Monday, March 31, 2008

When Presidential Campaigns go pfft long before reaching the starting gate....

Last year, it started out as a campaign team composed of about about ten people and what they set out to achieve was so far out that anyone listening in on their meeting would burst out laughing.

Who the hell were they to think that they can actually mount a Presidential Campaign?

And, right now, in retrospect it seems those who had laughed at the laughable idea were right. It can't be done. Not at present, not in this country, and not for this candidate.

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.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Philippine Senate: NBN ZTE investigation sizzles then fizzles down

A serious bout of allergies have kept me from updating this blog from the Senate. Having gotten a whole lot better and gotten hold of some free time this Holy Week, I now resume my blogging with a post facto commentary on the NBN ZTE investigation at the Senate and other incidents worth taking note of.

After the surprise pulled off by surprise witness Leo San Miguel, Senators identified with the political opposition are calling in another member of what has been called the 'Greedy Group' that supposedly brokered the NBN ZTE deal. Businessman Ruben Reyes is up next on the stand and the question is, will he willingly or unwillingly spill the beans on corruption in the highest office of the land? Or will it be another surprise?

Some Senators who have figured prominently in the investigation on the NBN ZTE deal have been accused of grandstanding or just seeking publicity. The accusation has been attributed to some Malacanang Palace officials and known allies of the administration. A few Senators retorted that this was the Palace's way of trying to embarrass the Senate into stopping the investigation. Reporters at the Senate, however, believe that the only way to get a full exposition of the facts surrounding the NBN ZTE deal is for the Senate to continue with its investigation -- no matter what happens. There are still some journalists who profess some sense of their role as instruments of Democracy believing that by arming the public with facts they will be better equipped to make decisions and they currently side with the Senators turned investigators in their quest to unravel the whole story surrounding the NBN ZTE hearing. That decision can either mean calling for the President's ouster (which has happened and which the President has ignored) or siding with the President.

Just before former cable TV company executive Leo San Miguel stood before the joint committees investigating the NBN ZTE deal, Dante Madriaga's testimony described the workings of what he called the 'Greedy Group' which supposedly received an advance of $41 Million from ZTE officials purportedly for facilitating the approval of the National Broadband Network loan based project. The Greedy Group was allegedly composed of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Leo San Miguel, retired police official Quirino Dela Torre, retired COMELEC Chairman Benjamin Abalos, and Ruben Reyes. It was after Madriaga's testimony that Senator Panfilo Lacson and Senator Nene Pimentel announced that a 'surprise' witness would surface and reveal more about the Greedy group. Lacson said that the new witness would tell everyone how the P 41 Million was divided and distributed among the greedy group. But, when the day came for Leo San Miguel to spill the beans on the corrupt deal, Lacson started hedging on what San Miguel would testify to and in a radio interview, he was heard telling audiences that he didn't want to preempt what San Miguel was going to say before the Senate's joint committees.

It was just after a preliminary discussion on rules during 12th hearing of the ZTE NBN deal that San Miguel announced that all he would be testifying to would be about the purely technical matters of the NBN deal. This was followed by several hours of questioning by Senators where San Miguel repeatedly denied any knowledge of bribery taking place. Near the end of the hearing, Lacson and other Senators took turns calling San Miguel a liar.

It was in the aftermath of the hearings that Senator Richard Gordon's resolution (requiring investigating committees to make it mandatory for witnesses to sign an affidavit attesting to the matter that they were called to speak of or allow a deposition to take place before the hearing proper) became quite relevant. At the present instance, witnesses coming before a Senate inquiry are held to an oath of truth only on the day that they appear before the Senate and are not required to state their testimony on record before they appear at the hearing. This leaves the Senate open or vulnerable to witnesses who will claim one thing before taking oath and then changing their testimony after taking oath. In the case of Leo San Miguel, Lacson claims that San Miguel told him that he knew intimate knowledge of the distribution of the P 41 Million in bribe advances but under oath denied any knowledge of any attempt at bribery by any official.

After more than a hundred hours spread over 12 hearings, Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. and Senators Alan Peter Cayetano, Panfilo Lacson and Jinggoy Estrada feel that the investigation into the NBN ZTE deal is far from conclusion. The Senators want to put Ruben Reyes, a member of the Greedy Group, on the stand.

How, then, will Gordon's resolution (if implemented) affect the proceedings of the NBN ZTE hearing?

