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Friday, April 30, 2010

Is Zaldy Ampatuan’s release connected to ‘Villarroyo’?

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
by William M. Esposo
from The Philippine Star

Something wonderful happened in our country last Monday.

Led by Chief State Prosecutor Claro Arellano, the Department of Justice (DoJ) prosecutors stepped out of their offices and delivered a strong denouncement of Justice Secretary Alberto Agra’s dropping of the murder charges against ARMM (Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan and Mayor Akmad Ampatuan.

Claro Arellano and his fellow prosecutors deserve public praise and support for having the moral fortitude to denounce what is largely seen as an attempt to deprive the victims of the Maguindanao Massacre and their surviving loved ones the justice that they deserve.

What is significant in the action taken by Claro Arellano and his colleagues is that it is this type of moral courage to denounce wrongdoing in the highest public offices of the land that will be the key to ferreting out the rot of corruption and injustice in government and prosecuting the guilty persons who have betrayed public trust. Nobody knows more about the injustice and corruption in government offices than the agency insiders themselves.

Legal minds have since registered their arguments on why the dropping of murder charges against the two Ampatuans is wrong. The weightiest of these legal arguments are the following:

1. The case has been determined by a special DoJ panel and was elevated for trial already with the consent of the previous Justice Secretary. Once in the Trial Court, the DoJ had ceded jurisdiction over the case.

2. Agra’s main argument — the alibi of being in another place at the time of the Maguindanao Massacre — is considered to be the weakest argument in law and should not override the sworn testimony of a witness who placed Zaldy Ampatuan in the meeting that plotted the killings. Probable cause was clearly established.

In a live interview over ANC’s Top Story with Tony Velazquez and Pia Hontiveros last Monday, crusading lawyer Harry Roque revealed that he was once invited by Zaldy Ampatuan after their detention for the massacre. The invitation was for Roque to hear Ampatuan divulge Madame Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s (GMA) relationship with their clan and the role they played for her in the controversial ARMM voting results in 2004 and 2007.

Roque claimed that an ABS-CBN reporter — who was not named — also knew Zaldy Ampatuan’s threat to expose GMA with regards the 2004 and 2007 election operations in ARMM. Roque believes that the release order for Zaldy and Akmad Ampatuan was to prevent the ARMM governor from making the expose. The 2004 and 2007 ARMM elections defied statistical probability with the way the administration won there.

News of the Maguindanao Massacre reverberated here and abroad. It was too brazen and heinous a crime for the administration to whitewash but the relationship with the Ampatuan clan made GMA very vulnerable to an expose once the Ampatuans feel that she had abandoned them.

Should the Regional Trial Court agree to release the two Ampatuans, they can once again operate for the 2010 elections — other than to use their full resources to silence or intimidate the witnesses against them. There is no denying that this move of Agra sends a chill up and down the spines of the witnesses to the Maguindanao Massacre.

The timing of Agra’s dropping of the murder charges against the two Ampatuans, with about three weeks before the May 10, 2010 elections, cannot escape suspicion that the failing candidacies of GMA official and suspected secret presidential candidates — Gilbert Teodoro and Manny Villar, respectively — could be the other motivation.

“Abswelto kami kay Villar (We will be acquitted with Villar)” — Andal Ampatuan Jr., the prime suspect in the Maguindanao Massacre, was quoted by the front page of Pilipino STAR Ngayon last April 17. This stemmed from the ABS-CBN report where Andal Ampatuan Jr. confirmed his support for Manny Villar and his spokesman (and senatorial candidate) Gilbert Remulla on the day he was transferred to the Taguig detention facility. To reinforce his avowal of support, Andal Jr. even proudly displayed the Villar orange baller on his right wrist.

Villar had admitted on an ANC interview with Karen Davila that the young Andal Ampatuan’s endorsement hurts him more than it helps him. Lo and behold, suddenly, last Tuesday, Andal Ampatuan Jr. reversed gear and claimed that they were endorsing Noynoy Aquino. It was an obvious attempt to help Villar. Aquino simply dismissed the Ampatuan endorsement by saying: “No, thank you.”

Villar has been desperately trying to disprove that he is GMA’s secret candidate, even suggesting that the defections of administration supporters to Noynoy Aquino, his leading rival, and the involvement of Aquino relatives in the administration are ‘proofs’ that it is an Aquino-Arroyo alliance and not ‘Villarroyo’ as many believe. The admission of support for Villar by Andal Ampatuan Jr. kills any notions of an Aquino-Arroyo alliance.

Noynoy Aquino doesn’t need the ARMM “vote delivery system” to win the May 10 presidential election. Aquino is comfortably ahead of Manny Villar, his closest rival. Manny Villar had lost a lot of ground in the recent surveys and will need all the help he can get from GMA and her dearest friends.

* * *

Chair Wrecker e-mail and website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Holding Arroyo responsible for the Ampatuans

by Ellen Tordesillas

The dismissal by a Quezon City judge of the rebellion case against Maguindanao governor Datu Andal Ampatuan Sr, his son, ARMM governor Zaldy Ampatuan and 22 others should strengthen the case filed by relatives of journalists who were among those killed in the November 23 massacre before the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR).

Nov 23 massacre Nov 23 massacre

The journalists’ relatives are holding the Arroyo government responsible for the Nov. 23 carnage. In their suit filed last February, the relatives said “Clearly, all of those responsible for the carnage are agents of the Philippine State. Their acts in connection with the 23 November 2009 Maguindanao massacre are attributable under international law to the Republic of the Philippines.”

This week, three of the petitioners, Glen Salaysay, son of Cotabato City journalist Napoleon Salaysay, Noemi Parcon, wife of Koronadal City journalist Joel Parcon, and Feulen Sumagang, cousin of UNTV reporter Julito Evardo, were in Jakarta, where the AICHR is based, to follow up on their suit accompanied by their lawyer, Harry Roque of the CenterLaw Philippines.

They were most disgusted to find out that the Arroyo government has taken the stand that the Maguindanao massacre that has shocked the world and earned for the Philippines the distinction of being the most dangerous place for members of media is “a domestic legal issue” and international human rights bodies have no business meddling in.
Roque disagrees.“It cannot be a domestic issue,” he said, “since the Philippine government has violated its obligations under international law to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens, including the right to life. Such rights are embodied in human treaties to which the government is a party.”

In their petition, the victims’ families said the state also violated its “duty not to provide impunity, considering that its very own agents were behind the slaughter and it failed to prevent them from carrying it out.”

Roque cited the request of the Vice Mayor Esmail “Toto” Mangudadatu, the political rival of Ampatuans for protection, not only from the military but from no less than the defense secretary, but didn’t get any.

“It cannot be a domestic issue,” Roque said,since the Philippine government has violated its obligations under international law to protect the fundamental rights of its citizens, including the right to life. Such rights are embodied in human treaties to which the government is a party.

It is common knowledge that Gloria Arroyo has coddled the Ampatuans despite their corruption and shocking human rights records because the warlords manipulated the results of the 2004 elections in her favor which overturned the lead of her rival Fernando Poe, Jr.

In the 2007 elections, it was 12-0 in favor of the administration senatorial candidates.

Roque also cited the interview of one of the gunmen in the massacre who is now willing to testify which described the closeness of Arroyo and the Ampatuans. The prospective witness who is only known as “Jesse” said when Arroyo visited Maguindanao, she called Andal Sr, “Ama” (father) while Andal Jr, who led the killing of at least 53 people on that terrible day of Nov 23, called Arroyo, “Ina” (mother).

Roque’s connection of Arroyo with the Ampatuans is corroborated by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel, Jr who issued a statement saying it was not surprising that the rebellion charges against the Ampatuans were dismissed by a Quezon City judge.

