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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Be the judge: Is Villar Guilty of Corruption?

FRANKLY SPEAKING
by Frank Wenceslao

Former UP President Jose Abueva sent his comments on my GlobalBalita.com column Villar Unfit for President or Public Trust, to wit:

“I strongly disagree with your criticism of Senator Villar. If Senator Villar were not a leading candidate with a good chance of winning and becoming our next President, his rivals and opponents would not be attacking him. It’s a matter of personal trust. As a citizen and a political scientist, I trust Senator Manny Villar to be an honest man and a highly qualified candidate for President. I also trust Senator Nene Pimentel who is supporting Senator Villar. I also believe that Gibo Teodoro and Dick Gordon are honest and highly capable leaders and candidates for President.

Jose V. Abueva, Professor Emeritus of Political Science and Public Administration, University of the Philippines.”

Before I could respond below, these passages in Greg Macabenta’s column entitled “President Villarroyo?” caught my attention. He wrote, “Manny Villar is lucky, he is running for president of the Philippines. If this were an election campaign in the US, he would be shamed into withdrawing because of the censure threatened by at least 12 of his colleagues in the Senate.

“He (Villar) is also lucky because a censure might be the worst thing the Senate will do to him. In fact, if the erstwhile champion of good government, Alan Peter Cayetano, were to have his way, there won’t even be a censure and the damning findings of the Senate President himself, Juan Ponce Enrile, would be treated like a worthless piece of paper.”

I asked Abueva: Do you disagree with my criticism because you think Villar hasn’t engaged in graft and corruption like Gloria Macapagal Arroyo?

The best evidence against Villar is his incredible PhP43 billion ($940M) net worth, which could’ve come only from loans Villar obtained for his housing development corporations (Villar-HDCs for brevity) to acquire and develop thousands of hectares (How the lands were acquired from different owners is yet to be explained) into 23 subdivisions where 200,000 housing units were built across all income classes according to Mrs. Cynthia Villar no less.

Worse, Villar conspired with DPWH officials for his HDCs to qualify to borrow from government financing institutions (GFIs) and government corporations (GOCCs). Villar-HDCs include the family-owned Capitol Bank that borrowed heavily from the Bangko Sentral to address liquidity crises and repaid the loans with foreclosed properties of dubious valuation, a violation of the BSP charter that requires the loans be paid only with cash proceeds of auctioned off collaterals.

In fact, when both were House members from 1992-1998, Joker Arroyo charged Villar of violating the Constitution’s prohibition against conflicts-of-interest and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees (RA 6713) for borrowing heavily from GFIs and GOCCs especially the BSP’s loans to Capitol Bank.

Villar undoubtedly pressured DPWH officials to discard the costly feasibility studies, engineering design and plans done for C-5 Extension and an 8-lane road project linking Cavite to Laguna causing the government to lose billions of pesos plus the cost to revise the preparatory works for the road projects estimated to have reached over PhP6 billion which the Senate demands Villar’s restitution.

It’s of public knowledge that instead of straight alignment which engineering economics requires, the roads were made to “snake” through Villar-HDCs’ 23 subdivisions obviously to provide them ingress and egress which would’ve cost billions of pesos which Villar couldn’t have been financed by GFIs because of single-borrower limit (which explains why Villar-HDCs were broken into several corporations) without national budget allotments that Villar is accused of “earmarks” which sent some members of the US Congress to jail.

Let it be stressed the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and other GFIs are just re-lending foreign loans from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, etc. Hence, if Villar-HDCs diverted part of their loans for his personal use, say, to amass his incredible net worth or for his presidential campaign, the Filipino people surely have lost much more than the amount the Senate’s demanding from Villar to pay back.

I asked Abueva another question: Do you believe Villar’s net worth and the growth of Villar-HDCs assets are statistically probable from their 1992 baseline when he’s first elected to the House of Representatives with him and his wife both members of Congress to date, or a 16-year period?

Or else, the growth rate of the Villars’ net worth has been faster than those of Lucio Tan and Henry Sy.

Up to now the Villars are proud in claiming of starting from scratch, i.e. they didn’t inherit wealth like the Zobel-Ayalas, Madrigals, Lopezes, etc., yet he’s listed among the 10 richest Filipinos ahead of any Madrigal or Lopez.

For what purpose does the couple cling to their rags-to-riches story? Surely, to entice gullible Filipinos to vote for Villar and probably get Joseph Estrada’s “bakya” voters to overcome Noynoy Aquino’s lead in poll surveys. Perhaps, lay the basis for a “dagdag-bawas” victory as in 2004 if it’s true that GMA is secretly backing Villar over Gilbert Teodoro. I therefore asked Abueva, would he still vote for Villar?

Win or lose, the Villars are in big trouble. The government can sue them for restitution of its losses attendant to Villar-HDCs’ criminal activities. Since I consider Abueva a dear and respected friend like Sen. Nene Pimentel, I’ve shared with them Pamusa’s plans against the Villars depending on the cooperation of the next President which GMA hasn’t given Pamusa.

To avert GMA staying in power beyond June 30, 2010 and her corrupt regime continue, Pamusa may preemptively bring legal action in the US based on the Senate committee of the whole report against Villar if as I’ve hoped Pimentel isn’t able to prevail on him to withdraw his candidacy.

Villar and wife would be like other foreign leaders prosecuted for corruption under the UN Convention Against Corruption’s international cooperation provisions (UNCAC-ICP) enforced by the US with the cooperation of other governments.

The Villars are probably guilty under US laws of mail or wire fraud of transferring illegal income to the US; money laundering of depositing funds from the proceeds of corruption in the US banking system; violation of RICO of investing illegal funds in US real estate, securities and business enterprises and conspiracy to commit said crimes.

It will be recalled Imelda was charged of violating RICO in 1988 and acquitted but Pamusa can revive the case under UNCAC-ICP using the evidence of PCGG on Marcos’ and cronies’ ill-gotten wealth. Like Imelda, the Villars can be prosecuted in the US more so when asked by the next President.

