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Friday, April 17, 2015

Aquino and his officials ignore int’l. tools to fight corruption


Frankly Speaking
By Frank Wenceslao
De Lima and Aquino
De Lima and Aquino
To paraphrase an old saying, graft and corruption (G&C) is such a complex issue to leave it only to lawyers. President Aquino would’ve been the first ever Philippine President who could’ve have made the biggest dent on the G&C for his successors to stop its debilitating effects on the Filipino people and perhaps eradicate it in time.
The failure of Aquino’s anti-graft and corruption program lies on his law enforcement team and legal appointees from ES Paquito Ochoa, DOJ Sec. Leila de Lima, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista and the hundreds of lawyers under them who’ve failed to weave the rule of law, equal justice for all, and level playing field into a strong national fabric; thus enable Filipinos fairly and equitably to exploit their God-given economic opportunities and push our country on a trajectory of unprecedented prosperity by observance of international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) led by the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC) that took effect in December 2005; OECD mandates prior and after the UNCAC; U.S. national strategies against corruption; President GW Bush’s Presidential Proclamation No. 7750; President Obama’s new National Security Strategy of February 2015, and the hardly invoked PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT).
Under PP7750 issued Jan. 12, 2004 the U.S. President invokes his authority to suspend entry into the USA and its territories of nonimmigrant and immigrant foreign (a) public officials or former public officials whose solicitation or acceptance of any article of monetary value, or other benefit, in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of their public functions; (b) to provide any article of monetary value or other benefit to any public official in exchange for any act or omission in the performance of such official’s public functions; (c) public officials or former public officials whose misappropriation of public funds or interference with the judicial, electoral, or other public processes; and (d) the spouses, children, and dependent household members of persons described in paragraphs (a), (b), and (c) above, who are beneficiaries of any articles of monetary value or other benefits obtained by such persons that has or had serious adverse effects on the national interests of the United States.
In retrospect, PP7750 could’ve deterred the growth of graft and corruption perpetrated by current and former PHL government officials, their close associates and immediate family members, or the private businessmen and individuals responsible since President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s assumption to office in 2001. The favorable impact of PP7750 of reining in the unabated growth of graft and corruption would’ve been possible the PHL justice system had a legal research and study center (LRSC) with an identification process of the people involved in graft and corruption with their names submitted to the U.S. State Department and be barred entry to USA and territories.
Unfortunately, it was not until June 2006 when PP7750 was even noticed when it’s applied to former Agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante whose multiple-entry U.S. visa was cancelled by the U.S. Embassy in Manila at the Senate’s request because Bolante’s defied a Senate subpoena three times to appear in the hearings on the loss of the P728-million ($16M) fertilizer fund.
That’s the greatest opportunity lost by Arroyo to be a great President of minimizing graft and corruption while GMA could’ve avoided hurting her friends and foes engaged in G&C by focusing on lower- and mid-level bureaucrats and private sector co-conspirators who’re responsible for the unabated G&C in the bureaucracy by throwing the ICAACs at them, particularly the UNCAC that according to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, then Senate foreign relations committee chairperson who sponsored its ratification in Nov. 2006, has been part of the law of the land as though passed by Congress and approved by the President, more so its provisions which read as follows:
“Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders. Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.” (Underlining mine).
For instance, GMA needed only to let his communications people do the work of warning that IT forensics can back track Henry Sy’s business activities to find out if the growth of his corporate assets and net worth during the period, say, from 1985 when he first broke ground for his premiere mall SM City North EDSA in Q.C. that even under most favorable business conditions without government favors couldn’t have grown beyond the realm of statistical probability to reach $14.7 billion in 2014 and make him the richest Filipino without inherited and externally infused capital that came from “a process or series of actions through which income of illegal origin is concealed, disguised, or made to appear legitimate (mail objective); and to evade detection, seizure, and taxation.” (Ill-gotten assets dug up by USDOJ’s forensic accounting).
Sy would’ve been driven by greed to push the growth of his assets and net worth beyond the realm of statistical probability until one day when he’s reading paid media “praise” releases about him there won’t be any news item the government has finally become wise and adopt IT forensics to investigate the richest Filipinos whether in the Forbes Magazine’s list or not.