Pimentel said “rebellion” was the wrong charge.” The massacre was pure and simple multiple murders of innocent people” he said.

Pimentel said rebellion charges were intentionally filed first even if any lawyer would have told the government prosecutors there was no evidence that backed them up just so the Arroyo administration would not be suspected of not doing anything to apply the law against “the family who is one of the most useful tools of manipulating the will of the people in their turf in Maguindanao.”

“It was a non-case, filed with deceptive motives, and pursued with hypocritical zeal that the Arroyo government chose to do in order to mislead the people that it was upholding the law even against the warlords it was coddling in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao,” Pimentel said.

Roque said since the government enjoys immunity from suit it cannot be sued in Philippine courts without its consent. As such, only an international organization such as the AICHR can assume jurisdiction over the Philippines on matters involving violations of certain fundamental freedoms.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

SUCH HYPOCRISY!

by Rey O. Arcilla
from MALAYA

(Does Davide mean he was not aware of the graft and corruption in the Arroyo regime?)

Prospero Pichay, the ruling coalition campaign manager, reportedly said that Ms. Gloria Arroyo is no longer an issue in this year’s elections as “she is not even running for reelection.”

Wrong! She is the issue. She is not running for reelection only because she is not allowed to by the Constitution.

Had she not shamelessly decided to run for Congress, Pichay would have been half right.HHH But she did. And she did, not because she wants to continue “serving the people” as she put it, but simply because she wants to continue wielding power. It is also a desperate attempt to shield her self from the fate that awaits her after June 30.

As I have said time and again, there is no getting away from all the evil deeds she and her conspirators have inflicted upon the people. The time of reckoning, retribution, if you will, nears.

******

A picture is worth more than a thousand words, so the old adage goes. Look at the picture published in the papers below. Arroyo has the look of a just-scolded child putting up a brave face and being placated by an uncle who dished out the upbraiding himself.

What could US President Barack Hussain Obama have said to her that made her look as though she is smarting? My guess is that he emphatically reminded her of what he said about being on the wrong side of history. He must have told her he wants the forthcoming elections to push through and a smooth transition of power to the legitimate winner to take place.

******

Which takes me to all the hot air about failure of elections. As I have repeatedly been saying, there will be no failure of elections for two reasons:

First, the people will not allow it. They have waited for what to them now seemed like an eternity to replace her without resorting to unconstitutional means. Their will shall not be thwarted again.

Second, Uncle Barack has already spoken. Arroyo will not dare give an illegal order to her minions, including AFP Chief Delfin Bangit who, to begin with, does not command the respect and support of a large number in the military hierarchy, to screw up the elections.

Whether we like it or not, the influence of the US over our political and economic life is quite pervasive. Sad. But that’s another story.

******

Leading candidate Noynoy Aquino reportedly said that an endorsement from former president Fidel Ramos would be a boost to his presidential bid.

I disagree. Ramos is not exactly popular among the people, at least not anymore. The whispers about the anomalies allegedly committed during his administration have not stopped. An indication of that is the recent survey that said a large majority of the people considers a Ramos and Arroyo endorsement a kiss of death.

******

Former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. recently resigned as Philippine Permanent Representative to the UN and joined the Aquino bandwagon so he could “campaign for change.”

Yeah, right!

Davide was in the UN post in New York for more than three years. He went there without confirmation from the Commission on Appointments which was in violation of the Constitution.

For three years, he had been representing and defending the Arroyo regime before the international community. And then, three months before he was to give up the post anyway, he suddenly resigns to campaign for Aquino “because the people can never forget and can never tolerate graft and corruption”, kuno.

Such hypocrisy! I wonder what Arroyo must think of him now.

Does he mean he was not aware at all of the graft and corruption in the Arroyo regime during the last three years he was defending it? He was not aware of the odious ZTE-NBN deal, the fertilizer scam, the lavish dinners at the Le Cirque restaurant in New York, etc., etc., ad nauseam?

Geez, was he in a different planet?

He resigned at a most convenient time (for him) mainly because he wanted to campaign for his son who is running for governor of Cebu – under the LP banner!

Davide was also quoted as saying he is campaigning hard (for the LP) “knowing that a victory will be sure for Noynoy and Mar and the entire LP.” Now, isn’t that a dead giveaway as to his real motive?

Suddenly, he is rumored to be a candidate for Foreign Secretary in an Aquino administration?!

And then there is mention of Arroyo’s itinerant future ex-Foreign Secretary, Alberto Romulo, joining the Aquino camp, something he had in fact already indicated months ago when he proclaimed publicly that he will support Aquino. Romulo is rumored to have asked for the ambassadorial post in Spain in exchange for that support.

As I have said often enough, while I agree that politics is addition, Noynoy must realize that undesirable characters who want to join his bandwagon will owe him, not the other way around.

I am voting for Aquino. But should he win and he start appointing to government positions characters like Davide and Romulo, I will be the first to criticize him.

******

Speaking of Romulo, he is not yet home as of this writing (Monday). He and his wife did not return with Arroyo from Spain last week.

I asked DFA sources where he was and for what reason, nobody could say for certain. One said he remained in Madrid for speaking engagements. Another said rather derisively: “Huling hirit, para maka-biyahe pa.” At people’s expense, of course. Mentioned were Ireland and also Poland where he possibly might have been ordered to go by Arroyo to represent the Philippines in the state funeral of the late Polish president. As it turned out, no foreign dignitary could attend the funeral due to the cancellation of flights caused by the volcanic ash from Iceland.

The latest is that Romulo is in New York for some speaking engagement (?).

Well, our only consolation is that Romulo’s constant and ofentimes unnecessary traveling, courtesy of poor Juan de la Cruz, will soon be over. Oh, and his lady boss’ as well.

******

There are 71 days left before the end on 30 June 2010 of the stolen presidency of Ms. Arroyo, courtesy of “Garci”, et al.

******

Today is the 351st day of the third year of Jonas Burgos’ disappearance.

******

20 April 2010 Email: roacrosshairs@yahoo.com

Arroyo has all bases covered

ON DISTANT SHORE
b
y Val G. Abelgas

With the shameless Supreme Court decision to allow Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice despite the constitutional prohibition on presidential appointments two months prior to the election up to the end of her term, Arroyo has virtually covered all her bases for an extended stay in Malacanang.

The controversial ruling all but ensured that Arroyo would get a favorable decision from the tribunal in crucial cases and in clearing legal obstacles to her holding on to power. Not that having appointed 14 of the 15 Supreme Court justices was not enough, but why settle for that when she can have the entire tribunal and the Chief Justice at her command? You know, just in case there is one or two ungrateful justices who would rock the boat, wouldn’t it be better to have the boat captain under her beck and call?

The ruling (9 in favor, 1 against and 3 abstained) reversed a 1998 Supreme Court decision which stated: “The Court’s view is that during the period stated in Section 15, Article VII of the Constitution — “(t)wo months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term” — the President is neither required to make appointments to the courts nor allowed to do so…”

The ruling was based on what the lone dissenter – Justice Conchita Carpio Morales – described as having the “weight of helium.” The nine jurists claimed that the prohibition only covers appointments in the Executive Department, not the judiciary, because the prohibition falls under the section on the Executive Department.

As soon as the decision came out, the Supreme Court became the object of derision of lawyers and constitutionalists. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, dean of the Ateneo Law School and a noted constitutional expert, said the “Arroyo court” ignored key principles of statutory construction and that with the controversial ruling, the “popular confidence in the integrity and independence of the Court has been severely sapped.”

Former Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban said in his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “As a former chief justice, I grieve at the majority’s decision. I wonder how the Supreme Court can survive the tsunami of protests inundating its independence, integrity and credibility. How can it peel off the nauseating, sticky label “Arroyo Court?”

