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

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Pinoy Solutions to Corruption
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PRESIDENT VOWS TO GO AFTER PROSECUTORS IN "PABAONG" & PLEA BARGAIN MESSES: President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday vowed to go after not only the officials involved in "pabaon" (send-off money) and other irregular transactions in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, but also the prosecutors who allowed them to escape punishment. Aquino made the vow at the annual alumni homecoming of the Philippine Military Academy, whose image he said has been sullied because some of its graduates have been linked to the alleged irregularities in the use of military funds. "Kaya naman iimbestigahan po natin kung paano masasampahan hindi lang po ang mga tinutukoy ngayon ng [imbestigasyon] kundi pati po ang mga kakuntsaba nila kasama na po ang mga prosecutor na kasangkot sa Garcia plea bargaining agreement," Aquino said. (We will investigate how we will file charges not only against the officials involved in the mess but also their protectors including the prosecutors involved in the Garcia plea bargaining agreement.) "Once we unmask the military officials involved in the mess, I am sure they had protectors who have committed a bigger sin against the people," he added.

NO PAPER TRAIL ON US HOUSES LEADING TO LIGOTS: Public records...appear to show that there are no clear connections between the properties and retired Lt. Gen. Ligot...Until more compelling evidence surfaces to link these properties to the wife of a retired general who is said to have lived beyond her husband's means, the search for answers and the quest for justice may have to continue down a lonely and frustrating road.

AFP's MESSY RECORDS, BANKING MALPRACTICES "PERFECT FOR CRIME": The disorganized financial records of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and bank officials who fail to follow acceptable practices are a breeding ground for financial crimes, fraud expert Heidi Mendoza noted on Friday. At another inquiry on corruption in the military at the Senate, Mendoza, a former state auditor, noted that possible fraudulent practices were committed at the AFP since its financial records are a mess. She also scored officials of local bank United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) for perpetuating the military financial malpractices when they failed to observe mandated procedures in banking transactions. "Fake ang passbook, walang bank reconciliation, delayed accounting - This was a perfect menu for a crime," she told senators at the hearing...

GENERAL AMASSED p740M IN 4 YEARS: Former military comptroller retired Maj. Gen. Jacinto Ligot allegedly amassed P740 million from 2001-2005, P666 million of which was already withdrawn before the accounts could be frozen by the Anti-Money Laundering Council. Bank account details shown in today's Senate hearing showed that Ligot kept a dollar bank account that contained US$8.7 million and peso bank accounts that have P300 million. Ligot did not disclose these, along with the US properties registered under his wife's name, Erlinda Yambao Ligot, in his statement of assets, liabilities and networth.

HEIDI MENDOZA EXPOSES "WONDER WOMAN": Mendoza, testifying at the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing, assailed her ex-bosses for allowing two key auditors to "overstay" with the military at a time when questionable transactions were also taking place. She said one auditor was known in the COA as "Wonder Woman." "Why? Because everyone was wondering why she was with the agency for almost 13 years," she said. "It is impossible, even if you have 9,000 or 11,000 employees, not to notice that here are some people who are overstaying in their position."... "A chairman cannot say that he did not see overstaying auditors because he had a lot of work to do," she said in Filipino. "I understand that he has so many things to do and his responsibilities are deep and complicated. But I've been part of COA and the ordinary auditor in COA is also asking: Why are there auditors given positions that are considered juicy and there are those who remain in dry positions?" She added: "I'm telling this to the people in fairness to the honest auditors who keep on working without being promoted and being noticed." Mendoza said she wanted to "reach out to her former colleagues [to explain] that never did I destroy the reputation of COA."..."The burning question: Why in the world was Divina Cabrera allowed to stay for 13 years as auditor of the AFP by the Commission on Audit?" said Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, the committee chair . Celso Gangan, who chaired the COA from 1994 to 2001, said he did not know because he was then overseeing the functions of some 5,000 units. Guingona replied: "[It] is very, very disturbing that the chairmen of the COA don't know what their people are doing down there and how long theyre staying."

PNOY CALLS FOR MEETING TO PLAN IMPEACHMENT: Sources in Malacañang say President Aquino is set to call House Speaker Feliciano 'Sonny' Belmonte and his other allies in the House to a meeting to plan the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. President Aquino will supposedly try to convince the Speaker to begin the impeachment proceedings before the long congressional break on March 26.

SENATOR: SYSTEM OF MONITORING & CONTROL NEEDED >>> At the Senate investigation into a plea bargain deal involving a former military official and into the alleged anomalous fund disbursements at the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday, disclosures on the alleged abuse of intelligence funds has prompted the Senate to move for a system of control and monitoring said funds. Senate Blue Ribbon committee member Teofisto L. Guingona III said that the primary purpose of the investigation is to provide insights on how to craft or re-draft laws so that the alleged corrupt practices cease. During the hearing, he pointed out that "all roads lead to the intelligence service, using intelligence funds... [with] no one accountable, no certification, it is ripe for abuse." The proposed special audit team, he said, will be composed of persons appointed directly by the President and will tackle the sensitive intelligence funds directly connected to national security.

SENATOR CHARGES COVER UP: Sen. Franklin Drilon yesterday bared what he sees as an attempt by the Ombudsman to cover up the illegal amassing of wealth that could have led to the filing of plunder charges against former Armed Forces comptroller Jacinto Ligot. Drilon said Ligot should have been facing plunder charges because a "staggering" P740 million was placed under his personal account...Drilon criticized the Office of the Ombudsman and special prosecutor Wendell Sulit for not filing any graft case against Ligot. "But the frozen accounts of over P71 million the equivalent of $1.3 million and P2.1 million or a total of P73.6 million which was frozen and the records of which were delivered to your office nearly three years ago. No graft cases or unexplained wealth has ever been filed," Drilon said. Drilon said the absence of any graft case against Ligot would also mean that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) would have no basis to pursue the charges of money laundering against the former military comptroller. Alice Valderama-Torres, an investigator from the AMLC, told the hearing that she and a fellow investigator personally delivered the documents to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez in May 2008. Sulit, however, denied Torress claim.

REBUSA ASKED TO EXPLAIN PHANTOM $5m UN CHECK: Malacañang on Friday said whistle-blower George Rabusa should explain the United Nations' statement that a purported $5-million check payable to the Philippine government in connection with its peacekeeping efforts overseas did not exist. The UN said it had no record of a $5-million check that was payable to the Philippine government and that Rabusa claimed was picked up by an officer from the UN headquarters in New York.

SENATOR DISCOVERS BREACH OF RULES >>> TWO COA AUDITORS ASSIGNED TO ARMED FORCES FOR TOTAL OF 17 YEARS: Two of the longest staying state auditors in the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) stayed a total of 17 years before being reshuffled, violating a Commission on Audit (COA) memorandum that auditors must stay a maximum of 3 years in a unit. Senate Blue Ribbon Committee chairman Teofisto "TG" Guingona III made this discovery Friday during the resumption of the upper chamber's inquiry on military corruption. According to ISAFP, the longest staying auditor in their unit was Divina Cabrera. She stayed with ISAFP for 13 years, from 1991 to 2005, before she was transferred to the Philippine Navy. The second longest staying ISAFP auditor is Raul Flores Jr., who is allegedly the son of former COA commissioner Raul Flores. Former military budget officer George Rabusa earlier accused Cabrera and the older Flores of receiving a cut from "converted" military funds of the ISAFP. He said Cabrera received 2% of ISAFP intelligence funds and once even asked Rabusa to burn documents that could potentially incriminate her. On the other hand, he said COA commissioner Raul Flores was Cabrera's "handler" who regularly received bribes from the Office of the Military Comptroller.

SENATOR QUESTIONS FAILURE TO PROSECUTE EX-MILITARY CONTROLLER DESPITE P740m IN BANK ACCOUNTS: The Office of the Ombudsman has been sitting for 3 years now on records that could be used as basis for the filing of a multi-million graft case against former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot, Senator Franklin Drilon said on Friday. At the resumption of the Senate's inquiry on corruption in the military, Drilon presented financial records under the name of Ligot, his wife and 3 children, and a brother-in-law. Drilon said that based on the records, which he obtained from the Makati City Regional Trial Court Branch 61, the retired lieutenant general and members of his family had at least P740 million deposited in various dollar and peso bank accounts from 2001 to 2005. Drilon said that the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) was able to freeze only P73.6 million of the amount.

IMMIGRATION OFFICERS TOLD TO REFUSE BRIBES: Immigration officials yesterday vowed to police their ranks in support of the government's drive against corruption and human trafficking. Immigration Officers Association of the Philippines head Ferdinand Tendenilla urged his colleagues in the 300-strong IOAP to refuse bribe offers from anybody as he echoed President Benigno Aquino's slogan "kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap." "We must be cautious in our actions and police our ranks and avoid engaging in any shenanigans," Tendenilla said. He also lauded Immigration officer-in-charge Ronaldo Ledesma for launching a no-nonsense drive against corruption and instituting positive reforms and changes in the bureau.

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

EX-REPRESENTATIVE DENIES RECEIVING SLUSH FUND MONEY: Former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay on Friday denied that he received military funds during the time of then chief of staff Diomedio Villanueva. "That I still have to collect because I have not received a single centavo from the Armed Forces," Pichay, a former chairman of the House national defense committee, said at the resumption of the Senate's hearing on military corruption. In a previous hearing, former Armed Forces budget officer and whistleblower George Rabusa said that every time Pichay made a visit to the office of Villanueva, former military comptroller Carlos Garcia would order him to prepare P500,000 for the congressman. Rabusa said Pichay went to Villanueva's office at least 3 times.

GENERAL'S ASSISTANT ADMITS RECEIVING P10m MONTHLY IN 2002: A former executive assistant of then military chief of staff Gen. Roy Cimatu on Friday admitted having received P10 million monthly for several months in 2002 on behalf of the general. Brig. Gen. Benito de Leon, during a Senate inquiry on the latest military fund scam, said he received the money as former budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa claimed. However, De Leon clarified that the amount was not a "pay-off" or pasalubong (welcome gift) for then newly-appointed Cimatu. "Categorically Gen. Cimatu did not receive any so-called pasalubong or pabaon," de Leon said. Asked what the money was for, De Leon said it was a form of "support administrative requirement" of Cimatu's office and was eventually used for operations to battle Abu Sayyaf forces in Basilan. De Leon admitted he felt it "unusual" to be given P10 million but received it anyway.

GENERAL: I RECEIVED MEDALS, NOT MONEY >>> Former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Roy Cimatu on Friday said he has indeed collected "pabaon" from the military but these were medals and not money. In his first appearance in the Senate, Cimatu reiterated his earlier statement that he never received any "pay-off" when he retired from the service. Former budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa earlier claimed that Cimatu received at least P80 million in pay-offs. Rabusa said it was former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia who instructed him to prepare the P80 million to be handed over to Cimatu.

