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NEW WITNESS IN MILITARY CORRUPTION SURFACES: A military insider surfaced at the Senate today to prove allegations of corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Reading from a prepared statement, former military budget officer Perla Valerio told the Senate blue-ribbon committee that the claims of former military budget officer Col. George Rabusa were true...Valerio is the civilian counterpart of Rabusa in the military comptroller office. She said she reports directly to Rabusa, former comptroller Carlos Garcia and the three former chiefs of staff...Valerio...said in her opening statement that she was willing to submit an affidavit detailing the military corruption, based on her participation, during the time of Reyes, Villanueva and Cimatu. She, however, requested immunity from the possible charges that may be filed against her.

OSMEÑA RAPS MALACAÑANG INTERVENTION IN SENATE TRIAL: Malacañang may have gone out of line by suggesting that its allies in the Senate back the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said Monday. "I don't think it's proper to intervene with the Senate as an independent court of judgment in an impeachment trial to vote according to party lines," Osmeña said..."We are judges. We have to be independent. We have to be able to judge a case based on its merits and on the quantum of evidence that will be presented by the prosecutors..."

PRESIDENT URGED TO CRUSH COAST GUARD "MAFIA": President Benigno Aquino was urged to break up the alleged mafia at the Philippine Coast Guard which is reportedly behind some anomalies. Mario Dichoso, of Cyber One Bldg, Eastwood Cyberpark Bagumbayan, Quezon City made the challenge after filing graft and administrative complaints against PCG chief commandant Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo whom he suspects is the leader of the "mafia." Dichoso filed the complaints before the Office of the President and the Office of the Ombudsman. He accused Tamayo(and others)of violating RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, Revised Penal Code particularly the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees and RA 6770 or Government Procurement Reform Act. The COA report revealed that P325 million funds of the PCG were allegedly misused by its admirals.

ESTRADA MOVES TO HOLD LIGOTS IN CONTEMPT: Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada formally moved to hold Jacinto and Erlinda Ligot in contempt for refusing to answer questions at a Senate hearing Monday. Estrada initially only wanted former general Ligot cited in contempt for invoking his right against self-incrimination when asked for details about properties he allegedly owned. Estrada said Ligot had been invoking his right improperly since the senator was asking questions that were not related to a forfeiture case the Ligots are facing at the Sandiganbayan. Mrs. Ligot was included in the motion, however, after she refused to answer Estrada's questions on who paid for her airplane tickets on 42 trips abroad while her husband was in the military.

EX-GENERAL'S WIFE REVEALS LITTLE AT HEARING: Erlinda Yambao, wife of a former general believed to have acquired P740 million from military funds, finally testified at the Senate Monday but did not say much. Mrs. Ligot, wife of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, repeatedly invoked her right against self-incrimination when asked about assets she allegedly owned. She likewise declined to verify her signature on a deed of sale for a house in California and to show a sample of her signature so senators could check for themselves. Her refusal to answer questions prompted a clearly frustrated Senate President Pro Tempore Jinggoy Estrada to ask how long the Ligots would be allowed to invoke this right.

YAMBAO DECRIES VIOLATION OF HIS RIGHTS: Edgardo Yambao, brother-in-law of a former general, decried Monday perceived violation of his rights, insisting that he would not allow the Senate to examine his accounts. Speaking at a Senate hearing on military corruption, Yambao, the brother-in-law of former military officer Jacinto Ligot, denied owning amounts in bank accounts that Senator Franklin Drilon said showed he acquired P300 million in years that he declared no income. Yambao told Drilon that he is currently verifying the accounts that he allegedly owns. Despite the denial, he will not waive bank secrecy.

PALACE: SENATE VOTE VS GUTIERREZ NOT EASY >>> The Aquino administration has its work cut out for itself when the ruling coalition in the House of Representatives votes to send the articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez to the Senate for trial..."It's not in the bag," Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said..."You just can't rubber-stamp it through..." Malacañang hopes the senators will see the merits of the case of betrayal of public trust against Gutierrez and see the need for deciding against someone who has allegedly become an obstacle to pursuing corruption cases against officials of the past administration, he said.

PCGG WANTS 3 SANDIGANBAYAN JUSTICES TO STEP ASIDE: The Office of the Solicitor General and the Presidential Commission on Good Government, in a turnaround, have asked the three Sandiganbayan justices to inhibit themselves in the ill-gotten-wealth case against tobacco tycoon Lucio Tan for being biased "in favor of powerful interests." Solicitor General Jose Anselmo Cadiz and PCGG Commissioners Gerard Mosquera and Richard Roger Amurao said 5th Division chairman Associate Justice Roland Jurado and Associate Justices Teresita Diaz-Baldos and Napoleon Inoturan should voluntarily exclude themselves from the case for forcing state prosecutors to end their presentation of evidence...A former PCGG counsel, Catalino Generillo, attributed the sudden change in the government stance to the appointment of Juan Andres Bautista, the new PCGG chairman.

PLEA BARGAIN ACCORD TO WEAKEN IMPEACHMENT CASE: Several lawmakers in the House of Representatives expressed belief that the alleged "irregular and illegal" plea bargain agreement between government prosecutors and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia would only weaken the impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Some members in the minority and progressive blocs agreed that excluding the controversial plea bargain on Garcia's P303-million plunder case before the Sandiganbayan in the articles of impeachment against Gutierrez would be the only way to have favorable results in the complaint pending in Congress.

WATER UILITIES EXEC FACES GRAF RAPS: The Office of the Ombudsman filed graft charges against Local Water Utilities Administration deputy director Rodolfo de Jesus for allegedly receiving unauthorized allowances. De Jesus allegedly receiving transportation allowances from 2000 to 2002 in the total amount of P139, 734, according to the LWUA Employees Association for Progress (LEAP).

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PALACE DELINKS PORK FROM IMPEACHMENT: Malacañang has assured lawmakers that they will receive their pork barrel allocation regardless of how they will vote today on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. President Aquino will not compel lawmakers to support his bid to have Gutierrez impeached by dangling their priority development assistance fund, otherwise known as pork barrel, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said. "It is not the policy of the Aquino administration to use the pork barrel to sway our lawmakers into voting one way or the other," Valte said.

RUMORED E-MAIL: NO IMPEACHMENT, NO PORK >>> House allies of President Aquino, with only three session days on their hand before Congress goes on Lenten break, had resorted to intimidation in their effort to secure the needed votes in the plenary set tomorrow to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez with Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya allegedly threatening House colleagues they would not be able to get their priority development assistance fund (PDAF) or more commonly known as "pork barrel" if they do not vote in favor of the impeachment complaint... A text message was reportedly circulated among members of the House supposedly by LP spokesman Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya containing an alleged warning to lawmakers, including non-LP members, that they would be deprived of their pork should they go against the Gutierrez impeachment.

"ZERO PORK BARREL" TEXT DENIED BY REPRESENTATIVE: A text message threatening to withhold the pork barrel of congressmen who vote against impeaching Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is just a mind game, the man who allegedly sent it said. Cavite Representative Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of the House committee on appropriations, denied sending the message, adding he does not know why Zambales Representative Mitos Magsaysay of the House minority would say he did. Quezon Representative Lorenzo Tañada III, a member of the Liberal Party (LP) like Abaya, said the move is meant to portray the Liberal Party "as no different from the previous administration." He said the alleged text message was black propaganda being spread by "those who want to see the Ombudsman remain in office."

STATE WON'T GIVE UP ON CHINKOES' PLUNDER RAP: State prosecutors are not giving up on their plunder case against Faustino Chingkoe and wife Gloria although the Sandiganbayan has dismissed the case on a technicality. The Chingkoes and co-accused including former Finance Undersecretary Antonio Belicena can't invoke double jeopardy if the plunder case is refiled because they have not been arraigned in court, Prosecution director Diosdado V. Calonge said. Government lawyers can revive the plunder case against the Chingkoes co-accused in the P73.76 million tax credit fraud,

SENATORS READY TO PLAY HARDBALL ON IMPEACHMENT: Senator Joker Arroyo and other lawmakers urged the House of Representatives' prosecution team to come prepared to push the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. "This is going to be a national spectacle," Arroyo said, "and I assure (everybody) that the senate is prepared."