It was the only remaining base that needed to be covered in Arroyo’s evident desire to remain in power beyond her constitutionally mandated term.

Earlier, Arroyo appointed as Armed Forces chief of staff a known loyalist and trusted aide, Lt. Gen. Delfin Bangit, a member of the controversial Philippine Military Academy Class of 1978, where Arroyo is an adopted “mistah.” She named another Class ’78 member, Maj. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu as Army chief, and Rear Admiral Feliciano Angue, another Class ’78 mistah, as chief of the Army’s National Capital Region (Metro Manila) Command.

Control of the Supreme Court and the military is important in case of a failure of the May 10 presidential elections, which is a very real possibility.

With less than two months left before the elections, many poll-related problems have been reported: duplications and other frauds in voter registration, inadequate number of printed official ballots, lack of time to present source codes of the operating systems for testing and scrutiny by independent technical experts, lack of time to train teachers who will man the automated poll machines, power outages in various parts of the country especially in Mindanao, the possibility of a breakdown of the automated machines, political violence, and many others.

What happens in case of a failure of elections? An Arroyo spokesperson, Undersecretary Charito Planas, warned of the possibility of a military takeover, in which case Bangit, Magapu and company become handy. The military junta, if it were not in itself overcome by greed and power, would name Arroyo as holdover president.

If the military does not take over the government, it can just stand by to protect Arroyo in case she becomes the holdover or acting president by virtue of succession or in case she declares martial law and remains president.

In case of a failure of elections or incapacity of the president, the Constitution provides that the Vice President, Senate President and House Speaker would take over the presidency in that order. There will be no elected president, vice president, and 12 senators of the 24-member Senate in case of a failure of elections. The current Senate President, Juan Ponce Enrile, is running for reelection and thus, deemed unelected in case of a failure of elections. For lack of quorum, the 12 remaining senators cannot elect a Senate president.

The House of Representatives, on the other hand, will not be affected by the failure of elections and will have a complete membership, including the newly elected Rep. Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who will then be elected Speaker, if her majority control holds after May 10.

As the next in line to presidential succession, she will be declared acting president and the Arroyo Supreme Court will stand ready to affirm her ascension to or reclamation of the presidency in case it is challenged in court.

Is it any wonder then that Arroyo is not even talking about the presidential elections or campaigning for the administration candidate, Gilberto Teodoro? She is busy barnstorming the country and had recently placed full page ads in three major newspapers heralding her administration’s alleged achievements, but obviously only to impress upon the people that she is the best person to lead the country.

But Arroyo is playing with fire. If she thinks she would succeed because Ferdinand Marcos held on to power for 14 more years after his term was about to end in 1972, she’s got another think coming. The people have not yet recovered from the trauma of a dictatorship and have thankfully learned that they can unseat a tyrant. And the highly politicized military and police may not be as subservient as they were when Marcos decided to be a dictator.

The country could be plunged into a violent civil war if Arroyo does not take heed of the people’s desire for change. Is Arroyo willing to risk that? I hope not.

(valabelgas@aol.com)

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Villar responds

by Lito Banayo
from MALAYA

Senator Manny Villar has been making the rounds of broadcast media recently, to respond to various issues hounding his campaign, and dish out remarks against his main protagonist, who has recently been featured by Time magazine on its cover.

Villar is particularly mad at the Villarroyo tag. He and his spokespersons have been denying this tag to death. He and they keep saying that it was he and his party-mates who “initiated” the investigation of all the graft scandals, from jueteng to Hello Garci, to the fertilizer scandal, and the ZTE-NBN anomalies. Vamos a ver.

He was the chair of the Senate committee that investigated the jueteng scandals involving, as per the witnesses in the hearings, Mike and Iggy, y Mikey tambien. Who exposed these? Senator Panfilo Lacson in a privilege speech. Who convinced the witnesses to come out, and gave them protection? Senator Panfilo Lacson and Archbishop Oscar Cruz, together with his assistants in the crusade against gambling. What did Villar do? He presided over the hearings in the Senate.

What did Villar not do? To this day he has not come out with a report. Now he takes pride in fighting jueteng. Ha, ha, ha.

Who brought forth the Hello Garci scandal? Why, no less than Toting Bunye, then press secretary of La Dona Gloria. Everybody and his mother remembers the tale of the two discs. “I have two hands, the left and the right”…remember? Now Bunye sits in the Monetary Board, and represents the Board in the Numismatic Committee chaired by BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Gunigundo, who is rushing the approval and award of a highly suspicious New Generation Currency, to commit billions of pesos in newly-designed banknotes in midnight fashion, and to quote the Malacanang press release after GMA brought home the “bacon” that was the ZTE-NBN contract, “like a thief in the night”. Bunye was then the press secretary, right?

When Hello Garci erupted into the national consciousness, Gilbert Remulla was chair of the public information committee in the lower House. Villar makes a big thing about then Congressman Noynoy Aquino’s vote not to hear the Garci tapes in public. Big deal.

But when the gory details of Garci’s caper sank in, the Liberal Party headed by Frank Drilon, Butch Abad, Mar Roxas, Kiko Pangilinan and Noynoy atoned for their coalition with GMA in 2004, publicly calling in a press conference at the Club Filipino for GMA to resign. Where was Villar and his Nacionalistas? Gilbert made noise. Cynthia voted with the impeachment crew, upon the prodding of Ronnie Zamora. But Manny Villar? As quiet as the Sphinx of Egypt, which he and his fellow Nacionalistas saw in 2007, as his blow-out after re-election, and where he intimated, with Sphinx and the mummies at Luxor as sacred witnesses, that he would be president in 2010.

While Drilon and Abad went to Hongkong to dog Vice-President Noli de Castro into taking over the presidency from the beleaguered Gloria, where was Villar and his Nacionalistas? Tell you what:

Upon arrival at the NAIA from Hongkong during those tense days following the “I am sorry” speech, VP Noli went straight to the Forbes Park mansion of Senador Joker Arroyo, where Manny Villar and Don Joker convinced VP Noli not to bite the Liberal offer, and stick it out with GMA. So who saved Gloria from Noli in the heyday of Hello Garci? He, he, he.

Cory Aquino and her entire family took a patriotic stand in those days. They did support GMA against Erap, but when they learned about the evil that Gloria committed, they denounced her. Sometime later, Cory publicly humbled herself when she apologized to Erap for her role in Edsa Dos. All of us commit errors of judgment. But good people retract when they see they had been had. Manny Villar, like the Sphinx, was and is — a moral riddle. Como la Dona — amoral?

Who is running for governor of Capiz, under a local party coalesced with the Nacionalista Party, and whose jailbird orange tarpaulins proudly proclaim Manny Villar as their “presidinti”? Why, Joc-Joc Bolante, one of the most prominent icons of corruption in this benighted land. Mismo!

And who initiated the ZTE-NBN investigation in the Senate? Not Villar. Not Alan. Not Joker, who even prevented Romy Neri from spilling his heart out in executive session. Again it was Ping Lacson. It has always been Ping Lacson who had the guts to disclose the sordid affairs of the most powerful in this land. Now Villar wants to grab the credit, and appear “opposition”. Did Alan the motor-mouth come out with a committee report? Nein. Nunca. Madi. Wala gyud!

But the interviewers in media never brought these out. They “politely” accepted Villar’s tall tales, instead of telling him to his face what a liar he is.

