Integrity Philippines --------Pinoy Solutions to Corruption

NEWS - JAN. 8 - 15

Pinoy Solutions to Corruption
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PINOY SOLUTIONS TO CORRUPTION *** Speech by Ex-Governor Grace Padaca at Silliman University
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  • Pervasive corruption in government
  • Weak judicial system
  • Unsound economic policies

US THINK TANK: CORRUPTION MAKES PHILIPPINE ECONOMY "UNFREE": [SEE ABOVE CHART] Pervasive corruption in the government, the weak judicial system, and unsound economic policies make the Philippines one of the "mostly unfree" economies in the world, a think tank in the United States said. "A culture of corruption is long-standing. The government has worked to reinvigorate its anti-corruption drive, but these efforts have been inconsistent," said the policy institute "The Heritage Foundation." Heritage noted that reforms have not improved the public's perception of the government because these overshadowed by high-profile cases frequently reported in the Philippine media.

"LONGSTANDING" CULTURE OF CORRUPTION: The Philippines has slipped in an annual economic freedom ranking with an overall rating below the global average......The country's freedom from corruption score rose a point to 24 but stayed well below the average of 40.5. "A culture of corruption is long-standing," the report said...

VICE PRESIDENT'S OFFICE DENIES "DUD" STORY (see next article following): Ira Paulo Pozon, the legal counsel and International Relations officer at the OVP wrote to the Times as follows: "I write to you as a witness and a participant in the interview from which the story, 'Aquino war vs. graft a dud,' published in The Manila Times today, January 13, 2011, was based. "We take strong exception to the rather sensational treatment given by The Manila Times to the statements allegedly made by Vice President Jejomar C. Binay to your reporter Angelo Samonte. We feel that your banner headline is quite misleading and that Vice President Binay's statements have been taken out of context if not entirely misquoted. "I was in fact able to record the interview on tape and must emphasize that the Vice President neither said nor alluded to the idea that the Aquino administration, 'has not achieved anything significant in charging former President Gloria Arroyo,' as the report claimed.

VICEPRESIDENT: WAR VS GRAFT A DUD!>>> The Aquino administration has not achieved anything significant in charging former President Gloria Arroyo and her allies for alleged wrongdoing during her nearly 10-year watch, according to Vice President Jejomar Binay. "Is there a solid accomplishment? There is none. The Truth Commission, supposedly, will be the one to go after Gloria but it was declared illegal. Malacañang has done [nothing] at all [all] this time," Vice President Jejomar Binay on Tuesday told The Manila Times during an exclusive interview...Binay warned against bringing cases linking Mrs. Arroyo to alleged graft to the Office of the Ombudsman, whose impartiality he said he doubts. Sounding pessimistic, he said that the alleged Arroyo corruption cases would end up being forgotten by the people the way they lost memory of alleged Marcos graft cases...With the war against corruption by the administration of President Benigno Aquino 3rd apparently in tatters, Binay said, now is the time for critics of then President Arroyo to stand up and be counted in the battleplan of Malacañang to make the countrys former leader account for alleged excesses during her watch...

RICE OVERPRICED: Rice that the National Food Authority imported during the last three years of the Arroyo administration was overpriced by $125 per metric ton, NFA Administrator Lito Banayo said. Banayo said an audit of the 10-year importation record of the NFA showed that its rice imports were overpriced by an average of $60 per metric ton. Banayo said fictitious cooperatives and corporations that took part in the purchase of cereals from abroad piggybacked smuggled rice on the NFA importation program.

RICE NOT OVERPRICED: There was no excessive importation of rice and no overpricing of imports during the previous administration that caused the National Food Authority to bleed financially, the former chief of the Department of Agriculture said...

COLLUSION ALLEGED BETWEEN OFFICIALS AND RECRUITERS: A migrant rights advocacy group called on the labor department to create an independent committee that would investigate the alleged connivance of Philippine Overseas Employment Administration officials with recruiters that led to several cases of exploitation and the trafficking of overseas Filipino workers.

US JUDGE AWARDS $7.5M TO MARCOS VICTIMS: A federal judge on Thursday approved the distribution of $7.5 million to settle a lawsuit filed by thousands of victims of torture, execution and abduction under the regime of the late former Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos. The distribution provides victims their first opportunity to collect something since they sued in 1986.