Pamusa will be the complainant. If convicted, the Villars can go to federal prison like former Ukrainian PM Pavlo Lazarenko sentenced by a federal court in San Francisco to nine years in jail for wire fraud, money laundering, and related offenses with abuse of office. The USDOJ and other federal agencies are engaged in efforts to recover the proceeds of his crimes.

Or, they could be tried with evidence transferred to the Philippine trial court by the USDOJ and other federal agencies like Peru’s ex-President Alberto Fujimori and his intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos now serving 37 and 21 years in jail, respectively, for corruption, abuse of office and human rights violation.

The evidence against Fujimori came from the investigation and forfeiture action of the United States Attorney (federal prosecutor) and FBI in Miami that seized more than $20 million of Fujimori’s bank deposits and repatriated the funds to Peru, which were used as evidence in his trial. US federal agencies with cooperating foreign governments led to Montesinos’ arrest and extradition and the repatriation of millions more of their illicit assets to Peru from other jurisdictions.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Presidential Noynoy Aquino: his advocacies, philosophies, and perspectives

January 24th, 2010 by Abe N. Margallo

The polished performance of Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III before the nation’s business leaders on January 21, 2010 will make Ferdinand Marcos turn in his grave.

For many Filipinos (the businessmen, business managers and financial executives in attendance including) it could be their first time to get to know this gift from Noynoy (with his outstanding command of the essential and relevant facts and all) who theretofore has preferred “to not to seek the limelight” despite being at the core of an iconic political family all his life and a seasoned politician himself.

Yet the suave eloquence of Noynoy will remind many of the last generation or two – as well as the old fogies of the Marcosian era still living today – of his own father’s gift of gab, minus of course the trademark theatrics the martyred Ninoy was famous of. But unlike his father who was inexorably senatorial, whether performing before the august Senate of the Philippines exposing just another of Marcos’ shenanigans or defending himself before the military tribunal, Noynoy is graciously presidential even at this stage. Well, this is form.

But what’s the substance of Noynoy?

Or, as Noynoy himself puts it: What are “the advocacies that I champion, the perspective and philosophies I bring to the equation and some of my proposed solutions to give an insight into my inner persona.”

First, Noynoy confidently simplifies the nation’s problem by stating it as something that is not hard to figure out since we share the same statistics and probably the same conclusions and that “the solutions have been there all along.”

Change is therefore “extremely possible” – if only the leader we choose has the “clear political will to execute (it).”

That will to change, Noynoy contends, will be absent in a leader “whose own financial and political ethics are questionable” and who is in fact “benefiting from the status quo.” Such a leader “who has used public office for private gain, will always be the most committed enemy of change.”

In short, Noynoy argues: “To lead transformation, you cannot be part of the problem.” Neither can you be the agent of change “if you have lied, cheated, and stolen to gain power.”

The very first step to leading to national transformation is therefore the choosing of a leader who is a part of the solution.

Needless to state, the government is continually operating on deficit and without the required revenues, it is incapable to serve the basic needs of the state and its people such as proper education and other social overhead capital, e.g., for science and technology, and the economy unable to progress from its present status to a “development” state. The consequent lack of productive activity results in the inability of the economy to generate employment opportunities necessary to create a society of indigenous (instead of diasporic) middle class.

Getting down to the brass tacks, Noynoy then identifies an initial and wholly doable two-pronged approach to enhance the national budget without imposing new taxes or increasing tax rates but otherwise allowing “universal low tax rates.” One is by plugging the “revenue leaks” at the BIR and Customs and by punishing tax evaders and smugglers (Sans the kind of tough talk Obama unleashed to confront the prohibitive emoluments and bonuses given by investments banks to their executives a year after the US government had bailed out the financial system, Noynoy only politely assured his audience that “those smugglers and evaders are not faceless and unknown entities”). The other is “to encourage entrepreneurs and enterprises to invest and create jobs in any industry” and allow the market rather than the government “in spotting where the growth opportunities are.”

The nation’s businessmen, managers and financial executives are also reminded by the leading presidential aspirant that cronysism, state capture by the private sector and perverse symbiosis between the state and powerful rent-seeking economic class are anathema to progress. This is because while the practice “may work, locally, for now, it has not enabled these players to become competitive in the world market, where the rules of the game do not take special relationships into consideration.”

Noynoy makes perfectly clear that the government under his watch will not compete with business or “use its regulatory power to extort, intimidate and harass” (Take note however that he stops short of saying the government will not get involved).

Thus, for instance, in addition to his somewhat decentralized or Taiwanese approach to development, Noynoy is of the view that “our infrastructure agencies and LGUs (must) transform into cooperative ventures with the private sector by bringing forth an agreed public infrastructure program, based on a cohesive plan that optimizes the value of the entire network.” On the other hand, another of Noynoy’s approach suggests a South Korean model as he looks forward to this public-private partnership “as a means to pump-prime the economy” subject to “objective criteria for different types of projects and . . . a scorecard that will assess various projects against benchmarks transparent to the public.”

There are indeed certain policy alternatives that other governments have tried to pursue economic development such as: promotion of small and medium firms, targeting the development of a certain manufacturing industries, attraction of foreign investments or protection of certain domestic industries against imports.

But for Noynoy, one of the pragmatic priorities of his administration is to have a complete review of our agricultural programs. He believes that a lot can done for our farmers, given its present budget, if we plug the leaks and focus on the efficient use of resources; stop those resources by being eaten up in administrative costs; and instead support such efforts as “supply chain management that minimizes losses, creates jobs, consults with stakeholders, and capitalizes on our competitive advantage.”

(On a cognate note, I have advocated here in FV that a successful strategy for sustained agricultural surpluses possibly in conjunction with the development of the extractive sector could pick up a good portion of the bill for the transition to modernity. For example, foreign exchange from agricultural products and supplies would help defray the costs of imported capital goods necessary for industrialization.)

Noynoy may have been formally schooled in the market system and he dares to take a rather progressive stand on how to solve the growing number of underclass in our society because of unplanned pregnancies. However, instead of blind conformance with the conservative ideology of trickle down economy and the doctrinal teaching of his faith, Noynoy anchors his core philosophy on these fundamental humane and Christian values:

Our faith teaches us that we are our brother’s keeper. Our logic should tell us that in taking care of others, their growth equals our own.