Villar and his Remulla taunts Noynoy for accepting Joey Salceda into the Liberal Party fold. Alright, I agree. I have always disliked turncoatism. I tried to stop Erap in May of 1998 from accepting into the LAMMP fold the 49 recruits Rep. Manny Villar presented to him, after Erap had clearly won. Weeks later, Manny Villar became Speaker of the House, over the objections of Joker Arroyo, to whom Erap had promised the speakership months before. Now Joker is Villar’s consiglieri di tutti. Ang buhay nga naman!

But what about Cagas of Davao del Sur, Aumentado of Bohol, Barbers of Surigao Norte, Plaza of Agusan (not Ompong), Uy of Compostela, Zubirri of Bukidnon, Garcia of Cebu, El Chavit de Ilocos Sur, not to forget Bolante, and now the prize catch — the Ampatuans of Maguindanao? Of course, the Marcoses and Romualdezes as well, and even Arturo Pacificador of Antique, the man who escaped criminal prosecution under a warped justice system for the murder of Evelio Javier. Ben Abalos, that other icon of corruption along with Joc-Joc is also part of Villar’s caboodle. Joey Salceda, though Gloria’s student turned adviser, has at least dared to call her publicly “one lucky bitch”, and other misdemeanors she could not even rebuke.

Villar now declares that he would even “encourage the prosecution” of Mrs. Arroyo after June 30, because of her numerous anomalies. Ha, ha, ha! Tell that to Marine Col. Ariel Querubin, your candidate for senator. With Joc-joc and Joe, Chavit and Andal Jr. proudly wearing your jailbird orange colours, you would prosecute their Dona? Again, tell that to the Marines.

Villar protests further: “I’m not seen as a critic of anybody. That’s my style. I would rather do things than say them,” he said. Yes indeed, you just “do things”, like apportioning your pork barrel and DPWH regular budgetary appropriations to fund phase after phase of that snake-like road called Daang Hari, the better to connect one to the other of your 22 subdivisions in the area. You’ve made sure 1.97 billion pesos of the people’s money to construct Daang Hari would jack up the prices of the erstwhile irrigated farm lands you stitched together. And later, having acquired by hook or by crook more lands in Muntinglupa and San Pedro, you connected Daang Hari to a Daang Reyna. Breath-taking!

And because the Liberals were joined by Salceda of Albay, economic adviser of Dona Gloria, Villar and his Remulla now say Aquino will increase taxes, especially the VAT. And the broadcast reporter interviewing him did not even bother to ask whether or not Villar voted for E-VAT. Because as senator, Villar voted for Gloria’s consumer tax. But as congressman, Noynoy Aquino along with Chiz Escudero voted against E-VAT. Sure Ralph Recto also joined the LP, but Noynoy in a speech before the Makati Business Club categorically said that he would not impose new taxes, and when Gary Teves pined for a 15% E-VAT, Aquino immediately said “No way!”. Villar before the same Makati businessmen said, in clear terms, that he is not averse to increasing taxes. The point is, Villar lies when it is convenient for him to do so.

Just as he lied about the circumstances of his brother’s death, and conveniently denies whatever, but never explains his side on issues like Norzagaray, San Pedro, Daang Hari, Daang Reyna, Bacoor, Molino, Savannah, and of course C-5 where his peers caught him abusing power for personal aggrandizement. Whenever he is accused, he cries “black propaganda” and tells his critics off by challenging them to go to court. Just like his Dona Gloria. Parehong-pareho talaga sila.

Tell you what, Mr. Villar. Should you finally get to Malacanang, retain Gary Olivar and Charito Planas as your spokesmen. After all, Adel and Gilbert would not be ready to assume their posts till after one year, because of the constitutional ban on senatorial wannabe’s who do not make it.

* * *

In the heat of the campaign, when no one is looking because all eyes are focused on Noynoy and Villarroyo and Erap, the Numismatic Committee chair of the Bangko Sentral wants to fast-track the procurement from abroad of 702 million pieces of newly-designed banknotes. In a three-year timetable, they will demonetize present banknotes and replace the same, with imported currency printed by likely the same printer who passed off Arrovo as Arroyo in 2006. Under normal circumstances, such egregious error would have meant automatic black-listing as a supplier. But apparently, some guys in the Bank have an infinite capacity for looking the other way.

They are rushing the outsourcing of these banknotes even if the people are about to elect a new president on May 10, who under normal circumstances will be proclaimed 41 days thereafter. Will the nearest kin of the leaders featured in these New Generation Currency, namely Presidents Quezon, Osmena, Roxas, and Aquino please inquire about the circumstances of this rush, and parenthetically, look further into why the Bank keeps importing paper currency, and specifying even obsolete security patches which have already been object of counterfeiting, or adding specifications that all jack up the price because they allegedly are protected by exclusive patents?

Apart from replacing the photos of past presidents with younger-looking ones, which may raise eyebrows with historians (was this how the president looked when he was proclaimed president, or when he was a lesser mortal?), the proposed new legal tender will feature a new slogan, which reads: “Pinagpala ang Bansa na ang Diyos ay ang Panginoon”.

Loosely translated, that should be: “Blessed is the Country where God is the Lord”. More aptly, it probably conveys the message that The Lord God has blessed this country. I wonder what constitutionalists will say about this slogan, considering the strict prescription about separation of Church and State.

It is after all, just 51 days before a new government takes over. And even Dona Gloria has not yet approved the new legal tender. Again, why the rush?

(banayo_at@yahoo.com)
(atbanayo.blogspot.com)

Extent of Villar’s Corruption

FRANKLY SPEAKING
by Frank Wenceslao

At the rate Manuel Villar is controlling the media with incredible spending for ads and buying off reporters, broadcasters and columnists in the Philippines and evidently in the U.S., one would wonder where his money is coming from and what’s he covering in his almost irrational pursuit of the presidency..

I don’t mind debating the issues but when people supporting Villar unleashed ad hominen attacks against me it’s when I draw the line. For instance, an LA-based Filipino pundit cast aspersion on my integrity and Pamusa and emailed Villar’s supporters in RP his beef my refusal to join an LA media organization he’s spearheaded is an evidence of my duplicity.

He didn’t realize joining an organization of people I don’t want to be associated with is my fundamental right.

I’ve been also informed some of my fellow members of the 365 Club that meet at the Intercon’s Coffee Shop in Makati are also critical of me. Their criticism, mocking really is based on First Gentleman Mike Arroyo coming and going to the States and watching Manny Pacquiao’s fights yet contrary to my earlier claims he isn’t bothered by the FBI or barred to come to the U.S. How does anyone know if he had voluntarily submitted to FBI questioning?

My critics don’t understand that Presidential Proclamation No. 7750 former President Bush issued in 2004 “denying entry to aliens to the U.S. involved or suspected of being involved in government corruption” was suspended for GMA, her husband and children when they came to the U.S. about the MOA on Ancestral Domain with the MILF which would’ve enabled the U.S. to have a military base in Mindanao.

It turned out the MOA-AD and military base were GMA’s ruses to amend the Constitution for the shift of government to the parliamentary system. U.S. officials saw through it and, modesty aside, Pamusa was one of the Filipino American organizations that pointed out the scam. Somewhere along the way the suspension of PP7750 for the Arroyos was never rescinded until President Obama took over.

I was also accused that our FilAm group is going all out for the Noy-Mar ticket. If I’m personally supporting the ticket my purpose is to prevent Villar’s election. It looks that his supporters in the media for personal aggrandizement ignore Villar will be worse than Marcos and GMA. It’s human nature that if anyone’s corrupt practices succeeded while just a member or Speaker of the House, then Senator or Senate President like Villar, it’s naive to think he won’t continue his nefarious acts when he becomes President.

Villar hasn’t a single quality better than Noynoy who’s 10 feet taller with regards to honesty. There’s one incontrovertible proof Noynoy will be honest and surely a better President to more effectively address graft and corruption through leadership by example than Villar.