BUSINESS GROUP TARGETS PRIVATE SECTOR CORRUPTION: Anti-corruption efforts -- this time directed towards the private sector -- will be added to the Makati Business Club's (MBC) priorities, its new executive director said. ANTI-CORRUPTION efforts -- this time directed towards the private sector -- will be added to the Makati Business Clubs (MBC) priorities, its new executive director said.

THE SANDIGANBAYAN JUNKS APPEAL of the Marcoses to reverse the ruling that declared millions of dollars stashed in a United States bank as ill-gotten due to the absence of new evidence.

AQUINO CRITICIZED FOR SPORTSCAR: President Benigno Aquino III said Thursday he had splashed out on a luxury Porsche sportscar, sparking criticism in a country where a third of the population live on less than a dollar a day. "It appeared to be out of character. He had campaigned against luxury cars and here he is buying a Porsche," Milo Tanchuling, secretary general of the activist group Freedom from Debt Coalition, told AFP. "There is a danger that it will be viewed by many as a sign of extravagance and an unnecessary flaunting of wealth amid massive poverty."

TEACHERS EXPOSE SCAM: AROUND 29 teachers of Bacolod City National High School exposed another alleged scam in the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) involving pre-need life and educational plans. Yolly Vingno, president of the Bacolod City National High School Faculty Club, said they only found out the alleged scam recently when the mother of their co-teacher died. The teacher was supposed to use her plan to shoulder the burial expenses of her mother.

CRIMINAL CASE EYED AGAINST EX-BAR PRESIDENT: A case is being eyed against a former president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Cebu City Chapter for allegedly accepting clients in 2007 despite being employed by a government office. But Atty. Alex Tolentino, in an interview with Sun.Star Cebu, called the allegations false, saying his employer at that time, the Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD), allowed his court engagements and never told him to stop.

TWO BARAY OFFICIALS DISMISSED FOR GRAFT: TWO barangay officials from Tabogon town, Cebu were dismissed from the service for conniving to facilitate the irregular disbursement of P6,400 in public funds.

PRINCIPAL, TWO TEACHERS INDICTED: The school principal and two teachers of Pasil Elementary School in Cebu City were indicted for malversation through falsification of public documents for presenting alleged faked documents to support the expenses that were reportedly incurred during the conduct of a seminar for teachers. Graft Prosecutor Dyna Camba of the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military recommended the filing of case before the Regional Trial Court against Blesila Abunda, the school principal, and Shirley Lapidario and Florencio Barrera, both teachers of Pasil Elementary School.

ARMY CAPTAIN CHARGED: An army official assigned at the 3rd Infantry Division of the Philippine Army based in Camp Peralta, Jr., Jamindan, Capiz is facing charges before the Regional Trial Court for malversation of public property for his failure to return the equipment issued to him.

COA: WITHHOLD FOR UNLIQUIDATED ADVANCES >>> After the Commission on Audit (COA) asked the City Accounting to withhold the honorarium of barangay officials who fail to submit their financial statements and documents for the year 2007 to 2009, this time the agency wants to withhold the leave credit benefits of all barangay officials who failed to liquidate their cash advances and other statements for the year 2010.

PCGG: A Palace official yesterday said the abolition of the 25-year-old Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) may have to be legislated. Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte also said the PCGG has to discuss with the Department of Justice (DOJ) the turnover of ongoing cases against the Marcoses before the Sandiganbayan. "We leave it to the DOJ and to the PCGG to hammer out all the finer details... such that there has to be determination whether legislation is needed to abolish the PCGG," Valte said.

"EVIDENT CORRUPTION" IN PROJECT?: From an initial P4 billion in 2006, the cost of expanding and improving the South Luzon Expressway jumped dramatically to P12.5 billion by last year. This is being used to justify the increase in toll fees - an imposition that many view as not only patently anti-poor but the result as well of "evident corruption."

SENATOR WANTS ACCOUNTING FOR SALE OF FORT PROPERTY: Senator Joker Arroyo wants an accounting of the multibillion-peso proceeds from the sale of Fort Bonifacio in Taguig some 15 years ago, before government holds another auction to sell Camp Aguinaldo and Camp Crame. A portion of the proceeds of the sale was supposed to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and improve living conditions of soldiers and their families.