GOVERNMENT LAUNCHES ANTI-HUMAN TRAFFICKING HOTLINE: With almost a thousand cases of human trafficking involving Filipinos recorded as of February 2011, the Philippine government has launched a 24-hour anti-human trafficking hotline that will respond to emergency calls from victims in Metro Manila and the provinces...The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking-Advocacy and Communications Committee (IACAT-ADVOCOM) launched the 1343 Actionline "Laban Kontra Human Trafficking" campaign, which became fully operational on March 15. The 1343 hotline may be accessed from any point in Metro Manila, and can be accessed from the provinces by dialing Manila's area code (02), and the hotline number. It is set to become toll free all over the nation and even globally in the near future, the DFA said.

PALACE: WE FOUND MANY SCAMS, WILL FILE CASES WHEN GUTIERREZ IS OUT: Many instances of corruption during the Arroyo administration have been uncovered and cases against those responsible are quietly being built, according to President Benigno Aquino III's spokesperson Edwin Lacierda. "We found so much," Lacierda said of the purported incidences of corruption. But the expected criminal and administrative charges will apparently not be filed in the Office of the Ombudsman as long as its head, Merceditas Gutierrez, remains at her post. Gutierrez, an ally and appointee of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, is fighting off impeachment by the House of Representatives. The case against her is up for plenary voting on Monday. "Investigation is ongoing in the different Cabinet departments on the land mines that we've discovered," Lacierda told Inquirer editors, columnists and reporters on Thursday night. "At the proper time, when the [present] Ombudsman is no longer there, well file the cases." Lacierda and Ricky Carandang, the communications development and strategic planning secretary, said the Aquino administration believed that the expected graft cases involving huge amounts of public funds would amount to nothing if these fell under Gutierrez's jurisdiction for further investigation and prosecution.

COAST GUARD: NO INVOLVEMENT IN FUND ANOMALIES >>> After military generals, admirals of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) are now facing probe for alleged massive fund anomalies uncovered by the Commission on Audit (CoA) recently. CoA has called for a closer investigation into the alleged failure of the PCG to account for more than P300 million of its funds that was spent for questionable transactions. The government audit agency is about to wind up its audit examination of the PCG for the past year and was expected to submit a full report on the uncovered irregular fund transactions within the next two months. In its audit report in 2008 and 2009, CoA asked Admiral Wilfredo Tamayo, PCG commandant, to fully account for equipment and supplies donated by various international and private agencies to the PCG.

HOUSE JUSTICE COMMITTEE CHAIRMAN: IGLESIA NI CRISTO LOBBYING FOR GUTIERREZ >>> A high-ranking official of the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) has been calling members of the House of Representatives, urging them to kill the impeachment complaint against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of the House committee on justice, said in making the disclosure: "Gumagapang na (They are furtively maneuvering already)." "Members from both the Liberal Party and parties that are non-LP, and even some members of the justice committee, reported having received calls from this official from Iglesia," Tupas said, without naming the official.

PROBERS TRACE HISTORY OF HOUSING SCAM: PROPERTY developer Globe Asiatique had been using fake borrowers even before the start of its Xevera project in Mabalacat, Pampanga. Two former employees of the company - Venissa Panem and Francisco dela Cruz - testified before the panel of prosecutors at the Department of Justice that GA used "special buyers," the term used by the firm to refer to a fake borrower, to obtain loans from the Home Development Mutual Fund or Pag-IBIG Fund and from private banks. They said they and other GA employees even posed as special buyers so that company could get loans. "At the behest of my superiors in Globe Asiatique, I was able to produce several hundreds of special buyers," Dela Cruz told DoJ probers.

PALAWAN GOVERNOR LINKED TO MURDER - PART OF "CONSPIRACY" TO COVER UP MISUSE OF FUNDS: The family of slain broadcast journalist Gerry Ortega on Wednesday called on President Aquino to order an audit of Palawans P3.1 billion share of the proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project. In a press conference, Dr. Patria Ortega along with her two daughters expressed belief that the killing of her husband was part of a "conspiracy" to cover up the misuse of the funds...The widow said that her husband had often criticized the former governor for the alleged anomalous and unaudited "sharing agreement" of the Malampaya oil exploration project, prompting the Commission on Audit to conduct a special audit of the funds.

SENATOR: ARROYO MORE ACTIVE VS CORRUPTION >>> Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earned rare praise from an opposition senator Wednesday for going after perceived corruption better than the current president. Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano said that unlike President Benigno Aquino III, Arroyo prosecuted former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada when she assumed office in 2001. "Whether we agree on it or not, they did their homework. This should serve as the Aquino administrations wakeup call," the senator said. In comparison, he said, Aquino has done little to fulfill a campaign promise to go after Arroyo for alleged corruption during her term.

DAVAO VICE MAYOR OFFERS IMPEACHMENT TESTIMONY: Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte fired back at Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez and vowed to actively participate in the impeachment proceedings against her. Duterte, who admitted to being aghast at Gutierrez, said he is in consultation with some lawmakers and his lawyers on the possibility of his participation in the trial to impeach Gutierrez after the Ombudsman filed graft and corruption charges against him.

WEEDING OUT THE "GHOSTS" IN THE POLICE ROSTER: A recent submission by the PNP shows that only 58,985 personnel are currently assigned to some 1,779 police stations nationwide. That's about 43 percent of the 136,000 total positions that the police leadership claims to be filled-up. The next step, the budget department insider says, is to determine whether the concentration of personnel in certain offices is justified. In the process, the budget department insider says the exercise just might help extinguish the 'ghosts' from the police roster.

GOVERNMENT GETS TOUGH IN DRIVE VS HUMAN TRAFFICKING: Vice President Jejomar Binay has assured that the Philippine government is serious in its bid to curb human trafficking in the country, saying that they are now preparing charges against some unscrupulous persons engaged in the enforcement of immigration law.

DAVAO CUSTOMS OFFICIAL ON HOT SEAT: THE Department of Finance has asked the Office of the Ombudsman to file criminal, civil and administrative cases against an official of the Bureau of Customs for "unexplained wealth." Lowell Lomuljo Medija, BOC collector assigned at the Mindanao Container Terminal Phividec in Tacoloan, Misamis Oriental, is accused of "unsubstantiated accumulation of wealth" and "failure to disclose a true and factual statement of his assets.

PERFORMING LGUs WIN GOVERNMENT AWARDS: The Department of Interior and Local Government yesterday awarded 15 municipalities with a Performance Challenge Fund (PCF) of P1 million each and the Seal of Good Housekeeping for excellent performance in governance in their respective localities..."I am elated that more and more LGUs are becoming high achievers, showcasing reforms and innovations in good governance in their respective localities," Robredo said. He said aspiring LGUs should have "no adverse" report from the Commission on Audit, which means that they should have complied with all the requirements of the government's auditing agency.

POLL RESET HIGHER PRIORITY THAN IMPEACHMENT: The Articles of Impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez took the back burner in Congress for House Bill No. 4146 which seeks to postpone the August elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM)...Political Adviser Robert Llamas said HB 4146 took priority over the plenary voting on the Articles of Impeachment against the beleaguered Ombudsman. "You will notice that the voting on the impeachment of Gutierrez has been scheduled next week, while Congress is taking up HB 4146," according to Llamas, saying this was an indication President Aquino was bent on postponing the elections...Among HB 4146 supporters gathered here last weekend were said to be followers of former ARMM Gov. Zacaria Candao, whom the Aquino administration is rumored to be being groomed as acting regional governor should the elections be postponed. Candao has been convicted of graft by the Sandiganbayan in 2008 on the testimony of whistle-blower Heidi Mendoza.

