Thursday, October 30, 2008

Bishops despair

Last Tuesday, five of our bishops led by the Archbishop of Jaro in Iloilo who also happens to be the president of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines, held a press conference in Intramuros.

Clearly, they explained that they were there in their individual capacities – Archbishops Angel Lagdameo of Iloilo and Oscar Cruz of Lingayen-Dagupan, likewise once head of the CBCP. As well as the young Bishop Socrates Villegas of Balanga in Bataan, once Cardinal Jaime Sin’s most trusted understudy and aide, and equally young Bishop Joel Baylon of poverty-stricken Masbate. And they were joined by Archbishop Emeritus Jose Sorra of Legazpi in Albay, retired yet still deeply disturbed by the corruption he has seen to worsen in his lifetime. I learned that Archbishop Vicente Navarra of Bacolod was likewise part of the "communal discernment", but could not fly to Manila because he was taken ill in his archdiocese.

The Association of Major Religious Superiors (AMRSP) wrote to Lagdameo on October 17, deeply concerned about the deteriorating state of public morality characterized by corruption most gross and most rampant.

The AMRSP letter said: "At this time when people are losing hope and are becoming cynical and apathetic, a prophetic word from you will be like a Pentecost event, a rekindling of hope and an inspiration and impetus to take active part on social transformation." The press conference and the statement read therein was apparently the bishops’ response.

The archbishop said there is a real need to have a new government as the current one has been severely stricken by the "social and moral cancer" that is corruption.

"In response to the global economic crisis and the pitiful state of our country, the time to rebuild our country economically, socially, politically is now. The time to start radical reforms is now. The time for moral regeneration is now. The time to conquer complacency, cynicism and apathy and to prove that we have matured from our political disappointments is now. The time to prepare a new government is now," he proclaimed.

When asked if he was calling for a public uprising to force President Arroyo to step down, Lagdameo said "it is up to the people to decide what course of action to take."

But of course. The bishops can only propose. It is the people, or those whom Lagdameo challenged to become "liberators" who dispose.

It will be recalled that the CBCP in its plenum during the first impeachment crisis, called on the public to engage themselves in "communal discernment and communal action" regarding the sad state into which our political, social and economic ethos has been consigned into after six years (at the time) of Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s dysfunctional governance.

Now, seemingly in despair, our lord bishops are asking their flock: Haven’t you discerned enough? Are you not going to take the proper communal action?

The bishops’ statement zeroed in on corruption as the biggest obstacle to reform. "In the past few years up to today, we have watched how corruption has become endemic, massive, systemic, and rampant in our politics. The faces and symptoms of corruption are over-priced projects, multi-billion scams of various kinds, election manipulations, anomalous transactions, bribery of both high and low, unsolved murders of media practitioners. Corruption is a social and moral cancer." Lagdameo noted that there have been at least three CBCP statements denouncing corruption, but the stealing spree goes merrily on, and more systematically.

Lagdameo said he believes Arroyo is a corrupt leader and has done little in preparing for a new government that could make a transition away from a corrupt one.

"In spite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our country may yet have the liberators. Yes, liberators who will, in a courageous peaceful way, effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country," they said in the statement.

"Corruption in such an extensive degree in the Philippines is a crime that cries to heaven for vengeance. Corruption in this country has become endemic, systemic, from top to bottom in government. Perhaps they may be given the punishment they deserve by the human justice system, but that’s not enough. Someone else in the Higher Authority will punish them as they deserve," a despairing Oscar Cruz, himself a former CBCP president, observed.

Realizing that their "sudden" rekindling of the issues surrounding the moral infirmity of the present administration is bound to raise questions, Bishop Soc Villegas declared: "We are not here to bring you peace. We are here to disturb you. I’m praying to God that after this meeting, may the Lord trouble you because the trouble that comes from the Lord is going to make you a better person and it’s going to make the country a better country," adding that with the current state of our government, there must be "very drastic and dramatic actions from each and every one".

Virtually quantifying the ill effects of corruption so gross, Villegas said that "If we have been only half less corrupt, we would have more money to feed our children, more money to put up schools, more money to bring medicines to hospitals."

Still, the jaded political observer, having wondered how and why our moral guardians keep jabbing without delivering a mortal punch, in tradition set twice by Cardinal Jaime Sin, would do well to listen to how the five bishops, under the approving gaze of nuns and priests, the same "soldiers" of Christ in upheavals past, tackled questions thrown at them by media.

After Archbishop Lagdameo gave regretful comment that President Arroyo was incapable of reforms, because she "is corrupt" herself, it was Archbishop Oscar Cruz who made their purpose more clear, more emphatic. In Tagalog, "tumbok na tumbok".

Was Arroyo capable of drastic reforms, the question went. "Siempre hindi", Cruz answered with nary a hesitant pause.

"How about Vice-President Noli de Castro?" The prelate said, "Walang ganyanan".

Senate President Manny Villar? Once again he quipped, "Walang ganyanan".

Needless to say, ditto with Prospero Nograles, Speaker of the lower house.

But when asked about Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Cruz approvingly said, "Pwede ‘yan!" Like a Diogenes desperately in search of an honest man, it seems Cruz has found one.

And when media segued into AFP chief Alexander Yano, the outspoken bishop, until now unstopped by his colleagues, and cheered on by the nuns, exclaimed, "Okay ‘yan!" He has found a second honest person.

Yet in truth, there are many honest Filipinos, many who have not dirtied their hands by scooping from the public till. That we are now all doomed to suffer being citizens of Asia’s most corrupt country is an abomination brought about by a few extremely greedy men and women we have had the ultimate misfortune of leading these benighted parts.

If I get their message, their cri de couer right, the bishops were challenging those honest men and women, and they must be considerable in number, to band together and install a reform government, revolutionary in purpose as well as in action, to become the "liberators" they seek.

"Who will pick up the broken, shattered pieces of our country, hurting from poverty and corruption, to make it whole again? In spite of the seemingly hopeless and negative prognosis, our liberation may yet serendipitously happen. We are dreaming, praying and hoping that our country may yet have the needed liberators. Yes, liberators who will in a courageous, peaceful way – effectively and uncompromisingly reform our country", the bishops cry.

Remember the song of the crusader, "Onward Christian soldiers"?

As to when, the bishops were clear and certain. "The time is now".

Saturday, October 25, 2008

When the chips are down

Miriam Defensor Santiago can be magnificent when she is angry. And she was magnificent last Thursday at the Senate hearing when she raved and ranted against the Secretary of the DILG and his protégée the PNP Chief.

Sure, we may say she has an axe to grind against Puno. Every time she sees him, she is reminded of the Sulo Hotel operations which made certain her overwhelming victory in Metro Manila and Western Visayas were snowed under by the “garcified” votes of Mindanao. (It might interest Madam Miriam to know that Garci, the loyal election operator of the late Leonardo Perez at the Comelec, went on exile in the US of A, afraid that Cory’s new commissioners would file cases against him. Garci quietly returned before the 1992 presidential elections, and along with Gorospe, later to gain notoriety as the “kissing lolo” in Comelec, worked for the FVR camp. Whether under the baton of Ronnie the Tree and his Sulo Hotel operations or under a separate coven, I do not know).

In Erap’s time, when Ronnie Puno was undersecretary, later secretary of the DILG, Senadora Miriam exposed his deal with a certain Mahogany Medical Supplies Corporation for compulsory drug testing. Of course, Erap paid her no heed at the time. Ronnie was “super-reliable” to Erap then as he is now to his Gloria and her Mike. And of course, the Ombudsman cleared Ronnie the Tree on these and perhaps a slew of other questioned deals.

But no matter what you may say of Miriam’s motives, and no matter how ballistic she got when faced by the seemingly unflappable but internally seething Puno, she made for great theatre last Thursday.

On the other side of the ring, there was the absence of Eliseo de la Paz. Doon pa lang, talo na. In this country, kapag wa ka apir --- guilty! General de la Paz may have been advised by his lawyer about his “rights”, and he followed legal counsel. But hey, this is the court of public opinion.

Versoza maintained that he did not authorize a cash advance for the 6.9 million pesos. Likely he did not. But how and why he did not have the answers as to how such a huge amount was withdrawn and for what justification, clearly showed that he was trying to cover up for his “mistah”.

Puno, for his part, after immediately “clearing” De la Paz while the latter was still in Moscow, saying that what he had were “contingency funds” authorized because he did not want his police officers and their wives to look like “paupers” in St. Petersburg, was now washing his Napolcom hands off the case. All they authorized, he said, was 2.3 million pesos, for the usual travel fare, room accommodations, and per diem. What happened to the contingency funds he so openly admitted a week ago? Search me, Puno virtually says.

Nilalaglag na si Eliseo de la Paz. In this dispensation, you are only good when you allow yourself to be “used” --- never mind if it means doing something illegal, or immoral. Remember, for the amoral Dona and her acolytes in the altar of power and greed, “the end always justifies the means”.

But when the chips are down, you just have to take the rap. In Tagalog, “bahala ka na sa buhay mo”. And that, it seems, is the short and unhappy life of police general Eliseo de la Paz.