FOUR LUZON MAYORS CHARGED: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez ordered the filing of charges against 4 mayors in 3 provinces in Luzon for alleged graft and corrupt practices.

GOVERNOR SUSPENDED FOR GRAFT: Oriental Mindoro Governor Alfonso V. Umali has been ordered suspended for 90 days by the Sandiganbayan Fourth Division in relation to a pending graft charge filed against him in 2004 for his participation in the alleged unlawful disbursement of P2.5 million public funds released as a loan to a private individual.

SAMAR'S Multi-sectoral Alliance for Transparency and Accountability, will conduct trainings on the budget process, tracking and procurement...

BACOLOD CITY COUNCIL URGED TO PROBE GOVERNMENT CENTER CONSTRUCTION: The Commission on Audit (COA)issued a notice of disallowance, disallowing the amount of P364,831,456.52 involving the construction and site development of the Bacolod City Government Center...COA also disallowed the expenditure incurred in the construction of the north and south perimeter roads of the government center as irregular and unnecessary, as Bacolod has paid twice for the construction of the perimeter roads.

DILG: LGUs TO BECOME "HAVENS OF INVESTMENT" >>> Ninety-six percent or 1,647 of the 1,714 LGUs in the country comply with the [Anti-Red Tape] law...This means that the LGUs have established their public assistance and complaint desks, one-stop shops or walk-in services and courtesy lanes for pregnant women, senior citizens and persons with disabilities as well as formulated their citizen's charters, said the DILG. Some 154 LGUs also completed their streamlining operations as of last December, paving the way for these LGUs to be havens of investment, the DILG added.

MILITARY LOAN SCAM INVESTIGATED: Military officials are investigating a syndicate operating inside the Air Military Wing Salary Loan Association Inc., where unwary soldiers are being dunned to pay fraudulent salary loans amounting to nearly half a million pesos.

PROBLEMS WITH AIR TERMINAL CASE: The Office of the Ombudsman or the Truth Commission may have a hard time investigating the P2.65 billion spent by the government for the legal battle over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) 3. Assistant Solicitor General Bernard Hernandez, one of the lawyers who handled the case of the government against German airport operator Fraport AG and Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco), said that amounts they had requested the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to pay legal and related fees were all above board.

GROUP URGES RECALL OF AGRICULTURE SECRETARY'S APPOINTMENT: Leaders of the militant fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) announced...that they would ask the powerful Commission on Appointment (CA) chaired by Senate President Juan Ponce EnrileJuan Ponce Enrile to recall the appointment of Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala over the failure of latter to investigate the controversial P 455-million ice making project under former secretary and now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap.

Ombudsman approves criminal charges against 3 Mindanao mayors

Ombudsman denieS request of two Bogo officials to reconsider the six-month preventive suspension order issued against them.

DE LIMA: TIME TO PULL PLUG ON PCGG >>> Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she agreed with a proposal to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) which was created more than 20 years ago to go after the ill-gotten assets of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. "We agree with the proposition that it's about time the PCGG wound down its affairs and concentrated on completing its work if it can, especially the sequestration and criminal cases," she told reporters.

POWER PLANT BRIBERY ALLEGATIONS INVESTIGATED: The Department of Energy has begun investigating the alleged bribery charge involving an electric cooperative and the alleged anomalous sale of the 146-megawatt (MW) Panay and 22-MW Bohol diesel power plants.

FUNDS RELEAED DESPITE CASE: The government Home Mutual Development Fund, or Pag-IBIG Fund, released an additional P186.99 million to Globe Asiatique in 2010 even as the property developer was being investigated by Congress for alleged irregularities involving housing loans.

ACCUSED EXECS CITE HARASSMENT IN TRAFFICKING CHARGES: Five officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) who have been accused of human trafficking and graft and corruption before the Department of Justice (DOJ) cried foul over the allegations.

SUPREME COOURT DEFERS KEY CASES: The Supreme Court on Tuesday deferred voting on controversial cases currently pending before it, including two that involved President Benigno Aquino III's executive orders

COMELEC NOMINATION: A group of civil society organizations endorsed on Tuesday lawyer Carlos Medina Jr., a member of the Presidential Truth Commission and a noted human rights advocate, as the next chairman of the Commission on Elections.