Do you still wonder why our color is yellow?

Friday, January 29, 2010

Babe in the Woods vs. Titanic Manny

Balitang Kutsero
by Perry Diaz

In a recent interview with the media, presidential wannabe Manny Villar said that “it’s about time the Philippines has its first business-titan president.” And then he went on to portray frontrunner Noynoy Aquino as “a ‘babe in the woods’ who knew nothing about running a company or a bureaucracy, or even a family.” Whoa! That’s below the belt, Manny! It looks like this is going to be like the biblical battle between David and Goliath. Yup, it is going to be “Babe in the Woods” vs. “Titanic Manny.”

During a presidential debate, Titanic Manny questioned Noynoy’s ability to implement real reforms. Noynoy came swinging out saying that Titanic Manny didn’t take the lead in questioning the scandals in Gloria’s administration. “When push came to shove, where were you? What have you done?” Noynoy said. Actually, Titanic Manny did a lot of things… that is, making lots of money for himself.

Well folks, name-calling in the presidential campaign has started. Everybody is fair game and anything goes — below or above the belt. Sen. Dick “Flashy Dick” Gordon, another presidential wannabe, asked Titanic Manny if he was just running for President to protect his businesses. Titanic Manny complained on radio, “They’re ganging up on me.” No, sir! They just want to know the truth about the C-5 “double insertion” scandal. Right on, Dick!

Dick also asked President Macapagal Arroyo, who is running for Congress, if she was running to conceal her sins? What sins? Does Dick know something we don’t know about? It’s getting hotter over there. Whew!

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile was targeted by supporters of Titanic Manny in the Senate for authoring the committee report that found him guilty of ethics violations in regard to the “double insertion” scandal. A coup against Enrile was reportedly being hatched by Sen. Edgardo Angara. Enrile retaliated by threatening to reorganize the Senate committees. Nobody wanted to lose their committee chairs, and the coup fizzled out. Yep, what can a bunch of amateurs do to the old fox? Enrile may be an octogenarian but they got to be careful because he was one of the “Rolex 12” who planned and executed martial law in 1972. You can’t beat the old fox at his own game.

The Catholic bishops weren’t too happy with Noynoy’s stance on the controversial Reproductive Health bill which is now pending in Congress. They posted on their website a warning that “the candidacies of pro-RH bill politicians – especially survey leader Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III (Liberal Party) – would suffer if Catholics would seriously take the call from church leaders not to vote for those favoring RH bill.” Wow! That’s a stinger! Maybe the bishops wanted Noynoy — who is a bachelor — to get married and start making a lot of “babes in the woods.”

Titanic Manny said that “becoming president of the country is his last dream.” Didn’t Gloria say the same thing before? Look what happened. After the presidency she wants to be a congresswoman, and then Speaker of the House, and then Prime Minister for life. That was one hell of a long dream she had.

Titanic Manny boasted that he’s been married for 40 years to the same woman. Bah! No big deal! Erap and Loi Estrada celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary last December. The difference is that Erap had six mistresses and Titanic Manny wouldn’t admit to having one. It’s either he didn’t have any or he’s just too scared to tell his wife.

A news report says: “Presidential candidate Gilbert (Gibo) Teodoro, a former secretary of national defense, is proposing a national development plan that includes interconnecting the country’s main islands through a modern network of bridges or tunnels.” Fantastic! It would really be ideal for Gibo to run as Titanic Manny’s vice presidential running mate. If both of them win, Titanic Manny can build all the roads on all the islands and Gibo can build all the bridges to connect the islands.

Lito Banayo, a columnist and political consultant, wrote an article – “Her” man — saying that Gloria’s “secret candidate” is Manny Villar. This is going to be a battle royale — Noynoy, the “babe in the woods,” versus Titanic Manny and Gloriath. And what would happen to Gloria’s anointed candidate, Gibo Teodoro? The Japanese would say, “Sayonara, oka san.”The Italian would say, “Arrivederci, paisan.” The French would say, “Adieu, mon amie.”The Hawaiian would say, “Aloha, bro.” And the Pinoy would say, “Ha ha ha…”

For the fourth time, government agents searched Gov. Ampatuan’s mansion for firearms and found nothing again. However, the first time they found P400 million in cash. Then the last time they found another P120 million. However, nobody knows where the money went. And nobody was complaining about it either. Hmmm….

News Item: “Pacquiao could be beaten — by two men.” “There’s one way to beat Manny Pacquiao, and it would need the clone of two great warriors the Filipino boxer had previously beaten” — Erik Morales and Miguel Cotto. Well, cloning takes time. Why don’t they just put Pacquiao in the same ring with Morales and Cotto. And to make it more interesting, include Floyd Mayweather too. Like they say, “Matira ang matibay” (Last man standing wins).

I ran into an article posted on www.themetrolife.blogspot.com. It says:

Inkris Your Bocabulary by Manny Pacquiao

1. TACTICS – tunog ng orasan (sound of the time (tic tac))

2. NO PEER – nike commercial (no fear)

3. MOTOR KID – paglibot nya sa Manila (going around in Manila)

4. CHECK IN – manok sa McDo (chicken from Mcdo)

5. CORRUPT – pagsara ng mata (closing your eyes) (I don’t really get this one)

6. WIT – timbang (weight)

7. DUET – gawin mo (do it)

8. NOODLE – sagot kay Kris sa Deal or No Deal (no deal)

9. QUOTES – tawag nya kay Freddie Roach (coach)

10. CAKE – sipa (kick)

11. PANTS – suntok (punch)

12. LEAP – kaliwa (left)

(PerryDiaz@gmail)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Transcript of Noynoy’s MBC Q&A

Below is the transcript of Q and A of Senator Noynoy Aquino when he spoke before the Makati Business Club (MBC) last Thursday, January 21, 2010.

Q: In governing you will need the cooperation of Congress, what’s your strategy for getting their cooperation particularly in a situation where you do not control either or both of the houses?