GRIEVING GENERAL DENIES RECEIVING MONEY: Against the advice of his family and friends, retired Gen. Diomedio Villanueva appeared before the Senate on Friday to deny the allegations that he received pay-offs while serving as military chief of staff. Before allowing Villanueva to read his opening statement, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada extended his condolences to the former military chief, who recently lost his wife.

ASIAN JOURNAL FEATURE >>> HEIDI MENDOZA TELLS THE STORIES BEHIND THE NUMBERS: "I am giving lectures on the detection of fraud, I am giving lectures on citizens participation in good governance, I am giving lectures on citizens' participation in fighting corruption"

RABSA: MANSION RENTED FOR "SECRET MEETINGS" COST p1.4m >>> Former military budget officer and whistleblower retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa on Friday revealed that retired Gen. Diomedio Villanueva rented a house inside a posh subdivision in Quezon City for "secret meetings" with public officials while the general was still the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief of staff.

LACSON TO AQUINO: SEIZE THIS UNUSUAL OPPORTUNITY TO INVESTIGATE ALL >>> Fugitive senator Panfilo Lacson, in a surprise e-mail to several journalists, wrote on Wednesday that he was offered P40-million a year in "commander's reserve" at his exclusive disposal when he was chief of the National Police in 1999. Lacson wrote that he also enjoyed other privileges such as a fat gasoline allowance that can fuel 50 cars even if they are all running 24 hours a day and a credit card loaded with so much cash...Lacson did not name names but said malversation of funds was rampant not only in the Armed Forces but also in the National Police. He sought the expansion of the congressional probe to include corruption in the police. "Having first hand knowledge of these facts, I strongly support the proposal to expand the investigation of the 'welcome and send off gifts tradition' to include the AFP's across-the-street neighbor, the PNP," Lacson wrote. He urged President Aquino "to seize this unusual opportunity, highlighted by Heidi Mendoza and the supreme sacrifice inflicted by Gen. Angelo Reyes upon himself, by including all other agencies of the national government in an extensive accounting of how the taxpayers' money are being spent".

ROBREDO: PNP "SLUSH FUND" CAME FROM JUETANG >>> IF the Armed Forces has the so-called "pabaon" and "pasalubong," the Philippine National Police has "pakilala," "paalala" and "paalam." The only difference is that the money used for the PNP's PPPs does not come from government coffers. It is sourced from jueteng, according to Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo. The DILG chief said he implemented the "no take" policy in the PNP which covers not just officials but all personnel. "Pakilala," according to Robredo, refers to new officials who raid gambling dens and other illegal businesses to send the message to operators that "I am now the new boss." "Paalala" means arrests are made to remind gambling lords that "you seemed to forget your obligations" while "paalam" comes to the picture when a police official is on his way out. Money that changes hands through the PPPs comes from jueteng lords, Robredo said.

SOLICITOR GENERAL DOUBTS PLEA BARGAIN DEAL WILL BE DROPPED: The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) said that it doubts the Office of the Ombudsman would automatically drop its controversial plea bargaining agreement with former military comptroller and now retired Maj. Gen.Carlos Garcia because the Ombudsmans request to "hold in abeyance" its decision regarding the deal lacked "concrete action." Assistant Solicitor General Amparo Cabotaje-Tang told reporters...that even if the Ombudsman submitted a manifestation to temporarily stall the approval of the plea bargaining deal, the OSG will still pursue its legal mandate. "The Ombudsman's manifestation has no bearing because they are only asking to defer the resolution," she said. Tang added that what was lacking in the manifestation of the anti-graft agency was "concrete action" to invalidate the bargaining agreement. "[There is no] concrete action [from the] Ombudsman like withdrawal of the plea bargaining agreement. If they want us not to intervene, then they should withdraw it"...

HOUSE COMMITTEE: SUBMIT LIST OF SLOONS WITH GRAFT CASES >>> The House committee on justice has instructed Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas Gutierrez to immediately submit an inventory of complaints to the committee involving lawmakers before the graft body with the possible resumption of impeachment proceedings against her. House senior Deputy Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo "Rudy" Fariñas, vice chairman of the committee, said he had asked the Ombudsman to submit the names of lawmakers with complaints before the Office of the Ombudsman for the sake of transparency and objective decision-making of lawmakers to the complaints against Gutierrez.

ERAP WILLING TO TESTIFY AT SENATE ON CORRUPTION IN AFP: Former President Joseph Estrada is willing to testify in the Senate inquiry into the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP)...Former press secretary Rigoberto Tiglao said Estrada should be the first to testify before the Senate instead of his predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because Rabusa and Ligot began their careers during the Estrada administration. Tiglao noted that Ligot was AFP comptroller from October 1999 to March 2001 while Rabusa was budget officer for a year during Estradas term.

JUSTICE SECRETARY BLAMES COURT FOR DELAYING IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: Justice Secretary Leila De Lima is blaming the Supreme Court for the lack of time for Congress to act on the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. "With all due respect to the Supreme Court, they should not have intervened on the case.The complaints were found sufficient in form and substance and then a status quo ante was issued," De Lima said. "The House is now pressed for time to really get the proceedings in full swing and be concluded within the time frame in accordance with their own rules," she added.

SOLICITOR GENERAL: GARCIA WINS, STATE LOSES ON PLEA DEAL: State lawyers are firm on their position that the plea bargaining agreement between Ombudsman prosecutors and former Armed Forces comptroller Carlos F. Garcia is very disadvantageous to the Philippine government and should be rejected by the Sandiganbayan. Solicitor General Jose Anselmo I. Cadiz said the deal is actually a compromise for the benefit of Garcia and against the interest of the Republic and its people. Cadiz reiterated that the Republic of the Philippines whose consent is "absolutely necessary to the validity of the plea bargain agreement" is the offended party in the Garcia plunder case. He said the plea bargain was made without the approval of the offended party

PRAYERS SOUGHT FOR SAFETY OF WITNESSES: A religious group sought prayers for the safety of at least two persons who testified on the "pabaon" (send-off money) and other alleged corruption practices in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Sister Mary John Mananzan asked the public to pray for the safety of retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa and former state auditor Heidi Mendoza, who reportedly received death threats.

SOLICITOR GENERAL PRESSES ROLE IN PLEA BARGAIN CASE: The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) yesterday insisted on its authority to intervene in the plea bargain concerning the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia, claiming that enough evidence had been presented to convict Garcia. In reply to the state prosecutors' opposition to its intervening in the case, the OSG also said that the plea bargain should be rejected because it had no legal basis.

RESIGN CALLS RISING BUT OMBUDSMAN NOT GIVING UP: As calls for her to resign mount and with big businessmen and the Church calling on Congress to get on the proceedings to impeach her, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez is not giving up and will appeal the Supreme Court ruling allowing the impeachment case against her.

DON'T DO AS I DID - Colonel Rabusa Speaks to the New Generation: Rabusa's testimonies at the forum at La Salle-College of St. Benilde(and those in the Senate) cannot easily be ignored given his former position and the fact he has knowingly implicated himself. His descriptions on Friday in front of an audience of several hundreds...were both vivid and believable. Among other things, he maintained that: The Resident Auditor, while supposedly independent, is part of those benefiting the percentages or payoffs. It used to be only 1 per cent of the whole project cost, but the Resident Auditor asked to increase the share to 2 per cent. The Resident Auditor's role is critical because he/she is the one who issues credit advice to facilitate release of money, Rabusa alleged.

ANWAT AQUEDUCT P1.8b PROJECT ALLEGED TO BE "GROSSLY OVERPRICED": Local manufacturers of large steel pipes yesterday claimed that the P1.855-billion Angat Aqueduct Improvement Project (Package 2) of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS) was "grossly overpriced." The Philippine Large Diameter Pressure Pipe Manufacturers Association (PLDPPMA) alleged that the P1.855-billion contract for the project that the MWSS awarded to China International Water and Electric Corp. (CWE) was overvalued by at least 30 percent and must be rescinded by the government.

HOUSE TO PROBE P179b AFP SLUSH FUND: The House committee on national defense will inquire into the alleged "conversion" into slush funds of a total of P179.4 billion in salaries appropriated for the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines (DND-AFP) during the Arroyo administration. The inquiry was prompted by Resolution 967 filed by Muntinlupa Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, defense committee chairman and former AFP chief of staff..."There is a need to look into the new report to determine whether part of the budgetary allocations for the cited period for 'personal services' (the budget language for salaries) were indeed converted into slush funds for use of senior officers of the AFP and the chief of staff," Biazon said.

SUPREME COURT TO HOUSE: HOLD UP ON IMPEACHMENT UNTIL FINAL RULING >>> The Supreme Court (SC) asked lawmakers yesterday to wait for its final ruling on Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez's plea to stop her impeachment before setting into motion any procedure to oust her.

SENATOR: NO LEGAL BASIS FOR COA CHIEF TO STAY IN POST >>> Sen. Franklin Drilon said yesterday that Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar has no legal basis to hang on to his post because he had already served an aggregate of seven years. Drilon scored Villar for claiming that he would serve until 2015 when the Commission on Appointments had confirmed him for a term until Feb. 2, 2011. Drilon said Villar could not serve beyond his term of office at COA even if he had served as chairman for less than three years and he cannot be reappointed to the agency because of the constitutional prohibition. "Villar served the COA well. He should not tarnish his record in the agency by unlawfully clinging to his post," Drilon said. Villar was originally appointed by Arroyo as COA commissioner on Feb. 2, 2004, and he was later named chairman of the agency in April 2008, replacing Guillermo Carague whose term had expired. Villar's appointment was valid until Feb. 2, 2011

FUGITIVE SENATOR REFUTES DENIALS OF POLICE PAYOLA: Fugitive Sen. Panfilo Lacson yesterday refuted claims made by officials of President Aquino, who denied the tradition and practice of "send-off" and "welcome" cash gifts, along with a P40 million yearly allotment given to the Philippine National Police (PNP) chief. Both Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Jesse Robredo and PNP Chief Raul Bacalzo claimed there was no tradition and no practice of pabaons and pasalubongs that exists in the PNP last Tuesday. But Lacson rejected the two officials' claim, saying that this practice existed even during the time he assumed the position of PNP director general during the Estrada administration, but emphasized that he did not avail of it.

EX-OMBUDSMAN OFFERS TO HELP PROSECUTION: The prosecutors who had secured the plunder conviction of deposed President Joseph Estrada may soon find themselves in another battle against corruption. Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo volunteered on Wednesday to be part of the Department of Justice panel that would conduct an expanded probe on anomalies in the military. Marcelo also suggested that former Special Prosecutor Dennis Villaignacio and the private prosecutors in Estrada's case be tapped to work with the DoJ... Marcelo said he would also suggest that the DoJ look into the Commission on Audit, especially in light of allegations that an auditor assigned to the military unit was on the take. Marcelo and Villaignacio had played a part in the congressional investigations on alleged anomalies in the military.