OMBUDSMAN FILES GRAFT RAP VS DAVAO EX-MAYOR: Embattled Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has filed corruption charges at the antigraft court Sandiganbayan against Vice Mayor Rodrigo Duterte. Gutierrez is facing impeachment at the House of Representatives, accused of sitting on dozens of cases of corruption, which she repeatedly denied. Sent to the Sandiganbayan, the case against one of Davao's most prominent officials involved the alleged misuse of more than P11.5 million in public funds in 2006, when Duterte was still mayor. The funds were supposedly intended for the city's special education program, but Gutierrez said Duterte used them to fund his gift-giving program called "Pahalipay ni Mayor" done every Christmas. Also facing cases of technical malversation, illegal use of public funds, and graft and corruption are 10 other officials of the city.

PROBE ON MILTARY CORRUPTION CONTINUES: The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee is set to forge on with its probe on corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). With a partial committee report on the plea bargain agreement on the plunder case against dismissed general Carlos Garcia already released, the committee will move on to another former comptroller. According to a media advisory, former AFP comptroller Jacinto Ligot, his wife, and brother-in-law are expected to appear at a hearing set for next Monday. Ligot has been accused of amassing around P740 million during his term as AFP finance officer. His wife, Erlinda, allegedly owns 10 houses in the United States. Records presented to the committee also indicate that she sold one of those houses, a house in California, to herself.

HOUSE TO FINISH IMPEACHMENT BEFORE BREAK: House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales said today that he is confident the House of Representatives will be able to conclude the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez before congressmen go on Easter break. "I'm confident that we will be able to finish this before we adjourn," Gonzales said in a radio interview. The House will adjourn on March 25. He said that the House leadership has already made appeals to congressmen for an orderly plenary debate on Gutierrez's impeachment next week. He said that the House majority group has already made a "modus vivendi" arrangement with the minority group to maintain decorum during the plenary session.

MORE BARRIERS TO ACCESS: The public expectations are clear and well-founded. Malacañang under President Benigno Simeon Aquino III will uphold transparency in the conduct of its affairs. And perhaps, too, in the disclosure of documents imbued with public interest, not least of them the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) of public officials. Nine months ago, Aquino ran, won, and sealed a "Social Contract with the Filipino People" that promised "transparent, participative, and accountable governance."...Last Monday, the Office of the President put up more barriers to requests for SALNs, paving the way for a more restrictive access to information regime than that which prevailed under former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Last Feb. 8, the PCIJ wrote the Office of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. to request copies of the SALNs of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez and her three predecessors, Simeon V. Marcelo, Aniano A. Desierto, and Conrado M. Vasquez. It took Ochoa's office 35 days to respond to the letter. And it did after the PCIJ had filed a second letter and made six follow-up phone calls. The law says government officials must respond within 15 working days to such requests. Last Monday, Ochoas office finally responded in a letter signed by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor M. Amorado. But the letter was a big damper. In it, Amorado said the PCIJ must first submit copies of its "registration documents (i.e., Securities and Exchange Commission, Bureau of Internal Revenue, Mayors Permit), and "an executive summary sufficiently describing the use of the SALNs requested." ...The PCIJ promptly phoned the Records Office only to find out that it only has the SALN of Gutierrez as former Justice Secretary and as former presidential legal counsel of Arroyo or five years before she assumed the post of Ombudsman. Amorado apparently did not check at all that the PCIJ, in its first letter, requested copies of Gutierrez's SALN as Ombudsman from 2005 to 2010. It was only in its second letter that the PCIJ sought copies of the SALNs of Gutierrez as Justice secretary and presidential legal counsel. In earlier queries with Presidential Communications Secretary Ramon 'Ricky' Carandang, the PCIJ had learned that the Palace is as clueless as everyone else about the SALNs that Gutierrez filed as Ombudsman. Last March 13, Carandang wrote the PCIJ. "I have conferred with Executive Secretary Ochoa about your query. The Office of the President does not have copies of the Ombudsman's statements of assets and liabilities and net worth. The Ombudsman has not submitted these documents to the OP."

BISHOP: FORGET RH BILL, IMPEACH OMBUDSMAN INSTEAD >>> A Catholic bishop on Wednesday implored lawmakers in the House of Representatives to prioritize the plenary vote on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez instead of deliberations on the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Bill. Bishop Teodoro Bacani said he was surprised to learn that the Lower House will tackle the RH bill first before moving on to the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez. He said the impeachment process is more important since it will help eradicate corruption in the country. He said congressmen should not waste time on the RH bill, which he described as a poison that kills the lives of innocents.

ARMED FORCES CHIEF VOWS TO ASSURE TIMELY RELEASE OF MILITARY FUNDS: Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief Lt. Gen. Eduardo Oban vowed to ensure the timely release of military funds and to discourage the practice of "conversion," which is said to be a source of corruption. ...Oban stressed that he will not tolerate the conversion of funds and other forms of irregularities in the Armed Forces. "The first order of the day is no to conversion, stop it This was also ordered by the President, that we should do away with conversion," Oban said, adding he will make sure that field units would have enough resources to support their operations. "We are bringing down our resources to the field units. Probably, what we need to address is the timeliness of the release of the funds. That is one of the things that we should pay attention to," he said. Conversion is a scheme wherein supplies to be purchased are converted to cash. The money will then be used to fund items that are not programmed. Military officers reportedly resort to conversion if they do not have available funds for unexpected needs.

HOUSE MAJORITY WARNED: DON'T GET TOO COCKY ON IMPEACHMENT >>> The House minority on Wednesday warned the majority not to get too cocky about getting the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez approved before Congress goes on recess next week. Minority Leader Edcel Lagman said the House leadership should first ensure that it can muster a quorum next week as most parties have not taken a party stand on impeaching Gutierrez.

ORTEGA WIDOW SEEKS AUDIT OF MALAMPAYA: The widow of murdered broadcast journalist Gerry Ortega called on President Aquino Wednesday to order the Commission on Audit to complete its accounting of the P3.1-billion proceeds from the Malampaya natural gas project off Palawan. Patria Ortega recounted how her husband had often criticized former Palawan Gov. Joel T. Reyes, current Gov. Abraham Mitra and former Vice Gov. Dave Ponce de Leon for alleged corruption in connection with Palawan's share of the Malampaya income. A COA audit of the Malampaya funds remains incomplete, she said...The widow said that her husband in his radio broadcasts had asked the three officials "almost daily" for an accounting of the Malampaya income shared by the contractor and the national and provincial governments. Ortega said she had documents to prove corruption allegations against the officials and was prepared to present them to the Department of Justice. The COA should also release the results of its audit report soon, she said, adding that she heard rumors that the report had already been deleted from the commission's records. The widow said P3.1 billion out of the total P90-billion Malampaya income went to the provincial government. The local COA auditor had so far been only able to account for P520 million, she said.

OMBUDSMAN HAS SUED ONLY FOUR MEMBERS OF 15TH CONGRESS: (Ombudsman spokesperson) Panelo was less revealing about details that would back his assertions of "blackmail" and "conspiracy" by the House members to impeach Gutierrez. All he would say was that he got his data from the Office of the Ombudsman. Of the 50 congressmen that he first claimed have pending cases with the Ombudsman, Panelo has so far named only four, and all of them senior members of the House Committee on Justice: Tupas, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, and Marikina City Rep. Romero Federico Quimbo. Since he had later said that in all, 101 congressmen have pending cases or complaints before Gutierrez's office, Panelo has left unnamed 96 other legislators who may or may not have reason to harass the Ombudsman, if not "blackmail" her. With Panelo unwilling to reveal more, the PCIJ reviewed the database of the Sandiganbayan on cases that had been filed by the Ombudsman from May 1988 to December 2010...What the PCIJ found was a far smaller number than Panelos tally, and that included just three members of the 15th Congress sued for alleged corruption, and a fourth for alleged physical injuries, since Gutierrez assumed her post as Ombudsman in December 2005. During her term, Gutierrez also sued a lawmaker of the 14th Congress, the Liberal Partys Nereus O. Acosta, who was then serving as representative of Bukidnon. Additionally, a great majority of the cases against lawmakers past and present had been dismissed, withdrawn, archived, resulted in the acquittal of the accused, and remain pending to this day. The Sandiganbayan database also yields an incontrovertible fact: Thus far, under Gutierrez, not a single member of Congress has been jailed for graft and other offenses he or she committed while serving as a lawmaker.