TABOGON town spent P1.078 million in extra cash gifts to officials and employees, even though the amount exceeded the 45 percent ceiling on personal services set by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), state auditors said.

IMPEACHMENT STILL ON HOLD: The Supreme Court on Tuesday clarified that Congress still cannot proceed with the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

BIR TO CHARGED OFFICIALS: GET OUT! The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) instructed on Monday revenue officials and employees facing suspension, or dismissal order from the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB) to immediately vacate their positions, notwithstanding their appeal or motion for reconsideration.

The Commission on Audit (COA)'s Audit Group H in Pampanga has recently recommended to the Capitol to require the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC) to abide by the rules on procurement...COA's recommendation, including five more requirements for the BAC's compliance, resulted from the 2009 BAC of the previous administration's failure to impose penal sanctions to the default winning bidder, thus rendering the BAC's action "inempt and transaction considered improper."

SOLON: BARANGAYS HIDING DEFECTIVE PLANS >>> Rep. Tomas Osmeña (Cebu City, south district) believes the barangay infrastructure projects in his district have plans. But the village officials are hiding them because these are flawed and can be used as evidence in a graft case, he said, following reports that some P38 million in projects in the south district were implemented even without a plan.

HIGH TECH BUSINESS PERMITS: To facilitate the issuance of permits, the Quezon City government has computerized the processing of documents, beginning this month. Department of Building Officials (DBO) chief Isagani Verzosa Jr. said the automation scheme will dissuade the public from dealing with fixers and other unscrupulous individuals in obtaining building, occupancy, demolition and fencing permits.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING CHARGED: Officials of the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) and 3 recruitment agencies were charged before the Department of Justice (DOJ) Monday for alleged human trafficking and violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act..."There was human trafficking because OFWs were actually transported and recruited for overseas employment with the clear intent of exploiting them through forced labor and involuntary servitude as evidence by previous complaints against the same private respondents," the complaint read.

DILG PUSHES TRANSPARENCY, ANTI-CORRUPTION: The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) marked 2010 as a benchmark year for reform and positive change as transparency and anti-corruption among local government units (LGUs) were pushed under the helm of Secretary Jesse M. Robredo. The DILG gave the public first-hand knowledge on the budget, finances, and expenditures of LGUs and other agencies of the department, thus promoting transparency and accountability. LGUs were further motivated and given recognition through the Performance Challenge Fund (PCF), a program spearheaded by Robredo.

PURISIMA: TOP IMPORTERS SHOULD BE AMONG TOP TAXPAYERS >>> "If you are among the top importers in the Philippines, then it follows that you would likewise be on the list of top taxpayers at the BIR," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said during the weekend. This is why the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will be comparing their list of top 5,000 importers and top 5,000 taxpayers to ensure that these individuals and corporations are paying both their taxes and duties.

Former Foreign secretary Roberto Romulo is opposing the confirmation of the appointment of economic planning secretary and National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general Cayetano Paderanga.

PCGG MAY FINISH IN TWO YEARS: The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) believes it needs only about two years to wind up its affairs and pave the way for the abolition of the agency.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. expressed support yesterday for the plan to abolish the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), saying it was long overdue. Belmonte issued the statement after PCGG chairman Andres Bautista bared plans over the weekend to abolish in two years the agency tasked to go after the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.

SECRETARY DENIES GRAFT ALLEGATIONS: Environment Secretary Ramon J. P. Paje on Friday denied reports linking him to graft-ridden deals when he was undersecretary of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). He dismissed the reports as the result of changes he is implementing at the DENR, claiming it is part of a larger scheme to embarrass President Aquino. "The allegations are perpetuated by people hurt by massive reforms, especially anti-corruption measures that are now in place in the department. They simply are out to derail efforts at good governance being implemented by the P-Noy administration," Paje said.

ABSENCEOF COA AUDIT OF EXPRESSWAY CONSTRUCTION QUESTIONED: The Office of the Ombudsman has been asked to investigate the absence of a Commission on Audit (COA) validation report on the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) project. Lawyer Ernesto Francisco Jr. said the anti-graft agency should look into possible violations of a law issued by President Ferdinand Marcos in 1977. The COA should have conducted an audit of the SLEX project after the review and approval of the Department Public Works and Highways (DPWH), he added. Francisco said Letter of Instruction No. 579 provides that "any proposed Change Order, Extra Work Order or modification of plans and specifications which the CDCP (now the Philippine National Construction Corp. or PNCC) intends to implement in connection with projects they will undertake for the extension of the Manila North and South Expressways shall likewise be subject to prior review and approval of the Secretary of Public Highways and concurrence of the Chairman, Commission on Audit."