PALACE MULLS MENDOZA, PALACA FOR TOP COA POST: A Palace official on Wednesday floated the names of former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and former Isabela Gov. Grace Padaca as possible replacements of Commission on Audit (COA) chairman Reynaldo Villar. Communications Secretary Ricky Carandang said so many names are being floated for the top COA post. Asked if Mendoza could replace Villar, he said: "I think it might be possible without being definite." Mendoza has received widespread support for exposing massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. Mendoza led a COA team that investigated alleged irregularities in the AFP during the time of former military comptroller Carlos Garcia.

COA REPOERTS PROVINCIAL CAPITOL HAS MASSIVE UNSETTLED CASH ADVANCES: THE Commission on Audit (COA) has confirmed that the provincial Capitol in Misamis Oriental incurred an unsettled cash advances amounting to P96,741,047.26 for the last 36 years. The COA report disclosed that the P96.7 million cash advances accrued from 1973 up to December 2009 were granted to various employees of the Provincial Government of Misamis Oriental. Incumbent provincial administrator Patrick Gabutina topped employees with outstanding cash advance amounting to P29,928,850 million.

SENATOR, THOUGH IN HIDING, BARES "PABAON" SYSTEM IN POLICE: Senator Panfilo Lacson, still in hiding in connection with the Dacer-Corbito double murder case, on Wednesday bared alleged corruption in the Philippine National Police (PNP) similar to that in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). In his statement, Lacson said there is a P40-million "commander's reserve" at the exclusive disposal of the PNP chief, a position he held from November 1999 to January 2001. He said his monthly gas allowance during that time was equivalent to the consumption of 50 vehicles or more, even if they are allowed to run 24 hours a day. He likewise said that he was "presented" with a high credit card limit with the information that he could use it both for personal and official purposes. Lacson, however, noted that he never availed of any these alleged privileges. "I was never interested," he said. He also said he did not receive send-off money similar to what some AFP chiefs of staff allegedly received when they retired from service.

No 'pabaon,' 'pasalubong in PNP, claims Robredo: There are no send-off and welcome cash gifts for heads of the Philippine National Police (PNP), Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo claimed yesterday in the light of the pabaon (send-off) or pasalubong (welcome) cash gifts controversy within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the investigations which are considered among the probable reasons for forme AFP Chief of Staff and Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes to commit suicide last week. Robredo claimed that fiscal reforms instituted in the PNP under his watch would eliminate corrupt practices similar to the alleged cash gifts practice in the military

POLICE WELCOME CORRUPTION PROBE: Junior officers of the Philippine National Police (PNP) in Cagayan de Oro City welcomed call to investigate possible corruption within the national police force. The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) said the investigation is necessary to unearth allegations of corruption in the PNP, "whose reputation has gone down." Police Chief Inspector Regina E. Abanales, PNP-Northern Mindanao spokesperson, said the lower level of the organization has no problem with the proposal "because we hide nothing."

SENATE MINORITY LEADER: "Congress must make FOI bill priority if PNoy won't"

SANDIGANBAYAN AQUITS LAWMAKER OF GRAFT: The Sandiganbayan third division has acquitted Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rodolfo Valencia of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act in 1992 when he was still governor of Oriental Mindoro. The anti-graft court said the prosecution failed to prove Valencia's guilt when he appointed Cresente Umbao as Sangguniang Bayan member of Pola, Oriental Mindoro within the 1-year election ban. Umbao apparently ran and lost in the 1992 elections.

ASIA TIMES: MANILA TAKES ON SMUGGLERS >>> In what customs authorities have claimed as the largest smuggling racket unearthed in the Philippines, the local unit of Royal Dutch Shell stands accused of evading over US$421 million worth of taxes on premium unleaded gasoline imports. Officials claim that Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp intentionally misdeclared the fuel as tetrapropylene, which is classified at a substantially lower tax bracket. The company denies any wrong-doing. The high profile accusations are part and parcel of a campaign to overhaul the workings of the Bureau of Customs (BoC), widely viewed as one of the country's most corrupt agencies.

PALACE TO ASK UN HELP IN FUND MESS PROBE: Malacañang on Tuesday said it will seek the United Nations' assistance in probing the alleged corruption within the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving UN peacekeeping funds. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said documents presented by former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and assistance from the UN will help government determine how funds intended for peacekeepers were diverted. "We've been apprised of the diversion through the testimony of Heidi Mendoza and she has gone through the records and she has also looked to the documents as well. So, we would be more than happy with the cooperation of UN to provide us with all the necessary avenues to determine where the diversion happened," Lacierda said.

MOMENTUM ON TO EXPOSE CORRUPTION IN PREVIOUS GOVERNMENT: Lawmakers and different organizations today hailed the Supreme Court for giving its nod to the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, saying this has set the stage to expose the other corrupt practices of the officials under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's time. In a statement, Pagbabago! People's Movement for Change chairperson Sister Mary John Mananzan said "removing Gutierrez from the Office of the Ombudsman is a crucial victory for the people who have long been fighting to end the corruption with impunity perpetrated by the Arroyo administration." For its part, the Kilusang Mayo Uno said "this is an opening for the people's struggle for Mrs. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her minions to be tried and punished for their grave crimes to the Filipino workers and people."

PALACE: OMBUDSMAN HAS FALLEN SHORT >>> Malacañang said on Tuesday Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has fallen short of fulfilling her mandate in addressing graft and corruption. "The Ombudsman's less than stellar record in fulfilling the mandate of her office caused dismay in a country seeking progress in the fight for accountability and against corruption," Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said in a statement released late Tuesday afternoon. "This has moved the House to seek accountability in turn from the Ombudsman. All citizens for good, transparent, accountable government can only welcome the Supreme Court's removal of an obstacle to pursuing justice and honesty in public service," he added.

HOUSE BODY TO AWAIT FINAL RULING ON CASE: The Justice committee of the House of Representatives will resume hearings on the impeachment complaints only after the Supreme Court (SC) has rendered a final decision on the petition of Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez to stop the hearings, Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariñas (1st district), vice-chairman of the committee, told reporters in an interview yesterday. "Once that decision becomes final, the 10-day period given her to answer the two impeachment complaints against her will run," he said.

NBN-CTE WHISTLEBLOWER OFFERS ADVICE: Once one plunges into the life of a whistle-blower, there's no turning back...National Broadband Network-ZTE deal whistle-blower Rodolfo "Jun" Lozada said..."Since I testified [against the anomalous NBN-ZTE deal] three years ago, I had to live in a convent for security reasons...I have returned to our house but its not the same anymore. The security issues are still there"... Then again, he said he has no regret for what he did...He advised Mendoza, Rabusa and future whistle-blowers not to lose hope and continue fighting for the truth.

AQUINO SEARCHES FOR NEW COA CHIEF: Commission on Audit (CoA) chairman Reynaldo Villar must vacate his position once President Aquino appoints his replacement who has a "clean record," Malacañang said Tuesday. Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the President is already searching for an individual with competence and integrity to replace Villar, an appointee of the previous government. Lacierda, speaking to reporters in the Palace, said Villar's appointment expired last February 2, 2011, disputing claims of the official that his term will supposedly end in 2015.

SUPREME COURT FINES JUDGE FOR LATE DECISIONES: The Supreme Court penalized this month a regional trial court judge in Ifugao for "gross inefficiency" after failing to decide on several cases submitted to her within the period prescribed by law.

SMUGGLING EVIDENCE AGAINST DAVAO CUSTOMS OFFICIALS: The Office of the Ombudsman has found compelling evidence that could be used in the filing of cases against officials of the Bureau of Customs in Davao, in connection with reports of corruption and smuggling in Davao's wharf. A special investigator of the Ombudsman said that their ocular inspection at the wharf resulted in the gathering of evidence that might be useful in uncovering the truth behind the allegations. The investigator, who requested not to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue and due to security reasons, was in Davao last month with a team and discreetly conducted their probe. They visited the wharf and saw how the BoC has been conducting the operations inside the facility. "At this time, we can say that we have a strong case," the investigator told the Philippine Daily Inquirer.

SENATOR: COA AT THE ROOT OF GOVERNMENT CORRUPTION >>> Sen. Francis Escudero on Tuesday called for reforms in the Commission on Audit (COA), stating that corrupt state auditors are culpable for the proliferation of corruption in government. "Karamihan ng problema ng corruption sa bansa, ang puno nasa COA. Kaya nga parating may porsyento ang COA. Every time that an issue of corruption crops up, we always find out that COA has 1-2%," he told ANC's Headstart. Escudero said the Senate will study whether or not COA reforms can be implemented through a law since the audit body is an independent office. The COA has come under fire after it was revealed at a Senate Blue Ribbon panel inquiry that state auditors received bribes to cover up the malversation of military funds. Former military budget officer George Rabusa earlier said former COA commissioner Raul Flores regularly received P200,000 bribes from the military. He said he was introduced to Flores by the former resident auditor of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Divina Cabrera, who is now with the Philippine Navy. Rabusa said Cabrera also received 1%-2% share from the "converted" military funds, a charge that she immediately denied. Cabrera was resident auditor of ISAFP for 13 years from 1991 to 2005.

MENDOZA FAVORS AMNESTY FOR CORRUPT OFFICIALS: Perhaps exasperated with the supposed rampant corruption in the government and a snail-paced justice system, whistle-blower Heidi Mendoza proposed a way in dealing with corrupt officials: Give them amnesty. "Baka sa dami ng corruption cases at sa bagal ng sistema, baka kailangan magkaroon ng amnestiya," Mendoza said Tuesday at a forum in St. Scholastica's College in Manila. (Because of the sheer number of corruption cases and the slow pace of the justice system, maybe there should be amnesty for corrupt officials.) Mendoza, a former government auditor who from 2004 to 2006 investigated the plunder case of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, said extending amnesty to corrupt officials would expedite the resolution of graft cases in the country.

HOUSE EYES AMENDING IMPEACHMANET RAP, VOTE IN MAY: After losing her battle at the Supreme Court (SC) to invalidate impeachment proceedings against her, Gutierrez faces the prospect of an amended complaint that will include the plea bargain agreement with former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. In separate interviews welcoming the ruling of the SC, House Justice Committee Chair Niel Tupas and Deputy Speaker Lorenzo Tañada III raised the specter of amending the impeachment case against Gutierrez to include the Garcia plea bargain deal. Tupas said the committee on justice reached a consensus on the recommendations of the committee report to be issued by his committee after terminating its investigation of the deal. Among these are: >>> to amend the impeachment complaint to include Garcia plea bargain deal; >>> to file charges against the responsible prosecutors for gross negligence and military officials; >>> to amend current laws on plunder, anti-money laundering, and the charter of the Ombudsman. With regards to the impeachment, Tupas said they will most likely conduct daily marathon hearings so they can dispose of the case within the 60-session-day deadline imposed by the Constitution. Tupas said they are eyeing a vote on probable cause at the committee level before Congress goes on summer break on March 24, with a plenary vote scheduled upon the resumption of session in May.