BSAIII: Well sir I think you will agree with me that the tradition for the past congresses has been that the dominant party becomes the party to which the President belongs to. If I’m elected president, we already have our Liberal Party [ … 0:49], we have our allies in other aggregations and party-list groups but more importantly, the vast majority will always want to be siding with the administration, whoever it is, so cooperation with congress doesn’t seem to be a problem at this point in time as we foresee.

Q: South Africa, after apartheid, formed a Truth Commission. De Klerk, Mandela, wound up winning the Nobel Prize. In South Korea, a similar search for the truth landed [2 Koran Names] in jail. Given the sustained unpopularity and perceived excesses of the present leadership, will there be priority given by your administration if you win, to ferret out truths about the GMA years? You talk about Garcillano, you talk about Pidal, Peter Wallace and his Wallace 11, ZTE and the like of transactions. What is your administration going to do in this regard?

BSAIII: The job of the Chief Executive is to enforce all of the laws; recovery of ill-gotten wealth, if it exists, is not a proscribed activity, meaning there are no time limits to it but it has to be a priority. I’ve already made a public statement that I want closure on all of these issues if elected president. That means that one of the four platforms, the top four in the agenda is judicial reform. There has to be certainty of conviction and punishment if you do commit crimes in this country.

A sad fact is that all of the cases that are filed by the prosecutors, only about 18% wind up as convictions. As you know our system says that a prosecutor, before he introduces a case, should be convinced about the validity of the case, the preponderance of evidence at present. But after having undergone that process, it only results in 18% and those are official statistics. 33% are dismissed; we lose all of these cases. Therefore, adherence to the rule of law seems to be honored more in the breach. Now so, in direct answer to your question, there have never been answers to all of the issues that you have mentioned, be it Hello Garci, be it ZTE. For instance in ZTE, there was a board meeting by the NEDA, there were clear-cut instructions on sovereign guarantees on a BOT basis. This was reversed. Those were orders of the head of NEDA and also who happens concurrently to be the head of republic. Who can supersede the orders of the president of this republic? That has to be settled. What are the loopholes that were exploited so that the NBN-ZTE deal almost became the nightmare? But fortunately the people rose up to oppose.

Again, let me reiterate, it will be one of the priorities that will happen within the first 6 months; I guess within the first month we will already be tackling all of these issues under the Department of Justice and to ferret out and move the investigation, and if so warranted, to file the necessary charges.

Q: Will you or will you not form a Truth Commission?

BSAIII: In the Truth Commission, was something I’ve always been studying ever since I became a congressman the first time in 1998. I thought that the model and the idea of closure for a lot of things. One question that I wasn’t able to answer then was, as you know, in South Africa, a necessary component of availing of the privileges was to reveal everything you knew about crimes that you had committed during the apartheid regime, by both sides, which included very vivid descriptions of various tortures employed. I was asking myself, in the Philippine context, if a father were to revisit a crime committed to a child, who was tortured by government forces in the martial law years, will that not in turn, foster a new cycle of violence? I’ve never really been able to answer that question. But in terms of reviewing this past decade and the lost opportunities in what are the systemic loopholes that were exploited that got us to this point, yes, but in terms of filing charges against those who are guilty of committing crimes that I think should be left to the Department of Justice, in the very capable hands of a very active and proactive Secretary of Justice, who I will not name at this point in time lest he be persecuted for that.

Q: Over the last decade or so the Philippine economy has not done well in manufacturing, it has not come out competitive in the world, and agriculture has not developed as you mentioned the way it should, and the country has moved more and more toward being a service industry, very successfully in some cases, call centers, BPO, tourism beginning to pick up, this is an area which I think there is a great potential for the Philippines. But it requires one thing that the two other sectors don’t require, education. And the educational system in the Philippines has deteriorated dramatically and alarmingly. We only have a ten-year primary/secondary school system where everywhere else in the world has 12. as you mentioned only 14% graduate from college level. We don’t have enough classrooms, books full or errors, all the things you know. What specific things will you do to correct the situation? And where and how will you get the funds?

BSAIII: There are various solutions to the problem, and first of all let me agree with you Mr. Juarez with all the things you’ve said previously. What are solutions? How much will it cost to…there is an estimated twenty to forty thousand classroom need in this country. If our main focus will be to pump prime the economy and generate employment, then we will build the schools.

Our experts tell us within a year, maximum of two years we can complete the twenty to forty thousand, even at the cost of a million per classroom, although at this point in time the average is at about 500,000, and where will we get the money? As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are so much leakages in our revenue collection efforts. The 150 billion, we can allocate a portion of the 150 billion towards meeting at least part of the 40 billion necessary, if pump-priming was the necessary goal.

On the other hand we want a more effective use of the resource, we can contract private schools. I’m made to understand that middle-tier schools have a tuition in the 5,000 to 8,000 bracket. What does that mean? For a class size of 50, that translates into Php400,000 cost per classroom of 50. When we build classrooms, the shell, the basic shell lacking, the chairs, the blackboard, electricity, the books, the teachers, etc., just the basic shell is already on average nation-wide Php500,000. So if we are to send these children, there’s an existing program using a voucher system called “Gasbi.” If we send these children to private schools but in a direct contracting basis so that there are no abuses in the system, we can save about Php100,000 per classroom. That translates into, or we can utilize that resource into supplemental feeding programs, into a better book development program, into a scholarships for college, into scholarships for teachers, benefits, so on and so forth.

So, the plan is, transform it from 10 to 12, there is a bridge program, it’s already in the books, that’s why my theme is always “there are no secrets.” The plan is a good plan, it’s already there, it’s really just a question of implementing the same. Now, I think it is unfair for our students to, to expect rather, our students to be able to absorb 12 years’ worth of education in a 10-year program, further compounded by the desire to be solving the problems by saying we have no more classroom shortages, and this was done basically by shifting. Shifting is making 2 or 3 classes utilize 1 classroom. And I would just like to emphasize because that really angers me every time I think about it. You’re a Grade 1 student, which is the entry level, in our public school system, you have a class supposedly for English, to which Science and Health have been included. So, the child who probably doesn’t understand English, is tasked to understand scientific concepts taught in English and together with health. To further compound it, as if he didn’t have enough problems, he’s given a textbook that has errors known only to the teacher, who is in possession of teacher’s notes. The Grade 1 student, I think no, by the DepEd is expected to be able to discern what is right and what is wrong at Grade 1, in a language he doesn’t understand.