CUSTOMS OFFICIAL CHARGED FOR AMASSING UNEXPLAINED WEALTH: The Department of Finance on Wednesday said its Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS) has filed criminal and administrative charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against a Bureau of Customs official who supposedly amassed unexplained wealth. RIPS, the department's anti-corruption arm, On Tuesday filed charges against the BOC official with a position title Collector IV assigned at the bureaus Mindanao Container Terminal Phividec in Tacoloan, Misamis Oriental...Evidence submitted by RIPS to backup its case, showed that the Customs official acquired three mansions as well as other properties and real estate in Davao City. On top of those assets, the official supposedly owns 16 vehicles...

CLOSE VOTE IN OMBUDSMAN IMPEACHMENT SEEN: Allies of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the Lower House predicted a close vote in the plenary on the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez next Monday, dashing claims by the majority of 150 votes to impeach the Ombudsman.

PCIJ SEEKS OMBUDSMAN AND SENIOR STAFF SALNS TO LITTLE AVAIL: By the spirit and the letter of the law, public officials must file SALNs that are sufficient in form and substance, but most especially Gutierrez and her deputies at the Ombudsman - the nation's premier anti-corruption agency and custodian of the SALNs of those who serve in government...But only token compliance to absolute indifference to the law on the filing and disclosure of their Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) seems to be the attitude and conduct common to Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez and her 11 deputy and assistant Ombudsmen. Multiple requests filed by the PCIJ for copies of their SALNs with three government offices that are supposed to be repositories of these documents yielded a paltry, if pathetic, harvest. Copies of the SALNs of Gutierrez and three senior officials of the Ombudsman are simply nowhere to be found in the state agencies that are supposed to receive these documents...Aside from giving out skimpy details in their SALNs, three of Gutierrezs deputies revealed that they have hired relatives to work with them at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Click here to read original article on PCIJ website

Click here for table of the wealth of top officials at the Ombudsman

MERCI: OMBUDSMAN UNDERFUNDED, OVERWORKED >>> Fighting off two impeachment complaints before the House of Representatives, Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez on Monday asked lawmakers to give her office expanded powers and increased budget. Gutierrez also tossed the blame on the lawmakers for the perception that the Ombudsman isn't gaining headway on the anti-corruption campaign. The Ombudsman is overworked but underfunded, Gutierrez said and asked for a reduced workload if the congressmen want to see the Ombudsman to be more effective and productive.

AIR FORCE CAPTAIN EXPOSED CORRUPTION LONG BEFORE GARCIA PROBE: Air Force Captain Joenel Pogoy, 35, was preparing for his thesis for a squadron officer's course in Mactan Air Base in Lapu Lapu, Cebu, when his video about corruption inside the Philippine Air Force (PAF) was uploaded in You Tube without his permission. This cost him his career, freedom, and almost, his life.

"OMBUDSMAN MAY STILL QUESTION SUCCEEDING PROCEEDINGS OF IMPEAVCHMENT": Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez can still seek relief from the Supreme Court in fighting the impeachment complaints against her despite the High Court's earlier rejection of her earlier attempt to stop them, according to a noted election lawyer. "The decision of the Supreme Court only covers the proceedings in the House in so far as the issue of two complaints is concerned," lawyer Romulo Macalintal told The STAR. "She can still question actions of the House of Representative or Senate if she finds grave abuse of discretion or violation of her right to due process," Macalintal, a poll lawyer of former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said.

PCGG TARGETS MARCOS CASES: Commission on Good Government (PCGG) will push for the creation of a special division under the Sandiganbayan that will focus on the litigation of cases involving the family and cronies of the late President Ferdinand Marcos and their ill-gotten wealth. PCGG commissioner Gerard Mosquera said such a special division is very much needed to complement the commission's target to gradually wind down its affairs, including prosecution of cases, within the next two years.

SENATE LEADER HITS GOVERNMENT INACTION OVER ARROYO ADMINISTRATION'S ALLEGED ANOMALIES: So what happened to President Aquino's promise to go after the sins of the past administration? Senate Minority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano raised this question on Tuesday as he strongly criticized the failure of the Aquino administration to hold erring officials of the past administration accountable. "Where are the cases? Where are the facts?" he asked in an interview. "We always read in the papers that there are anomalies in the DPWH, that there were projects that did not go through public bidding. We also discovered anomalies in the GOCCs but where is the accountability?" he further asked. Cayetano noted that when the Aquino government abolished the Presidential Commission on Graft and Corruption and the Truth Commission was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, no government agency has initiated an investigation into the alleged irregularities committed by the past administration. "Who's conducting the investigations of the things they promised they were going to investigate last elections? So far, the House and the Senate have been investigating," he pointed out. "Although the President is doing a good job in making sure that there is no corruption in his government, I think that they lack action in running after the past administration," said the senator.

"BLACKMAIL" RAPS SPOOK IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: ...the effort to impeach Gutierrez - the third attempt in as many years by the House and the only one to move past its Committee on Justice - has unfolded with two discussion tracks as backdrop. The first is an exchange of allegations of blackmail between Gutierrez's camp and the lawmakers. The second is a vigorous campaign being mounted by both sides to court public opinion against each other.

GUINGONA REFUSES TO STRIKE OUT RECOMMENDATION TO IMPEACH OMBUDSMAN: Senate blue ribbon chairman Teofisto Guingona Jr. turned down on Monday a recommendation of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to remove recommendation to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez while asking her to resign before "she will be impeached." "I have the highest respect for the Senate President and his wisdom. However, I also believe in the wisdom of the recommendation of the blue ribbon committee," Guingona said in a statement. Guingona, an administration senator, insisted his call for the Ombudsman to resign "due to the negligence and lack of prosecutorial will on her part." "Her departure in office is of paramount importance. The Ombudsman represents the single biggest stumbling block in our quest for truth and in our crusade to recover hundreds of million of pesos in peoples money," Guingona, a neophyte senator, claimed

GROUP WANTS EASY NGO ACCESS TO BUDGET PROCESS: A budget reform group said Tuesday that it should be easier for non-governmental organizations to participate in the national budget process. Senator Teofisto Guingona III has already filed a bill to allow accredited NGOs and People's Organizations (POs) to sit in on budget deliberations and submit alternative budget proposals. Leonor Briones, convener of Social Watch Philippines, said however that accreditation should not be a hurdle to keep NGOs and Pos from participating.

"EXERCISE PEOPLE'S POWER TO IMPEACH": The head of the House panel preparing the articles of impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez Monday urged his colleagues to exercise the people's power of impeachment by taking part in the plenary session this week and cast their vote on the matter. "In impeachment cases, the voice of the people through their representatives should not be disenfranchised, otherwise it would defeat the essence of the impeachment case," Tupas told the Inquirer..."This is a political act and not a judicial process."

Released pork barrel was for 2010, not 2011

HOUSE LEADERS CONFIRM PORK BARREL RELEASES: Lawmakers confirmed Monday the release of priority development assistance funds (PDAF) ahead of the plenary vote for the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Majority Leader Boyet Gonzales and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte confirmed the pork barrel releases to congressmen as part of the balance of the PDAF from last year. Both leaders said the PDAF releases had nothing to do with the impeachment vote. Gonzales said the PDAF releases are usually done this time of the year.