Throughout Cory Aquino’s 6-year presidency, Noynoy wasn’t reported of getting involved in government deals or clearing shipments of what might’ve been contrabands through customs like Erap’s and GMA’s children. On this score alone, Noynoy will be a more trustworthy President than Villar.

It behooves me therefore to put in perspective Villar’s biggest criminal act that reaches a charge of plunder even without the C-5 extension project and the illegal conversion of a CARP-covered first-class irrigated rice land which is now the upscale Savannah Estate in Pavia, Iloilo.

The media hadn’t looked into the billions of pesos Villar and wife made under the Unified Home Lending Program through their defunct Capitol Development Bank by originating home mortgages for their real estate companies and selling these to the National Home Mortgage Finance Corp. (NHMFC). Later on when Capitol couldn’t easily sell the mortgages anymore because of stricter UHLP rules, the bank suffered serious liquidity crisis (or did it really?) and asked the Bangko Sentral for emergency loan of P1.5 billion.

Capitol’s eventual collapse and the transfer of its assets and liabilities to the Optimum Development Bank had raised a lot of questions until now the Villars must yet answer that the media seem to have swept under the rug. For instance, how much of the P1.5 billion BSP loan was transferred by Capitol to Optimum which assumed the former’s liabilities?

Capitol’s collaterals for the BSP loan were reconstituted titles of lands in Norzagaray, Bulacan claimed by the Dumagats as ancestral domain covered by their original certificate of title allegedly grabbed by the Puyats whose failed brickmaking project (Manila Brickworks) with the lands was mortgaged to Capitol. When the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis struck and caused more financial difficulties for the Villars it became an opportunity to collapse Capitol and organize Optimum which defaulted on the BSP loan.

In fact, securing the BSP loan with dubious land titles was a violation of the BSP charter compounded by Capitol’s assets not transferred to Optimum such as the balance of the P1.5 billion loan. On top of this, Villar and wife as members of Congress should’ve been criminally charged of plunder by not accounting for the P1.5 billion BSP loan.

Or, if they had an accounting record where the P1.5 billion loan went acknowledged by the BSP, this should be released to the media in the public and their own interest.

Moreover, former Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) sec-gen Tony Hidalgo will testify that Villar and CREBA colleagues would’ve have wiped out the fiduciary retirement funds the GSIS, SSS and Pag-IBIG had pooled for the UHLP had not the DOF and the 3 agencies reined in their funds and adopted stricter mortgage procedure that caused Villar’s real estate companies to suffer more financial difficulties in late 1990s.

CREBA led by Villar sued HUDCC to restore the NHMFC’s former loose conditions of buying mortgages and lost in court. This wasn’t what appeared in the media, which was probably Villar’s education how the media could help in the presidential campaign he must’ve contemplated then.

For being undercapitalized and due to overexpansion Villar’s real estate empire began hemorrhaging in late 1990s until he’s advised to consolidate the different corporations into one flagship company, Vista Land and Lifescapes Inc. Evidence suggests Vista Land had a turnaround because of the balance of P1.5 billion BSP loan the Villars allegedly put aside and the insertions in the national budget for several years Villar stands accused today to pay for 500% price increase of the right-of-ways for the C-5 extension based on future land values of Villar’s 23 subdivisions yet to be developed and traversed by the roadway.

Villar seems to have found Mike Velarde to take the fall for the C-5 fiasco. But Velarde is known to be corrupt himself. When I was with FVR’s Presidential Flagship Committee the head of Toll Regulatory Board asked my help to expose Velarde in the media and stop him asking poor landowners to make him their broker or grant him options to buy probable ROWs for proposed road construction and pressuring TRB to agree to his exorbitant pricing. As long as we have a religious leader like Velarde who should be in jail, graft and corruption can’t be minimized.

As a matter of legal principle, a corrupt witness like Velarde can’t absolve Villar who’s as corrupt if not worse than his witness. After all, the evidence adduced in the hearings of the Senate Committee of the Whole is sufficient to send Villar to jail, according to Johnny Ponce Enrile.

For direct comments fcwenceslao1034@gmail.com

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

The Agra ruling: Deeper than alibis

ON DISTANT SHORE
b
y Val G. Abelgas

Although we had expected a whitewash of the cases against the Ampatuans of Maguindanao because of the family’s close “friendship” to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the decision of Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to drop murder charges against ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and his cousin Akmad Ampatuan — even before the court could hear all testimonies and receive all evidence against the two accused — still came as a shock.

Agra said there was “no proof of conspiracy” against the two Ampatuans, in essence nullifying the testimony of a state witness, Mohamad Sangki, who claimed that the ARMM governor knew and approved of a plan to ambush supporters of the rival Mangudadatu clan.

Agra gave weight to Zaldy Ampatuan’s alibi that he was on his way to Malacanang in Manila at the time of the massacre. Agra also considered the alibi of Akmad Ampatuan, who claimed he was with a medical mission elsewhere at the time of the massacre.

I covered the Manila courts and fiscal’s offices for more than two years in the mid-70s, and I know that it was the duty of the prosecutors to establish if there was a prima facie (Latin word for at first sight) case against the accused or a “probable cause” to file charges before the court. In the case against Zaldy Ampatuan, a witness actually testified before the court that the ARMM governor was part of the conspiracy to ambush and kill the Mangudadatu supporters, who were on their way to file the certificate of candidacy of gubernatorial candidate Esmael “Toto” Mangudadatu.

There was also reason to believe that the massacre was planned in advance and that the entire clan had knowledge of or actual participation in the massacre. With the testimonies of Mohamad and his brother Rasul Sangki linking Zaldy and the other Ampatuans, there was already “probable cause,” and the determination whether the witnesses’ testimonies should be believed should have been left to the court.

On the two Ampatuans’ alibi that they were elsewhere when the crime occurred, Agra failed to consider that Zaldy and Akmad were not being charged as direct participants in the massacre, but as conspirators or accomplices. They did not have to be at the scene of the crime to be guilty of murder. An accused can be guilty of murder even without being at the scene of the crime or firing a single shot if he had ordered the killing or had participated in the murder’s planning.

At least three prominent trial lawyers — Sen. Joker Arroyo, former Sen. Franklin Drilon and private prosecutor Harry Roque – reminded Agra that in criminal law, “alibi is the weakest form of defense.”

Even his subordinates, the state prosecutors, protested Agra’s ruling and staged a walkout last Monday. The prosecutors questioned the basis and the timing of the resolution that Agra issued a day after he assured the families of the victims that he had yet to study the petition for review filed by the detained Ampatuans which asked Agra to drop the charges against them.

“We are deeply concerned that the resolution will all the more convince a long skeptical public that our criminal justice system is impotent when the accused are politically influential,” Chiuef State Prosecutor Claro Arellano said on behalf of the 2,000-member National Prosecution Service and the panel of prosecutors handling the case.

One could say that Agra was absent when these aspects of criminal law were taught in his class, but then he was a state prosecutor for many years not to learn those basic concepts in criminal law. Or perhaps, Agra conveniently forgot about alibis, probable causes and prima facie evidence for reasons more important to him than serving the needs of justice.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar was quick to insulate his boss from insinuations that Arroyo had something to do with Agra’s sudden ignorance of criminal procedures, stating that “it was obscene to insinuate that the President would interfere for any kind of political or personal reason in the legal proceedings of a heinous crime like the Maguindanao massacre.’’

Was it really?

When news broke out that 57 Mangudadatu supporters and journalists had been massacred in Maguindanao on Nov. 23 last year, Arroyo and her spokesmen, which did not include Olivar then, were eerily quiet. Three days later, then spokeswoman Lorelei Fajardo, a relative of Arroyo, said: “I don’t think the President’s friendship with the Ampatuans will be severed. Just because they’re in this situation doesn’t mean we will already turn our backs on them.”