No wonder the Dona flew to China a day ahead of the Beijing Euro-Asia conference on the financial crisis. The problem is for the “muchachos” to clean up.

* * *

And then, she will stay in China still, two days after her insignificant presence in the confab on melting financials is done. Why so?

Is it because JocJoc will be back this weekend? Iwas-pusoy na naman siya? So Al Cusi and his Atutubo will do their thing, as they did to the unfortunate Jun Lozada? Or will it be, bahala na si JocJoc on how to wiggle himself out of media’s prying questions? After all, Mercy the ombudswoman has been merciful, thus far.

And the relevant Senate committees, on agriculture as well as the Blue Ribbon, are not to keen on re-opening the “bolantic” fertilizer scam. Abroad likewise, their chairmen seem to be. Will their president, Manuel Villar, sign a warrant for the arrest of JocJoc, assuming he is in town by then?

These issues never die, no matter what Dona Gloria and her cohorts, declared or sub-rosa, do or not do. Whether it is Garci the cheat, or JocJoc the fake medicine man, or Ben the ZTE wheeler-dealer, or Romy the coward.

They have to take the rap for the Dona and her family. And when all the chips are down, bahala na kayo sa inyong buhay.

* * *

Which is why she can’t ever let go of power. Supposing she anoints someone, gets Ricky and Endika, Lucio and Lucio, Tom and Bobby, perhaps even Ramon and Francis, to foot the bill for “her” candidate in 2010, and conscripts once more Garci and Roque Bello and El Bello and her new nominees at Comelec to ensure his victory, what assurance would she have that when her curtains come closing, her “anointed” does not cave in to public pressure and allows the chips to fall where they may? Just like she does to all the hot potatoes thrown onto her lap?

Well, she has always said, “tutal, nakinabang naman kayo”.

And her anointed successor can likewise say, “total, nakinabang naman kayo, sobra-sobra pa. Kaya, sori, bahala na kayo sa inyong buhay.” He, he, he.

So, will there be elections come 2010, as the Dona and her gang fade quietly in the night? Wanna bet there won’t be any?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Two homecomings

Two VIP’s are expected to fly home this week. One is Eliseo de la Paz, retired comptroller of the Philippine National Police, who according to CSupt Nestor Bartolome, the agency’s spokesman, will “return to Manila (today) after being cleared by Russian customs authorities over the weekend”,

“Immediately upon his return, the Chief PNP, DG Jesus A. Versoza, expects to receive the liquidation report of expenses of the PNP delegation that attended the recent Interpol conference in Russia”, the PNP spokesman stated, adding that “as standard accounting and auditing procedure, all unused cash advances will be properly returned to the PNP’s general fund”

Ah, so des ne…now it’s official. The 120,000 or so euros, the equivalent of close to 8 million pesos found in the possession of retired PNP comptroller De la Paz, came from “cash advances” to be liquidated after the fact.

Questions now come to mind: Who made the cash advances? It should not be a retired or on-terminal-leave De la Paz; it must be the PNP Chief, mismo.

Was the huge amount advanced from the “commander’s reserve”? From other intelligence and discretionary funds? Or is the PNP system of accounting and disbursing of public money so loose that there are no limits, or unusually high limits, to how much its top officials can advance?

So they were not “contingency funds”, as the Napolcom chair and DILG Secretary, Herr Puno, claimed when news of the general’s detention at the Russian airport blew into these benighted parts?

What proper judgment on the part of the PNP leadership would dictate that a delegation of eight in a three-day Interpol conference would need 120,000 euros as slush fund for possible contingencies? Their airfare and hotel accommodations were pre-booked by the travel agent, so that’s 15,000 euros apiece more for “extras”, or €5,000 per day per officer-delegate, equivalent to 330,000 pesos per day! But wait, that’s what was left, what was being brought out of the airport, right?

So how much did the PNP delegates and the ladies with them spend to buy tins of caviar (it’s an acquired taste, and I don’t know if the PNP hotshots have tastes as expensive as Joker Arroyo’s), or babushka and matrushka dolls. Sure St. Petersburg beside the River Neva is one of the world’s most expensive cities, and a serving of borscht should make one poorer by fifteen euros (a thousand pesos for soup). There isn’t much to splurge on in this lovely city. How much to pay for a visit to the Armitage? Or a trip to the Tsar’s Summer Palace in the Gulf of Finland? Or even a choice seat to ballet performances of the Kirov or the Bolshoi, whichever is performing at what used to be Leningrad, named after the revered icon of Soviet communism, who for three generations of Russians, eclipsed Peter the Great, after whom the city was named as the seat of imperial power?

Questions, questions…but the most damning observation of the ways of life of Filipinos surviving under this regime is…nobody really cares. Beyond the media brouhaha of a week at most, people just accept the abuse of their money as a “given”.

* * *

Which is why nobody but media seems to be excited about the homecoming of the infamous Jocjoc of Capiz and Rotary International. His appeals before all the superior courts of Illinois have all dried up, and he is bound to be deported on or before December 6.

But some lawyer spotted Al Cusi of NAIA and Atty. Tony Zulueta, supposedly the lawyer of Jocjoc (and Iggy, a.k.a. Jose Pidal, kuno) and claims to have heard them discuss the “problem” of Jocjoc’s homecoming. The news spread like wildfire by text. Checks with sources in the US of A said that the usual practice for such high-profile deportees is to have Jocjoc escorted by a US marshall and turned over to authorities in Manila. Under usual practice, that means boarding him from O’Hare to Narita in a Northwest Airlines flight, with connection to Manila, right?
Neither Bush nor McCain would want to have the unnecessary embarrassment of a Jocjoc suddenly flying elsewhere with a faked passport under an assumed identity, right? Something some wise guy in the DFA could perhaps arrange for the First Family’s valuable “friend”?

So would Jocjoc be shanghaied off the airport by way of the tarmac? Ala-Ninoy or ala-Jun Lozada? Or would Al Cusi learn his lessons from the botched Lozada caper, and allow the “celebrity” balikbayan to face the legitimate press?

With the Ombudsman dilly-dallying on charges filed by my friend Frank Chavez years ago against Bolante, and Senate Agriculture Committee chair Ed Angara unwilling to re-open the investigation terminated by then chair, Sen. Jun Magsaysay, into the “bolantic” findings about fake liquid fertilizers overpriced a thousand or so times, and then distributed to concrete jungles in Metro Manila and other parts, where but for media will people learn the truth about Jocjoc and his reign of corruption in the Department of Agriculture?

Or, do people really care?

* * *

That people no longer care about corruption most gross, nor the mighty who perpetrate the same, is reflected in the conversations of a few congressmen at the Batasan Lounge days before their recess.

Overheard by another was the report one of their peers was making to a couple who failed to attend a meeting of the “most powerful” flag of political convemience in the country these days.

“Mukhang ipipilit pa rin ang cha-cha. Sabi ni bossing, e.”

But some said “na baka mahihirapan na. Gipit na sa panahon”. To which the “bossing” said, “hanggang first quarter, kakayanin pa”.

Someone asked about the situation in Mindanao, which triggered the reaction from the “bossing”, that even that could result in a “political emergency”. But, failing all that, another congressman asked, “sino ang manok natin sa 2010, si Villar?”

To which the “bossing” said, “Mukhang palabo nang palabo. Sabi nung mga senador na kakampi natin, mukhang maraming tinatagong milagro, and this C-5 double insertion is just the beginning”.

Anong tingin ninyo…kung ako na lang kaya?”, the “bossing” suddenly popped out. A moment of silence. Then someone had the temerity to say, “baka mahihirapan, sa totoo lang”.

“E kung si Noli?”, he asked. To which many said “Huwag naman.” None of the coven wanted Ping either, and were suspicious of Chiz. Nobody mentioned Loren, and Mar either. So sino?

“Alam ninyo, don’t be surprised. Baka kausapin ko na lang si Erap. Kesa diyan sa mga ibang kandidato, baka mas may pag-asa pa tayo kay Erap.”, their “bossing” said.

The only concern pervasive in the meeting was also over-riding, whether for the “bossing” or his “bosses”, and that is --- who will guarantee that after June 30, 2010, their backs will be sufficiently covered, from cases of corruption and abuse of power they committed in the long, benighted rule of their Gloria?

* * *

Jennifer Bedoya, alias Venancio Ladion, an OFW, was recently beheaded in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. The family here might not even get to bury his remains.

“Wala kaming pera kaya pinabayaan na nila (government) ang kaso”, rued Bedoya’s father, a poor farmer from Zamboanga Sibugay.

We also received a letter from the Dammam Central Jail, from a Rodelio Celestino Lanuza, 34 years of age, who was sentenced to die in public execution through beheading, but implementation was delayed, while waiting for the aggrieved children of the man he killed to reach majority age.

“Anyone will do the same (thing) I have done in case of an unexpected evil attack”, wrote Lanuza, who swears that “his conscience is clean and God knows”.

How many more Lanuza’s are there in jails in the Kingdom, or elsewhere, awaiting a fate that would most likely be no different than Bedoya’s?

And how can government cope with all these problems? This is a major policy issue and a program implementation (if any) problem more important than the homecoming of a police general oozing with unexplainable euros.