Therefore the investment is a guarantee of problems down the line. People who cannot be employed think, limitations as to what we can do given the talent that is there before us. So we want to get to the 12-year program, we want to have a pre-school level where they are taught or conditioned to be able to study. And of course those textbooks will really have to be corrected and people who accepted the same and contracted for the same should be liable.

Q: Could we encourage Congress to spend its pork barrel on education?

BSAIII: Pork barrel will be limited to national priority programs, and of course one of them will be school-building programs.

Q: Mr. Senator, there are a couple of questions that deal with governance issues, particularly corruption, and I’d like to read them and maybe you can answer them as a whole. How will you handle the Lucio Tan cases of tax evasion and the Marcos wealth? Second, you talk about how different you will be from the present administration, what exactly will you do to make GMA, FG and all pay for their crimes? What will you do with the tong of all congressmen? There’s another one that has to do with encouraging whistle-blowers. So maybe your strategy with dealing with corruption?

BSAIII: Can I start with how do I deal with whistle-blowers? It’s a sad fact no, I learned this close to about 3 decades ago, if you catch somebody smuggling, you’re supposed to entitled to, I’m talking about at this point in time, to a reward of 20% when you give information to catch the smugglers. If you facilitate smuggling, I was told by my informants, you get a 10% fee. So I asked this person, why will you participate in something illegal to get 10% when you can go legal? And point the authorities towards the commission of this crime and get a double reward? And the simple answer was: the 10% is kaliwaan, I get it right away, the 20% I will get when I retire and probably 5 years after that. The explanation is you go through so many processes, the seizing, the goods, for instance, of smuggling, the appeals process, auctioning, etc., I don’t think it’s that difficult point for government to advance this reward system to make it an effective reward system, point one.

Point 2, as I keep saying, the judicial reform is so essential. We cannot have a situation where a criminal is not deterred from committing a crime basically because even if he gets to trial, he doesn’t even have a 1 in 5 chance of being convicted. It seems you are the most unlucky individual to be convicted in this country. Now we have so many leads with regards to the first family, statements of assets and liabilities are there, there are dramatic changes in the statements of various members, and obviously, there are various provisions already with our laws, unexplained wealth, is presumed to be ill-gotten. And in that situation, they are tasked to answer for that.

And at the same time, my father was a very…one of my father’s most important advocacies was human rights. Therefore I will ensure that their rights are also protected. Because again, from my father, the true test of a democracy is not your ability to defend the rights of your friends, but more importantly those of your enemies. Because if you allow one group to be oppressed, you are setting up the situation for your group to be oppressed at some point in time. So they will be afforded all of the rights, they will be given all of the opportunities to answer the charges, and like any other citizen, they will be presumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

Now with regards to the Marcos and Lucio Tan cases, and these are subjudice, I will be entering the situation, what, at the second or third decade of litigation? One would hope that there is closure to all, even to those issues. When you go into this country, you can expect adjudication of cases to happen in a timely manner. One of the sad facts, and that’s why judicial reform, again, our stake, has to be improved, is that on average we understand that it takes 6 years to adjudicate a case. Again, it leads to, a condition where it moves everybody not to follow the laws, and that has to stop.

Q: 2 quick questions, Senator. the heart of the Cory Constitution is social justice. The phrase is not anywhere in your platform, as advertised. What are the specifics of your social justice program? And related, that is the question of what will you do June 30, 2010, we do not have a president or vice president who can be proclaimed and we wake up on July 1, 2010, GMA is still the ruler of this country in one form or another?

BSAIII: I take exception to the fact that social justice is not in the platform, it is actually embodied in practically all of the 16 points of the platform that we have published on the site. For instance, we want to have the provision of opportunities for everybody to improve themselves, that’s why job generation is first in the list of priorities. What does that mean? I think a father wants best, provide me the job and I’ll take care of my children’s education and health. Education is the second factor, again empowerment, again, opportunities. If you are not educated enough, there are you know, what jobs actually can, what skills do you have, and what jobs can you acquire? Therefore, to have meaningful job generation, the educational support should be there, hence our drive for the 12-year program and even the inclusion of a nursery stage prior to the formal education program.

The ecology, the platform on ecology is very, very simple. We want to translate it so that there’s no confusion among anyone. If there are no forests, there are no watersheds. No watersheds, no water. No water, no food, no food, no people. Are you aware that we have an 8% remaining primary forest cover? But what is more criminal, is up to today, we have not delineated the forestry lines. So when you talk about preserving forests, you don’t even define what the forests is obviously, we are not preserving anything, and that is there also. I’m sorry, I’m missing the second question.

Q: The second questions asks what you will do come June 30, 2010 when we have no elected president and vice president…

BSAIII: Number one, the laws on succession are very clear. But can I just tell you, instead of telling all of you our plans, people, let’s not be naive no? There are talks that certain quarters want to exploit that situation. There are talks of failure of elections or non-proclamation, no-el, so on and so forth. Now, does it behoove me to reveal publicly the plans that we are contemplating at this point in time, and to make our job of preserving this democracy harder by telling our enemies precisely what we will do. I think I will leave my plans close guarded at this point in time and we assure you we are not babes in the woods, and we are ready, as much as possible, we are getting all the necessary info, intelligence and alliances in place, to forestall the grabbing of power by people with purely vested self-interest.

Can I just add, sorry, this has to be really laid in the minds of everybody. We in the Liberal Party say that we are espousing platform based, issue-based politics. And I am very, very confident that even if I were not in the seat, this occupation is fraught with dangers. I have in the person of my partner, Mar Roxas, somebody who is exactly of like mind, somebody who will pick up if I am unable to finish the job. Therefore, we can assure everybody that will join us, there is a continuity of expectations that are realistic. This is not person-based.