SUPREME COURT CLEARS WAY FOR IMPEACHMENT PROCESS: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez may have won round one in her legal battle to keep the House of Representatives from proceeding with the hearing of two impeachment complaints against her when the Supreme Court issued a status quo ante order in September which halted the proceedings, but she has just lost round two. Voting 7-5-2 with one abstention, the Supreme Court en banc junked Gutierrez's petition and lifted the status quo ante order effectively allowing the House justice committee and the House of Representatives to proceed with the impeachment proceedings. Speaking to reporters in a news conference today, Supreme Court Administrator and Spokesman Justice Jose Midas Marquez said the majority maintained that the constitutional provision barring two impeachment proceedings against one impeachable officer within a period of one year was not violated in the case of Gutierrez.

SUPREME COURT ALLOWS IMPEACHMENT TO GO FORWARD: The Supreme Court has allowed the House of Representatives to proceed with the impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda announced in a press conference in Malacañang that 7 against 5 magistrates decided to allow the House Committee on Justice to proceed.

COA CHAIRMAN: MAJOR REVAMP COMING IN MARCH >>> Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar announced Tuesday that he will implement a major revamp in the commission due to allegations that some state auditors are involved in government corruption. Villar said he will revamp all resident auditors assigned in all government agencies starting March. He said that the revamp was scheduled next month because all state auditors have to submit their annual audit reports due on February 28.

PROBE SHIFTS TO COA, OMBUDSMAN: "What I want to do is wrap up this investigation with regard to this military corruption issue because there are two other chapters. One is the accountability of the COA, and the next issue is the accountability of the Ombudsman. That would be the two chapters I planned to go into," said Sen. Teofisto Guingona, blue-ribbon committee chairman.

SEEKING MORE INDEPENDENCE: COA MULLS ENDING RESIDENT AUDITOR PRACTICE >>> The Commission on Audit (COA) is now seriously considering removing resident auditors in all national government agencies and replacing them with audit teams that will be based in the COA central office in Commonwealth Avenue, Quezon City. COA Chairman Reynaldo Villar said in light of the recent revelations on how auditors conducted their duty, the plan might help remove the notion that COA auditors are part of the massive corruption happening in various government agencies.

UN OFFERS ASSISTANCE IN FUND MALVERSATION PROBE: The United Nations on Tuesday offered to assist the Philippine government in its investigation of the alleged malversation of UN peacekeeping funds intended for Filipino troops sent to East Timor. In a statement, UN National Information Officer Teresa Debuque said that while the alleged diversion of UN funds is a national matter, the Department of Peacekeeping Operations assured that the UN "will assist if requested" by the Philippine government. She added that as of February 12, 2011, the DPKO "has not received inquiries/complaints at this stage from any specific contingent regarding payment."

DE LIMA: RABUSA AFFIDAVIT ENOUGH FOR PRELIMINARY PROBE >>> Former military budget officer George Rabusa has yet to file a comprehensive affidavit at the Department of Justice (DOJ) detailing the extent of his knowledge on alleged misuse of funds and corruption in the Armed Forces but as early as now, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expects it to be sufficient to warrant a preliminary investigation (PI). This would mean that Rabusa's affidavit will take the form of a complaint-affidavit naming personalities to be possibly charged in connection with the military slush fund controversy.

SENATOR DEFENSOR RILED BY OTHER SENATORS' "FINGER POINTING": Amid criticisms on the way senators treated the late military chief Angelo Reyes during a Senate hearing, Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago on Monday said the finger-pointing among senators must stop. Santiago, one of Reyes' critics, said senators have not always been kind to some resource persons in past hearings. "We have seen other hearings where other senators - let us put it this way - did not exactly treat the resource person with humility. Why are we making an exception in this case?" she told reporters. Santiago added that people must not use Reyes' death for some "hidden agenda."

AQUINO URGED TO NAME NEW COA CHIEF: Anti-corruption groups are challenging President Benigno Aquino III to appoint a new head for the Commission on Audit (COA). They said the agency plays an important role in monitoring government funds and exposing anomalies such as those discovered by former COA auditor Heidi Mendoza. "It's a crucial agency," said Tony La Viña. dean of the Ateneo School of Government. They also called on COA chairperson Reynaldo Villar to quit his job amid allegations that COA officials had roles in the corruption scandal in the Armed Forces.

MENDOZA: REFORMS NEEDED IN COA >>> A former state auditor who earlier disclosed supposed anomalous transactions in the military on Monday said that reforms are needed in the commission she used to work in. Heidi Mendoza said that the Commission on Audit (COA) needs more "independence" so that it can better perform its role of looking into books of accounts of various government agencies. Mendoza was earlier criticized by her former colleagues for allegedly besmirching COA's reputation during congressional hearings on the alleged corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. "I look towards that day na ang ipagtatanggol na budget ng COA ay hindi politicized (when COA will defend a budget that is not politicized)," she said at a forum in San Juan City. Mendoza, who was with the COA for more than 20 years, said that certain aspects of the commission, particularly appointments and its budget, have already been "politicized" in the past years. She likewise said that state auditors should be given more "decent" wages and allowances for them to be able to do their jobs.

ARMM WELCOMES 3RD AUDIT: Incumbent officials of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) are receptive to another audit that President Aquino ordered Friday on funds given to the ARMM governance, saying this may affirm their prudence on fiscal management. "We welcome the Presidential order for an audit of expenditures in the ARMM governance, even as we keenly await the results of the earlier audits because we would want to adapt to the findings and make use of the corresponding recommendations in pursuit of our avowed policy of morale governance," ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo said yesterday. Sinarimbo was referring to a reported order announced in Jolo Friday by the President on the purported P12- billion fund released to the ARMM last year.

COA CHIEF: LIFESTYLE CHECK OK >>> Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar is open to a proposal subjecting the agency's executives and employees to a lifestyle check amid allegations of bribery and corruption stemming from the military...Villar said he sees no problem with the proposal of Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya, Jr. to "audit" all 6,000 auditors. "If that should proceed, we welcome it. I think even the senior executives of COA will welcome it," he said. The proposal came amid allegations by former employee Heidi Mendoza, who said she was told by former COA Chairman Guillermo Carague to go easy on her investigation. The investigation bolstered the plunder case against former military comptroller Carlos Garcia. The subsequent developments in this main case finally triggered revelations of the supposed widespread corruption in the military. Another auditor, Divina Cabrera, was also tagged in the scandal. She supposedly received bribe money to keep secret the conversion of funds there.

"FUND CONVERSION" NOT LIMITED TO MILITARY, ALLEGED DONE IN MANY DEPARTMENTS, AGENCIES: The practice of "conversion" or the fraudulent use of allocated government funds for other purposes is not confined to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) or the Philippine National Police (PNP), but is also routine in other larger agencies like the Department of Education (DepEd), a member of the House committee on appropriations disclosed yesterday. The source said the main source of "converted funds" would be the personnel services (PS) budgets - mainly for the payment of salaries and allowances - where disbursements are difficult to monitor. Other agencies allegedly engaged in the practice of conversion are the Department of Health (DOH) and even constitutional agencies with some degree of fiscal independence like the Commission on Audit (COA), the main watchdog of government funds. "Each fiscal year, the DepEd, the DOH and the DND (Department of National Defense) would be given budgets for their personnel services, and these are huge sums, amounting to hundreds of billions of pesos, for their authorized number of personnel," the source said. "But these figures do not take into account those (personnel) who died, or were dismissed or who resigned, and this happens on a daily basis"...almost always the authorized number of personnel to be hired by the agency are not filled by as much as 10 to 15 percent, thus the unused funds for the vacancies are prone to conversion. The converted funds are considered as savings or covered with false disbursements and often used for bonuses at the end of the year, the source from the House said.

NO "CONVERTED FUNDS" IN HEALTH DEPT: Health Secretary Enrique Ona denied reports his department is also in the practice of "converting" allotted funds for other purposes. To ensure there are no ghost employees or projects, he created an ad hoc panel that will determine the real human resources needs of the health sector. "The Department of Health does not have ghost employees, ghost projects, intelligence or discretionary funds to convert," Ona said in a press release. A Philippine Star source said over the weekend that the fraudulent use of allocated government funds is also a practice in the Department of Health and even the Commission on Audit. The conversion of funds became a byword following the revelations of a former military budget officer of the widespread corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines. For example, funds from personnel services are converted or tapped to create a slush fund.

EX-SOLON FACES GRAFT RAPS: Former party-list Rep. Joel Villanueva is facing a graft complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman for serving in the House of Representatives and receiving and disbursing public funds despite not being qualified to do so. Also facing the same complaint are officials of Villanueva's Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (Cibac), the House of Representatives and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).

SENATORS URGE IDENTIFY WITH PROOF PERSON "BEHIND" GARCIA: Malacañang and Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV equally shared the burden of identifying the powerful person behind ex-military comptroller Carlos Garcia and backing this up with evidence, a senator said on Sunday. Since Trillanes had claimed to have identified the powerful person to Malacañang, both the legislature and the executive department "shared the burden" of going public on the identity of this powerful person, Sen. Gregorio Honasan II said.

HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS CHAIRMAN URGES LIFESTYLE FOR COA AUDITORS: President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was urged yesterday to immediately subject around 6,000 auditors of the Commission on Audit to a thorough lifestyle check amid allegations of corruption involving members of the government's financial watchdog. Cavite Rep. Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya Jr., chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, underscored the need to ensure the independence of government auditors in departments and agencies they have been tasked to audit. "Definitely a lifestyle check should be made. Corruption can be greatly minimized if CoA auditors are not in cahoots with those who want to steal from government coffers," said Abaya

UN DENIES REPORT OF FILIPINO GENERAL PICKING UP $5m CHECK AT NEW YORK OFFICE: The United Nations has denied reports that a Filipino general had personally picked up from its New York headquarters a $5-million check supposedly covering reimbursement to the Armed Forces of the Philippines for costs incurred in sending peacekeepers abroad. "This is not the case," said the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operations (DPKO) in a statement furnished the INQUIRER by the UN office in Makati City. The DPKO noted "all payments and checks (covering peacekeeping-related costs) are issued under a cover letter to the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Philippines (to the UN)." It also disclosed it had "tracked (down) all payments and there was no Contingent-Owned Payment of $5 million" made to the Philippine government. The DPKO explained that "since its contribution to the Interfet peace operation in 1999, all contingent-owned payments made to the Philippine government have been made in accordance with this practice as per payment instructions received in writing from the Permanent Mission of the Philippines and signed by the (Philippine ambassador to the UN)."

LAWMAKER "SPEECHLESS, SHAKEN" BY ARREST ORDER: Dinagat Islands Representative Ruben Ecleo Jr. was "speechless, shaken and nervous" after an order for his arrest over a graft conviction was issued and calls to unseat him from Congress mounted...upon learning that the Sandiganbayan upheld his 2006 conviction for graft and issued a warrant for his arrest...Ecleo...the "supreme master" of the Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), was determined to clear his name in the continuing legal battle and ready to face his fate

GENERAL: LEGISLATION KEY TO CURBING ALLEGED AFP CORRUPTION >>> The Congress should come up with legislation that will correct flaws and deficiencies in the military's logistics and financial systems, Armed Forces vice chief Lt. Gen. Reynaldo Mapagu said Sunday. "We need to sit down with members of Congress so we can come up with laws aimed at correcting the flaws in our system and plug the loopholes that are taken advantaged by others," Mapagu said in light of alleged corruption within the military organization.