On one hand, cooperative witnesses will not be able to change their testimony as what allegedly happened with Leo San Miguel. It can lead to a faster conclusion of Senate investigations.

But reporters in the Senate have pointed out one other implication and that is the possibility that depositions might be conducted behind closed doors. At the current time, when some Senators have already been clearly seen as lawyering for President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and when hiding things from the public raises suspicions, some reporters say that implementing the resolution would have a negative effect.

Other reporters also say that the resolution can be an effective log jam in investigations, where uncooperative witnesses or hostile witnesses who do not want to appear at the Senate investigation can simply refuse a deposition or simply submit an affidavit denying any knowledge of the matter being investigated. Under the Gordon's resolution, witnesses who lack written and sworn in testimonies will not be allowed to appear in the hearing and expose what they know.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Philippine Senate: Leo San Miguel is Lacson's suprise witness on the NBN deal

Leo San Miguel surfaced this morning at the Senate as Senator Panfilo Lacson's new witness on the controversial NBN ZTE deal.

Right now at the hearing, San Miguel has just said that he was hired as the consultant of ZTE by Yu Yong. No document proves this arrangement. He was promised one half of one percent of the project cost if it succeeds.

He says that his responsibility was purely technical in nature.

He said that he hired Madriaga as his consultant.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Philippine Senate: Connecting Spratley's deal and the NBN ZTE deal

The coming days in the Senate will probably have people trying to find out the connection between the controversial NBN ZTE deal and the Spratley's deal.

Recently, a news report said that all references to the Spratley's deal had disappeared from the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs website.

The Arroyo Administration has been defending itself by pointing out that the Joint Marine Seismic Undertaking (JMSU) with China is similar to the one approved by former Senate President Franklin Drilon with Australia. What is not being shown in media, up to this point, are copies of both documents.

Exactly how the JMSU with China amounts to treason is not yet clear to the writer.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Philippine Senate: Roxas opposes Senate rejection of Supreme Court compromise formula

From the Press Release pile:

Senator Mar Roxas has asked his colleagues to reconsider their decision to reject the Supreme Court's compromise solution. The Supreme Court had proposed a solution whereby CHED Chairman Romulo Neri would appear before the Senate investigation into the controversial NBN deal but would allow him to elude specific questions about the NBN project and his conversations with President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on the matter.

In a statement, Roxas said that it would be a choice between pressing for the senate's power to arrest and working out the issues surrounding Executive Privilege.

"Let us not summarily rject a legitimate compromise with the High Court that would ultimately cast light on the intricate issue of Executive Privilege, especially as it impinges upon the commission of a crime, covering up a crime or the imperatives of national security and high diplomacy."

However, Roxas admitted that while accepting the Supreme Court's compromise would allow Neri to appear at the Senate NBN hearing, it would not assure that the CHED Chairman would tell the whole truth this time around.

"We leave it to his conscience to block the truth through executive privilege."

Writer's comment:
Roxas' would rather have Neri show up and say nothing. If so, what's the use of getting him to go to the Senate?

Philippine Senate: Lacson has new ZTE NBN witness

Fresh from the Senate Press Room:

In this week's Kapihan sa Senado, Senator Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson announced that he will be bringing forward a new witness to testify in the Philippine Senate's investigation into the controversial National Broadband Network deal.

Lacson refused to unveil the identity of the new witness. Senate Minority Floor Leader Aquilino Pimentel, however, dropped a hint by referring to the witness as a 'she'.

Senator Pimentel said that the new witness will testify on the acceptance of bribes and the distribution of the $41 Million of 'advances' on alleged kickbacks.

When asked if the testimony coming from the new witness would drag the First Family into the controversy, yet again, Pimentel said "Probably." He also described the witness as 'willing' -- as opposed to an 'unwilling' or hostile witness -- and that all that the Senate needed to do was to send an invitation to the witness, instead of issuing a subpoena.

With the surfacing of the new witness, the fourth one to be brought forward by Lacson, it is expected that the Philippine Senate will shift its focus away from CHED Chairman Romulo Neri. The CHED Chairman filed a case before the Supreme Court questioning the Senate's right to have him placed under arrest and caused the Supreme Court to issue a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) against the Senate's warrant of arrest, thereby effectively barring the Senate from getting a hold of Neri and subjecting him to further questioning.