Some friendship it must have been. The Ampatuans were accused of the most heinous and most barbaric crime, and Arroyo was ready to stand by them? She must have owed the Ampatuans so much to stand by them even in the face of public outrage of the massacre. But then, when did Arroyo ever consider the people’s feelings?

Subsequent investigative reporting by journalists belonging to the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism, Vera Files, Newsbreak and other publications revealed the extent with which Arroyo has repaid his political debts to the Ampatuans, who have been identified as responsible for delivering the votes for Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections as insinuated in the Garci Tapes scandal. Such paybacks have allegedly included providing the clan with high-powered arms, billions of pesos, and turning a blind eye to their abuses and atrocities in the province and in the region.

It has also been claimed that Arroyo was being blackmailed by the Ampatuans with a threat to expose anomalies during the 2004 elections, prompting Arroyo to declare martial law in Maguindanao to enable loyal troops to search for incriminating documents in the mansions of the Ampatuans.

Either the Ampatuans are still holding to the hot documents, or Arroyo needs them again for the coming presidential elections. The timing of the dropping of the charges against Zaldy Ampatuan, who is alleged to be an expert election manipulator and responsible for the election fraud in 2004 in the region, was suspect, having come just three weeks before the elections.

Ampatuan could repeat the 2004 operations to help whoever Arroyo is supporting (remember that the Ampatuans have endorsed NP candidate Sen. Manny Villar), or another earth-shaking political violence could occur to justify a declaration of failure of elections or even a proclamation of martial law, and Ampatuan could either be the instigator or the fall guy.

The impunity with which Arroyo and her allies have been violating the laws has become so repugnant that it is no longer “obscene,” as Olivar wants us to believe, to think of scenarios and conspiracies.

Agra, a midnight appointee, after all could have been a part of the conspiracy to usurp the people’s will and vote in 2004, having been a lawyer for Arroyo’s K-4 coalition during the 2004 elections. He was a key officer of a group of lawyers who committed to “watch” Arroyo’s vote during the elections.

Agra, an avid Arroyo loyalist, couldn’t have made the ruling to clear the two Ampatuans without the consent of his boss. Something deeper than alibis and lack of probable causes made him throw caution to the wind and invite not only the outrage of his department’s prosecutors, but of the people as well.

(valabelgas@aol.com)

Who still believes Loren?

AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR
by William M. Esposo
from The Philippine Star

During several meetings, the eminent Professor Emmanuel Q. Yap would exclaim — “She’s a political prostitute!” — when the name of Loren Legarda was mentioned.

Loren Legarda started to create that perception of being a political prostitute when she ate humble pie and embraced former president Joseph Estrada and his 2004 presidential candidate, the late Fernando Poe, Jr. From taking a prominent prosecutorial role in the Estrada Impeachment Case, even shedding tears after the historic impeachment trial walkout which triggered EDSA II, Loren Legarda abandoned her position on the Estrada issue just to be able to run as vice president of Fernando Poe, Jr.
To any person with the barest amount of self respect and sense of propriety, that act of embracing the Joseph Estrada Loren helped prosecute (and who was eventually jailed, convicted and pardoned by a successor who probably did not find plunder that offensive) would have been unthinkable. True enough — the most livid reactions to Loren Legarda’s turnaround came from her fellow alumni in Assumption Convent.

“She’s such a hypocrite. She claims she’s planted many trees. Yet, she voted for the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).” — was how Senator Jamby Madrigal described Loren in a recent article. JPEPA, it must be recalled, was being resisted for its perceived threat to the environment.

In the same article, Madrigal added: “Loren once hated Manny Villar with a passion. She worked hard to oust him as Senate president. Then, she joined forces with him for the money.”

It was not only the ouster of Villar as Senate President where Loren Legarda took an active role. She had vigorously pressed for Villar’s conviction in the Senate Double Insertion and Ethics cases. She was doing these against Villar because at that time she was a presidential contender and Villar was a leading rival.

When Loren Legarda’s presidential illusions fizzled out and she realized that Villar offered her the best chances to become vice president — money and machinery specifically — all of a sudden, Villar was no longer that objectionable to her. All of a sudden, as solid evidences were being revealed in the Ethics Case hearings by crusading lawyer Atty. Ernesto Francisco, Jr., Loren found Villar “clean enough” to tandem with.

During last weekend’s HARAPAN (Face off) among the vice presidential candidates which was staged by ABS-CBN, Loren Legarda must have been shocked to see how the voting panel rated her credibility. She scored the lowest believability at 8.2% versus Mar’s 91.8% believability when the topic of loyalty was discussed. She hit very low believability scores of 17.4%, 14.6% and 8.2% on other topics.

The hypocrisy which Jamby Madrigal accused Loren Legarda of is very glaring in Loren’s attempt to mimic her running mate Manny Villar in projecting an image of being ONCE POOR. Your Chair Wrecker debunked that “ONCE POOR” myth Villar has been peddling in our February 7, 2010 column (Was Manny Villar really ever poor?) which you can read in the Chair Wrecker website (www.chairwrecker.com) or by simply typing the headline on Google.

This “ONCE POOR” myth is nothing more than sheer deception. It exploits the Information and Education Gaps afflicting the poor. The proclaimed “Messiahs” of the poor are displaying signs that once elected — they will be there to exploit the poor.

In several media interviews, Loren has been brandishing her own version of “POOR ME” although she has the good sense not to imply that she swam in a sea of garbage like Manny Villar. In the 1950’s, when Villar was supposed to be “POOR” — there was no such thing as a sea of garbage. The so-called sea of garbage started during Martial Law.

Your Chair Wrecker was surprised when Loren claimed several times on TV that she was once “POOR” and so we verified her claim. Here are hallmarks of how “POOR” Loren Legarda was, as described by a member of her family:

1. Loren’s family lived in University Hills, an exclusive subdivision in the Malabon area. Being atop a hill, the subdivision did not flood like many areas nearby.

2. They lived in a one hectare compound that was bought by her grandfather, the late Manila Times Editor in Chief, Jose Bautista. The Manila Times was the largest circulating, most powerful and influential newspaper until September 21, 1972. Across their compound was the house of Don Macario Asistio.

3. Loren studied at Assumption Convent for grade school and high school. Assumption Convent is usually the school of choice of the elite. For college, Loren studied at UP (University of the Philippines). Her brothers Gary and A. A. went to the Ateneo de Manila University, another school associated with the elite.

4. Antonio Legarda, Loren’s father, was the General Manager of Mantrade, one of the biggest firms then. Loren’s mother — described by Loren as a “mere employee” — was the Executive Assistant of then PNB (Philippine National Bank) president P. O. Domingo. There is no doubt that the combined incomes of her father and mother provided an upper class lifestyle for the Legarda family.

Easily 95% of Filipinos today would want to be as “POOR” as Loren Legarda who lived through all those “HARD TIMES” and now resides in Forbes Park after having been elected senator in 1998.

* * *

Chair Wrecker email and Website: macesposo@yahoo.com and www.chairwrecker.com

Monday, April 26, 2010

The leader we need

by Economists for Noynoy
Wednesday, 17 March 2010
Statement published in the BusinessWorld's March 17, 2010 edition, page S1/5.

We believe the failure of governance is the main obstacle to the country's long-run economic growth and ability to respond to the people's most urgent needs.