ECUMENICAL BISHOPS GROUP: EXPAND "PABAON" PROBE TO POLICE >>> Amid allegations of "pabaon" (sendoff money) for retiring top brass of the Armed Forces, a group of Catholic and Protestant bishops called on government Saturday to also look into possible similar practices in the Philippine National Police (PNP). The Ecumenical Bishops Forum (EBF) said the investigation is necessary to unearth allegations of corruption in the PNP, "whose reputation has gone down." "We also pray that something similar to this [investigation in the military] will come out from the ranks of the PNP," the EBF said in an article posted on the Catholic Bishops' Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) news site Saturday night. The EBF said the investigation can also touch on the reported involvement of police officers in human rights violations and even heinous crimes. At the same time, the group threw its support behind former state auditor Heidi Mendoza and former military budget officer Lt. Col. George Rabusa, who testified in recent congressional hearings on irregularities in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).


ALLEGED $5 MILLION UN CHECK BEING TRACED: The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has joined the search for an alleged $5-million check for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) that a former government auditor claims is missing. DFA officials have told the House defense committee that they are verifying from the United Nations whether it had really issued a $5-million check representing reimbursement to the AFP for costs incurred in sending peacekeeping troops abroad.

EX-NAVAL COMMODORE: "HIGH PROFILE" INDIVIDUAL GOT PHP 350m FROM AFP: Retired Navy Commodore Rex Robles on Saturday revealed that a high profile individual profited from the coffers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), far more than the generals who were named by former military budget officer George Rabusa. "Wait for the P350 million," Robles said...Robles, a close friend of former AFP chief of staff Gen. Angelo Reyes, refused to elaborate on the identity of the personality who reportedly demanded and received the P350 million. "It's about to come out," he said.

FREEDOM OF INFORMATION LAW + INFORMATION & COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY NEEDED TO COMBAT CORRUPTION: Incumbent and former legislators have underscored the importance of the Freedom of Information (FOI) law and information and communications technology (ICT) in good governance, particularly in the fight against corruption. "Had the FOI act been passed into law some of the corruption scandals that have plagued the country for years would have been avoided. Or at least, the evidence to pinpoint the perpetrators and prosecute them would have been available," said Neri Colmenares, Bayan Muna Party-List Representative. Speaking to participants of a symposium titled "Freedom to Know, Freedom to Interact: Participation Powered by ICT" held Friday, Colmenares said that having a right to information is useless if one has no access to it or is somehow prevented from getting the otherwise available information. "You have a right to information but it must also be accessible to you," Colmenares told the participants composed by members of the civil society, public sector, academe and members of the media.

COALITION TO PNOY: STILL TIME FOR FOI >>> President Aquino disappointed media groups and former allies in the civil society when Freedom of Information Bill (FOI) did not make it to the list of 17 priority measures that Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda announced recently. In an assembly...members of the Right to Know Right Now! Coalition expressed their dismay over the non-inclusion of the bill. In a statement they said, "We must confess that the Presidents refusal to include the FOI bill in his list of priority measures is a big letdown." "Despite the very clear categorical statement that he (President) will prioritize this (FOI), ito pa yung nalaglag," Atty. Nepomuceno Malaluan of one of the leaders of the Coalition pointed out.

COA RECALLS LONG-TERM RESIDENT MILITARY AUDITOR: Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Reynaldo Villar yesterday confirmed the replacement of military resident auditor Divina Cabrera after she was implicated in the fund scandal in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). Villar said Cabrera has been ordered to report back to the COA Central Office and reassigned to the Office of the Cluster Director with no particular item or position. Former military budget officer George Rabusa named Cabrera as the resident auditor of the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) who allegedly got a percentage of the funds for approved intelligence projects and operations. Rabusa testified before the Senate claiming Cabrera had received bribes in her 13 years with the ISAFP from 1991 to 2005 before she was transferred to the Philippine Navy.


UNHAPPY VALENTINES DAY FOR TWO FAKE SWEETHEARTS NABBED TRYING TO BRIBE IMMIGRATION OFFICER: Two would-be overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who posed as "sweethearts" bound for a vacation in Bangkok were stopped from boarding their plane at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA). Marlon Abarentos and Rosalie Castillo failed to convince immigration officer Raul Medina that they were sweethearts. The two were prevented from boarding a Thai Airways flight last February 9. Ledesma said the OFWs later admitted they planned to go to Kuwait for work although they do not have valid work permits. When Medina told them that he could not allow them to leave, the passengers immediately handed him a white envelope containing US$200 bribe money. Medina rejected the money and arrested the duo.

EX-OFFICIALS: "CORRUPTION KILLED REYES" >>> Corruption killed Angelo Reyes, according to the group calling itself Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO). The group, composed of ex-members of the Cabinet, on Friday issued a statement that sought to put into perspective Reyes' decision to take his own life amid allegations of corruption during his stints as Armed Forces chief of staff and as secretary of defense. The FSGO said lawmakers who took part in the Senate inquiry to which Reyes had been invited "could not and should not be blamed" for the suicide, "no matter how hurtful their statements may have been." It commended the members of the Senate and the House of Representatives for "putting names, faces, numbers and dates to the corruption that every citizen knows infects our officialdom." "General Reyes may have died by his own hand, but in truth, corruption killed him," the FSGO said.

Click here to read the full "Statement from the Former Senior Government Officials" (FSGO)

ARROYO CABINET LASHES OUT AT EX-GOV'T EXECS: Colleagues of the late Angelo Reyes in the Arroyo administration on Saturday hit back at the group called Former Senior Government Officials (FSGO) for suggesting that "corruption killed" the former military chief of staff and defense secretary. In a joint statement, at least 11 Cabinet members in the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said they "deplore the ill-timed and unkind FSGO statement."

REYES FAMILY RESPONDS TO CRITICS: The sons of the late former Armed Forces chief Angelo Reyes hit back at his critics yesterday, calling them "ignorant and envious" and with "nothing better to do than to cowardly criticize him."

PALACE WARY OF FOI BILL ABUSE: Malacañang is only being cautious about fully supporting the Freedom of Information bill because it might be abused by several groups, and would want a balance between transparency and privacy of confidential government data, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said yesterday. According to Lacierda, this is the reason why the FOI bill has not been included in the 17 priority bills that President Aquino would be turning over to the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council when it convenes on Feb. 28. "The most important thing right now is how do you balance government and privacy concerns? And how do you prevent an abuse of the use of an FOI bill? That is the reason why were looking at several models in first world democracies," he said.

RISK CONSULTANTS: UN REIMBURSEMENT FUNDS PRONE TO ABUSE, NOT AUDITED: An international risk consultancy firm recently released a report claiming that funds reimbursed by the United Nations to support the Philippines' peacekeeping contingents are prone to abuse since the funds were not subject to audit. In a report dated Feb. 7, the Pacific Strategies & Assessments (PSA) said the UN funds are not part of the military's annual outlay that's why they are not audited. "PSA sources contend that the UN funds and other discretionary AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) account receivables are ripe for malfeasance and abuse," the report said. "As a discretionary fund, the UN money is not part of the AFPs regular approved budget and, therefore, is not subject to routine audit," said the PSA

RICE WATCHDOG URGES AQUINO TO CHARGE GROUPS BEHIND SCAM: The watchdog group Bantay Bigas (Rice Monitor) on Tuesday pressed President Benigno Simeon Aquino III to name and charge groups and individuals behind the overpriced rice imports undertaken by the National Food Authority (NFA) since 2003 that pushed the NFA debts to P 177 billion at the end of 2010 from P 23 billion in 2003.

GENERAL PROBED FOR TAX EVASION, WIFE MAY FOLLOW: The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said Friday that it was considering filing a tax evasion case against the wife of a former Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) involving the purchase of properties in the US. During a Senate hearing last Monday, Senator Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada presented pictures of two houses in the US allegedly owned by Erlinda Yambao-Ligot, wife of retired Lieutenant General Jacinto Ligot..."If it the properties are under the name of the wife, then the case will be directed at her because she managed to buy properties without reporting any income," BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares said..."Tax evasion is personal to the person"...

FIGHT VS CORRUPTION IS EVERYBODY'S TASK: MEMBERS of the People's Action Against Corruption (PAAC) urged the public to actively get involved in the fight against corruption. ...Professor Adrian Tamayo said fighting corruption is everyone's responsibility. Tamayo cited the bad situation of country's income portfolio which has an outstanding debt of P5.063 trillion in 2010 much bigger than the country's annual budget of P1.514 trillion. He said corruption made every Filipino pay P30 a day for the country's debt hence, destroying political credibility. Tamayo said the effects of corruption poses a clear and present danger because of its depriving and creating social dislocation, distorted economic growth, deepening poverty, and severe income inequality.

GARCIA OWNED HOUSE IN BAGUIO: The government has confiscated a suspected ill-gotten property of retired military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia in Baguio City. Garcia owned a house and 1,000-square-meter lot along Cliff Drive in Loakan proper in the summer capital. The government sequestered the house and lot in August 11, 2010. Based on the deed of absolute sale, Garcia bought the lot in 1999 for P1.4 million from a certain Gilopez Kabayao. Immediately after, he had the house built. The house now has a market value of P1.2 million.

ROBREDO: NO FUND CONVERSION IN POLICE FORCES: Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo on Thursday said they have adopted measures to lessen the possibility of fund conversions in the Philippine National Police. Robredo said...that they started adopting reforms in the PNP finances in July last year in a bid to stamp out possible sources of corruption. He said they have decentralized fund allotments. This means the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame now directly release the budget allotments to each police station and police office with each of them knowing how much budget they have and being accountable for their disbursements.

CORRUPTION MESS HAS AUSTRALIA WORRIED OVER AID TO ARMED FORCES: The corruption scandal casting a shadow on at least three retired Philippine military chiefs also has Australian Ambassador Rod Smith admitting that his government is "very concerned" and asking that the Philippine government ensure that the allegations are investigated and acted on. Smith said that despite Philippine reassurances that some past problems arising from allegedly massive corruption have already been addressed and eliminated, Australia still expects the "proper accountability" of funds it gave to the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The ambassador said that his government is looking to the Philippine government "to ensure the allegations are properly investigated and appropriate action taken."

SENATE SUMMONS TWO EX-CHIEFS: The Senate has sent invitations to former Armed Forces chiefs of staff Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu for the fourth hearing of the Senate Blue Ribbon committee on the alleged corruption in the military and the circumstances of the plea bargaining agreement on the case of ex-military comptroller Gen. Carlos Garcia. Blue Ribbon committee chairman Sen. Teofisto Guingona III had ordered the Office of the Senate Sergeant-at-Arms (OSAA) to deliver the invitations to Villanueva and Cimatu. Mrs. Erlinda Yambao-Ligot, wife of former comptroller Jacinto Ligot, was also asked to attend the hearing set on Feb. 18.