And perhaps, precisely because public money is being wasted in useless junkets, or criminal undertakings by Jocjoc and his ilk whose numbers are legion in this government, we have no money to ensure that the “bagong bayani” are treated like VIP’s instead of the miserable lot they find themselves in when confronted with personal misfortunes in unforgiving lands.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Why worry?

At a small gathering of friends recently, talk centered around two issues. Well three actually, the other being the C-5 at Taga documentaries involving Manny Villar. But I’ve discussed that in the last two articles. The first issue of interest was the Obama-McCain fight for the title “emperor of the world”. The other was how the world’s most powerful nation is getting sleepless over their financial meltdown.

Most everybody had an “underdog” sympathy for Barack Obama. He’s actually anywhere from 11 to 14 points ahead of John McCain, as far as the poll surveys go. But he is considered by Filipinos and the rest of the world as the underdog because of the color of his skin. Obama is in the process of making history. In fact, his candidacy and his high popularity among voters of America has already made history. But nothing can be sweeter, nothing can be more dramatic or historic, than an actual victory in November 4.

I actually felt a tinge of pity for warrior John McCain when I watched the last debate broadcast live here Thursday morning (Wednesday evening in New York). He was baiting Obama to lose his unflappable demeanor, but failed miserably. And in the process, McCain only demeaned himself before television viewers who saw him as some kind of raspy, sneering loser. Why, even his campaign manager interviewed by CNN after the debate, could only mumble McCain’s fierce declaration that he was not George W. Bush and that Obama should have run four years earlier. Brave words that mean little in the face of Democratic rhetoric about the meltdown that no matter how you slice it, still points to the profligacy and financial irresponsibility of the Bush administration over the last eight years.

So will it be Obama or McCain? That should be a no-brainer, except that it’s still 18 days to E-Day, and anything can yet happen. An egregious error on the part of Obama, or heaven forbid, some crazy from Appaloosa doing the winner in with a bullet. But it doesn’t look like McCain will score an upset because he will yet say the right words or come up with any magic formula to cure the recession, before the curtains come down on him and his moose-hunter from Alaska.

Still and all, some friends kept asking, what’s in it for the Philippines, under an Obama administration. I find questions of this kind as betraying colonial mentality. The fact is, it does not really matter. We Filipinos keep thinking official America or Americans care for us. They don’t, and it’s best that we stop caring for them either. Sure it’s a global community we are part of, but the sooner we look at all the countries of the globe, including the “istans” of Central Asia and our own little corner called ASEAN, instead of defining global in terms of what the “emperor” of the world thinks or does not think (which is the case of George W. Bush), the better it shall be for us Filipinos.

A country must always look at the world in the prism of it own well-defined self-interest. When its interest is congruent to some other nation’s, big or small, rich or poor, fine. When it is not, then a self-respecting nation must stand his ground and seek allies within the global community, instead of kowtowing to whatever the rich and the mighty want.

In any case, America will be so engrossed in the next few years with its own domestic problems that a tiny sprinkling of islands somewhere in the Pacific will matter less and less. Whether it’s Obama at the helm, or a McCain, or God forbid, a Sarah Palin at the bat.

* * *

Worries were likewise expressed about the doom and gloom pervading the world’s financial markets. To which I said that of course it’s going to affect us, but then again, when did we ever really feel better that sad developments triggered elsewhere affect us so?

When the Asian recession hit us in 1997, we were left wondering why we did not see any suicides unlike those that we read about in Bangkok and Singapore. Not that we cared enough if a billionaire or two of the buccaneering type jumped off a forty-storey building, but it never happened here. First because we were decoupled from the rest of the region simply because we were never a big player, or second, because those who ought to have jumped were smarter than all of us. They knew how to recover their losses by simply being powerful, and using that power to pay off their indebtedness. Ask Manny Villar, that’s his expertise.

So now that Wall Street is melting down, and London Bridge is falling apart, why worry?

Worried though and biting their nails are the filthy rich who thought such sterling-quality names as Lehmann and Morgan Stanley and Hypovereins and Coutts and Barclays and the Royal Bank of Scotland were safe havens for ill-gotten and laundered filth, and now see their lucre go dross by the day.

“Karma”, a lady senator lately declared of these corrupt and corruptible. But then again, that’s our money they purloined that’s now going down to the dregs.

As always, it’s Juan de la Cruz collectively holding the empty bag.

* * *

Meanwhile, the lady who gave this nation the kind of slow misery that her “better” idol in DC gave the Americans in one fell blow, still looks for succour from the gnomes of M Street.

“The World Bank”, she claimed to her mental inferiors who saw her only in the hope that she would loosen up the purse strings of the nation for their small mercies, “has ten billion dollars” as stand-by assistance for poor little us.

The following day, the World Bank said, “Ano ka, hilo?”

And her loyal courtiers “clarified”--- IMF ‘yun, hindi WB. He, he, he.

Truth is, we just have to prepare for the hard times. Hongkong and Singapore will lay off many of their domestics and the “amahs” of their children. Those who used to form a beeline for work abroad will be turned down in increasing numbers. Electronics exports will be slashed by the First World whose consumers will worry more about keeping up with their mortgage payments. The few garments we still produce will find no markets in the West, while the rest of the East produce the same much cheaper.

So it will be by the bootstraps for the benighted land. But who is to pull those bootstraps? Still the little Dona whose mandate to rule even heaven frowns upon, whose tiny fingers have turned to giant claws snatching everything, and whose appendages have grown their own appetites as much, Frankensteins yet to be sated?

God, why do you punish your people so?

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Dealing with oneself

By getting the DPWH to agree to a project proposal funded generously from the national budget to the tune of 710 million pesos in its first year, the then Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, Sen. Manuel Villar, moved the location of the original C-5 Road from SLEX through Sucat to Coastal Road to another area within the same vicinity. In the process, as we discussed in our Tuesday column, government virtually threw away some 1.2 billion pesos in road right-of-way payments made to Amvel Properties of Bro. Mike Velarde.

Of the 710 million pesos, provision for road right-of-way payments amounted to 355 million pesos, for the year 2005 alone. The rest was for road construction. But a strange provision in the approved and funded project proposal stated that “The City of Las Pinas together with the staff of the office of proponent(s) have negotiated (sic) the lot owners affected by the RROW”.

In effect, the Villars and Mayor Aguilar of Las Pinas, through their respective staff, took it upon themselves to negotiate with the owners of the 39 parcels of land where the newly re-located C-5 Road would pass. It just so happens that of these 39 lot parcels, 12 belong to three corporations owned and controlled by the Villar family, namely Adelfa Properties, Inc., Brittany Corporation, and Golden Haven Memorial Park. And the Republic of the Philippines allowed the Villars to assume duties that appropriately should belong to its instrumentalities, in this case, the DPWH or some other agency under its supervision, such as the Toll Regulatory Board.

In fine, the Villars were allowed to deal with themselves, for and in behalf of the Republic. How convenient.

So convenient in fact, that the Villar corporations sold to the Republic parcels of land in Barangay San Dionisio, Paranaque City, at a price of 15,000 pesos per square meter, while an adjoining property consisting of 3,100 square meters owned by the heirs of the late Governor Democrito Plaza of Agusan del Sur, went for a negotiated price of only 4,000 pesos per square meter, almost a fourth of what the Villars got.

Rep. Rodolfo “Ompong” Plaza, son of the late governor D.O. and one of the signatories for the family in the deed of sale with the Republic, said in an interview over DZMM last Tuesday morning that at the time of the sale, they were satisfied that they got a fair price for their property based on its market value at time of sale, and the BIR’s zonal valuation. But, and this is a big BUT, they were unaware that the adjoining property owned by the Villars was paid almost four times more. How lucky one can get when he is allowed to deal with himself.

But since the Villar staff, as per the project proposal, were the ones who “negotiated (sic) the lot owners affected by the RROW”, what does that make of them in the light of the enormous discrepancy between the price that Plaza got and the price that Brittany and Adelfa or Golden Haven got for adjoining parcels of land?

Manggagantso? Or, as the other Plaza siblings, I can just imagine, knowing most of them personally, would now chide my friend Ompong, “Binuang!”

What was it author Manapat used to say about the “wa-is” in the unlamented time of Ferdinand Marcos and his wife Imelda? “Some are smarter than others”. He, he, he.

Yet that is not all there is to this sneakily-executed real estate capers.

Adelfa Properties Inc., another Villar flagship, represented by its EVP, a certain Jerry M. Navarrete, and its SVP and GM, Anastacio C. Adriano Jr., swapped properties with Masaito Development Corporation, represented by its President, Joseph C. Wang, by way of a memorandum of agreement where about similarly-sized parcels of land were transferred from one’s ownership to the other.

Three parcels of land, in the case of Masaito, with three different TCT’s, were swapped with one TCT belonging to Adelfa which would both be traversed by the re-routed C-5. Adelfa’s property was one bigger block of land compared to Masaito’s three smaller parcels. Fair enough for a swap?

At first glance, yes, considering that Adelfa swapped 27,355 square meters for Masaito’s total of 26,927 square meters. But three parcels with wide frontages facing the new C-5 are certainly going to be more valuable than one big hammer-shaped parcel with only one frontage facing the newly-built avenue.