NO "PORK BARREL" RELEASES AHEAD OF IMPEACHMENT VOTE: No new releases from the priority development assistance fund (PDAF), popularly known as pork barrel, will be made ahead of the vote on Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's impeachment case, the Department of Budget and Management said Monday. Although the undistributed "pork" funds for the second semester of 2010 are being apportioned to lawmakers since January this year, the PDAF for 2011 has not been released, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. likewise said. In text message to GMA News, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said Monday, No releases yet. In fact, the guidelines for release have just been finalized." Belmonte made it clear the pork barrel allocation has nothing to do with the lower chambers pending vote on the Ombudsman's impeachment case. "However you vote on any issue, a congressman is entitled [to the PDAF] and he will get it. He or she may disagree with the administration or the leadership of the House," he told reporters in a separate interview.

GUINGONA IMPEACHMENT PRE-JUDGEMENT ASSAILED BY PEERS: The move of Sen. Teofisto "TG" Guingona recommending that his blue ribbon committee enjoin the House of Representatives to impeach Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, already implies that he has prejudged her guilt...Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile underscored the implication of the decision of Guingona, who...remained defiant in the face of the Senate chief's call for the blue ribbon committee chairman to remove the "impeach call" contained in the partial panel report on its inquiry into the plea bargain agreement that the Ombudsman's prosecutors sealed with former military comptroller, Maj. Gen. (ret.) Carlos Garcia. "I do not know how he will be able to explain this position. He does not have to hear the evidence anymore if he has made up his mind," the Senate chief pointed out.

SENATOR WANTS SIMPLE IMPEACHMENT CHARGE SHEET VS OMBUDSMAN: Senator Joker Arroyo on Monday called on members of the House of Representatives to submit to them a simplified and shortened version of the Articles of Impeachment against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Arroyo, who was one of the prosecutors during the impeachment trial of former President Joseph Estrada, said tackling 6 impeachment complaints would take the Senate a year and hamper senators' legislative work. "What is important is really the quality of evidence, not the volume," he told reporters. Arroyo said even 1 article of impeachment will do as long as it is very strong.

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WHISTLEBLOWER MAY GET AUDIT POST: Whistleblower Heidi Mendoza, former state auditor, is being wooed by Malacanang to return to the Commission on Audit, not as the agency's head but as one of the commissioners. President Aquino said that Mendoza is not qualified to head the audit commission, whose current chief Reynaldo Villar has agreed to make way for the Palace appointee. "The COA chairman has to be a lawyer as mandated by law," President Aquino said.

LAWMAKERS ACCUSED OF GRAFT HIT OMBUDSMAN: Lawmakers cried foul over the revelation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's spokesman that at least 50 congressmen, including the 4 top members of the House justice committee, have pending graft cases before her office. Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Rep. Rey Umali said he was surprised by the statement of Atty. Salvador Panelo, Gutierrez's spokesman, that he is facing a graft case before the Ombudsman. "I have not received any subpoena or whatever from the Ombudsman and now I am being, his lawyer made mention of these cases. I do not even know of these cases...I could not recall any case where any prima facie evidence were determined against me," he said during Tuesday's hearing of the House justice committee. Umali, who is vice-chairman of the committee, said the Ombudsman should first issue a subpoena or summons to respondents in the graft cases before announcing it to the public.

JUSTICE DEPT SUPPORTS DOUBLING PRESCRIPTIVE PERIOD FOR GRAFT CASES: The Department of Justice (DOJ) supports moves to double the prescriptive period for the prosecution of violations of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, or Republic Act 3019, from 15 years to 30 years. Responding to a query from Rep. Marlyn Primicias-Agabas, chairperson of the House committee on revision of laws, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said in a legal opinion dated March 1, 2011 that she saw "no constitutional or legal objection" to the enactment of House Bill numbers 351 and 588 pertaining to a proposed amendment of the prescriptive period found in Section 11 of Republic Act 3019. Should the bill be enacted into law, it will take 30 years following commission of the offense before violators can no longer be held liable or charged.

ERAP: GMA SHOULD BE TRIED FIRST >>> Former President Joseph Estrada believes former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should be the first to be tried on the alleged anomalies in her administration. Estrada said Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez could not be completely blamed if her office has been unable to fully process Arroyos cases of wrongdoing. "The first one who should be tried is the mastermind or the architect of the corruption," he said. Estrada said Gutierrez was unable to find sufficient evidence because Arroyo administration officials had already disposed of or hidden important evidence. The impeachment complaints against Gutierrez stress her failure or refusal to act on big cases like the P728-million fertilizer fund scam and the botched $329-million NBN-ZTE deal, he added. Estrada said in the anomalous NBN-ZTE broadband deal, the signatories hid the contract from the public on the unbelievable pretext that it was stolen in China. "(Senate President Pro-Tempore) Jinggoy (Estrada) even had to insist the Chinese executives surrender the contracts," he said. "Even the Senate could not acquire the evidence from the Arroyo administration officials. How would the Ombudsman find the evidence if it was already conveniently lost by those involved in the Arroyo administration?"

SUPREME COURT GIVES GRREN FOR SENATE TO PROBE SENATOR VILLAR ON C-5 ROAD ALLEGATION: The Supreme Court has given the go-signal for the Senate committee of the whole to pursue the investigation of Senator Manuel Villar in relation to the alleged double insertion of P200 million for the C-5 Road extension project in the 2008 budget. Villar was accused of conflict of interest for funding a project that would allegedly benefit his company, Adelfa Properties.

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More IntegriNews

HEADLINES

Civil Service Commission: Public officers and employees allowed to continue using 1994 Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) Form for 2010 pending Commission's approval of Revised SALN Form.

House to probe UP-Cebu Row

Senators propose creation of panel to oversee operations of government-owned and controlled corporations, laden with political appointees

Incident Investigation and Review Committee: Ombudsman's power over cases against Philippine National Police members to avoid the harassment of policemen.

"Blackmail" text on Merci impeachment spreads

Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Abaya, chairman of committee on appropriations, denied sending out text messages to colleagues that they would not get their pork barrel allocations if they did not vote for impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

House members to undergo drug tests in wake of Singson conviction

330 Pasig local execs treated to Boracay trip for seminar on empowerment

Global Organization of Parliamentarians Against Corruption (GOPAC)chooses Manila as venue of next global conference in February 2013

GMA may be target in Merci impeach case

OMBUDSMAN files motion asking Sandiganbayan to order Dinagat Rep. Ecleo to pay P2.86 million civil liabilities after final graft conviction.

Joker tells House members to be ready for Merci trial

Impeach bid moved to next week

Up to 20 police officers could be implicated in the disappearance of P12 million in ransom money during last week's arrest of 8 kidnap suspects.

Cop in ransom probe claims MPD official took P12M

Cops in ransom scandal face lie detector tests

Five Manila policemen showed up at city hall to deny the allegation that they took millions of pesos in ransom money a Malaysian trader had paid his captors

Manila Mayor wants lie detector tests for 5 cops accused of carting away more than P10 million in ransom money

"Senate to work 5 days a week as impeachment court"

Senator-judges won't grant interviews during impeachment trial

Sandiganbayan Third Division has junks third motion of former Justice Secretary Hernando 'Nani' Perez asking to set aside his graft case on grounds of forum-shopping.

BIR to withdraw regulation on SALN for private taxpayers

House won't rush impeach vote

Senator sees impeachment trial in May

The blue ribbon committee report recommending the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez will be presented to the Senate during its plenary session on Wednesday, Sen. Teofisto Guingona III said.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's impeachment case will be tackled by the House of Representatives next week after the prosecution team failed to meet its self-imposed deadline for submitting documents related to the case

HOUSE JUSTICE CHAIRMAN: OMBUDSMAN'S HOUR IS AT HAND

Can senators be impartial judges in Merci trial?