HEIDI MENDOZA RALLIES FILIPINOS TO FIGHT CORRUPTION: (click here to read story on ANC "Rundown" interview), armed with a newfound faith in government, Mendoza is confident something will come out of the investigations. "I am confident something is going to happen. I will not be hiding. Hope is alive. There is a moving hand, a hand greater than all of us." She also calls on Filipinos to do their part in ridding the country of the scourge of corruption by volunteering information. "I think it's high time we learn to accept the fact that fighting corruption is not just the sole responsibility of government agencies. Katungkulan ng bawat mabuting mamamayan na labanan ang korupsyon."

WIFE LINKS EX-GOVERNOR TO HUSBAND'S SLAYING: Patty Ortega, the wife of murdered radio broadcaster Gerry Ortega, said on Thursday that former Palawan governor Joel Reyes is the mastermind in her husband's killing. Ortega, in an interview on ANC's Dateline Philippines, said Reyes had the motives to kill Gerry since he was a critic of the former governor and was one of the reasons for Reyes's defeat when he ran for the congressional seat in the 2nd district of Palawan in the May 2010 elections. She said Gerry discovered that Reyes and other officials took money from the funds of the Malampaya natural gas project, as well as from mining activities in the province. Patty also linked former president and currently Pampanga 2nd district representative, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and several other Palawan politicians to corruption in Palawan.

EX-GOVERNOR DENIES: Former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes denied accusations that he is behind the murder of radio commentator and anti-mining advocate Gerry Ortega last month. In a press conference on Thursday, Reyes said he is "outraged at the way my name has been deliberately dragged into the assassination of Dr. Gerry Ortega last January 24." "I firmly believe and categorically deny any involvement in this crime and remain confident that the true reason for this false accusation will soon be bared," he said.

PNOY HIT FOR NOT MAKING FOI A PRIORITY: The Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition, composed of multi-sectoral groups, appealed to President Aquino to reconsider his decision and include the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill in his list of legislative priorities. In a press conference, Atty. Nepo Malaluan, lead convenor of the coalition, said including the FOI in this administration's list of priority bills will send a strong signal that the President is committed to his anti-corruption agenda.

SANDIGANBAYAN ORDERS ARREST OF EX-MAYOR, NOW CONGRESSMAN: The Sandiganbayan has issued a warrant for the arrest of former San Jose, Surigao del Norte mayor and now Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr. who was found guilty of graft more than five years ago. The anti-graft court's first division issued the arrest order against him after the Supreme Court, in a November 2010 decision, junked his appeal with finality...Ecleo, leader of the religious group Philippine Benevolent Missionaries Association (PBMA), was found guilty of paying in full for the construction of a public market, a new municipal building and a guesthouse in his locality in October 2006...Government auditors discovered that the transactions and the project itself were fraudulent since none of the first two buildings were finished while the guesthouse turned out to be a privately-owned structure. Ecleo was sentenced to 31 years in jail while his former municipal planning and development coordinator Anadelia Navarra and Santillano, the private contractor from the construction firm PBMA Builders, were meted 21-year jail terms.

GENERAL: CORRUPION IN MILITARY NO LONGER EXISTS >>> Corruption in the military as revealed by retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa no longer exists in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), its spokesman said Thursday. "We'd like to inform you and stress that reforms have been ongoing as far back as a decade ago. Malpractice does not happen at this time," Lt. Gen. Jose Mabanta Jr. said at a press conference in Malacañang. Mabanta presented to media the reforms implemented by the AFP since the alleged corrupt activities of former comptroller Carlos Garcia were discovered in 2004.

BUREAUCRACY SLOWING REFORMS: President Benigno S. Aquino III is acting swiftly to combat poverty and corruption but is bogged down by bureaucratic procedures in the old system. Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. issued this statement in defending the Aquino administration against a flurry of criticisms of supposed sluggish performance to turn its campaign promises to reality.

SENATOR: REYES WAS NOT THE "POWERFUL PERSON" BEHIND GARCIA: The late former Armed Forces Chief of Staff Angelo Reyes was not the "powerful person" behind plunder suspect Carlos Garcia but probably somebody much higher than he, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said Thursday. The senator declined to name this powerful person, but when pressed by reporters if the purported corruption in the military would reach the level of then President and now Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, he said: "It's not far-fetched. Well go wherever this will lead us." Trillanes had earlier quoted Garcia as saying that he was fronting for a powerful person.

NUNS, PRIESTS TO FORM HUMAN CHAIN VS CORRUPTION: Several Catholic nuns and priests aim to send a strong message against corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) on Friday by forming a human chain along a major Manila thoroughfare together with one of the whistle-blowers. The Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) said retired Lt. Col. George Rabusa will join the human chain as a symbolic action of unity for truth and justice.

MENDOZA CAUTIONED VS ACCEPTING GOV'T POST: Saying it may send the wrong signals, a Catholic bishop on Thursday cautioned former state auditor Heidi Mendoza against accepting an offer by President Benigno Aquino III to work in the government. Cotabato Auxiliary Bishop Jose Colin Bagaforo said joining the Aquino administration is not prudent and could trigger misinterpretation. "It will not appear good. It would be better for her to remain as a whistle-blower and avoid impression that she's being used by some politicians," Bagaforo said

AUSTRALIA WORRIED ABOUT GRAFT - BUT AID TO CONTINUE: Australia will continue providing aid to peace efforts in Mindanao despite recent reports of massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), Ambassador Rod Smith told reporters in a chance interview yesterday. "We're very concerned about allegations of corruption in the AFP, just as we are concerned with allegations of corruption in any area," Mr. Smith said..."[But] we have a very good relationship with AFP," Mr. Smith said. "We are a big defense cooperation partner and we have an expectation that the strong understanding will continue."



More IntegriNews


Filing of plunder charges vs Ligot up to Ombudsman - Palace

P-Noy to hold pabaon generals accountable

Corruption probe drives wedge among PMA alumni

DEPUTY SPEAKER: Solons working on passage of FOI bill

Noy hit for "meddling" in Merci impeach case

President Aquino pledges before alumni of the Philippine Military Academy to immediately charge those who wronged the military institution and the nation

Aquino: Charge prosecutors involved in plea bargain

P740M bared in Ligot's 10 bank accounts

SPEAKER: No party stand on impeach raps vs Ombudsman

Cimatu denies asking money for spy plane

Sen. Estrada confronts retired AFP comptroller over US homes

Solons want AFP funds for personnel services probed

PROBE CHAIR: Senate should finish investigation on military corruption before looking into alleged perks given to director generals of Philippine National Police

Sandiganbayan convicts 2 ex-mayors of graft

Corruption probes led PNoy to meet defense, AFP officials

Justice Secretary: Department of Justice may extend corruption probe to Philippine National Police

Ex-PNP comptroller denies irregularities

Makati's anti-carnapping unit chief sacked

Ombudsman to lawmakers: Wait for final SC ruling

Ecleo asks anti-graft court to put arrest order on hold

SPEAKER: Ombudsman will have her day in court to explain her side when she faces justice committee in House of Representatives hearing impeachment cases against her.

Anti-graft group urges Ombudsman to quit

PALACE: Running after Garcia plunder protectors now a priority

PHILIPPINE NATIONAL POLICE CHIEF: No welcome or send-off cash gifts for me

Civilian comptroller for AFP proposed

SENATOR: Lim should return ill-gotten wealth

House Justice Committee wants to fast track impeachment proceedings against Ombudsman but is waiting for her to file Motion for Reconsideration before Supreme Court.

Ombudsman may face new complaint over Garcia

OFFICE OF SOLICITOR GENERAL welcomes Supreme Court ruling to proceed with impeachment complaint vs. Ombudsman

Ombudsman studying options on impeachment proceedings

What went before: Impeach raps against Ombudsman

DoJ eyes wider probe of military corruption

COA chairman won't leave post

COURT SPOKESPERSON: Impeachment now a "distinct possibility"

Palace, Senate, House welcome SC ruling

DOJ eyes special team to probe AFP corruption

House to recommend ouster of prosecutors in Garcia deal

DOJ chief eyes 'clearing house' for evidence on AFP corruption

House bill seeks to disallow plea deals in plunder cases

Bill seeking creation of civilian office to handle AFP funds revived in Congress

Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo orders local chief executives nationwide to fasttrack processing and issuance of business permits.

Reyes widow will be summoned - Drilon

SUPREME COURT: NBI should examine proof vs ex-mayor

Rabusa: I don't know Garcia's protector

Ex-Palawan governor ready to face wealth probe

Rabusa now under witness protection program

Ombudsman finds Bureau of Customs police chief guilty of grave misconduct and dishonesty for failing to disclose his properties.

AFP bids farewell to Reyes with 21-gun salute

Former Public Works Secretary appeals graft conviction

Palace: It's up to Senate to invite GMA to AFP corruption probe

Philippine Military Academy official claims morale of cadets getting stronger despite reports of alleged corruption by senior military officers.

SENATE PRESIDENT TO SENATOR: Prove ex-President involved in AFP corruption

Palace denies Aquino-Trillanes meeting on Reyes, AFP fund scam

Reyes's final words: life without honor is a tragedy

AQUINO ORDER: Cabinet members and other government officials who sit on the boards of government firms will no longer be entitled to any additional compensation for their functions in the state corporations...

Palace reacts to Aussie ambassador's concern over corruption

Palace slashes P8b from AFP budget, says it's 20% bloated

Probe land deal, Ombudsman asked

AFP to ask Congress for more flexibility in spending funds

Ombudsman orders filing charges against five policemen who allegedly inflicted injuries on people arrested for supposed offenses.

REPORTS on misconducts of policemen are flooding the National Police Commission (Napolcom) in the Cordillera Administrative Region.

Lawmaker blames AFP corruption on "internal syndicate"

Angelo Reyes death sets social media on fire

Documents confirm Ligot owned 2 houses in US

The ongoing military corruption scandal has left some USD 3.3 million in reimbursements from the United Nations for Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) deployment as peacekeeping forces in Haiti frozen.

President Benigno Aquino III has offered Presidential Security Group (PSG) protection former state auditor Heidi Mendoza.

Palace defends open Senate probe on corruption

Amid corruption allegations in the military, the Department of Budget and Management has decided to withhold 20 percent or about P8.3 billion of its budget this year for personnel services of the armed forces.