Strangely, Masaito agreed. If the corporation had not, would the road have been re-located a few more degrees off-tangent? Just wondering.

Now here’s the sneaky catch. The “negotiators” for the project proponents of the new, re-routed C-5, were able to have the Masaito parcels re-classified from “residential” to “commercial”. Remember, they represent not just a mere senator of the realm, but a former Speaker of the House, now the powerful chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, plus the congresswoman of the lone district of Las Pinas City, plus the city government of Las Pinas itself, headed by the mayor who is brother to the congresswoman. How conveniently these political dynasties serve their own interests! Dealing with and among themselves, using the meager funds of the people of the benighted islands.

And because it has become commercial, even before the road actually traversed the Masaito properties, the same “negotiators” were able to get the people of the miserable Republic to pay 30,000 pesos for each square meter!

Wow, Ompong! Eat your heart out---four thousand versus thirty, in the same vicinity! The 12 million pesos you were paid could have been 90 million. Your price was “pour la patrie”; theirs was “pour les Villar-naires”.

Now did Wang and his Masaito get any windfall from the conversion?

Item Number Three in the Memorandum of Agreement specified that “The First Party (Adelfa) on behalf of the Second Party (Masaito) shall receive the consideration for the expropriation of the said properties (and) for said purpose, the Second Party shall execute a letter-authority in favour of the First Party”.

Which apparently they did, for two days before Christmas of 2006, Anastacio Adriano Jr. collected partial payment of 25 million pesos for one parcel of land from DPWH. And forthwith deposited the same in his account.

Like Plaza, Masaito is powerless to question the unfairness of it all, as he had signed a MOA that obviously benefitted the Villars far more than he could ever have.

Sipag at tiyaga? Kuno.

C-5 at Taga is what it clearly is.

A road was hijacked from its planned site, causing the Republic to lose 1.2 billion pesos in road right-of-way payments to someone who does not mind the diversion because after all, he was paid for his land.

The road was transferred to another location, deliberately to traverse properties belonging to one powerful and influential family, and paid awesome prices for road right-of-way that would not have been so valuable if there was no government-built road in the first place.

Ginisa ang taong-bayan sa sariling mantika, gamit-gamit ang salaping mula sa kaban ng naghihikahos na bansa.

Because of the relocation of the road, the values of the real estate now traversed will multiply several times more in value, and guess who benefits awesomely? Portofino, Brittany, La Marea, Crowne-Asia, and whatever housing brand the Villars could name their now choice real estate.

“The rich are different from you and me”, F. Scott Fitzgerald once remarked. Indeed. Especially if they are the kind who would want to rule the benighted.

Wizened and jaded political observers sneer at the Lacson and Madrigal discoveries of larceny most grand as “politically motivated”. This is of course the banshee of Villar lapdogs like Alan Peter and the Joker.

Granting so for the sake of argument, it is one political play that has shown the people of the benighted islands how they are gypped day-in and day-out, by these “leaders” they elect on the basis of catchy slogans and well-manicured propaganda.

That 200 million double insertion was perhaps a God-given clue intended to tell the people of these benighted parts, after the mysteries of the “road through elsewhere” unravelled, how they are royally screwed by the powerful proponents of the Daang-Hari and Daang-Reyna’s, the Norzagaray’s and San Jose del Monte’s, the Holiday Hills of San Pedro, the Molino’s in Cavite, and of course, the C-5’s of these miserable parts.

Monday, October 13, 2008

The road through elsewhere

The Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, from SLEX to Sucat Road Extension, and from there, onwards to the Coastal Road, is not a "road to nowhere." More appropriately, it is the "road through elsewhere".

What has become a road to nowhere though is another–the original C-5 as planned, and for which money spent by two previous administrations have been laid to waste. Read on and find out how this happened:

The Circumferential Road that was to thread around the metropolis, just as EDSA does, was planned long ago, in fact, as far back as Ferdinand Marcos’ extended stay in Malacañang. EDSA stretches from the city of Caloocan at the Bonifacio monument all the way down to Roxas Boulevard, crossing through Quezon City, San Juan, Mandaluyong, Makati, and Pasay. C-5 strings Navotas-Malabon in the northwestern side of Manila Bay, goes through Caloocan, then Quezon City, to Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasig, Taguig, crossing SLEX around the Bicutan area, and through Parañaque up to the Coastal Road along the southwest part of Manila Bay. There is absolutely no doubt that it is a major road artery with great benefit to motorists and transport operators. Nobody disputes that.

In fact, it certainly qualifies for foreign funding. But somehow, we’ve always been using funds appropriated piece-meal from the General Appropriations Act, except for fly-overs traversing it, which were funded by bilateral financing assistance from Japan.

But here is the startling discovery the Senate investigation into the 200 million peso "insertion" triggered: The original C-5 stretch from SLEX to Coastal as planned, has been transferred to some other site. It has been moved elsewhere!

Originally, DPWH would have constructed the road from somewhere in Bicutan through Parañaque, and comes out to Sucat after passing through the huge property of Amvel Corporation, owned by Bro. Mike Velarde of the El Shaddai, which ends at Sucat Road. From there, it goes through San Dionisio in Parañaque, almost at the border of La Huerta, widening an existing road called Kabihasnan. In fact, as early as FVR’s term, concluded in Erap’s shortened term, a negotiated price had been set for the road right-of-way traversing Amvel’s land. Government had already paid 1.2 billion pesos for that stretch of road.

Yet in a macabre twist of events, that stretch of C-5 or Carlos P. Garcia Avenue, was moved from the area traversing Amvel’s paid-for right of way, and forays farther south, through other properties, and approaches Sucat elsewhere, near the border of San Dionisio, right smack into the SM Mall complex. Then, a new road, already constructed, traverses the SM property, cuts through portions of Pulang Lupa in Las Piñas, and ends in Aldana, also in Las Piñas. From there, it will cross onto the Coastal Road. The new road will be longer than the original C-5, but what’s more, it passes through 39 lots, 12 of which belong to either Adelfa Corporation, or Brittany Corporation, or Golden Haven Memorial Park, all of which belong to the Villar spouses, Manuel and Cynthia, their children and minority assigns.

By moving the C-5 Road "elsewhere," not only has the cost of construction expanded, but the purchase of right-of-way has multiplied.

Worse, criminal in fact, is that by so doing, government throws away 1.2 billion precious pesos paid out in road right-of-way rights to private landowners, chief of which is the Amvel of Bro. Mike Velarde.

How was this done? How was the original plan scrapped, and the road effectively moved elsewhere? Ask the spouses Manuel and Cynthia Villar, now Senate President and lone representative of Las Piñas City in the Lower House.

For when Villar the husband was yet the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee back in 2004, he and his Cynthia worked out a project proposal with the Department of Public Works and Highways, providing funds amounting to 710 million pesos, for road construction and "road right-of-way" payments in the newly-moved location of C-5. For that year alone, 355 million was allocated for right-of-way settlements. And clearly, Villar and his family corporations own so much of these properties. From the public monies appropriated in the budget Villar "amended" – to his own pocket, right?

And that is just the 2005 appropriations law. What about the 2006 budget, which was a re-enacted budget? Did the Doña’s DBM release re-aligned funds once more to fund Villar’s favorite project? After all, Villar was a pillar of the administration’s support base in the Senate, having in fact become Senate President by virtue of a term-sharing deal ironed out with Franklin Drilon, who in the middle of 2005, after discovery of the election cheating conspiracy between Garci and Gloria, had the courage to call for his president’s resignation. Not Villar. Never Villar, who now styles himself as "opposition".

Now, pray ask our dear senators of the realm – did then Senator Manuel Villar, by effectively causing the re-routing of C-5, not cause the waste of public monies already sunk in road right-of-way payments to private persons to the tune of almost 1.2 billion pesos? Is this not violative of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act?

And in proposing the new C-5 project, passing through properties that his family corporations own, pray ask, was not Senator Manuel Villar guilty of conflict of interest, which violates constitutional provisions?

And in appropriating funds for the revised road project, the road right-of-way problems for 2005 alone amounting to 355 million pesos, was not Villar guilty of self-dealing, using funds that belong to the Treasury over which he had greater power to appropriate than any of his peers, being at the time chair of the Finance Committee? Isn’t this again a clear conflict of interest?
Then again, this time as Senate President in 2007, while passing the General Appropriations Act for the current year 2008, did not Villar cause the "insertion" of an additional 200 million pesos over and above a similar amount proposed in the President’s budget through the National Expenditures Program? That fact was established during the single open-and-shut hearing called by Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who himself confirmed that it was his Senate President who asked for the insertion, earmark or amendment.

That the money had not yet been spent, and that the money was not to go directly to Villar’s pocket or anybody else’s, does not detract from the fact that all along, the Senate President who was once chair of the Senate Finance Committee, was profiting, and profiting immensely, from the relocation of a new C-5 from an old C-5 road plan. And would profit even more, in fact, humongously more, once the new road opens up all his real estate, which will later spot such ultra-expensive brands as Portofino, or La Marea, or Brittany, or whatever else, no more the plebeian Palmera or Camella?