Gutierrez resigned to impeachment by House

Ombudsman to appeal dismissal of P74M Chingkoe plunder case

 

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IntegriViews
OPINION

"The stalled anti-corruption campaign of the administration"

 Neal Cruz of The Philippine Daily Inquirer reports on visit with Palace communications team

 “Do you realize that there is a general public perception that the administration is very slow in pushing the reforms that Noynoy promised?” the Malacaņang team was asked. P-Noy was elected with the biggest majority ever in Philippine history because the people thought that here at last is the knight in shining armor, the son of Ninoy and Cory, who would finally slay the dragon of corruption.

It seemed that their expectations would be fulfilled when P-Noy, in his inaugural speech, banned the use, effective immediately, of sirens by public officials and their escorts and refused to use it himself even when it was necessary in heavy traffic.

But that was all. Nothing else followed. The excessive bonuses and allowances of officials and board members of government corporations were exposed and suspended by P-Noy but it is taking a very long time for the new rules on their pay to be issued. The suspension is almost over and with no new rules, it means that the abusive pay scales would go back to what they were. Happy days would be here again for the GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporation) officials.

That is not all. Corruption in government continues. Instead of being discontinued, the hated pork barrel, the mother of all corruption, was increased by the congressmen with not a whimper from Malacaņang. Worse, another pork barrel from the road users’ tax was added. Government lawyers are losing so many corruption cases in the courts that many people are wondering whether they are prosecutors or defense lawyers.

They lost the tax credit scam against the Chingkoe couple and their cohorts in government, a simple open-and-shut case. The plunder case against Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, the AFP comptroller with the Midas touch, is a high-profile case, the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Government prosecutors spent more time defending the plea bargain of General Garcia in which the plunder case would be withdrawn in exchange for a plea of guilty for the lesser offenses of bribery and money laundering, plus returning to the government less than half of the estimate P300 million loot he had amassed (he would be allowed to keep the rest.) Unlike plunder, the lesser offenses are bailable, because of which General Garcia is now out of jail, enjoying his freedom and his loot. The behavior of the special prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman was so scandalous that it prompted the filing of the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, carrying with it other high-profile cases that the Ombudsman should have prosecuted but did not.

From the explanations of P-Noy’s communication team, it seems that they have found a convenient scapegoat in Ombudsman Gutierrez. With her as Ombudsman, no corruption case would prosper, they said. The prosecutors would find ways to lose cases, not to win them, they argued.

Investigators have unearthed many more corrupt deals in government, they said, but the administration won’t file them with the Ombudsman while Merci is there. In short, Merci is like the cork in the bottle that prevents anything from going in or out of the bottle.

That explains why the administration is pushing the impeachment case against Merci. The government’s anti-corruption drive is permanently stalled while she is there.

What if the Senate acquits her? The administration will wait until her term expires next year.

What about the Department of Justice? Can’t it file the graft cases against public officials?

Answer: Graft cases are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. She would just claim jurisdiction over the cases so nothing would happen.

So there you have it: if the Senate shows mercy on Merci and doesn’t kick her out, we would continue to wallow in corruption and the corrupt would run laughing all the way to their banks. She stays, corruption stays. In short, one woman has been able to block the efforts of “the best and the brightest” in P-Noy’s administration to curb corruption. At least that’s what Malacaņang is trying to communicate. Is that one way of warning or pressuring the members of Congress? If our anti-corruption drive falters, it is your fault, not ours.

CITIZEN OPINIONS ON: How do you feel about the plea deal entered into by government prosecutors with accused plunderer Gen. Carlos Garcia? (click to read)

RECLAIMING OUR INTEGRITY:...We are at a crossroads as a nation. The Philippines was once one of the admired economies of Asia, a pioneer of democracy and market-oriented policies in this region. Unfortunately, high economic growth has come in spurts and bursts, almost never sustained enough to bring about long-term progress. Many of our neighbors that used to be less developed than us have overtaken us in the last two decades in terms of both economic wealth and social welfare. Numerous studies have extensively documented that corruption is a major hindrance to the Philippines' progress. Countless political leaders have vowed to stamp out corruption once and for all. We know more words have been said than action done. The Aquino administration is distinct because it was put in power on an overwhelming wave of hope that good governance will be restored and genuine reform initiated. Our people's trust in the administration's moral uprightness is high, and their expectations of reform equally so, if not even higher...This administration can undertake wider and deeper reforms...to demonstrate to the world that it is serious about fulfilling its promises to the Filipino people. We must seize this opportunity to reverse perceptions that have haunted our nation for so long. -- SEN. EDGARDO J. ANGARA in Manila Bulletin

EYES ON THE IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: Removal can only be based on the grounds of "culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust." The object of the process is not to punish but only to remove a person from office. As Justice Storey put it in his commentary on the Constitution, impeachment is "a proceeding, purely of a political nature, is not so much designed to punish an offender as to secure the state against gross political misdemeanors. It touches neither his person nor his property, but simply divests him of his political capacity." Put differently, removal and disqualification are the only punishments that can be imposed upon conviction on impeachment. Criminal and civil liability can follow after the officer has been removed by impeachment. Prosecution after impeachment does not constitute double jeopardy...for "graft and corruption" and "betrayal of public trust" to be grounds for impeachment, their concrete manner of commission must be of the same severity as "treason" and "bribery." These offenses strike at the very heart of the life of the nation. As applied to the Ombudsman, has she committed offenses which are of this degree of severity? Not a few think she has; but the final answer to the question of course is a matter of evidence. And who is to decide if she has or has not? The answer underlines the non-judicial but political character of impeachment. The decision will not be arrived at in the atmosphere of cold neutrality of judicial courts. The decision will be arrived at by a partisan body, Congress, whose decisions in crucial matters are often dictated by considerations other than legality. -- Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas, S.J., in Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHAT RUSH? It is simply not correct to say that the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is being rushed. Even if we use as frame of reference the period that began when the Supreme Court rejected Gutierrez's petition for certiorari and prohibition, on Feb. 15, we cannot say that the process was compromised by a congressional rush to judgment...Congress has yet to vote on the justice committees recommendations in plenary. An impeachment, however, seems likely. That is not proof of a rush to judgment, but a sign that the members of the new majority are listening to the people who sent them to Congress in the first place.

A MEDIA SLUSH FUND: I HAVE practically confirmed that an ally of Gloria Arroyo has provided a slush fund to minimize the vitriolic attacks by media on the impending impeachment of Merceditas Gutierrez. The specific target is the lawyers of a law firm or law office itself which is suspected of fueling the attacks not only on the Ombudsman but on the former First Couple. I would not doubt that there is such a slush fund considering how this country was looted during the nine-year, no-mandate rule of the former leader. There is no direct evidence that Gloria Arroyo is providing the money. But that is not the point. The issue is whether the House of Representatives was right in claiming there is probable cause in filing the impeachment articles against the Ombudsman. If so, and the public believes it to be so, a big law firm should not be held liable for initiating the impeachment...A media attack on one or all of these three law firms is clearly in support of the thievery in the past regime. An attempt to bribe media to pillory the lawyers who support impeachment is juxtaposed to the campaign promise of President Aquino to try and send the corrupt to jail. This is not a question of who is campaigning for the impeachment. This is a question of the necessity of taking such a step to eliminate corruption. -- AMADO P. MACASAET in Malaya Business Insight

THE BUTT OF ALL IMPEACHMENTS: Merci Gutierrez supporters strongly believe the impeachment is colored with revenge, suspecting that it has become a case of "tit-for-tat" or "payback time." A reliable source told Spy Bits that Congressman Tupas recently intimated to one government official that he really wants to "get" Merci because he will never forget the incident where a policeman hit him with the butt of a rifle when the police stormed the Iloilo City capitol in January 2007 to enforce the dismissal order of Tupas' father, then Governor Niel Sr. It can be recalled that the Office of the Ombudsman filed graft charges against the older Tupas due to alleged questionable transactions in the construction of the Iloilo airport. This was followed by a dismissal order for Tupas Sr., with then-DILG chief Ronnie Puno tasked to implement the dismissal order by force if necessary. Tupas and his supporters including Niel Jr. (who was a board member during that time) barricaded the capitol and holed themselves up on the third floor office of the governor. A police commando unit armed with M-16 rifles trooped to the capitol, breaking open the glass door of the building. A defiant Tupas vowed to "fight to the death" resulting in pandemonium with Niel Jr. getting hit by the butt of a police rifle. And that, according to our Spy Bits source, is the reason why Tupas Jr. will show "no mercy" for the "butt of all impeachments."