TRANSPARENCY OF PRESIDENTIAL FUND PRESSED: The left-leaning fisherfolk alliance Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) on Monday said Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio Abad should order mandatory posting on how the P 21-B conditional cash transfer (CCT) program and the P 1.2 B audit free intelligence fund of President Benigno Simeon Aquino III would be spent by the social work department and the Office of the President...DBM Secretary Abad previously announced that each congressman will be required to post all the necessary date pertaining to their projects funded by taxpayers. Each congressman receives P 70 million for their pet projects yearly.

3 MAYORS CHARGED: The Office of the Ombudsman has approved the filing of criminal charges against 3 municipal mayors from Mindanao.

HOW TO SUPPORT CORRUPTION >>> Never speak of it
Don't listen to anything about it Ignore it


RICE, AND ITS OTHER USES: National Food Authority administrator Lito Banayo has announced plans of the government to import rice by February...the very same Banayo who claimed following his appointment to the post that the country was swimming in rice...No country, even with a population of 90 million rice-eaters, can be swimming in rice one day and then suddenly find it urgent to import rice less than seven months after. If at all, we ought to still be "wading" in rice by this time. Therefore, Banayo may not have been wholly truthful in either of two things -- the swimming, or the reason for importing. Either way, it does not bode well for an Aquino government that is trying to look big on honesty in government. -- Editorial in Philippine Star

PURSUE THE TRUTH: When the Supreme Court called the Truth Commission unconstitutional, it declared the form more important than the spirit that is the source of its life. It may be true that the words of the Executive Order did not live up to the purpose for which they were written. If so, then the Executive Order should be rewritten. The purpose for which it is intended cannot be sidelined by the Supreme Court for shortcomings of the words that attempted to describe the spirit. Truth cannot simply be set aside because lawyers serving the President were not the wordsmiths they should have been...-- Jose Ma. Montelibano in Philippine Daily Inquirer

INTERVIEWS & DISCUSSION: Would the live streaming of Senate sessions over the Internet help promote transparency and accountability in the legislature?

LETTER: Corruption, made more rampant under the Arroyo administration, remains an obstacle right in the middle of President Aquino's "daang matuwid." Congress is dominated by unpredictable political turncoats, but the judiciary under the Supreme Court appears to be the biggest impediment. Therefore, President Aquino should make use of his "People Power capital" by encouraging and harnessing the Filipino people's active participation in all forms of strategic actions in pursuit of his objectives and campaign promises...

MAKE IT EASY TO DO GOOD: ...While the government is very harsh on dealing with illegal drugs, it is not so with graft and corruption. This is where most of our problems come in. Perhaps we would have eradicated the rampant corruption in the country, one of the causes of the country's poverty, if stealing one peso of public funds has the same harsh punishment with stealing one million pesos. If we make it difficult for politicians to rob our people's money, it would be easier to protect public funds from being misappropriated. And if we make the penalty for stealing public funds brutal and cruel, say, death penalty or mutilation, it would be easier to instill fear in the minds of politicians who may break the law...

FOI NEEDED NOW: ...our purported leader in the war against corruption has yet to arm us. For someone who ran on an anti-corruption platform, President Aquino is surprisingly lethargic about the need to pass the Freedom of Information Act - the enabling bill to a constitutional provision that mandates government transparency. This is saddening since he earlier claimed FOI would be one of his priority bills.

P300 MILLION TAKE AT IMMIGRATION: The stink at the Bureau of Immigration under OIC Ronald Ledesma is now coming out. On Saturday night, TV Patrol reported the raid on a Korean Language Center at Fantasy World in Lemery, Batangas where 80 Korean minors, some as young as nine years old were housed for English instruction. Six Korean nationals were arrested for several violations of Philippine laws, including not having working permits...A Korean woman recruiter had approached Sandra to enroll 30 Korean students at Nazareth Institute for English classes. Sandra asked the Korean lady if the Korean students had secured a student study permit (SSP) from the Bureau of Immigration and asked her to show their passports. The Korean recruiter retorted: "It is not necessary to get an SSP because we just pay immigration officials to protect us."