Why am I now detailing the specifics of the bizarre arrangements made by Senator Manuel Villar with the present administration, as if I were a reporter instead of an opinion writer?
Because the public has the right to know what many sectors of media have conveniently hidden from them, whether through deliberately shortened reports of through a plain news blackout, as happened on the night and succeeding nights of the nation’s biggest television network. 1.2 billion pesos down the drain, and additional public funds spent and yet to be spent, simply because one family’s greed knows no bounds, yet this is not considered important enough to be news? One wonders whether the network’s moguls are in the know about what their editors and news managers do "on the side."

But that is not the only story. There is more than what we see on the surface. This is not just a case of self-aggrandizement, enriching one’s coffers by using power and influence to determine policies, plans and programs of government.

In the next column, we will detail more sinister C-5 related deals of the man who heads the Senate of the Republic. Yes, just in C-5.

Last week we wrote about the fictitious titles to land in Norzagaray, Bulacan, which the Bangko Sentral accepted in payment of 1.5 billion pesos of unpaid liabilities, by then Congressman Villar’s moribund bank.

Now, as exposed by Senator Jamby Madrigal using documents provided by Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. of the DPWH, we see the patent corruption and conflict of interest in C-5, este, Carlos P. Garcia Avenue.

What about San Pedro in Laguna, and somewhere yet in Bulacan? And Daang Hari? And Daang Reyna? And heaven knows what more?

Saturday, October 11, 2008


If her heart bleeds for prisoners languishing in maximum security cells, why then did Doña Gloria virtually sneak out Claudio Teehankee Jr. in the dead of night? The guy is a convicted murderer, and compared to the case of Hubert Webb, where valid grounds exist for doubting his guilt over the gruesome Vizconde murders, hardly anyone questioned the certitude of Teehankee’s guilt in the murders of Maureen Hultman and Roland Chapman in 1991.

If there were reasonable grounds in law to release him, as her minister of injustice Raul Gonzalez now explains belatedly, then why did his and her government act in complete stealth, like a "thief in the night"? (Remember how the Malacañang Press Office lauded Gloria Arroyo’s sneaking in from Hainan after standing as witness to the signing of the NBN-ZTE deal?)
I was having coffee with a lawyer-friend the day after the shocking news came out. Calmly my lawyer-friend remarked, "Hindi kasi matatanggihan ni GMA si Dondi," referring to Manuel Teehankee, Doña Gloria’s emissary to the World Trade Organization in Geneva, a post that carries the rank of ambassador).

Asked to explain further, this lawyer-friend said, "Remember that he was justice undersecretary to Nani Perez prior to 2004. What "acts" did he have to clean up? What "missions" did he have to undertake?"

Ah…secrets! The kind that the people of the benighted land will have to ferret out after June 30, 2010, on the big assumption that the lady in the stinking palace beside the stinking river will leave her accustomed filthy environs.


And if Claudio Teehankee Jr. is fit to join the ranks of society’s free, "having suffered enough", why not Rolito Go, who killed Eldon Maguan in a fit of road rage? And pray tell, why not Romy Jalosjos, who has not killed anyone, and is damned for life because he had a sexual relationship with a girl who appeared to be over the age that qualifies as statutory rape, a girl whose "services" were pimped by a dirty old lecher of a foster parent?

Surely their crimes pale in comparison to brain-eater Norberto Manero. Or the brains behind the murder of two young men in Mindoro Occidental, even if he happens to be the husband of the Dona’s chief mayordoma?

No wonder we have a culture of impunity. Rich boys fly; poor boys fry.

Well, poor boys no longer fry. They just wait and wait and wait, after the abolition of the death sentence. Their "betters," because richer or well-connected, are "confined" in air-conditioned cells with 42-inch plasma televisions and "personal" refrigerators, while they sleep in dank and fetid cells, suffering bad food and worse, the initiation of the "arse".

Life is so unfair, in a country where feudalism is the rule, where democracy is farce, and poverty sucks.

As Ping Lacson keeps saying, "hindi patas ang laban".


Well, even in the Senate, hindi patas ang laban. The wagons of the lie keep circling to fortify the victim(s) of truth. They did it when they circled to protect the Doña and her esposo from the slings of Joey de Venecia and the arrows of an abducted Jun Lozada. Some did it openly, one or two others, stealthily. Kunwari after the truth, but truth to them and their unseen masters, means ensuring the shit does not hit the ceiling fan, only the table fan.

Now the wagons of the lie would seek to prevent the awesomely documented exposes of Senator Jamby Madrigal against their financial and political patron – the Senate President himself – from being exposed to the full light of day.

Madrigal the other day exposed in both a formal complaint and a recitation of legal and constitutional violations the stealthily-built financial base of Villar’s fabled billions. Sipag at tiyaga, or Singit at Taga? Better yet, as in the instant revelations of Madrigal, backed up by certified true copies supplied by the DPWH, mismo, C-5 at Taga.

Madrigal and Lacson had the basic decency to resign after being nominated by the minority as members of the Ethics Committee that should investigate. As they were Villar’s accusers, they deemed it improper that they should judge their Senate primus inter pares in the committee chaired by Senadora Pia Cayetano.

But the wagons of the lie possess neither decency nor shame. Joker Arroyo, who ten years ago accused Villar of basically the same violations of law and ethics that Madrigal and Lacson now accuse the same person of, will not budge. He will be judge and defense counsel. So too will the young but morally infirm Alan Peter Cayetano not resign his membership in the committee chaired by his elder sister. He will be Villar’s "attack dog," defense counsel and judge, all wrapped into one.


And even in media, hindi patas ang laban. Interviews of Madrigal regarding her fully-documented bill of accusations against the over-generous, extremely wealthy billionaire-politician, were blanked out of television screens, save only for running board capsules. Ditto with print, but for a few "scantily" written stories (with the exception of one refreshingly good lady, a broadsheet reporter) and another tabloid writer.

Either they don’t like the singer or they were "persuaded" not to play her song?


Meanwhile, again in stealth, a young dolt of a lawyer, Adam Jala, representing the benighted people of eastern Bohol, has filed a petition with the Supreme Court, questioning the rules of the House of trapos where he belongs.

His beef is, despite absence of a formal motion to convene both houses of Congress, that it is most unfair, nay, violative of the spirit of the Constitution, that a small House of 24 (minus two) can prevent a larger House of 236, from revising the Constitution to suit the hungry desires of their Boss Woman.

Jala claims he was not prodded by Malacañang or his speaker, to file the motion before the Supreme Court. He, he, he.

Since Congress will be in recess, his petition for certiorari is merely a case of laying the predicate for what the Dona’s minions will execute after the senators and congressmen end their month-long furlough.

Abangan. "Two things," as Manny Villar loves to predicate his rare interviews.

One, the stealth behind the Doña’s staying in power beyond 2010, which will unravel after Dia de los Muertos. And two, the truth behind C-5 at Taga, as documented by Jamby Madrigal, which we will publish in this space next week.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

He told them so

Steve Mihm, an associate professor of economic history at the University of Georgia, wrote something very interesting in the New York Times on August 16, 2008.

"On September 7, 2006, Nouriel Roubini, an economics professor at New York University, stood before an audience of economists at the International Monetary Fund and announced that a crisis was brewing. In the coming months and years, he warned, the United States was likely to face a once-in-a-lifetime housing bust, an oil shock, sharply declining consumer confidence, and ultimately a deep recession.

"(Roubini) laid out a bleak sequence of events: homeowners defaulting on mortgages, trillions of dollars of mortgage-backed securities unravelling worldwide, and the global financial system shuddering to a halt. These developments, he said, could cripple or destroy hedge funds, investment banks and other major financial institutions like Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac.

When he finished, the moderator of the event said, "I think we will need a stiff drink after that… People laughed, not without reason. At the time, unemployment and inflation were low, and the economy, while weak, was still growing despite rising oil prices and a softening housing market."

We all know what happened. In 2007, subprime lenders began filing for bankruptcy, and the dominoes began falling. But here’s more:

"Over the past year, whenever optimists have declared the worst of the US economic crisis over, Roubini has countered with steadfast pessimism. In February, when the conventional wisdom held that the venerable investment firms of Wall Street would weather the crisis, Roubini warned that one or more of them would go ‘belly up’ - and six weeks later, Bear Stearns collapsed.

"After the Fed’s further extraordinary actions in the spring – including making lines of credit available to selected investment banks and brokerage houses – many economists made note of the ensuing economic rally and proclaimed the credit crisis over and a recession averted. Roubini stuck to his script of ‘nightmare’ events: waves of corporate bankruptcies, collapses in markets like commercial real estate and municipal bonds and, most alarming, the possible bankruptcy of a large regional or national bank that would lead to a panic by depositors. Not all of these developments have come to pass, but last month’s demise of the California bank IndyMac – one of the largest such failures in US history – drew only more attention to Roubini’s seeming prescience.

"As a result, Roubini, a respected but formerly obscure academic, has become a major figure in the public debate about the economy: the seer who saw it coming. He has been summoned to speak before Congress, the Council on Foreign Relations and the World Economic Forum at Davos, Switzerland. He is now a sought-after adviser, spending much of his time shuttling between meetings with central bank governors and finance ministers in Europe and Asia."