FOR THE SECOND TIME in two years, Ombudsman Merceditas "Merci" Gutierrez will soon be facing impeachment charges against her in the House of Representatives. But this time around, with her protector - former President and now-Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - no longer in power, Gutierrez would be dealing with a House dominated by a coalition allied with President Benigno Aquino III...When Gutierrez took office on December 1, 2005, she declared, "I will be merciless to the grafters no one can bribe me!" But within eight months, "Merci," as her friends and associates affectionately call her, was accused of being too merciful to influential people suspected of graft and corruption. On July 31, 2006, the Malaya editorial said: "The Office of the Ombudsman has become a joke after Merceditas Gutierrez, a classmate of Mike Arroyo, succeeded Simeon Marcelo. How many big-time corruption cases have been sleeping the 'sleep of the dead' on the desk of Gutierrez?"...It is expected that the Articles of Impeachment would be debated and voted upon in a plenary session of the House the week before Congress goes into its month-long Holy Week recess on March 25. It would take at least 94 votes - or 1/3 of the 283-member House to impeach Gutierrez. However, it is anticipated that as many as 150 congressmen would vote for impeachment. Once the House impeaches Gutierrez, the next -- and final - step is a Senate trial where Gutierrez would either be convicted and removed from office or absolved. The Senate trial is expected to start in May after the recess. It would take at least 16 votes - or 2/3 of the 23-member Senate - to convict Gutierrez. However, with Sen. Ping Lacson still out of the country, there will only be 22 senator-judges on hand to render a verdict. The question is: Can Gutierrez convince eight senator-judges to absolve her or can the House prosecutors convince 16 senator-judges to convict her? -- Perry Diaz in The Mindanao Examiner

PINOY CAN'T DEFEND AND CLEAR OCHOA: Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa should know the whole world considers graft and corruption the most debilitating problem of poor nations like the Philippines. The evil underlies poverty and its debilitating effects of malnutrition, economic stagnation, joblessness, and undermines the rule of law causing high rates of criminality. With the DOJ overwhelmed by common criminal cases and the Ombudsman in a state of inutility, PCGG's the only agency now to give meaning to P-Noy's campaign slogan "Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." Thus, U.S. Filipinos for the first time in memory are committed to support PCGG with Pamusa's legal resources against graft and corruption to spur the transnational enforcement of U.S. laws by virtue of the UNCAC and help restore the people's diminishing confidence in P-Noy that the slogan isnt just for car sticker. However, the news that Ochoa gave the go-signal with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's concurrence to abolish the PCGG is in and itself equivalent to graft and corrupt act. To hide Ochoa's perfidy he cited Chairman Andy Bautista's recommendation who was perhaps asked to submit it to abolish the commission...Most probably the Arroyos were really able to piggyback their own illicit assets on the Marcoses' and Romualdezes' ill-gotten wealth. Not anymore, though, because the PCGG with Pamusa's legal advisers can now invoke U.S. laws and use the latest anticorruption tools in tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of ill-gotten wealth under the UNCAC's international cooperation provisions (UNCAC-ICP); the 2008 OECD agreement on tax matters embodied in RA 10021 empowering the BIR to exchange tax information with its tax treaty partners to help combat international tax evasion and avoidance and to help address tax concerns that affect international trade and investment; the 2009 G20 London Summit that declared the end of bank secrecy, and the U.S. National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy. -- Zamboanga Today Editorial

IMPEACHMENT AS A CHESS GAME: One can win the battle and lose the war; one can rule and yet not govern. Is President Noynoy Aquino painfully aware of that? What he certainly knows is that the tsunami of roaring public support for Pnoy's anti-corruption campaign slogan will recede into mid-sea if the President fails to deliver that political promise. The chess match had already begun on day one of Aquino's oath-taking. The Lower House has been neutralized in favor of the Palace. The Supreme Court, stung by its nickname as "Arroyo's Court" (14 of the 15 justices appointed by GMA), is now trying to prove, no we ain't so. In the chess game, the remaining Tower that is trying to checkmate the King in order to protect the Queen is embattled Ombudsman Merceditas "Merci" Gutierrez, who is trying to hang on tough like she is epoxied to her throne despite the Lower House's resolute move to impeach her. Noynoy Aquino, as a Liberal Party leader, called for Merci's impeachment saying " We have already crossed our Rubicon a long time ago. We must win this battle." " I will not resign. My conscience is clean, " says Merci. "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone," a congressman from Mindanao fumes. "This is clearly partisan and the fulfillment of a campaign promise cannot be a reason to impeach with imprudent haste," says a congressman from Bicol. Those are legal non-sequitors. For instance, the human frailty of judges in any court does not disbar them from performing their duty as arbiters of right or wrong. Impeachment, by its political nature, is partisan in character, as the GMA era had plastered on the wall for all to see for too long, too often, in the past. -- ZOILO P. DEJARESCO III in Manila Bulletin

Using data from the Sandiganbayan, the PCIJ reported: Gutierrez emerges as having the biggest case convictions From December 2005 to December 2009 under her watch, she secured the conviction of 644 respondents in four years, for an average of 49, higher than convictions under the terms of (former Ombudsmen) Marcelo (40) Desierto (32), and Vasquez (30). PCIJ pointed out though that 221 cases in 2008 involved only one official. True, since there were that many counts filed against him. But including those cases, the Sandiganbayan decided on 553 cases filed by the Ombudsman, 406 of which resulted in convictions, for a conviction rate of 73 percent, a record. Under Gutierrezs watch up to 2009, her office successfully prosecuted 447 cases against mayors, three against governors (including the father of Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. who heads the committee pursuing the impeachment case), and 802 cases against other government officials. Will the Senate be asked to debate how many successful prosecutions mean that an ombudsman is doing his job? -- Rigoberto D. Tiglao Philippine Daily Inquirer

The Ombudsman is the weakest link in the fight against corruption. This is seen once more in the Sandiganbayan's dismissal of the celebrated Chingkoe plunder raps. The anti-graft court noted that Ombudsman prosecutors failed to prove one basic. That is, the conspiracy of the Chingkoe couple, in multibillion-peso tax-credit scam, with co-accused finance officials. From inability to connect the two, the case collapsed. It's obvious bungling, moaned former special prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio. Earlier the Senate Blue Ribbon body exposed the Ombudsman to be negligent in nailing thieving military comptrollers. Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia was allowed to plea-bargain, from P303-million plunder to mere bribery and abetting money laundering. In this the agency allowed him P60,000-bail without first ensuring his return of the loot, "discounted" to P135 million. It did not demand the return of P128 million that Garcia withdrew from a dozen banks before the filing of formal charges. In Lt. Gen. Jacinto Ligot's case, the Ombudsman ignored for forfeiture P740 million that the Anti-Money Laundering Council reported as looted. There is need for Congress to audit the performance of the Ombudsman, and for Malacañang to evaluate the prosecutors. -- Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star

...it's unlikely that Gutierrez will be convicted. Her acquittal will be a slap on President Aquino, he who does not hide his obsession to run after his predecessor and prosecute her with a "friendlier" Ombudsman. Will he then accuse the Senate of derailing his pursuit of a graft-free government? -- Emil Jurado in Manila Standard