LONG OVERDUE: Finally, the Presidential Commission on Good Government is headed for abolition. Two years is still a long wait for winding down the operations of an agency whose functions have largely been taken over by other offices such as the Department of Justice. Two years is still enough time for certain PCGG officials to indulge their penchant for globetrotting at taxpayers' expense, with relatives or special friends in tow. But at least a timetable has been given, and an office that was never meant to be permanent will finally be shuttered.



SOLON: GARCIA "FALL GUY" FOR OTHERS >>> In lining his pockets, then military comptroller Carlos Garcia could not have acted alone and was apparently tolerated by his superiors in the Armed Forces, lawmakers said...Parañaque Rep. Roilo Golez did not name names in an interview with Radyo Inquirer, but he was apparently alluding to the five AFP chiefs of staff, all under Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes, and under whom Garcia worked from 2001 to 2003.

DE LIMA: SANCTION OMBUDSMAN EXECS OVER DEAL: The lower officers of the Office of the Ombudsman should be subjected to disciplinary action for entering into the questionable plea-bargain agreement with former AFP comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima said. "The Ombudsman can only be removed by impeachment. But the Office of the President has disciplinary powers over lower officers of the Office of the Ombudsman," De Lima said.

DE LIMA: LIFESTYLE CHECK FOR THOS WHO APPROVED DEAL >>> Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said that the Palace is considering of subjecting to lifestyle checks the members of the prosecution panel who approved the plea-bargain deal of former military comptroller retired General Carlos Garcia. De Lima also said that the Sandiganbayan had to explain the issue on the plea bargaining because there is "a lot of questions that need to be answered."

HOUSE PROBE OF PLEA DEALS SOUGHT: Two Mindanao lawmakers urged the House of Representatives yesterday to look into the plea bargaining agreement between the government and former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. Representatives Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and his brother Maximo of Abante Mindanao said a legislative inquiry is needed to protect the government's interest in future plea bargaining agreements. Remedial legislation might be necessary to clarify when a plea bargain could be allowed, they added.

P128M "BEYOND REACH": An estimated P128 million that was withdrawn by ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia's family from the bank accounts cited in their plunder case is now "beyond reach," Special Prosecutor Wendell Sulit said...Sulit told reporters that the money was withdrawn before the bank accounts were frozen. was Garcia's wife Clarita and their children who had withdrawn the money, and that there was no admission from Garcia that it was given to him. Asked why the return of the money was not made a condition in the plea bargain with Garcia, Sulit said it was feared that the retired major general would play hardball and that the government might end up losing the case.

SANDIGA LIFTS GAG ORDER: Deficiencies and other weaknesses in the plunder complaint filed in 2005 by then Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia forced the Office of the Special Prosecutor (OSP) to enter into a plea bargaining agreement with the accused. "Otherwise, Garcia goes scot-free and the government gets nothing," according to Deputy Special Prosecutor Jesus Micael yesterday. Micael made the statement to The STAR after the Sandiganbayan lifted its Dec. 22 gag order that barred all parties to the case from granting interviews to the media. "We have to swallow the bitter pill because of dearth of testimonial evidence to pin down Garcia," Micael said.

EVIDENCE WEAK?: The fear of losing the plunder case filed against retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia prompted government anti-graft prosecutors to enter into a "plea bargaining" agreement against the former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) comptroller accused of pocketing P303 million in state funds. Assistant Special Prosecutor Joseph Capistrano said that the evidence they had compiled and presented before the Sandiganbayan against Garcia may not secure for the Office of the Ombudsman his conviction for both plunder and violation of Article 4A of the anti-money laundering law. Capistrano expressed the sentiments of the Office of the Special Prosecutor about the case when called for a hearing by the Sandiganbayan in connection with the move of the Office of the Solicitor General to intervene in the case and seek rejection of the plea bargaining agreement between the Ombudsman and Garcia. "We were not able to find any supplier or contractor to substantiate allegations of covert acts by the accused (of amassing ill-gotten wealth)", Capistrano declared in open court.