But there is more "prescience" from this Iranian Jew who was born in Istanbul 52 years ago:

"Reckless people have deluded themselves that this was a subprime crisis, but we have problems with credit-card debt, student-loan debt, auto loans, commercial real estate loans, home-equity loans, corporate debt and loans that financed leveraged buyouts.

"All of these forms of debt, he argues, suffer from some or all of the same traits that first surfaced in the housing market: shoddy underwriting, securitization, negligence on the part of the credit-rating agencies and lax government oversight. ‘We have a subprime financial system,’ he said, ‘not a subprime mortgage market."

"Roubini argues that most of the losses from this bad debt have yet to be written off, and the toll from bad commercial real estate loans alone may help send hundreds of local banks into the arms of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. ‘A good third of the regional banks won’t make it,’ he predicted.

"In turn, these bailouts will add hundreds of billions of dollars to an already gargantuan federal debt, and someone, somewhere, is going to have to finance that debt, along with all the other debt accumulated by consumers and corporations. ‘Our biggest financiers are China, Russia and the Gulf states,’ Roubini noted. ‘These are rivals, not allies.’ The United States, Roubini went on, will most likely muddle through the crisis but will emerge from it a different nation, with a different place in the world.

"Once you run current-account deficits, you depend on the kindness of strangers,’ he said, pausing to let out a resigned sigh.’This might be the beginning of the end of the American empire."

So, is this the end of Pax Americana? And is it the beginning of Pax Cinensis? Exciting, though perilous times we find ourselves in.

And all this unravelling is happening in all its naked gore as America makes a historic decision, whether to muddle through in the company of a curious mix of neo-cons, neo-liberals, bible-toting evangelicals, dyed-in-the-wool conservatives and the so-called WASPs (White, Anglo-Saxon Protestants) with its racist fringe, accompanying a McCain-Palin ticket, or to take a leap of faith with a Kenyan-American bred in Hawaii and Indonesia and the warrens of Chicago, with his message of change.


Now for a light postscript:

How do you define an "economic slowdown"? Answer: When your neighbour loses his job.

How do you define an "economic recession"? Answer: When you yourself lose your job.

What about "economic recovery"? Answer: When the chief economist loses HER job.


Monday, October 6, 2008

A case of plunder

When Rep. Joker Ar-royo of the first con-gressional district of Makati was robbed of the speakership in June 1998, he asked some investigative journalist to dig deeper into information he received about an alleged land-grabbing incident in the hilly town of Norzagaray in Bulacan, right beside the foothills of the Sierra Madre. He had information that behind the supposed land-grabbing was the Villar couple, Manuel, soon to be proclaimed Speaker of the House by the grace of the newly-elected president of the land, Joseph Ejercito Estrada, and his wife Cynthia.

On August 17, 1998 Joker Arroyo spoke before his peers and charged the new Speaker with violations of the Constitution and the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or R.A. 3019, in all of ten specific instances. The fourth charge of corruption stated by Arroyo was about the Capitol Bank’s receipt of financial accommodations from the Bangko Sentral between 1992 and 1998, when Mrs. Cynthia Villar was its CEO, and her husband Manuel was a congressman from Las Piñas, and now, Speaker of the House.

Sometime last week, at just about the same time that now Senator Arroyo was defending his by now good friend and fellow Wednesday dining companion, Senate President Manuel Villar, on charges of conflict of interest discovered because of a 200 million peso "singit" in the 2008 national budget, a story appeared in one of the national dailies. It said that a certain Gina Jarvina and Valentin Amador, representing several farmers of Norzagaray, filed charges of probable plunder against Villar, his wife Cynthia, now congresswoman of the lone district of Las Piñas, along with Anacordita Magno, first vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, Arturo de los Santos, executive vice-president of Optimum Development Bank, and Andres Rustia, managing director in charge of the Department of Loans and Credit as well as the Assets Management Department of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, in connection with an unpaid loan from the BSP amounting to almost P1.5 billion.

Cynthia Villar was charged in her capacity as president of the Capitol Development Bank (now Optimum Development Bank) who was one of the signatories in the P1.5 billion loan, while Senate President Manuel Villar was made respondent for being a shareholder in the family-owned bank.

The plunder case was filed last Friday by a group of farmers whose ownership of some 484 hectares of agricultural lands in Norzagaray, Bulacan is being disputed by the Bangko Sentral before the Regional Trial Court of Malolos. Complainants are assisted by their lawyer Sergio Angeles of the Angeles, Golla & Associates which holds office in Eagle’s Nest, Sumulong Highway, Barangay Sta. Cruz, Antipolo City.

Based on that complaint, pertinent facts of which were confirmed to this writer by the investigative journalist Joker Arroyo commissioned in 1998, this is the story of the case:
Mrs. Cynthia Villar and Ditas Magno (once introduced to this writer by then Speaker Villar), president and vice-president of Capitol Development Bank, managed to secure a loan from the Bangko Sentral amounting to one and a half billion pesos in two tranches: 1.17 billion on 22 April 1998, and 332 million on 24 April,1998.

Based on the promissory notes signed by Villar and Magno on the two mentioned dates, they promised to pay their loan after six months or 180 days at an interest rate of 14.957 percent per annum. Upon maturity however, the bank and/or the signatories to the loan accommodation failed to pay.

Instead, they settled the loan through a dacion en pago of 483.97 hectares in Norzagaray, Bulacan, the same property that the complainants now before the Ombudsman are claiming to be lawfully theirs. At the time of the dacion, the zonal value assigned by the Bureau of Internal Revenue, which is supposed to approximate actual market value, was 60 pesos per square meter or 600,000 pesos per hectare. Those 484 hectares should therefore be worth 290 million pesos, but it was used to settle an account from the Bangko Sentral of 1.5 billion pesos! Can you beat that?

In fine, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, fiduciary trustee of the people of the Republic of the Philippines, issuer of legal tender used by its benighted residents within the metes and bounds of the same Republic, now holds assets valued at 290 million, which "erased" liability of the Villars worth one and a half billion, or five times the value of the property now in its possession. In effect, the Bangko Sentral lost 1.210 billion of the people’s money to some very, very wise guys, for and in behalf of a hopelessly bankrupt Capitol Development Bank.

The deed of real estate mortgage was dated June 29, 2001 for the 483.973 hectares (484 has.) of agricultural land in Norzagaray, Bulacan which was used as payment for the P1.5 billion loan of CDB in April 1998. By this time, Manuel Villar had ceased to be Speaker of the House, and was already a candidate for senator of the realm under newly-proclaimed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s People Power Movement ticket, in the "unusual" company of Joker Arroyo, his erstwhile tormentor-rival in 1998. Both won, Joker Arroyo for his tagline "Uubusin ang corrupt!" and Manuel Villar as "Mr. Sipag at Tiyaga".

The perfect corporate crime, with the people of the Republic holding land one-fifth the value of the monies it lent? That’s not the end of the story, though.

It was only in 2007 that the complainant-farmers learned about the so-called nine transfer certificate of titles (TCT) covering the 484 hectares of land now being claimed by the BSP as their property after the foreclosure proceedings it conducted against the CDB.

The complainant-farmers, whose forebears had been cultivating the land since the turn of the last century, learned about the BSP’s claim only when they filed before the Malolos City Regional Trial Court for reconstitution of their land titles after the records of their titles in Norzagaray were burned in a fire that destroyed the building which houses the local Register of Deeds.

The complainants questioned the validity of TCTs in the possession of BSP since the date of issuance of the sales patent on July 17, 1944 and the date of issuance of the original certificate title (OCT) on July 25, 1944 "took place when there was no civil government in the Philippines."
The complainants added that Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, maintained that "authorizing the issuance of sales patent was illegal and inoperative during the Japanese occupation."
Sa madaling salita, "peke" pa ang mga titulo ng lupa na ibinayad sa Bangko Sentral!

Niloko na nga sa over-valued na halaga, naloko pa ang Bangko Sentral, na binayaran ng "mickey mouse" torrens title, issued during the Japanese occupation. At ninakawan ng lupain ang mga mahihirap na magsasaka. Will wonders never cease?

When the complaint before the Office of the Ombudsman was printed in a broadsheet, the spokesperson of the Villar companies, or was it the Nacionalista spokesman, former Rep. Gilbert Remulla of Cavite, the young man who would be senator of the realm, called it "old hat", "recycled issues" that were already dismissed by the Ombudsman. "Pulitika lang ‘yan", he scoffed. Yet a check with the agency records in the pink building along Agham Road in Quezon City shows that what was brought before the graft prosecutor was a mere letter-complaint, and this is the first time that a formal complaint of plunder regarding the transaction was received by them.

The signatories of the promissory notes for which Bangko Sentral loaned out 1.5 billion of the people’s money were Mrs. Cynthia Villar, not yet a congresswoman at the time of the transaction, and Ditas Magno, with Arturo de los Santos participating at the time of the dacion. The signatory for the Bangko Sentral was Andres Rustia.