...this impeachment case will ultimately benefit the people and democracy, and, if only for the political education and experience that we derive from this exercise, our country will be better for it. Indeed, the impeachment of the Ombudsman will be a good historical moment for the nation, at the very least a civics lesson for all its citizens...Dean Tony La Vina in Manila Standard

Granting that the Blue Ribbon only confined to the Ombudsmans role in the controversial plea bargaining agreement of military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia and the special prosecutors, as betrayal of public trust for being grossly unjust and prejudicial to the government, does this specific aspect of betrayal of public trust exclude from the House articles of impeachment against Gutierrez herself? Assuming her as excluded, does it not matter that the senator-judges who have already found her impeachable for another cause of action, are the same senator-judges in whatever Gutierrez may also be indicted for, say, graft and corruption, and/or culpable violation of the Constitution? -- Lorenzo Paradiang Jr. in The Freeman

CORRUPTION WILL KILL THOUSANDS: If a big enough earthquake happens here, thousands will die as a result of corruption. Architect Jun Palafox observed that in major calamities, we use public schools and other public buildings as evacuation centers. To Jun, these are structures least worthy of our trust because corruption in their construction means corners had to be cut, substandard materials had to be used to enable the contractors to give the tongpats and still make money. This is why Jun is appealing to contractors of substandard public buildings and other infrastructure facilities like bridges and dams to come clean before some big human tragedy happens. The same appeal goes to private sector constructors of tall condominium buildings and malls who may have also cut corners to increase profit margins. No human being really wants to have thousands of lost lives on his conscience unless his moral compass is really out of whack. -- Boo Chanco in The Philippine Star

OBJECTIVE OBSERVERS believe that Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is a victim of collateral damage. It was her closeness to the former first family, especially to Mike Arroyo who was her classmate, that made her a target for impeachment. People who couldn't get at the hated GMA and her family are doing the next best thing: get at their friends and allies. And Gutierrez is as close to them as anybody can get. On the other hand, it can be said that Gutierrez's problems are all her fault. Corruption has long been the plague of the Philippines, to curb which the Office of the Ombudsman was created. The Ombudsman was supposed to be the point of the lance of the knight in shining armor who would slay the dragon of corruption... -- Neal Cruz in Philippine Daily Inquirer

But why should Gutierrez's impeachment be traumatic for the country itself? Why should it be painful for the people themselves? The Erap impeachment was not. It was the best thing that happened to us, not least in its entertainment value (it left the most popular telenovelas biting its dust), which alone should dispel any association of pain with it. It was also the most educational thing in the world for us. At the very least it gave the masa to see what a vicious thing corruption is, and why their misery was tied up with it. At the very most, it gave the masa to see what a majestic thing the law is when it serves its real purpose, which is to champion justice and not thwart it. More than ever, that is what this government needs if it is to succeed in pushing its agenda of fighting corruption, if it is to make its battle cry of "pag walang corrupt, walang mahirap" issue forth from the mouth of the nation. It needs the people behind it. Government alone cannot stop corruption, and it would be a huge mistake for any government, including a reasonably honest one such as this one, to imagine it can. The reason other governments, particularly in the developed countries, seem able to do so on their own is that public support is a given. Public disgust at corruption is given. Public anger at the corrupt is given. Public demand to jail the thieves is given. Public support is there, as palpable as the law. It doesn't have to be drawn out, it doesn't have to be incited. These are countries where "taxpayers' money" is not an abstract concept, where the use of it for purposes other than to build roads and bridges and deliver basic services is unconscionable. These are countries where the culture so obdurately frowns on cheating it arrests youth who cut corners in entrance exams. We are not those countries. Here, in lieu of disgust, anger and a demand to jail the thieves, what we have is "pare-pareho lang sila," "away lang naman nila yan," "let's move on." Look at how Marcos and Erap have rehabilitated themselves. We don't look out, Gloria will do the same thing. It's the people most of all who ought to be brought in again and again behind any move to stamp out corruption. It's the people most of all who ought to be educated again and again on the monstrosity that is corruption. It's the people most of all whose anger and disgust and demand for justice become a tsunami, a wall of water bursting in upon and swallowing the ungodly. That cannot happen with Gutierrez resigning. That can happen with Gutierrez being brought to the dock. -- Conrado de Quiros in Philippine Daily Inquirer

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MAPping the Future

A stronger MAP after first 60 days

By Felino Palafox Jr.
Philippine Daily Inquirer, 03/20/2011

(Second of two parts)

WE mounted a MAP fund drive to help fight corruption in general, and assist truth-tellers and whistle-blowers in particular. Due to donations received, I was able to turn over a check personally to Heidi Mendoza.

In line with our partnership with the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), we have partnered with the Center for Leadership and Change, Inc. (CLCI) in conducting a “7 Habits for Highly Effective People” (7H) workshop for tactical officers and other high level officers of the PMA in order to enhance their leadership skills. The workshop was funded through the P500,000 sponsorship of CLCI for last year’s MAP Conference.

Timely recommendations

In a span of 60 days, we released four statements, which have been featured by the major dailies.

On February 2, we issued a statement where we expressed our grave concern over the alleged massive corruption in the AFP. We strongly requested the President to act with speed and use the full force of the law against all involved in the anomalies.

For our February 8 statement on the death of Angie Reyes, we expressed our condolences to his family but we also urged vigilance in promoting the need for integrity in public service. We advocated that Congress has to complete its investigation, craft new or improved anticorruption measures, and recommend appropriate legal action against erring government officials.

Our February 21 statement inspired the Aquino Administration, particularly the Department of Energy and the Department of Labor and Employment, to take proactive steps in addressing the possible negative repercussions on large companies and small and medium enterprises (SMEs) of the rapid developments in the Middle East and North Africa.

We offered MAP’s help to work with the government and the private sector through a PPP in whatever energy-preparedness strategies, plans and programs the government is developing for meeting the adverse impact of fast-increasing oil prices, probable disruptions in oil supply and possible unscheduled return of Filipino expatriates who are based in the affected countries.

In our February 24 MAP statement on smuggling, we commended the Department of Finance (DoF) for the anticorruption steps it has already taken and for enhancing the capability of the Bureau of Customs to step up counter-corruption initiatives to address rampant smuggling of many products like oil and motor vehicles.

We encouraged the DoF to aggressively pursue its campaign to prosecute, convict and jail major tax evaders and smugglers, among others...

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Partner organizations in this website while it was actively publishing news excerpts:

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Ehem -- the anti-corruption initiative of the Philippine Jesuits echoes the urgent call for cultural reform against corruption in the Philippines.
Ehem aims at bringing people to a renewed sensitivity to the evil of corruption and its prevalence in ordinary life. It seeks ultimately to make them more intensely aware of their own vulnerability to corruption, their own uncritiqued, often unwitting practice of corruption in daily life.
Ehem hopes to bring people, in the end, to a commitment to live the way of Ehemplo --- critical of corruption, intent on integrity!
 
Management Association of the Philippines 
MAP is a management organization committed to promoting management excellence. The members of the MAP represent a cross-section of CEOs, COOs and other top executives from the top local and multinational companies operating in the country, including some top officials of government and the academe.

iPro supports the process of reducing corruption by seeking synergies between Government of the Republic of the Philippines agencies and civil society at all levels.

 
 
This website primarily serves to gather for research and educational purposes in one single place news and information specifically pertinent to integrity and corruption in the Philippines. The news items, views, editorials and opinions summarized or reported on this website are taken from the general media and reputable blogs, websites, etc., and are exclusively the responsibility of the original sources and/or authors. In accordance with Title 17 U. S. C. Section 107, any copyrighted work on this website is distributed under fair use without profit or payment to those who have expressed an interest in receiving the included information for nonprofit research and educational purposes only. Ref: http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html
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