In the Senate's previous investigative hearing on the NBN deal, Dante Madriaga was presented as a witness testifying on what he knew about the NBN deal and the 'gang of four' which he said had engineered the controversial transaction. Madriaga identified the gang of four as former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, former police official Quirino “Torch” de la Torre, IT expert Leo San Miguel, and businessman Ruben Reyes. He also testified that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and her husband, First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was part of what he called the 'greedy group' which includes the 'gang of four'.

Senator Richard Gordon had debunked the testimony of Madriaga, pointing out that the witness refused to sign an account of the NBN deal which the witness himself had written. (It must be noted, however, that Madriaga was under oath during the entire Senate hearing in which he testified.)

Malacanang scraps EO 464, Philippine Senate nixes Supreme Court proposal on Neri

I got a serious case of the the flue just as I decided to wield my Laptop of Justice in the Court of Public Opinion. This should explain why I haven't actually blogged directly from the Senate as promised. Ha-ha!

Two major things have happened in the past couple of days. First, Malacanang has scrapped Executive Order 464 which bars government officials from the Executive Branch from testifying in legislative inquires. Second, the Philippine Senate has rejected the Supreme Court's compromise solution that would have allowed former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Romulo Neri to resume his Senate testimony on the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp.

Finally, the search for truth has been unfettered or so it would seem if you had half a brain.

In the Philippine Daily Inquirer article on the revocation of EO 464, Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said that President Arroyo revoked the order because "she also seeks truth and justice."

“The President listens to the people. It is in the best interest of everybody to heal our present conflict…so [she] issued the order revoking [EO 464] immediately,” Bunye told Palace reporters.

“The President agrees [to the] search for truth. The fight against corruption is a pillar of this administration,” he pointed out.

Really?! The President is also seeking truth and justice too? Awww! Come on Mr. Bunye! You're making it seem that the truth is so hard to get at. Only a lawyer could ever think that finding truth and justice could be a complicated matter -- perhaps, it is because that the lawyers of Malacanang would want the President to tell the truth but at the same time not be held accountable for the truth.

This suggests that in Malacanang, not only does the left hand not know what the right hand is doing, it laughably suggests that President Gloria doesn't even know what both of her hands are doing! She is far too much of a politician to credibly feign sincerity in searching for the truth. The real kicker here is that if she wanted to know the truth, all she really had to do was to squeeze the First Gentleman by the nuts and ask if he really had anything to do with the NBN controversy. (Comically, perhaps the Big Boy would shout in excruciating pain and say "But Gloria, you were in on it from the get go! You know every thing about it from the start. This is Abalos' payback for orchestrating the 'Hello Garci' fiasco that won the Presidency for you.")

This suggests an acute kind of neurosis, a multiple personality disorder in the highest office of the land, where they have hidden themselves so far from the truth that the only way to get to it is to travel to another planet entirely.

Malacanang cannot claim to be fighting against corruption unless it is fighting against itself or is engaged in a Mafia style rubout of inferior corruption syndicates so it can monopolize corruption -- which, by the way, was what the Marcoses did.

It seems unlikely that any truth or credible findings will turn up if President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has herself or any of her minions investigated for corruption. In Japan and other nations whose leaders have a higher sense of honor, leaders faced with grave evidence of corruption either resign or commit suicide or both. Will we see that in the Philippines?

In any case, the investigation at the Senate will plod on as usual as Senators continue to ask the same questions over and over and over and over. Senator Loren Legarda, for one, had stepped in during a hearing and asked questions that were already asked by previous Senators. For a former broadcast journalist, she doesn't seem to be too keen on the practice of monitoring and keeping abreast with the latest developments before opening her mouth.

But anyway, what we are really hoping to hear from Neri are exactly the answers to the questions he refuses to answer. What we want to find out from him is whether President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo told him to approve the NBN deal despite having told her that Abalos had offered him a bribe of P200 Million. What we want to find out from Neri is if he knows that the President herself would benefit from kickbacks, whether directly or indirectly.

This is as much as I can blog right now, gotta make that trip to the senate. I will certainly blog some more later, so keep checking for updates on this blog.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Now blogging at the Philippine Senate

Everyday, starting today, I will be blogging directly from the Philippine Senate.

I've been toying with this idea for some time and I haven't been able to commit myself to actually doing something about it till now.

Now is a great time to start dishing out my take on what Philippine Senators are doing and show the whole world an unedited view of Philippine politics at work on the national level.

Let justice be served!
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