PRELATE: PLEA DEAL SETS BAD PRECEDENT >>> A Catholic prelate is opposing the plea bargain agreement and wants a former military official accused of plunder punished if proven guilty to serve as a lesson to other corrupt officials. Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo feels the deal between state prosecutors and former Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, if pursued, would "weaken more" the country's justice system. The former president of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) also expressed fear that the agreement could be abused for the "convenience" of corrupt officials. "It will be not be a good example and that way of doing it might be sought and be applied for similar and other cases of corruption," Lagdameo said.

SANDIGANBAYAN: GARCIA PLEA DEAL NOT YET APPROVED >>> The Sandiganbayan has given former military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia enough time to answer the allegations filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) in its bid to have his plea bargain junked. Sandiganbayan spokesperson Renato Bocar said the court deferred ruling on the plunder and money laundering cases anew, preferring instead to allow Garcia to reply within 15 days the government lawyer's motion to intervene. During the hearing on Monday morning, the anti-graft court's second division lambasted the OSG for insisting that the plea bargain had already been approved as early as May 2010, or 2 months before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo stepped down from office.

US COURT FORFEITS GARCIA SONS' $100,000: A United States court forfeited the $100,000 (about P4.4 million) seized seven years ago from the two sons of former military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia, who is facing plunder and money laundering and other charges in the Philippines. Judge Marilyn Hall Patel of the US Northern District Court of California issued the final forfeiture order in favor of the US government on January 7, after nobody - not even the Philippine governmentstepped forward to claim the amount. The forfeited money is believed to be part of the P303-million ill-gotten wealth Garcia and his family allegedly earned while he was still in active military service.

SOLICITOR GENERAL CAN GO TO SUPREME COURT: The Office of the Solicitor General may have no choice but to elevate to the Supreme Court the plea bargaining agreement between former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia and government prosecutors if the SolGen wants to question the deal, a former justice of the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court said...


MIDNIGHT QUITTER: ...The special prosecutor, whose office is under the Office of the Ombudsman, initially gave the impression that the plea bargain was the best arrangement for a hardly ideal situation since, arguing that the case against Garcia was weak, it would allow government to shore up its losses while recovering half of the amount Garcia had plundered. But that is hardly the case since she herself now admits that the government failed to stop the Garcias from withdrawing some P128 million from their bank accounts. She explained that the money was withdrawn before they could be ordered frozen. The revelation is very damning since it shows that government did not only fail to freeze fully Garcia's assets, it also failed to demand the return of the withdrawn accounts in the plea bargain...---Philippine Daily Inquirer Editorial

HERE, THERE & EVERYWHERE: "You have someone who is not a tycoon, the CEO of a multinational, or the inheritor of a fortune, who is perfectly willing to return P135 million to government so he can be sprung from jail and you have no evidence against him for plunder and money laundering? You have a general who has shown no talent for business, other than the shady variety, who is perfectly capable of returning P135 million to government so he can breathe the same air we do, and you cannot prove he is rotten to the core beyond a shadow of doubt?" ---Conrado de Quiros in the Philippine Daily Inquirer

GETTING GARCIA: ...If the government really wants to pursue the Garcia case, it should set aside for a moment its dislike for the Supreme Court and ask the tribunal to punish both the Sandiganbayan and the Ombudsman for abusing their discretion...the Supreme Court, if it is asked, can act on a suit which would hold these court officials for grossly abusing their discretion, on the basis of the resolution granting bail and downgrading the original plunder charges. And if that doesn't light a fire under both the anti-graft court and the Ombudsman, then we will know if Garcia's influence truly extends beyond the Sandiganbayan division that is supposed to be in the business of throwing him behind bars and keeping him there for a long, long time.

GARCIA SURRENDERED ASSETS LONG SEIZED: How can you give away something you no longer possess? This question arises about the P135-million loot that Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia surrendered under his recent thorny plea bargain. For it turns out that the real estate, bank deposits and, vehicles comprising the amount already were in Sandiganbayan hands since six years back...the basic question is how the plea bargain in the plunder rap could affect the forfeiture case. This is because the assets that Garcia ceded to the government, to escape life sentencing for plunder, are mostly also in the forfeiture. Non-bailable plunder is a capital offense that needs proving beyond reasonable doubt. Forfeiture depends only on evidence of possession of assets beyond the regular income of a government official.

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