The failure of governance — the inability to enforce an adherence to the demands of law and the lack of will to uphold the people's lawful demands — is everywhere evident. It is seen, among others, in unchecked grand corruption, the cynical and self-serving nature of many public appointments, the disregard for the letter and the spirit of constitutional rule, the failure to control crime and violence from private armed groups, and the pervasive culture of pride and impunity displayed by many who hold public office.

Of all these, however, the spread of large-scale corruption has had the most pernicious and far-reaching economic consequences. Corruption has sapped the government's ability to collect the proper taxes, franchises, and royalties. It has distorted government's spending priorities, perverted our statutes and regulatory decisions to favor vested interests, and dispensed privileges to the undeserving but well-connected. As a result, neither government nor private business has invested anywhere near sufficient amounts in physical infrastructure, research, education, and health care in order to create jobs and to reduce poverty. Government fails to invest for lack of resources and will. Private businesses — both foreign and Filipino — fail to invest for lack of trust that the rules will be fairly and predictably applied.

Low growth, high poverty, big public deficits, and deep public cynicism are the bitter fruits of failed governance and weakened institutions.

The call for a higher standard of public ethics, therefore, is not some abstract moral preference — it is an imperative for survival and development.

This year's presidential election can be a defining moment in our history, our economy, and our daily lives if our people can rally around a program to sweep away years of corruption, wasteful spending, patronage, and mismanagement under an administration that has shown itself tolerant of such practices.

We believe that among the presidential candidates, Senator Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" Aquino III represents the best hope for such a change. Beyond mere words, his character and record speak of a steadfast dedication to effective, honest, and accountable leadership. He is dedicated to positively transforming the way we see and deal with government. From creating jobs to reducing the gap between the rich and poor; from protecting Filipinos working abroad to raising the country's profile as a major investment area for the world; from working for lasting peace to firmly enforcing the law, Senator Aquino's vision of governance based on ethical principles, a firm and fair application of the law, and a responsiveness to the people's priorities is what our polity and economy urgently need.

It is time the Philippines once more had a leader who embodies the spirit of heroism and integrity we share as Filipinos. We are convinced that Sen. Noynoy Aquino is that leader.

The above is a statement from the Economic Agenda Team of Noynoy Aquino. The signatories are:

• Michael Alba, former dean, College of Economics and Business, De La Salle University ( michael.alba@gmail.com).

• Fernando Aldaba, former chairperson, Department of Economics, Ateneo de Manila University ( naldaba@gmail.com).

• Filomeno Sta. Ana III, coordinator, Action for Economic Reforms (filomenoiii@yahoo.com).

Economists who support the statement (NCR):

1. Cayetano Paderanga Ph.D.

2. Raul Fabella Ph.D.

3. Myrna Austria Ph.D.

4. Edita Tan Ph.D.

5. Vicente Paqueo Ph.D.

6. Teresa Jayme-Ho Ph.D.

7. Germelino Bautista Ph.D.

8. Ma. Socorro Gochoco-Bautista Ph.D.

9. Gilberto Llanto Ph.D.

10. Erlinda Medalla Ph.D.

11. Gwedolyn Tecson Ph.D.

12. Ernesto Pernia Ph.D.

13. Leonardo Lanzona Jr. Ph.D.

14. Fidelina Natividad Carlos Ph.D.

15. Carlos Bautista Ph.D.

16. Edsel Beja, Jr. Ph.D.

17. Emmanuel Esguerra Ph. D

18. Ruperto Majuca Ph.D.

19. Melanie Milo Ph.D.

20. Jose Ramon Albert Ph.D.

21. Rhoelano Briones Ph.D.

22. Rafaelita M. Aldaba Ph.D.

23. Rosalina Tan Ph.D.

24. Danilo Israel Ph.D.

25. Rouselle Lavado Ph.D.

26. Gerardo Largoza Ph.D.

27. Stella Quimbo Ph.D.

28. Ma. Joy Abrenica Ph.D.

29. Eduardo Gonzalez Ph.D.

30. Danilo Venida

31. Allan Borreo

32. Alexander Narciso

33. Meldin Al. G. Roy

34. Jessica Cantos-Reyes

35. Joseph Francia

36. Emilio Neri Jr.

37. Cristina Bautista

38. Philip Arnold Tuano

39. Romelia Neri

40. Reuel Hermoso

41. Joselito Sescon

42. Marilou Perez

43. Paulo Jose Mutuc

44. Sarah Grace See

45. Ramon Fernan III

46. Ernest Leung

Arroyo-Villar Axis of Power

PerryScope
by Perry Diaz

Photo by Equalizer Post

Photo by Equalizer Post

With the recent announcement by former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson of his support for Sen. Manny Villar’s presidential bid, it signals the final movement of the allies of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from Lakas-Kampi-CMD (LKC) to Villar’s Nacionalista Party (NP). Although the exodus has been going on in earnest for sometime now, Chavit’s coming out for Villar is timed to coincide with the start of the local campaigns which began last March 26.

Why Chavit?

If there is one politician that can claim closeness to the First Family, particularly Gloria, it is Chavit. Chavit has been an ally and a friend of Gloria since she was a Senator. When Gloria became vice president, they remained very close, politically and socially. So it did not come as a surprise that Chavit turned against — or betrayed — his other friend, President Joseph “Erap” Estrada, whom he accused as the “lord of all jueteng lords” in October 2000. Chavit’s whistle blowing led to the impeachment of Erap by the House of Representatives which was then headed by Speaker Manny Villar.

But before the Senate could remove the impeached Erap, Erap was deposed in a “people power” revolution which many believed was actually a coup d’etat involving Gloria herself, backed by the military and members of the Supreme Court.

In addition to Chavit, several high-ranking and powerful families have endorsed Villar. Recently, Bukidnon Governor Jose Ma. Zubiri and the Garcia dynasty of Cebu openly supported Villar. Zubiri, to the dismay of his sons Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri and Rep. Jose Ma. Zubiri III — who are steadfast supporters of LKC’s standard bearer Gilbert Teodoro — brought with him 22 mayors to the Villar camp.

Money Villarroyo

The exodus of Gloria’s allies to the Villar camp lends credence to the belief that Villar and Gloria had forged an “unholy alliance.” People are convinced that Villar is Gloria’s “secret candidate.” As a consequence, Villar is called “Money Villarroyo,” a moniker that stuck to him to this day.

If you really look at the trail Gloria’s allies have taken, they’re all leading to the Villar camp. It did not come then as a surprise that Gloria did not attend the kickoff rally of LKC’s standard bearer Teodoro. To date, Gloria has yet to be seen campaigning for Teodoro.

With Gloria’s allies now rooting for Villar, the presidential derby is turning out to be a battle between Villar as the “de facto” administration candidate and Sen. Noynoy Aquino as the leading opposition challenger.

Zombie Voters

Although Noynoy’s lead over Villar in recent poll surveys had been increasing gradually — it is now 13% over Villar — there are some serious concerns that election cheating similar to the “Hello Garci” massive cheatings in 2004 in Mindanao would be repeated in the May 10 elections. In my article, ‘Zombie Voters’ Could Cause Failure of Elections (March 17, 2010), I wrote: “A recent news report stated that Comelec disclosed the discovery of 704,542 voters with double or multiple registration records. However, Archbishop Oscar Cruz of the Kontra-Daya watchdog group said that ‘the voters’ list is padded by no less than five million.’ That’s 10% of the total registered voters. Could this be a harbinger to a massive cheating operation in the forthcoming elections on May 10?”

If there is going to be election cheating on May 10, Mindanao — like in 2004 and 2007 –would most likely be the place for a massive “dagdag-bawas” (add-subtract) cheating operation. In 2004, Gloria’s rival Fernando Poe Jr. got zero vote — which is statistically improbable — in many towns in Maguindanao. With the recent dismissal of rebellion charges against Gloria’s political allies, the Ampatuans, I wouldn’t be surprised if the suspected Comelec “cheating syndicate” would once again generate the necessary number of votes for Gloria’s “secret candidate” to win the presidential elections.