Yet, the complainants and their lawyer included Senate President Manuel Villar in the complaint, who at the time of the transaction and its episodes, was either a congressman or already Speaker of the House. The lawyer explained that though Villar was not a signatory, the circumstances in the irregular and unusually generous transaction suggest clearly that the latter must have exerted undue influence or pressure upon the officers of the Bangko Sentral.

While that contention may be legally debatable, would Manny Villar leave his wife the congresswoman to answer this complaint singly? Can he simply shrug these charges off as "recycled" and "old" or leave the explaining to his faithful political acolytes, as he did the mystery of the 200 million double entry which would cross through properties he and his wife own, and for which monies of the Republic were used to compensate for road right of way?
Ah! How the rich and the mighty screw us all. Using the money of the people in ways more ingenious than "sipag at tiyaga" could ever achieve.

Now a postscript. I asked the staff of Senator Jamby Madrigal, just before I started pounding the keys of my laptop, if their announced complaint before the Senate Ethics Committee had anything to do with this Norzagaray caper that Joker Arroyo, then congressman from Makati, mentioned in his August 1998 speech. The answer was negative.

What they have on Villar is about C-5, as politically explosive as C-4, and how the "King Balimbing", as they quoted me, used his power and influence in more ways than once, to promote personal and corporate interest (in a completely closed family corporation).

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Obama or McCain?

We had a very interest-ing and pleasant inter-action last Thursday noon with Dr. David Plotke, a political scientist from the United States. Eight columnists from different broadsheets were invited by the Public Affairs office of the US Embassy to ask questions regarding the tight presidential contest that should culminate on the first Tuesday of November. Some three weeks before, we were also invited to a tele-conference with another political science professor, but that encounter was spoiled by inane questions fielded by of all people, a Comelec commissioner who kept asking a clueless American professor about the crazy situation of Philippine elections. The American must have wondered in bewilderment if elections in their true sense really happen in these benighted parts.

Of course we know that our elections are far from being fair or clean or democratic, but it made me cringe in shame that we had a commissioner who thought he was addressing Virgilio Garcillano and Roque Bello instead of a political expert from a country where democracy is real and voters make informed choices. The kind of characters an illegitimate president has appointed to the Comelec fortifies my belief that she has no real desire for any kind of honorable legacy.

Dr. Plotke started by saying that McCain was probably the best choice the Republicans could make, given a field of contenders which included far-right, or far too conservative candidates that would not attract any independent voters. He narrowed down the swing-vote states to Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Nevada. Most of the other states have predictably fallen behind one or the other party and candidate this early.

Had the US Senate not approved the 700 billion dollar bailout package for the ailing financial market, Obama would already be a sure winner, Dr. Plotke said. This is not to say that the pendulum has swung towards McCain. It simply means that he cannot be written off this early. In any case, the vote margin should be some 3 to 5 percent close if Obama prevails, and less if McCain squeaks in. The latest polls, taken after Bush announced the bailout package proposed by US Treasury Secretary Paulson and the Federal Reserve Board’s Bernanke, and before the Biden-Palin debate, showed Obama seven points ahead of rival McCain. If Obama gets Pennsylvania, Ohio and Michigan, he is already a winner. McCain has to get these three swing states, and more, including Florida, where Bush narrowly beat, and quite controversially, Al Gore eight years ago.

With a month to go, a seven-point lead could be erased only by monumental blunders on the part of the Democrats and their Obama. Although much attention has been drawn to the vice-presidential race, principally because of the novelty of Sarah Palin, in truth, Americans don’t vote separately for their vice-presidents, unlike in our stupid system. And the vice-presidential candidates’ influence, plus or minus, push or pull, on the presidential candidate is really rather small, a max, according to Dr. Plotke, of 5 percent. Thus, as we observed in our "Lemons" article last Thursday, a sweet-smelling Palin gave McCain a 4 to 5 percent boost in the ratings, right after she was introduced in the Republican convention. Now let’s see how Palin’s "substance" compares with Joe Biden. (As of this writing, I had not yet seen their televised debate.)
There are two major issues where Obama and McCain will be weighed by the voters of America. One is the economy. And while McCain is not an economic conservative, he represents a political party dominated by conservatives. The fact that their dogma of unbridled free market economics and a social philosophy of "trickle-down", best enunciated by Ronald Reagan a generation ago, has unravelled makes it more difficult for John McCain to convince worried Americans that their future is brighter under a McCain-Republican leadership. The Democrats just have to reason to death that the collapse of Wall Street happened under the Republican watch, and they have to paint the tar on McCain.

Contrarily, Obama has been spouting the advocacies that touch an emotional response in times of dire straits. His passion for universal health care and for education are not so much motherhood, as they are basic needs that the middle-class and the poor desire and believe they deserve.

The other is foreign policy. While McCain sustains the Bush administration on this, Obama has been forthright about ending the military engagement in Iraq. Obama just has to balance off the worries of international terrorism consistently bannered by the neo-cons in the Bush-Cheney maladministration, as against the average American’s aversion to huge military spending to prop its government’s penchant for being constable of the universe. I expressed concern about the effects on Obama of say, a crazy attack by Iran’s Ahmadinejad on say, Israel a week or so before E-Day, and Dr. Plotke acknowledged this as a negative against Obama’s gaining bandwagon. However he says Obama has been very wise in expressing his open support for Israel, and this has fortified the Jewish faith in the Democratic Party to which they have historically been in support.

Racism is of course a continuing undercurrent, but Dr. Plotke says this is perhaps minimal, considering that America has become increasingly multi-racial, and the states where such racist tendencies still exist have already been counted this early to the Republicans’ account. Remember that the American electoral system, unlike ours, is not a question of absolute numerical advantage, but winning 270 electoral votes in the electoral college, based on a winner-take-all state victory. Thus small Connecticut will always vote Democrat and so will huge New York, just as Kentucky and Texas are on the Republican counter.

The beauty of the American system of presidential choice lies in the transparency by which issues of fitness, issues of character, as much as defining positions on genuine issues, are debated over and over again a full year before voters make their decision.

Every candidate’s life becomes an open book, and by this I mean as much his religious convictions or zealotry, his marital fidelity as much as his peccadilloes, his business dealings and his voting record in Congress or his performance or lack of the same in state or local administration.

And while so-called political handlers and their army of creative people can churn out ads to highlight the good and try to paper over the bad, in the end, people get to see through the blather. And make informed choices, for better or for worse.

Which is why I recommended in two successive articles on this space early this year that would-be presidential moist-eyes should be subjected as early as possible to rigorous examination, through debates and other fora which would show their fitness for the highest position in the land of the benighted. Will they, by conviction, principle and character, bring light, or will they just plunge us deeper into the benighted state we have been plunged into through all these years?

Let us begin the winnowing process. Dismiss the chaff and limit our choices to the true grain.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008


Sometimes when a consumer buys an article of commerce, he gets something defective. Lee Iacocca, the legendary Detroit automotive executive, once wrote that generally the best cars are the ones assembled in the middle of the week, that is, before robots and computers did much of the assembly of various parts into a vehicle.

If you bought a car that passed the assembly line Monday or Friday, chances are higher that you would get a “lemon”, as compared to cars assembled between these days. Why so? Because of work inertia, he explained. On Monday, the average worker is still sluggish after a weekend of relaxation. On Friday, they are too eager to get off work. So, the nuts and bolts may not be as tight as they should have been, which could produce a lemon.

If there are product lemons, there are political lemons as well. How do you assemble a good political product, and how do you get to know which are the lemons?

In countries where there are real political parties, it is the responsibility of the party to make sure they foist no lemons on an unsuspecting public. Mature political party leaders choose who they consider the best among them, and present him or her to the public. Great parties like the Labour Party in Great Britain, at a time of continued rejection by British voters owing to the popularity and accomplishments of Margaret Thatcher, the Tory prime minister, purposively groomed a young and brilliant leader with immense communication abilities, got him elected “easily” in a district with a pronounced Labour constituency, and steered him through the ranks until the party, with young Tony Blair as leader, snatched Parliament from Conservative control.

Up until recent years, the Democrats and Republicans acted with profound circumspection in the choice of their candidates for high public office. As they were produced by the usually sober judgment of peers, the Democrats produced a Franklin Delano Roosevelt, an Adlai Stevenson, a John F. Kennedy to carry their standards, win or lose. The Republicans chose among themselves and produced the likes of Dwight Eisenhower and Ronald Reagan.

But with the universality of audio-visual communications, the manner of choice even of party peers became more and more dependent on opinion polling, which in turn became a function of the right soundbyte the candidates mouth on national television. “It’s the economy, stupid” mouthed by Bill Clinton defeated a less quotable incumbent George Bush, Sr. Giving motherhood statements on almost every issue allowed George Bush Jr. to squeak past his two Democratic challengers, plus a bit of vote manipulation.

With the TV phenomenon came the rise in the importance of “handlers”, who were able to sharply define for their candidates the image that would correlate to the emotions of voters. This desired image was articulated in soundbytes, became the anchor of public debate refrains, and defined the storyboard of advertising campaigns. Of recent memory, we’ve heard of Dick Morris for Clinton and Karl Rove for Bush.

