went to Mindanao to monitor the five-year truce between the two parties. The discussion on ancestral domain progressed and was divided into four strands: concept, territory, resources, and governance.

By November 2007, government panel chair Rodolfo Garcia and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said that the agreement can finally be concluded. But by December of the same year, the ancestral domain negotiations reached a deadlock due to constitutional issues.

The text of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) caused a big stir when it leaked to the press. On August 2008, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the peace agreement and suggested renegotiating the homeland deal.

In September 2008, the government dissolved the panel conducting the peace negotiations with the MILF, formed a new one, and announced that negotiations will depend on whether the MILF will turn over two rogue field commanders and other members who attacked North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and other provinces in Mindanao. The peace talks were set to resume in 2009.


Red Cross kidnapping

On January, gunmen on motorcycles intercepted an International Committee of the Red Cross vehicle and kidnapped three workers: Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. The group behind it, identified as the Abu Sayyaf, asked for ransom. The Philippine Red Cross, under Sen. Richard Gordon, refused to pay the ransom. The group threatened to behead the workers.

Three months after the kidnapping, after numerous negotiations, Lacaba was released. A few days after, Notter was released as well. Vagni, after six months of being held captive, was eventually released July 12.

Con Ass

In 2005, Arroyo initiated a move to change the Constitution and transform the present presidential-bicameral republic into a parliamentary-unicameral form of government but failed.

By late 2006, the House shelved a plan to revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly. In June 2009, two days before the House adjourned, they passed HR Bill 1109. The bill calls for a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1986 Constitution.

Dacer-Corbito double murder case

After spending years in America, Cesar Mancao returned and was willing to speak out on the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000. Mancao became a state witness in July 2009.

Aside from Mancao, 21 others were accused of the same charges. According to Mancao, he is no longer afraid of anyone, particularly of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who consequently denied having a hand in the crime.

Dacer was asked by former President Estrada to boost his image during the height of the BW scam and the latter’s impeachment trial. The publicist was said to have knowledge of BW Resources Corp, a gaming firm in which Estrada owned shares. The scam started when it was found out that BW won an exclusive contract to operate on-line bingo and introduce Quick Pick-2 in 1999, a game similar to jueteng. On that same year, PAGCOR granted BW a nationwide online bingo franchise. Further investigation revealed that Dante Tan, Estrada’s alleged financier during the latter’s presidential bid, had been heavily buying shares in BW.

In late 2000, the charred bodies of Dacer and his driver were found in a creek in Cavite and eyewitnesses said they were abducted and killed by policemen. Some of the witnesses pointed to Estrada as the mastermind of the killing through Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force chief Lacson.

CARP extension

A few days before the House’s legislative break, the body passed House Bill 4077 to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law for another five years. The House appropriated P100 billion for land acquisition and distribution, support services, and other funding requirements. The Senate has also approved its own version of the bill.

In 2007, Arroyo certified an urgent bill to extend the law. The program has yet to distribute a million hectares to another two million beneficiaries.

RH bill

In June, the controversial House Bill 5043 or reproductive health bill was trashed in the House of Representatives, as it failed to gather enough votes from the lawmakers. The bill was penned by Cong. Edcel Lagman and it advocates, among others, the use of government funds to provide free contraceptives to the poor. The bill reached the plenary on 2008 and has since been under fire from various groups, particularly those with the Catholic Church.

Right of reply bill

The controversial Right of Reply bill (RORB) failed to gather enough signatures and was not passed in the House. Since it was filed last year, numerous groups, especially from media organizations, have contested the passing of the bill.

In February, seven senators reiterated their support for the bill. Arroyo, on the other hand, assured journalists while the bill was being deliberated in the House that she will not hesitate to trash it should it contain provisions that will curtail press freedom.

Baselines bill

In March, Arroyo signed Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines law, a controversial law that defines the country’s baselines and claims in the South China Sea. The bill includes the Kalayaan Group of Islands and Scarborough Shoal as parts of “regime of islands.” The other countries who have been claiming the islands are China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Misuse of Balikatan funds

Navy Lt. Nancy Gadian revealed an alleged malversation of funds in the 2007 Balikatan joint military exercises with the United States. According to Gadian, Gen. Eugenio Cedo, former Mindanao Command head, pocketed P2.3 million of the money and the rest were pocketed by other higher Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials. The Balikatan exercises were given a P4.6 million fund.

Arroyo ordered the defense department to investigate Gadian’s allegations. Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr, AFP public information officer chief, said the alleged malversed funds were properly accounted for in the Commission on Audit reports. He also challenged Gadian to come out and file a proper complaint.

GMA in Congress?

Due to rumors that Arroyo is planning to run for Congress, election lawyers clarified that there are no provisions that prohibit Arroyo from resigning as president if she runs for a lower post. They cite Sec. 67 of the Omnibus Election Code which was repealed in the Fair Elections Act passed in 2001, Arroyo’s first year as president after Edsa 2.

The Code states that “any elective official, whether national or local, running for any office other than the one which he is holding in a permanent capacity, except for President and Vice-President, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.”

Helicopter crash

In April 2009, a helicopter carrying eight passengers, two of whom were Cabinet undersecretaries and a senior military aide, crashed in the Ifugao region. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) blamed bad weather for the accident.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the senate committee on national defense and security, questioned why the helicopter was allowed to fly from Loakan Airport in Baguio in the afternoon when visibility was low and why there was no back-up helicopter provided at the time. There were allegations that the helicopter was delayed for three hours because it was used to ferry Congressman Mikey Arroyo, the president’s eldest son, from Manila to Baguio.

According to press Secretary Cerge Remonde, the helicopter indeed carried Mikey and the others from Manila and arrived in Baguio at past two in the afternoon, ahead of the other helicopter which carried Arroyo and her party. The same helicopter Mikey used was the same helicopter used by the eight passengers who were supposed to conduct an ocular inspection of the Halsema Highway; Arroyo was scheduled to visit this highway the next day.

Sources: Various news reports
as of 07/18/2009 12:49 AM