Q: That highlights a weakness in the political system in the Philippines. When we elect you, we don’t automatically elect Sen Roxas because you’re voted for independently—so it has to be as a team. In the papers recently there was a two-page ad put in by the government claiming all kinds of things: that this president has achieved. It has numerous faults in it. One of the things is that they are very proud of the fact that this economy had been stimulated and helped by the OFWs and their remittances to the Philippines. Those OFWs are Filipinos who have had to leave their families. So society has been hurt badly by it. It’s in fact an economic failure. A failure of government to provide the jobs that they should have had here. What would you do to reverse the situation, to be able to provide the jobs here for Filipinos instead of overseas?

BSAIII: Well, number one, I think I will be lying if I told you that we will have comparable jobs within six years. That I think is an impossibility. But there is I think an obtainable objective of having compensation for people who have skills that have been improved. We can get it to a certain level whereby the increase in wages—although not the same as working abroad—together with the family being in tact, and together with the idea of being a first-class citizen in your own country will be enough to win people away from seeking the greener pasture elsewhere. We believe that the people who have left and who are opting to leave, primarily have no choice. They are political refugees, they are being forced, not for improvement—where it was 20 years ago—but rather even just for survival. And again you’re right. The opportunities have to exist here. Now, when I go around the country, when I go around Metro Manila, the opportunities are so abundant, and all it takes is to do the right thing. For instance, in Surigao City, the table you’re using right now was about the length of this fish—I don’t know what breed of fish that was. But that particular stall in the public market in Surigao City had three of it. The next stall had five of the same size. And the Media asked me in that point in time—this was the senatorial campaign—“Can you raise it up for a photo op?” And of course I’m very macho, and I proceeded to raise it by the head. And the only thing I raised was the head. It was that heavy. And I was saying: “How much would it cost to set up a blast freezing facility here? How much would it cost to turn these things into steaks, train the people to marinate it into that, and export it to countries like Japan or elsewhere, where they’d be thanking us for sharing the bounty … ” Mar Roxas’s home province of Capiz, you go to the beach at low tide, you have a rake, you rake the sand, you get clams. In Metro Manila you get [the fry] of the clams. Why can’t we even get it from Capiz to Metro Manila?

I’m sorry, sometimes I can’t stop, because really, the absurdity, the simplicity of the solutions that are not being implemented really gets to me. The fertilizer scam: The greatest sin is 723 million pesos at least could have started a chain of improving productivity. And for those of you who are not aware, when you plant rice in irrigated lands—and that was the hybrid rice program, that was the fertilizer input program [ … 23.05]—you can double to quadruple your income for our farmers, especially if it’s irrigated. You can have five harvests in two years. But this current government made the program in 2004 and really turned it into a disaster. We had ten cropping cycles that we lost an opportunity in. But the biggest sin is that even in investigating this alleged crime took four years. That’s why I said ten harvests were lost. So, again, from Masagana ’99 we had a hundred kabans per hectare. Commercially we are already now growing 240 to 320 kabans per hectare. I am told, but I’m still validating this, that UP LB and IRRI are even working further than that. And again: a true fertilizer input program, adequate monitoring, serious credit facilities, can undoubtedly at least make us self-sufficient in rice. We teach agriculturists worldwide. At the end of the day, we import food. That has to stop also.

Q: I think you will welcome this next question. It says: do you already have enough money for the campaign?

BSAIII: I will be lying if I tell you we have enough money. But, there is adequate … but of course, it makes the process that much simpler. Can I just share with you this bit of information that was given to me yesterday? I understand there was a tsinoy who went to our headquarters in EDSA the other day. He proceeds to donate a certain amount of money, I was not told how much, but he had a simple request. I’ll say it Tagalog cause it really was… I really made my day that day. He said: “Ito yung pera, bumili kayo ng commercial niyo. Naiinis na ko dito sa isang ‘to.” That by the way is not a joke. It really did happen. At some point in time we will have to report that contribution to Comelec. We’ll have all the details then. But it really made my day.

Q: Two quick questions again, Mr Senator. What will be the roles of your sister Kris and your uncle Peping if you become president? Can you give us a specifically categorical answer on your stand on the Reproductive Health Bill?

BSAIII: Kris I think will still be my fashion adviser, which means if she does not like what I’m wearing, she will not keep quiet. I think she even had this barong made. So if she complains I’ll tell her you’re the one who designed it. And that will be the extent. Most of my sisters, and Kris included—Kris is a very busy individual … Anything I ask her, I ask her to attend some ribbon-cutting thing if I become president, that will be an imposition on her time. The three are eagerly looking forward to regaining their anonymity. In fact I’m not even sure if I celebrate my birthday, in the period of incumbency, that they will be present, since it will be a Media event. The role of my Tito Peping: I would be foolish not to seek his wisdom, because of his experience; but at the same time, I will be the one holding the fort. The buck really has to stop with me. I am responsible ultimately for all my actions. Therefore any or all of my decisions will be based on discussion with all the stakeholders as much as possible, but in the end of the day it will be something I can live with in conscience, in what I believe is right regardless on who propounded it.

On reproductive health: Of course, somehow, the secretariat at the senate made it appear that I was an author of the Reproductive Heath Bill. Unfortunately I never authored such a bill. And I intend to interpolate the proposed version before us. The portion that I want to interpolate on is: In government when you have a budget, you don’t use it, you lose it. And there will be provisions of the reproductive health for artificial means of family control. And I want provisions that will ensure that if government hospitals—by cunning, by deceit, by misinformation, etc, are able to expend these budgetary items so that they are replenished, then there’d be penal sanctions for the same.

My position is more properly called Responsible Parenthood; and basically it says, “The state has an obligation to remind parents each child you bring into this world carries with it a certain set of responsibilities: to clothe, to shelter, to educate, etc. That is the extent of what the state should do. So there will be educational programs, campaigns, seminars, symposia, to which we will invite all of the churches to put in their two-cents worth. At the end of the day, the state, in preserving the family, mandated by the constitution has to remind everybody that they will and that they should have these set of responsibilities. The state cannot force as to size, the state cannot force as to method. now, in fact we will oppose any attempt to do so, because a democratic state has to proceed from individual freedoms.

Q: President Arroyo has intervened in a number of industries: power, oil, cement, pharmaceuticals, food—particularly, sensitively, rice. In state of belief, it was necessary to give people relief from otherwise excessive prices. What would be your policy and action?