PALACE: Members of the media will be sitting in as observers in deliberations of the Department of National Defense's (DND) bids and awards committee

SENATOR: civilian should run graft-tainted AFP budget office



BETTER AUDITING: ...It would take more than a leadership change, however, to improve the performance of the commission. While the COA has uncovered anomalies in the past and promoted the judicious use of public funds in certain government agencies, the congressional inquiry into corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines is showing that more must be done. "Conversions" of huge amounts earmarked for the AFP and their diversion to private bank accounts could have been prevented or at least minimized if the resident auditor had done her job. The public is wondering why she was allowed to stay at Camp Aguinaldo for more than a decade before being transferred to another military assignment, the Philippine Navy. Ensuring the regular rotation of all its resident auditors is just one of the measures that must be implemented at the COA in the wake of the congressional investigation. The commission must also work with Congress and concerned executive agencies to make it easier for auditors to perform their duty. Corrupt officials will always try to find a way of skirting auditing rules. Improving systems and procedures to promote transparency and deter corruption must be among the results of the ongoing congressional investigation. The COA is ripe for a housecleaning, but this must be complemented by reforms in other agencies of government. -- Editorial in The Philippine Star

LETTER TO INQUIRER: I am deeply disturbed by the deafening silence of retired generals on the congressional investigations into the massive corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines...I agree with former Defense Secretary Orly Mercado who said that the "misplaced sense of esprit de corps of the military is the cause of corruption that has tarnished the AFP. It has been misinterpreted and misused and there should be no esprit de corps on the issue of graft and corruption," he said. (Inquirer, 1/11/11) -- MYK MIGUEL

LET THE SOLGEN INTERVENE: ...The SolGen's petition to intervene that he filed before the Sandiganbayan justices describes the Garcia-proposed and Ombudsman approved plea bargain deal as "illegal, irregular and beneficial only to the accused."...It is common knowledge in the legal profession that the rules of court require that the consent of the offended party must be given before any plea bargain agreement is approved. In this case, the AFP was not told that a deal had been proposed and that the Ombudsman had approved it to the point of presenting it for approval by the Sandiganbayan...The Ombudsman's prosecutors have opposed the SolGen's petition...The SolGen also said that in the course of arriving at the deal with Mr. Garcia, the prosecutors simply accepted "hook, line and sinker" the testimony of Nenita Cadre, the head of the AFP's bookkeeping division, that the P200 million was intact, and "no detailed statement was made on how the same P200 million is still intact." It turns out that the money cannot be found. The people must appreciate the efforts of the Solicitor General in trying to correct the gross violations of common sense, the rules of court and the moral demands of good governance in this issue. -- Editorial in The Manila Times

The recent speech of whistleblower Heidi Mendoza advising the youth not to pressure their parents so the latter will not be tempted to steal provoked a lot of people to think. Mendoza who headed an 11-man team that investigated the corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), gave her advice at St. Scholastica's College's "Truth Conversations" forum. Speaking through experience, Mendoza said there were times that her daughter tried to pressure her to commit corruption so they could be rich. She said "it is a difficult struggle but I did not give in. What is important is the money we use is clean." Mendoza advised her young listeners to be the conscience of their parents. "Do not, at any point, push them that they will be tempted to dip their hands into government coffers," she said...Cornelio Mangkun de Guzman in Remate

I submit that part of why corruption has become systemic in this country is that we put too much emphasis on "civility" over principles. The correct conduct should be to shame those who have plundered the public coffers so that they may not enjoy the fruits of their criminal acts as if they are civilized people. In other words, we should consider thievery as the worse form of conduct and deal with them accordingly: with absolute contempt. This is what is meant by zero tolerance to corruption. And this is what we must do to end corruption in this country. -- Atty. Harry Roque, Jr. in Manila Standard

Joey Yuchongco, chief of the police unit of the Bureau of Customs, has been dismissed from the service for unexplained wealth. For the first time since Merceditas Gutierrez became the Ombudsman, the antigraft body has made a right decision! Yuchongco was allegedly one of the henchmen of Mike Arroyo, husband of former President Gloria, at the customs bureau.--Ramon Tulfo in Philippine Daily Inquirer

Reyes' suicide is a wake-up call for everybody. It's a call for President Aquino, who is the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces. He has the obligation to do what must be done to cleanse the institution of graft and corruption. With corruption in high places in the military, it's the junior officers and the rank and file, who are in the hills fighting and dying against the enemies of state, who are most affected. Corruption in the military may have happened before President Aquino's time, but he is now the military's leader. He is now accountable. Thus, it's not enough that the Defense Department and the Armed Forces conduct their own investigations. It's likewise a wake-up call for the rest of us. We are all victims of corruption because the funds that are being enjoyed by the corrupt are supposed to be for our benefit, especially the poor's. -- Emil Jurado in Manila Standard

In light...of the totally credible testimony of Mendoza, does anyone really believe no one in Malacañang (or very close to someone there) ever called Gutierrez herself to go easy on Garcia? Yes, indeed, no money may have changed hands, but "utang na loob" is by itself a currency in this country infinitely more valuable than any denomination the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas can churn out any day. Given the egregious brazenness of the Office of the Ombudsman in exonerating all sorts of scalawags and scoundrels known to be allies of the Arroyos, it would be interesting to see how many hands are raised to affirm their trust and confidence in Gutierrez's integrity! We dare say without fear of contradiction, only those of her special prosecutors... -- STEPHEN L. MONSANTO in letter to Inquirer

SYSTEM FAILURE: Every day that passes with President Aquino stymied from fulfilling his campaign promise to go after the corrupt adds to that sense of frustration over a failed justice system. All the crooks are getting away with plunder and murder...When anti-corruption prosecutors and the nations court of last resort are seen as the biggest hindrances to anti-corruption efforts, what is left for the public to do but jump to conclusions? At least in a congressional inquisition, the public isn't frustrated by a protracted court trial. Accusations are hurled in the morning, the accused is skewered in public, judgment is rendered in time for prime time news, and the accused goes home with two options: either return another day for more public humiliation, or put a bullet through his chest. It can be appalling to watch, but at least someone is getting punished... -- Ana Marie Pamintuan in The Philippine Star

...more than conducting investigations, Congress should stop financing corruption in government, by closely scrutinizing the budgets of government agencies, especially the military and the police. Another thing lawmakers can do is set reasonable limits for staff augmentation in those agencies. Then they should also limit the authority of government agencies to utilize savings. Too much discretion in the use of funds offers too many opportunities for corruption. -- Editorial in Philippine Daily Inquirer

Whistle-blowers should be given utmost protection and kept in their jobs if employed in government. To expose anomalies in government, every citizen should be allowed direct access to P-Noy, through the Internet. -- BELEN DOCENA-ASUELO in Letter to Philippine Inquirer

Reynaldo Villar is posing another excuse to overstay as head of the Commission on Audit. His new alibi is the strongest there is: President Noynoy Aquino. Because P-Noy has not named a replacement, Villar says he will stay for as long as it takes...Invoking the President trumps all the points raised by COA predecessors why Villar should have stepped down on Feb. 2, 2011. It is the best refutation any beleaguered official can sic on critics. "The President so desires connotes "I am influential with him" Villar's justification supersedes his old defense. He initially claimed that his term did not end last Feb. 2, after serving four years as commissioner and three as chairman. Supposedly his appointment in 2008 as chairman gained him seven new years of tenure, pushing back his retirement to 2015...By insisting on overstaying, Villar could send a bad message to one and all. That is, that we need not voluntarily obey the Constitution - until and unless compelled by the President. -- Jarius Bondoc in The Philippine Star

In the Congressional inquiry at the House of Representatives on the plea bargain by AFP Comptroller, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia last week, it was obvious how some persons tried to destroy the credibility of Mendoza. But Mendoza's speech and demeanor - forthright and candid - only served to strengthen her credibility. On the other hand, those who attempted to discredit her only succeeded to bare their link to the conspiracy to protect Garcia and the Pandora's box which might expose even worse anomalies, once opened. -- Rita Linda V. Jimeno in Manila Standard

In what is now being bruited about as Angie Reyes' last statement that he "did not invent corruption" and merely "walked into it" while accepting aspects of corruption as a fact of life, it must therefore be asked: Why accept corruption as a fact of life in the country? Why not do something about it?...Reyes claimed that when he was just a lieutenant, the system of pabaons and pasalubongs as well as conversion was already there. And he claimed that reforms are not that easy to implement after the problems have erupted. But precisely, if everyone accepts that the corrupt system has been there for decades on end, and one has no choice but to walk into it, then obviously, this corrupt system will continue, and continues to this day whether in the military, police and even among the executive departments...Even today, there are so many sectors especially the military, that are making the suicide of Angie Reyes an honorable act, and even come up with the effort of having the congressional hearings come to a stop, when the real intent is to stop the probe from getting too deep into the corruption in the military, to ensure perhaps that this system should go on. If there was that genuine concern to rid the institution of the corrupt system, it would be more logical for the officers and men to push vigorously for the probe to at least start the reforms. Instead, there the military leadership goes, insisting that corruption no longer exist since 2005. And the military leadership thinks that the Filipino people still believe in fairy tales? -- Ninez Cacho-Olivares in The Daily Tribune

STOP THE HEARINGS? Should the hearings be stopped now? I vehemently disagree. Our senators and congressmen should continue with the inquiry. However, I do think that the hearings can be conducted in a more respectable, reasonable, courteous manner. In short, we should be able to conduct hearings where witnesses invited supposedly to "shed light on the issues" don't get browbeaten, insulted, threatenedin short, treated like criminals. The same is true for whistleblowers and officials accused of wrongdoing. I think hearings can become so much more productive if people learn to do in a more temperate way. I also think that our legislators should do a better job at making sure that something concrete comes out of these hearings...The reality is that these hearings rarely get things done in terms of actually putting the guilty behind jail although they make a darned good job shaming them in public. Unfortunately, shaming them in public is never enough because not everyone has the same tolerance for public embarrassment. I am more concerned, however, with the fate of whistleblowers. What will happen to Heidi Mendoza and George Rabusa in the next few months is something that worries me because I fear that they will become yet another Mary "Rosebud" Ong or even Jun Lozada. Whistleblowing has negative connotation in our country. Very often, the general assumption is that both whistleblowers and the parties they accuse of wrongdoing are of the same ilk"parepareho lang sila." The common perception is that people squeal on anomalous transactions because they were shortchanged or double-crossed. It doesn't help that mostnot all, certainly - of those who turn whistleblowers are often part of the whole stinking rotting mess who simply had a sudden change of heart, or have been coerced into becoming a reluctant witness. We're not a people supportive of whistleblowers. Our culture doesn't look kindly on snitches. Thus, whistleblowers, in addition to having to deal with ostracism and isolationbeing avoided like the plaguehave to contend with humiliation and harassment. Very often, they are pilloried publicly and their reputations are blown to smithereens by supporters of the people they accuse of wrongdoing in an effort to destroy their credibility. These and other reasons should compel our legislators to enact a law protecting whistleblowers. -- Bong Austero in Manila Standard