Examples of G&C practices worldwide make almost impossible the richest Filipino individuals and corporations couldn’t have avoided those practices on the way up climbing to the top whether of corporate assets and CEO’s personal net worth usually in ownership position. Those involved in G&\C especially boosted by Marcos’ government favors can’t escape having ill-gotten assets subject to recovery and civil restitution fines.
The effectiveness of information technology and forensic accounting as anti-G&C tools could dig up evidence of CEOs owning big companies of being involved during their rise to the top in these illegal practices, to wit: (1) anomalous “deals” with the government whether in rigging bids and overpricing contracts in the procurement of goods and services usually handled by vulnerable mid-level executives; (2) conspiracy with government financial institutions (GFIs) officials and employees in obtaining big loans and diverting part of it for purposes other than applied for or misusing it entirely to pay for the lifestyle of the rich and famous; (3) corrupting government revenue collection agencies and personnel to avoid paying correct customs duties, excise and income taxes and other government charges; and (4) corrupting judiciary members to intervene in business transaction outside their legal competence, thus benefiting companies resorting to bribery to win a contested contract at the same time causing a “black-eye” to the government playing on level playing field that’s the biggest disincentive to foreign investors; etc.
The bottom line is no official, mid-level executive and career government employees in the entire PHL government especially those in law enforcement agencies in Arroyo and Aquino presidencies had thought of or taken the initiative to inform the higher-ups of how the abovementioned anti-G&C tools now successfully used in several countries could’ve been applied in the PHL.
Both the DOJ and PCGG which should get the biggest blame for incurring the biggest cost vis-à-vis the worst failure to investigate, locate, arrange the seizure and recovery of the ill-gotten wealth of Ferdinand Marcos, his immediate family members, relatives and cronies, the most notable of whom was Imelda’s brother, Kokoy Romualdez, who according to Forbes Magazine left a $200-million estate when he died in Feb. 2012. Yet, his widow, Juliet Gomez Romualdez, and children have taken over the estate which include apartments on New York’s Fifth Avenue and vacation homes in The Hamptons of the rich and famous New Yorkers which according to a Pamusa’s legal counsel are recoverable under the Enterprise Corruption Law of New York State that Pamusa can bring action on with the PCGG’s permission and authorization unless, of course, this case has long ago been fixed.
Recall that Leyte’s Rep. Martin Romualdez and his brother, Daniel, a NY architect, picked up a $20,000 tab for a dinner they gave President Arroyo and entourage at Le Cirque Restaurant during a U.S. visit. Parenthetically, people are asking where GMA and Mike Arroyo have hidden their conjugally ill-gotten assets about which Pamusa has received allegations I will ask the FBI to verify that the Arroyos’ assets have been converted into gold bullion now in the custody of a European bank branch in an African nation.
Aquino’s lawyers must be suffering from acute amnesia being unaware of the PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) signed November 1994 whose preamble says that the Governments of the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America desiring to provide more effective cooperation in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of crimes, such as public corruption and narcotics trafficking; and to improve coordination and mutual assistance in criminal matters in general agreed with the Treaty.
More importantly, the mutual legal assistance provided by each government in the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of criminal offenses and in proceedings related to criminal matters, such as (a) taking the testimony or statements of persons; (b) providing documents, records, and items of evidence; (c) serving documents; (d) locating or identifying persons or items; (e) transferring persons in custody for testimony; (f) executing requests for searches and seizures; (g) assisting proceedings related to forfeiture of asserts, restitution, and collection of fines; and (h) any other form of assistance not prohibited by the laws of the Requested State.
Finally, I submit that with less than ten (10) of the richest Filipinos whether in the Forbes Magazine list, or not proving funds for Pamusa’s operating, maintenance, and other expenses especially the legal cost in the U.S. to investigate, gather evidence, initiate actions for ill-gotten asset recovery and civil restitution fines, would enable the U.S. and Canadian Filipinos to elect the complete administration team from President, VP and 12 Senators who pledge to be bound by the ICAACs, U.S. anticorruption strategies, PP7750 and the PHL-USA MLAT in stopping or at least minimize G&C in the Philippines. Anyone among them who makes the pledge and reneges on it shall swear to relinquish the position he/she elected is in.
Please pass this on especially to those in Forbes Magazine’s list of richest Filipinos including those not in it that their helping Pamusa’s funding needs would give them peace of mind they won’t one day be subjected to IT forensics to verify if their wealth isn’t ill-gotten as defined above by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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