Saturday, March 22, 2008

Philippine Senate: Where Deputy Executive Secretary Manny Gaite got the P500,000 he gave to Lozada

In late February, Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite came to the Senate to explain how and why he gave NBN ZTE whistleblower Jun Lozada P500,000 allegedly to cover his expenses while he was hiding out in Hongkong.

There were at least three versions of the explanation given by Gaite, it was in the third version that Gaite said the P500,000 came partly from his uncle and from his sister-in-law and was to be used for the renovation of his in-laws’ house. Later, he said the money was part of the P1.5 million he had advanced from his uncle, Melquiades Gaite, in exchange for a piece of land that Gaite planned to sell to him.

Gaite points to serendipity as a motive for cavalierly handing over half a million pesos to an absolute stranger who would purportedly give it to Lozada -- who he met only twice and for purposes was also an absolute stranger. He was reported to have said that he lent Lozada the money because he happened to have cash at that time. All he really had to show as proof that he lent money was a receipt form which simply stated that such and such received P500,000.

Senators raised their doubts, even one of the richest among them scored Gaite (whose family is reputedly also quite moneyed) for being so careless in dispensing financial favors.

Now comes the buzz which probably explains why Gaite could afford to be so careless with lending money to absolute strangers.

Just recently, I overheard that the P500,000 was part of the P300 million sale of Philippine government property in the Nampeidai district of Tokyo, Japan. Said property was part of the World War II reparations given to the Philippines by Japan. The property was said to have been sold illegally and that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita (along with a few others) had engineered the approval of its sale. Just exactly how the Nampeidai property was sold is a story that I have yet to hear.

In anycase, Ermita denies any involvement in the awarding of the controversial contract for the development of a 2,500-sq m Nampeidai district property. He, however, said that Gaite was the Malacañang representative in the bids and awards committee (BAC) for the Nampeidai property. Finance Undersecretary Gaudencio Mendoza headed the BAC for Japan properties. Ermita speculated that because “Gaite is my deputy executive secretary, so they (the political opposition) are connecting this with me,” he said. “It's an internal fight between the principal (Masahiro Nagayama) and the one he gave a special power of attorney to (Masaichi Tsuchiya). It has nothing to do with BAC anymore,” Ermita said.

One news story, filed as "Corporate row delays Tokyo lot development" by Lawrence Agcaoili on February 28 says:
In 2005, the Nagayama-Taisei consortium won the rights to develop the Nampeidai property and issued a special power of attorney to Tsuchiya that enabled the firm to negotiate a service and development agreement with the government.

However, the consortium revoked the special power of attorney it issued to Tsuchiya in March 2006 due to loss of trust and confidence. Despite the move, the government, with the blessing of the Office of the President, decided to award the development rights to Tsuchiya. This forced Nagayama to go to court after the Philippine government ignored its move to rescind the special power of attorney.

The Nagayama-Taisei consortium originally planned to construct a building on the property worth ¥1.7 billion. About 22 percent of the building would be reserved for the exclusive use of the government, specifically to house the Philippine consulate. The duration of the development and lease agreement is 50 years.

Despite the setback, the government will bid out the 4,361-sq. m. property in Fujimi Cho, Chiyoda Ku houses the official residence of the Philippine ambassador worth at least P3 billion.
On March 10, another news story filed as 'CA stops lower court on dev't of RP property in Tokyo' by Ira P. Pedrasa said:

MANILA, Philippines - The Court of Appeals (CA) has enjoined the Pasay City Regional Trial Court from halting the execution of a deal that seeks to develop a 2,500-square meter state-owned property in Tokyo, Japan.

In a resolution penned by Associate Justice Aliño-Hormachuelos, the second division issued a temporary restraining order against the lower court, which also issued a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the deal despite a law that "prohibits the issuance by any court, save the Supreme Court, of a TRO or preliminary injunction [on a government project]."
The next day, the TRO on the development was lifted, here's the story by Rey Requejo:
Court lifts TRO on Nampeidai land project

THE Court of Appeals has stopped a Pasay City regional trial court from preventing the government from continuing a development deal for a state-owned property in Nampeidai District, Tokyo.

In a four-page resolution, the appellate court’s Second Division stopped the orders of Judge Rosario Ragasa of Pasay City RTC Branch 108 granting the motion for a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction.

In the decision, Associate Justice Portia Alino Hormachuelos said that Section 3 of Republic Act 8975 prohibits the issuance by any court, except the Supreme Court, of a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction “to restrain or prohibit the commencement, prosecution, execution, implementation and operation of any such contract or project.”

“Accordingly, the respondents and those acting on their behalf are hereby temporarily enjoined from enforcing the Jan. 2, 2008, Jan. 15, 2008 and the Feb. 6, 2008 orders which were allegedly issued without any basis and in grave abuse of discretion,” the CA ordered.

The three separately dated orders of the Pasay City RTC had granted the motion of Masahiro Nagayana, lead partner and manager of Nagayama-Taisei Consortium.

NTC had asked the court to stop the Philippines from implementing the Service and Development Agreement it entered with Masaichi Tsuchiya, attorney-in-fact of the NTC.

The appellate court also directed Judge Ragasa and Nagayama to file their comment within 10 days on the petition for certiorari, prohibition and mandamus filed by Tsuchiya last Feb. 18 before the CA. In his petition, Tsuchiya through his lawyer Rodolf Britanico asserted that the orders of the lower court violated 20 substantive and procedural laws and rules.

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