CONVERSION: Fund conversion, according to several lawmakers, is not unique to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. The government's budget system allows the conversion of a portion of regular appropriations into "savings" with allocations for personnel services among the biggest sources. The lawmakers said fund conversions are done in several executive departments and even the Commission on Audit, among others...Those trying to plug loopholes in the budget process that are exploited by the corrupt can set their sights low for now and focus on executive departments. Rabusa has provided enough details to show how millions of pesos in public funds can disappear in the AFP, turning corruption into a tradition of sorts in the Armed Forces. His story should pave the way for the passage of legislation to plug those loopholes. -- Editorial in The Philippine Star

I don't know why we accept as commonsensical the proposition that if others are doing what you're doing, even if its wrong, then it must be right. That was of course the argument behind the bishops' justification of "Hello Garci": "Everybody cheats anyway."... even if it merely made public officials less brazen, less barefaced, less in-your-face about their pillage, Reyes' act will already have amounted to something. If it made public officials more circumspect, more careful, more ashamed to be found out, Reyes' act will already have done quite a trick. The culture of impunity during Arroyo's time did not merely blanket mayhem, it blanketed pillage. It wasn't just murderers who plied their trade in broad daylight, it was highway robbers in gowns and barong Tagalog too. Reyes' act brings back reprehensibility to what they do. That is huge, bringing back reprehensibility to what they do. That is where I see the more lasting effect of Reyes' act - in changing the public's attitude toward corruption, in changing the public's tolerance of corruption, in changing the public's acceptance of corruption as nothing new. What Reyes has done is to make the public realize that corruption kills: It kills the foot soldier who is deprived of his means of survival; it kills the child who is deprived of his means of education. What Reyes has done is make corruption something to be deeply ashamed of, something you apologize to your mother about for suggesting to the world she raised a son or daughter not worthy of her name. What Reyes has done is to make corruption carry with it the most lethal consequences, making us tell our corrupt officials: If you cannot end your life, we will help you do the next best thing, which is to spend life in Munti or Bilibid. Reyes' act may not have a tremendous impact on the conduct of public officials, but it will have a tremendous impact on the thinking of the public - which in the end will have a tremendous impact on the conduct of public officials. -- Conrado de Quiros in Philippine Daily Inquirer

WHY WAS GARCIA GRANTED BAIL?: In a press conference, the Sandiganbayan announced that it had not approved the plea bargain. So, Garcia is still facing the non-bailable plunder charge, not the lesser bailable offenses. Even assuming that the plea bargain has been approved, Garcia is still not entitled to bail because he already pleaded guilty to two crimes. Thus, he should be committed to jail as penalty for the crimes. Bail is granted only to accord temporary liberty to the accused while he is facing trial. It flows from the constitutional presumption of his innocence. Unless otherwise proven, everyone is presumed innocent. However, Garcia has already pleaded guilty to two crimes. He himself has overturned the presumption of his innocence. He himself voluntarily confessed his guilt. Hence, trial is no longer needed to prove the charges. Why then should he still be entitled to bail? Non-lawyers, and at times lawyers too, are confused by the maze of legal complexities and technicalities that shroud this case. As a retired jurist, I have always believed that legal complexities and technicalities must ultimately yield to common sense and to the common good. Constitutional rights are intended to protect the poor and the unlettered from state tyranny. Ironically, the rich and the learned sometimes misuse and abuse these rights to thwart the very goal they were intended to promote: the speedy dispensation of quality justice.

...what was more shocking revelation in both public hearings, Gutierrez swore under oath the supposed audit report made by Mendoza was not available to them when she took over as Ombudsman. Neither, she noted, Mendoza's name was included as witness in Garcia's case. Grudgingly, Gutierrez acquiesced to endorse a recommendation by Congress to withdraw from the Sandiganbayan the plea bargaining agreement with Garcia given the "newly discovered evidence" as testified to by Mendoza and Rabusa before both Senate and House probe panels. Now, it's up to the Sandiganbayan to rule on this recommendation by Ombudsman Gutierrez. Like the wheels of justice that grinds slowly, the truth takes time to come out before the light of day, if not suppressed or twisted by those in power. -- Marichu A. Villanueva in The Philippine Star

...corruption has plagued the civilian and the military with equal impunity. And in both sectors, when a big fish was caught, one was thrown back (civilian) and the other was sentenced to two years of "hard" laborsomething like pulling up weeds. Does this mean there is no hope for us? Of course not. A confluence of events gives us more hope now than there ever was before. We have a President who is not tainted by corruption, we have a populace that has become highly sensitized to the issues, and we have a couple of very special role models: Heidi Mendoza, and now Angelo Reyes. Mentioning Heidi Mendoza comes as no surprise: her action was for others, at cost to herself, and with no thought of reward. But how can Angelo Reyes be a role model? There may be disagreement as to whether he killed himself to redeem/save from disgrace the honor of beloved institutions, (the military, PMA, his family have variously been named) or his own honor. Maybe it was a combination of all. But there can be no disagreement that he held honor above life. Surely an example to those who won't even give up their jobs when in disgrace. -- Solita Collas-Monsod in Philippine Daily Inquirer

We seem to talk about corruption like it is just another soap opera, unmindful of the damage that the drama exacts on the accused, as much as on the accusers and our institutions. We seem content watching from the sidelines as Congress mounts its investigations in aid of legislation, but fail to demand that Congress finish what it has started bring the cases to court, and the guilty, whether accused or accuser, to jail. We love to converse about corruption but also loath any need to stay with the story and prove the guilt, beyond reasonable doubt, of the accused and prove as well the truth, beyond doubtful agenda, of the accusers. -- Malou C. Mangahas in The Daily PCIJ Blog

DAVAO: THE BATTLE OF THE CORRUPT >>> The exchange of black propaganda between the camps of Customs Collector Anju Castigador and businessman Pong Reta is revving up to higher intensity. At the core of the battle between the Custom official and the operator of Aquarius Container Yard in Sasa is the lease contract between Reta and Customs that has been rescinded by Customs. The contract involves a portion of Reta"s property leased for free to Customs serving as a container yard where oncoming container vans are X-rayed for contraband and stripped or stuffed for a fee that goes to the pocket of Reta. Reta is said to have turned multi-millionaire from the ACY operation according to some Customs officials. Some Customs officials, on the other hand, who want to become a multi-millionaire like Reta want the ACY X-ray, stripping and stuffing operations returned to the Customs compound. Thus the sudden death of the 25-year contract. -- By ROGER M. BALANZA

Lt. Col. George Rabusa's revelations are just the tip of the iceberg. In addition to the conversion of funds, there is also the overpriced procurement of equipment, supplies and materials. There have been reports on the selling of guns and ammunitions. Also, the selling of gasoline by airforce personnel. Millions spent for C-130 repairs and drydock of Navy ships have been sources of corruption of top brass. The missing modernization fund have not been fully accounted for. This is a God given opportunity for President Aquino and Secretary Voltaire Gazmin to clean up the AFP Augean stables once and for all. The PMA, the PMA Alumni Association and the Association of Generals and Flag Officers (AGFO) must now go into deep soul searching of why some of its brightest officers become corrupt. SGV and MAP must be brought in to improve the systems in the AFP. The Commander-in-Chief must exercise decisive leadership on this matter. -- Ernesto M. Maceda in The Philippine Star

WHO TO BLAME: ...the attempt to pin the blame on the investigators or on the witnesses summoned to take part or on the media reporting the progress of the investigation misses the essential point. If we must find out who is to blame, we should focus our attention on the wrongdoers. We repeat: Not those who made the courageous decision to speak the truth about corruption, despite the very real risk to life and limb, but those who were or are corrupt. In the case of the Garcia plea bargain and the related case of corruption in the military, we should pin the blame on the officers who misused government funds and the auditors who looked the other way. And, if Gutierrez insists on finding nothing wrong with the self-evidently onerous plea bargain agreement, on her and her very special prosecutors too. This, we believe, is the only real way to make sense of Reyes sudden, shocking death. -- Inquirer Editorial

The death of Reyes should not deter either the Senate from continuing their investigation into military corruption or the House of Representatives from issuing as truthful a report as possible on the same issue, and not excluding Reyes. In the same way, we expect the Senate to get to the bottom of the allegations against Reyes, and if that means summoning the Reyes family for questions, after the period of mourning, then so be it. The self-evident perjury being committed by former comptroller Jacinto Ligot must be scrutinized and, if proven to the Senate's satisfaction, immediately sanctioned. Above all, the plea bargain agreement Carlos F. Garcia entered into with Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez must be recalled, and the prosecutors who failed both case and people penalized. -- Editorial in Philippine Inquirer

We need reforms in the AFP and also in Congress!...I have been supportive of the AFP since I began writing and it pains me that there are certain high ranking military officers who would dare create "Ghost" soldiers) in order to extract money from their payroll. These people should be thrown to jail as it would make our poor soldiers happy. -- Bobit S. Avila in The Philippine Star

STAMPING OUT CORRUPTION: It should be remembered that the corruption scandals that involved the Arroyo family were the subject of so many congressional inquiries and were made as basis for the impeachment complaints that were filed against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There are already numerous evidences that were gathered. And yet, the Aquino government has not yet demonstrated the political will to run after the Arroyo family. --By BENJIE OLIVEROS,



Statement by the People Management Association of the Philippines
Whistleblowing and Truth-telling

The allegations of graft and corruption in the Armed Forces of the Philippines have once again brought to the surface the urgency of boldly pursuing mechanisms to curb systemic corruption in our country.

The bravery shown by former Commission on Audit Auditor Heidi Mendoza and former AFP Budget Officer Retired Lieutenant Colonel George Rabusa underscores the critical role of whistleblowers in the fight against corruption. Whistleblowers not only help curb corrupt practices, they also embolden other citizens to emulate their example and dispel the notion that integrity in public service is a thing of the past.

However, we are deeply concerned that our existing legal and social frameworks are inadequate and ineffective in encouraging whistleblowing and protecting whistleblowers. Given the extent of corruption in the country and the seeming high tolerance for irregularities, there is an urgent and critical need to ensure that we have a supportive environment that encourages, protects, and rewards whistleblowers. It is important that those who expose corrupt practices are not penalized for telling the truth and are protected from retaliatory attacks. We ought to legitimize and make it easy for people to speak out against illegal and irregular transactions.

Simply put, no one will come forward if the costs of telling the truth far outweigh the benefits; more so if it will imperil the safety and security of the individual and that of his or her family.

We strongly appeal to the President to certify the bill that protects and rewards whistleblowers as a priority measure.

We strongly appeal to our legislators to ensure that the courage and bravery of whistleblowers such as Mendoza and Rabusa are not wasted and that the officials accused of graft and corruption are persecuted and punished to the full extent of the law.

We call on all our leaders both in the public and private sectors to help foster a culture that makes truth-telling a legitimate and socially rewarding task. Corruption thrives when citizens tolerate irregularities and do not report them.

Whistleblowing is an institutionalized practice in the private sector as part of sound corporate governance; the same must be the norm in the public sector. Our inability to institutionalize mechanisms to curb graft and corruption effectively has far-reaching implications on our competitiveness as a nation. Integrity is the bedrock of sound people management and development practices.


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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 
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