BSAIII: Mrs Arroyo when she was my professor said that there should be minimal government intervention (Questioner: “She’s got a poor memory …”), because distortions are created in the marketplace. But then again, given that … you know, it proceeds from a governance of survival there’s no logic used except “will it help me retain power or not?” Therefore every decision is faulted from the onset because of that perception. We are hoping that we will get our mandate clear: clear and clearly won, therefore we will have the confidence to embark and ask our people. At this point in time we will have to sacrifice by X amount to get to this level. We want to be transparent in all of the dealings. At the end of the day I assume, god willing we have an intervention for instance in agriculture. You had that 723 million debt really bought fertilizers that were correct. That were delivered at a timely manner at an appropriate price. And perhaps even the, as I mentioned, the purchasing aspect of it be reformed. Things will work out on themselves because we made the right decisions on every aspect. When I pass EDSA, and I guess everybody who passes … can I just a question? When was the last time you remember EDSA as being a smoothly paved road? And this is the premiere road of our National Capital Region. I think most of you will say Highway 54, those who are honest. But when we export our construction companies, our engineers, our designers elsewhere, hindi ba world class? How many of you are aware that in this recent tragedy in Haiti, there were so many Filipinos in a professional basis. And I was surprised that even in Bermuda, the same situation holds: Accountants, lawyers, etc. I always assumed that Bermuda, beneficiary of the British Civil Service System, would have a very efficient bureaucracy, and an efficient professional corps. But it turns out it is again it’s again another area for Filipino expertise to shine. So again, they can do it there, undoubtably they can do it better here, so long as the milieu is present that opportunities for everybody are extant. Nobody is excluded, hence our phrase is “Walang iwanan at walang maiiwan.”

Q: I was told that we have to wind this up after two final questions, that I’d like to read. One is: “How will you handle the issue of pagbabago the Filipino people dreamt and longed for” and “as a transformational president, what key qualities would you bring to this task?”

BSAIII: Well, number one, you will have to lead by example. I think in fairness to my mother, at the onset of her term she inherited a government that was corrupt top to bottom, for the most part because the top set the example. Something as cop on the street who was being bribed for a minor traffic violation: he used to demand for his bribe. At the onset of my mom’s term, the phrase was, “Teka, hindi ko hinihingi yan a. Binibigay mo yan, pinipilit mo.” There was a recognition that that was wrong. And after that, something as simple as … I complain about traffic, and Mar in I already have an agreement. If we win, and if traffic isn’t solved, we’ll participate in the traffic. We will not ask of anybody that which we are not ready to do ourselves first. Hopefully we will not talk as much, because we are trying to put a spin on something that is indefensible. And siguro the biggest ambition is in the fourth year, it will just be Mar and I talking because everything is working and it’s boring.

Sana po ay hindi na naming kailangan tutukan minut-minuto, dahil nga maayos na ang systema. E ngayon palang ho nagiipon na kami ng mga kwento just in case magkatotoo po yan. Diba? Lahat naman ng magulo sa mundo nating to ay dahil nga yung systema, hinayaan na kung saan interes ng isang tao, isang grupo lang ang importante. Yun ang gusto naming baguhin.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

“Coward”

by Lito Banayo
from MALAYA

What would you do when someone calls you, publicly and openly, a “coward”? What ought you do if the one assailing your character is a fellow senator?

Which brings to mind the legendary politician and statesman, Jose Bayani Laurel, Jr., eldest son of the wartime president. Tio Pito who I was extremely privileged to be associated with, was not only an astute political player, but more so, a principled man with the courage of his convictions.

After years of martial law, when it became quite clear that the allegedly “noble” ends of authoritarianism were being abused, and after Marcos had declared his Kilusang Bagong Lipunan not just a movement but a political party, effectively condemning the NP and LP into political limbo, Speaker Laurel spoke openly against authoritarian rule. “Sobra na. Nais pa yatang maugatan sa kapangyarihan” (This is too much. He wants to be rooted in power.), said the man who swore Ferdinand Marcos into the Nacionalista Party and therefrom, win the presidency from Diosdado Macapagal in 1965. In a speech at the Manila Hotel, Speaker Laurel perorated against “the narcissistic effects of absolute power”, and thereafter, he and his younger brother Salvador (Doy), began to unite the opposition under a political umbrella called UNIDO. I became UNIDO’s backroom worker; by title, its deputy secretary-general.

I recall a story one of his associates in the law office told me about how then Rep. Jose B. Laurel Jr. went straight to the Senate offices in the upper floor of the Old Congress Building (now the National Museum) and sought out a Nacionalista who voted against the party line. Upon seeing the unfortunate fellow, dimunitive Pepito charged at the man, and slapped him in full view of astonished Senate staffers and reporters. The politician turned pale, froze, and simply walked away, even as Pepito challenged him – “Ano? Magpaka-lalaki ka!”.

Why do I recall Pepito Laurel in this article? Because his heirs sold the ancestral home called Villa Paciencia on Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong to the man whom Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile just called a “coward”.

Pepito inherited the stately manse built by his father, the wartime president. And he lived there until his own death. There it was where Doy Laurel in December of 1985 announced after weeks of agonizing that in the higher interest of the nation and the people, he was giving way to the wife of his bosom friend Ninoy Aquino, as presidential candidate of the United Opposition against Ferdinand Marcos in the snap elections of 1986. Thus was history writ — the Cory Aquino-Doy Laurel tandem became a juggernaut against the dictatorship and neither armour nor artillery could stop the surge of People Power in the fateful days of February 22-25 when Juan Ponce Enrile and Fidel Valdez Ramos mutinied against Marcos.

Villa Paciencia has thus become part of our contemporary history — citadel of brave men who did not flinch, and principled statesmen who took to heart what their once proud and noble party proudly emblazoned in its escutcheon — “Ang Bayan, Higit sa Lahat”.