With the newly forged “unholy alliance” between Gloria and Villar, all that stands between them and colossal political power is the election of Villar to the presidency and Gloria to a congressional seat representing Pampanga’s second district. Gloria is expected to win handily and, consequently, would be chosen Speaker of the House Representatives in the next Congress. In the case of Villar, since he is lagging behind Noynoy, cheating in the election would be his ticket to power. With Gloria’s help, he just might succeed in pulling it off.

Axis of Power

With Villar as President and Gloria as Speaker of the House, an “axis of power” — never seen before in the history of the Philippines — would emerge. And soon after, with Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s dream of amending the constitution to change the form of government to a parliamentary system coming to fruition, the Arroyo-Villar “axis of power” would be formidable and their political machine would be impregnable. Indeed, like most parliamentary forms of government, Villar as head of State and Gloria as head of government could be in power for as long as their “unholy alliance” maintains its supremacy in the Parliament. With Villar’s and Gloria’s billions, their “axis of power” could dole out patronage and wealth to their allies in the Parliament. That’s cheaper to buy than the 50 million Filipino voters.

But that would not happen if Villar was defeated in the presidential elections. A few days ago, Noynoy said that “President Arroyo’s reported plan to become House speaker is possible only under a Villar administration because of the ‘unholy alliance’ between the government and the camp of Nacionalista Party’s Sen. Manuel Villar.” Noynoy said that under his administration, “there is no way Arroyo will become Speaker because the LP’s allies would not allow it.”

As the presidential campaign enters its final month, the people will soon exercise their sacred right and supreme power to elect their next president. However, this may also be the last time for them to vote directly for a president because if Villar and Gloria won in the elections, an Arroyo-Villar “axis of power” would — once and for all — supplant the sovereignty of the people.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Agra's 'Aggravated Assault'

PerryScope

By Perry Diaz

In an announcement that shocked the judiciary and enraged the people, Acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra issued an order to the government prosecutors to exonerate former ARMM Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan and Akmad Ampatuan Sr. of any complicity in the “Maguindanao massacre” last year where at least 57 unarmed civilians were murdered. The two were among several members of the powerful Ampatuan clan who were detained by the government on charges of masterminding or participating in the mass murder.

But the prosecutors defied Agra’s order to clear and release the two suspects saying,“it dishonors the institution’s mandate to dispense justice.” In response, Agra arrogantly threatened to remove them from the case and appoint another prosecutor who would follow his order.

In an apparent approval of Agra’s controversial decision, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was quiet about it. Agra said, “In this case silence means approval unless there’s an explicit directive to resign or report. I like to think I did nothing wrong for her to berate, rebuff or replace me.” Self-glorifying, self-absolving. There is a term for that: arrogance of power.

Agra reasoned that Zaldy had an alibi that placed him somewhere else. Actually, on the day of the massacre, Zaldy was in Malacañang -- the Ampatuans are political allies of President Gloria Arroyo -- conferring with Arroyo’s political staff. However, Harry Roque, lawyer for most of the journalists killed in the massacre, said, “Alibi is the weakest form of defense.”

Zaldy could have participated in planning the mass murder days or weeks before it happened. And the prosecution had presented witnesses and signed affidavits naming Zaldy as one of the masterminds. It is not uncommon in political assassinations for the mastermind to be far away while hired killers do the job. It’s the “perfect alibi” unless it can be proven with incontrovertible proof and compelling evidence. And the prosecutors have the “ammunition” to blow Zaldy’s alibi to smithereens.

Who is Alberto Agra?

Alberto Agra passed the bar in 1991 and taught at the Ateneo de Manila, his alma mater. He served as Arroyo’s lawyer when the House of Representatives tried to impeach her in 2006. In 2007, Arroyo appointed him as head of the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel.

On January 8, 2010, Arroyo appointed Agra as Solicitor General. On March 3, 2010, Arroyo appointed him acting Secretary of Justice concurrently. As the head of the Justice Department, Agra sits as ex-officio member of the 8-member Judicial Bar Council which is responsible for vetting and preparing the short lists of nominees for judicial appointments by the President. That’s a lot of power vested on one man. He is, without a shadow of doubt, a rabid Arroyo loyalist, who would gleefully execute her orders without question or reservation.

Midnight appointments

It did not come as a big surprise that as soon as Agra was appointed acting Justice Secretary, he didn’t waste any time peddling the notion that the constitution does not ban “midnight appointments” in the Judiciary.

It is interesting to note what Philippine Star columnist Jarius Bondoc wrote in his column a day prior to the Supreme Court’s controversial ruling allowing the President to appoint a “midnight Chief Justice.” Bondoc said: “As if midnight deals were not bad enough, President Arroyo too is coming closer to naming a midnight Chief Justice. That’s if what a braggart at Malacañang is saying is true.

“The showoff claims to have scored at the Supreme Court for Arroyo. Allegedly he has convinced most justices to rule that the constitutional ban on midnight appointments does not apply to the judiciary. This would let Arroyo name a replacement when CJ Reynato Puno retires on May 17.”

Further, he said, “And the boastful Palace operator claims to have clinched it for her. The next step supposedly is to petition the Court to resolve the issue once and for all.”

The following day, by a 9-1 vote, the Supreme Court ruled that the constitutional ban on midnight appointments does not apply to the Chief Justice. Did Agra have a hand in convincing nine justices to turn a blind eye to the law and give Arroyo her last wish to satisfy their “utang na loob” (debt of gratitude) to Arroyo for bestowing on them the highest honor a magistrate could dream of?

A week ago, the Judicial Bar Council assailed the Supreme Court’s March 17 decision allowing Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice during the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. The JBC sent its comment to the High Court signed by seven members. The only member who did not sign the comment was Agra. Instead, Agra, in his capacity as Solicitor General, filed a separate comment “asking the high court to state that the President can appoint all vacancies in the judiciary and not just in the Supreme Court during her final three months in office despite the ban against midnight appointments.”

Now, not only did Agra insist that Arroyo can appoint a midnight Chief Justice, but also she can appoint all vacancies in the judiciary including the one soon to be vacated by retiring Chief Justice Puno. Makes one wonder who Agra had in mind to fill the last seat in the Supreme Court?

With the Supreme Court’s final ruling yesterday, April 20, affirming the President’s power to appoint the next Chief Justice, I wouldn’t be surprised if Agra would be Arroyo’s next Supreme Court appointee. Interestingly, the High Court failed to make a “doctrinal ruling” on whether the exemption to the midnight appointment ban applies only to the Chief Justice or to the entire judiciary. But the fact that the justices did not make a ruling would be enough for Arroyo to insist that she appoint a vacancy as soon as Puno retires. What has she got to lose by doing it?

I am pretty sure that Agra had his eyes wide open for that opening. It would seem that he had been “working” on it from the first day he to took over the Justice department. He has served his master very well and appointment to the High Court would be his if he asked for it. The only thing that would stop him from being appointed to the High Court is if a lawsuit or disbarment petition is filed against him.

Agra’s “aggravated assault”

Agra’s “aggravated assault” on the wheel of justice could be his Achilles heel. What he did in exonerating the Ampatuans is contemptuous, cowardly, and lacking the balanced mind required of those who dispense justice. Agra has dishonored the legal profession and thus should lose his place among the honorable men and women who are entrusted in upholding the law of the land and in protecting the people from criminal elements. Therefore, he should be disbarred from his profession and barred from serving in the government for the rest of his life. The people deserve no less.

(PerryDiaz@gmail.com)

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