A great success story was how an African-American in the person of a young senator from Springfield, Illinois sneaked from behind and upset the Hillary Clinton bandwagon into an applecart with broken wheels. His handlers did well, and by the way he scored, even if thinly, against John McCain in their first debate, Barack Obama has also shown that he has listened well, and prepared well for the most difficult job in the world. There are two more debates, and if he scores against McCain once more, only a major gaffe and a tide of racism (which would make America look so degenerate in the eyes of the world) could stop his march into Pennsylvania Avenue.

But this early, it looks like the handlers picked a lemon in Sarah Palin. They needed someone to electrify the campaign of an ageing candidate whose greatest appeal was his being a genuine war hero at a time when more than half of the population are weary of wars and misadventures. They needed someone who would be antithetical to the brahmins of Washington D.C., successfully corrupted by Barack Obama as the policy-makers of continuing American decline.

So they chose a fresh new face from remote Alaska who looked good and could be made to sound good, the all-American beauty with a “crusader’s” zeal. She electrified the limping Republican campaign on convention day indeed. It was a good speech, spoken, it seemed, from the heart and not read from a teleprompter. Immediately, McCain’s numbers zoomed, and inched above Obama’s. Novelty paid off, or so it seemed.

But then a lemon is a sweet-scented fruit, and it’s flower is among the sweetest-smelling of all. But once you get through with the peeled zest and past the white inner layer of skin, as the Trini Lopez song went ( I was in grade school then, for those who can’t even fathom who I refer to) “but the fruit of the poor lemon, is impossible to eat”.

Now that American media is peeling off the sweet-smelling rind of Palin’s pretensions, the all-American beauty rose is getting more and more “impossible” to turn into a potential president of the “greatest” nation on earth (the world is beginning to challenge that, and bets are being placed on when the greatest gets displaced).

Her past has come up under microscopic scrutiny, including clues to her apparently high-handed, even vindictive character. Her “lies” are being exposed. And perhaps most damaging, her lack of any comprehension about foreign policy has been brought out in a one-on-one interview that has been televised and circularized further via YouTube. What does she know about foreign policy? Well, Alaska is next-door to Russia, ain’t it? That’s foreign policy for you. Geographical proximity is peddled as profundity. And to think America made fun of Vice-President Dan Quayle because he couldn’t spell potato rightly. When they realized their mistake, they thrashed him along with his Bush Senior.

But Palin the lemon is being discovered this early, and it would do well for McCain to reconsider a mistake before she drags him down much, much more than his white skin and all-American patriotism can manage to challenge Obama’s message of change.

Still and all, we citizens of the benighted land cannot but feel a quantum of envy at the manner politics is practiced in the land of milk and honey. There they are able to expose, through a vigilant, inquisitive and adversarial media, the warts and flaws of pretenders for public office. Media and public interest groups do actual research, delve into the minutiae of past and present, in order to serve the nation’s best interest, which is to make a wise and informed choice about the men and women they elect to high office.

Sadly in the benighted land, media peddles little more than churned press releases with accompanying thick envelopes, and advertising fuelled by lots of money, whether earned from “sipag at tiyaga” or “singit at taga” or “C-5 at taga”, or land-grabbing and fake titles, or the undue use of coercive influence and self-gratifying power, are able yet to give a patina of gilt over shoddy dross.

That the unravelling comes this early however gives the Filipino electorate a chance to see the monumental fakery that they are being asked to buy. They will after all pay for it with their future and that of their children, in times most desperate, in an environment of hopelessness.

May the Almighty in His infinite wisdom bless His oppressed people, at the very least, with the charism of discernment, after allowing us, again in His infinite wisdom, to suffer in seeming endless misery because we chose, or were made to choose, the least among us, to lead us.

Si Manny at kanyang Joker, 2

Matapos ang paunang dasal sa pagbukas ng plenaryong sesyon ng Kongreso, dagliang binasa ni Speaker Manuel Villar ang dokumento ng kasong impeachment na may lagda ng 79 na kinatawan, sa Senadong ayon sa Saligang Batas, ay siyang lilitis sa pangulo ng bansa. Nagulat ang lahat sa maniobrang ito, na tinutulan ng humihiyaw sa Kamara na si Didagen Di­langalen ng Maguindanao.

Kay galing ng maniobra! Pataksil ngunit nangyari na nga? Sino ang nagturo sa Speaker na si Manny Villar na ganito ang gawin? Walang iba kundi si Joker Arroyo, ang lalaking kanyang inagawan sa pagiging Speaker; ang lalaking binira siya mismo at inakusahan ng pagiging tiwali dalawang taon pa lang ang nagdaan.

Ano kaya ang dahilan, at ang dating magkaaway ay naging magkasangga? Bakit nahikayat si Manny ng ngayon ay kanya nang Jo­ker na pagtaksilan si Erap?

Hindi naman kaya dahil alam ni Joker ang mga sikreto sa negosyo nitong si Manny, at ibinunyag na nga niya ang ilan dito sa Kamara mismo? Bakit matapos mag-akusa ng malubha, ay napatahimik si Joker? At matapos mapatahimik si Joker, ay nagsama pa sila upang umpisahan ang proseso ng pagpapatalsik sa pangulong halal ng bayan?

Nag-ingay ba sina Manny at kanyang Joker noong madiskubre ang Hello Garci, kung saan malinaw na nakipagkutsabahan si GMA kay Garci upang dayain ang resulta ng eleksyon? Hindi! Buti pa nga si Senate President Franklin Drilon, na ante-mano’y kasamahan ni GMA, na hindi natiis ang ganitong sukdulang pandaraya sa tinig ng mamamayang Pilipino. Umalma ito, at kasama ang mga kasapi sa Lapiang Liberal, ay nanawagan na magbitiw si GMA. Pero si Manny Villar at kanyang Joker Arroyo, nanindigan ba? Samantalang kay Erap, daglian si Manny na nakisama kay Joker upang patalsikin, batay sa pagkamal sa jueteng, sa Hello Garci kung saan ninakaw mismo ang pagka-pangulo laban sa tinig mismo ng mamamayang Pilipino, pumiyok ba si Manny at kanyang Joker? Hindi!Balik tayo sa mga sikreto sa negosyo ng saksakan ng yamang si Manny Villar at kanyang pamilya, kung saan barya lamang ang P200 milyon, wika nga ng isa pang tuta nitong si Alan Peter Cayetano.

Alam ng mga negosyante at mga bangkero na malubha ang krisis sa negosyo ni Villar dala ng Asian financial crisis nu’ng 1997. Sapagkat malaki ang kanyang pagkakautang sa mga bangko, at humina ang housing market, mabigat ang problema niya. Lalo itong pinalala ng kay laki niyang mga utang na dolyar, dahil ang palitan ay bumagsak mula 25 piso sa isang dolyar nang inutang, samantalang sa pagbabayad ay nasa 45 piso na ang palitan.

Kailangan ang restructuring upang hindi tuluyang mabangkarote si Manny Villar at mga kumpanya nito. Kaya pala mahala­gang siya’y maging Speaker, at hindi ordinaryong congressman lamang. Ngunit ang Pangulong Erap ay tagilid na! Pinagbibitiw ni Cardinal Sin, ni Cory, ng mga higanteng negosyante at higanteng network at media, at ang tanging hibla ng pagpapatuloy ay nakasalalay sa hindi siya ma-impeach ng Kongreso.

Dito malamang nagkaroon ng oportunidad si Joker na kumbinsihin si Manny. Kung bumagsak si Erap na kadikit pa rin si Manny, bagsak rin ang mga kumpanya ni Manny kapag napalitan na si Erap. Dapat na siyang sumugal, dapat na siyang mamili ng bagong pader na sasandalan. Dahil kung mawala si Erap at umupo si Gloria, paano pa ang restructuring ng kanyang mga pagkakautang? Paano pa ang pagpapalago muli ng kanyang mga negosyo, upang mabawi ang malaking mga pagkakautang?

At paano kung usigin siya ng mga ginawa niya mula nang siya’y maupong congressman, kung saan, ayon na rin sa paratang ni Jo­ker, pinagsamantalahan ni Manny ang mga ahensya ng pamahalaan at ang salapi ng sambayanan? Magsasama sila ni Pangulong Erap na kinasuhan ng pandarambong?

Wais ang Manny na may Joker na ngayon na tagapagpayo. Ang galing bumalimbing, mula kay Erap patungo kay Gloria. Nagtagumpay na sa pulitika, nagtagumpay pa at lalong nagpasasa sa kayamanang lubos.

Katapusan na ba ito ng pagbabalimbing? Hindi pa, dahil nu’ng 2007, nang malinaw na hindi makabubuti sa kanyang re-eleksyon ang mapadikit kay GMA, ano ang ginawa ni Manny? Sumama kay Erap, at naging “Genuine” Opposition (GO) na raw. At tinanggap naman!

Ngayon papel oposisyon na, pero lumantad na bang palaban kay Donya Gloria? Hindi pa rin. Malamya. Malambot.

Bakit? Ang negosyo, ang negosyo! Ang bilyones, ang bilyones!Hay naku, ang mga balimbing ng pulitika sa bayang sinumpa.