Juan Ponce Enrile was himself once a Nacionalista. Marcos’ lust for political hegemony drove Enrile into the KBL and EDSA drove him out of it, when he staked his own life against his political patron, knowing fully well that Marcos was no coward, and frontal clash could mean his own mortal end. But God willed, and the people prevailed. Enrile’s courage paid off. Clashing political ambitions kept him out of the Nacionalista Party he could have rejoined. Whatever his detractors may say of the man — never, ever has he been a coward. So when he publicly calls someone a “coward”, know that it is not judgment so easily made. Brave men do not easily condemn another for cowardice. It is easy enough to call someone a dolt, even a crook, but when one summons his convictions to publicly call somebody else a coward, he is prepared for the worst.

And what wore Enrile’s patience thin?

Villar was ousted by his peers because of the stink that his suspected “taga” in C-5 wrought, and they chose Enrile the new Senate President in late 2008. A lady with balls, Senadora Jamby Madrigal produced documents to prove that Villar made a killing by self-dealing within the chambers of the Senate, as Chair of the Committee on Finance which oversees the general appropriations law, and even as Senate President. These were referred to the Senate Committee on Ethics chaired by Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who discovered the double appropriation for the same stretch of road in the previous year’s budget. When Lacson started to investigate, Villar and his loyal acolytes charged that Lacson was into a political lynching of a fellow “presidentiality”. Villar summoned enough courage to stand on the floor in early 2009, after weeks and months of hiding behind the petticoats of Alan Cayetano and their media chorus line. And there he hurled his “immortal” challenge — that he would answer these “unfounded charges and fabrications” not before Lacson”s “hang” jury, but before his peers, all of them, on the floor of the Senate.

Lacson the following session day moved to convene the Senate into a Committee of the Whole, to obviate Villar’s accusations of partiality. Their peers agreed. But Cayetano and Arroyo and Pimentel, Villar’s hallelujah chorus stalled the proceedings of the SCOW by questioning every nook and cranny of every rule and procedure. Enrile prudently gave in to much, but when it was clear that obfuscation was the only intent, he called for a vote, and proceeded with investigative hearings that Villar and his acolytes snubbed. Pimentel even went to the Supreme Court for a TRO, which never came. Meanwhile, Villar and his choirboys kept stone-walling with smoke and mirrors through “cooperative” media. He was after all, the presidentiality with the “mostest”, from C-5, from Capitol Bank and its successor Optimum Development, from Norzagaray and Daang Hari, with Daang Reyna to boot. And Camella, Palmera, Adelfa, Brittany, Portofino, Crown Asia, La Marea, and a long train of dispossessed or hoodwinked landowners, not to mention agencies left holding empty bags, from the graft-pockmarked housing funds to the nation’s fiduciary of financial fidelity — mismo!, the Bangko Sentral.

And when La Loren needed a smoke and mirror legerdemain to explain why she would live in with the man she denounced months before as a virtual crook, as her vice-presidential prize catch, Villar and his acolytes produced a premature resolution mid-November last year, absolving himself, with himself, mismo!, as the 12th signatory, from Madrigal’s charges. And oh, how they went to town with it,

Enrile calmly said the resolution was premature for the SCOW had yet to make its final and formal pronouncement. Lacson called the hastily-written Villar resolution as a mere scrap of paper. But as 12 signatories constitute a majority of 22, the media chorus line proclaimed Villar as white as driven snow. That was in mid-November. Two months and a colorless Christmas season after, Enrile quietly asked his peers to review his committee report.

But confident of his 12 signatories to the premature resolution, with his acolyte Cayetano now dismissing Enrile’s report as just “a piece of paper”, Villar this time set a bigger adventure for himself — the Senate Presidency. Unknown to Enrile, Villar had been button-holing fellow senators peddling his last two-minute fastbreak. To one senator, he offered a cabinet position in his “future cabinet”, and thereby insulted the man, who after all was running for president himself! In a Senate of 22 sitting members, such button-holing never remains a secret, and soon enough, Enrile had 12 signatures in his committee report recommending censure of Villar, and a reimbursement amounting to 6.2 billion pesos. Jinggoy Estrada signed, and Kiko Pangilinan forsook his Wednesday Club, invoking a “party” stand. The tables had been turned, and Villar’s gambit had become a mis-adventure.

It was at this point that Enrile pronounced not just the guilt of Villar as peer, but his cowardice as well. It has been a week since the crusty old man and eleven other peers judged the C-5 at Taga “engineer” censurable for acts unacceptable to a senator of the realm. (This article was written Monday morning, ahead of an expected showdown on the floor in the afternoon). But in Iloilo on Sunday, sashaying with the Dinagyang revellers, Villar declared that he would not face the Senate. “I don’t see any relevance on the truth (sic). I have answered the issues on the floor (really?) and I have granted more than a hundred interviews (then why not face your peers?) It’s on the website, and I have placed an advertisement regarding that”, Villar said. Dinadaan sa pera-pera, as always.

Tail between his legs. Now his petticoat chorus invoke national interest to say Enrile must be replaced by one whose term shall expire in 2013 yet. But their principal, the man who bought Villa Paciencia and the Nacionalista Party from the Laurel heirs, has yet to summon what, in the words of Jose B. Laurel Jr., “magpaka-lalaki ka” connotes.

Is it perhaps — because Enrile knows more? Is it because an 85-year old “enemy” could do so much damage to a carefully-laid out campaign oozing with an indecent amount of billions? Or is it plain and simple cowardice?

* * *

The sharp eye notes a change, an editing, of Manuel Villar’s “Vision”, of “Yumaman ang Bayan”. Where before he so matter-of-factly talks of corruption as an issue that he will solve by “hindi na KAILANGANG magnakaw”, a cri de coeur and subconscious admission which we wrote about in our article about “Trust” two weeks ago, now the phrase has been deleted in the TV commercial.

Which makes me segue into a joke:

At a forum, the presidentiality (Joker Arroyo’s description of the species) enumerated his program for “good governance”, and proudly harrumphed “These are my principles”.

Noticeable was a lack of response from the audience, as in “ho-hum”.

Whereupon, presidentiality recovers his composure, and flashing his pearly whites, proudly declares, “If you don’t like these principles, I can always change them”.

Guess who I have in mind.

(banayo_at@yahoo.com)