Items filtered by date: Wednesday, 27 September 2017

After Ombudsman said President, kin bank deals were over P1B, De Lima asks Duterte: ‘Sino kamo ang kurakot?’

File photos of Sen. Leila de Lima (from Philstar) and President Rodrigo Duterte (from Malacanang)

MANILA, Philippines — Who did you say was corrupt? 

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima on Thursday posed this question to President Rodrigo Duterte after the Office of the Ombudsman said that based on documents from the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC), the bank transactions of the chief executive and his family through the years amounted to over P1 billion. 

De Lima said it would be difficult to fabricate AMLC records and if it does not have information about hidden wealth allegations, the council wouldn’t release any data even if it’s the President himself or the Department of Justice chief is the one requesting the agency to do so. 

Mahirap pekehin ang AMLC records. Kapag wala kang tagong yaman, katulad ko, wala talagang mailalabas ‘yan, kahit Pangulo at Secretary of Justice pa ang nag-utos sa kanila,” she said. 

Kapag meron ka namang isang bilyon, kahit Pangulo ka pa, hindi ‘yan maitatago saAMLC [If you have P1 billion, even if that money belongs to the President, that can’t be hidden from the AMLC.]  

Last year, Duterte censured AMLC for allegedly turning a blind eye to money launderers, including De Lima, who was accused by the administration of engaging in narcotics trade. 

After the council caught the President’s ire, the AMLC in November released De Lima’s bank records to the DOJ but Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II did not disclose the content of the documents. 

In December, Duterte again assailed AMLC officials for being allegedly uncooperative with the National Bureau of Investigation in its investigation of suspected drug criminals, saying they “are all corrupt and serving masters.” 

But Aguirre said the President was only referring to three AMLC officials, including the council’s Deputy Director Vincent Salido, who were allegedly De Lima’s fraternity brothers. 

The DOJ chief said last December that while the AMLC had already submitted De Lima’s records, the council was “stonewalling” because it still failed to furnish the department with the council’s assessement of the senator’s bank records. 

On Thursday, De Lima said that despite “all the powers wielded” by Duterte to allegedly fabricate basis to his claim that the senator had bank transactions amounting to P10 billion, “Duterte and his Secretary of Justice are still not able to show a single centavo of AMLC bank transaction records to prove that drug money flowed into my bank accounts. Not even one peso.” 

Recently, the Office of the Ombudsman announced that it had recommended the conduct of a fact-finding investigation on the the wealth of Duterte and his family based on the complaint filed in May 2016 by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV. 

According to overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang, the Ombudsman’s office now has a copy of bank records from the AMLC that “more or less” look like Duterte’s supposed bank transactions attached by Trillanes to the complaint he filed last year.

Ngayon Ginoong Duterte, sino kamo ang kurakotSana bawiin mo na ang mga pekeng paratang mo sa akin [Now, Mister Duterte, who did you say was corrupt? I hope that you will withdraw your fake accusation against me],” De Lima said.

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Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge to organize US opposition to Marcos

I have crossed the Golden Gate Bridge more than 100 times in the 46 years that I have lived in San Francisco but my most memorable crossing occurred 45 years ago this past week when I rode in a 4-car convoy for a weekend retreat at Camp Arequipa, a girl scout camp in Fairfax, Marin County. There were about 20 of us, young Filipino activists from all over the U.S. who were attending a conference of correspondents and distributors of the Kalayaan International, a radical monthly community newspaper which I started in my tiny room ($50 a month) at the International Hotel in San Francisco's Manilatown in May of 1971.
One of the members of our Kalayaan Collective, Cynthia Maglaya, a veteran of the First Quarter Storm (FQS) of activism in the Philippines, suggested the conference to “consolidate the progressive forces” among Filipinos in the US. While our radical paper drew support from "movement" activists who had immigrated to the US, it also attracted Filipino Americans who had never even visited the Philippines and could not speak Tagalog or Ilocano but who were finding their Filipino identity consciousness within the broader Third World and Asian American movements sweeping the country.
We initially planned our conference for April 1972 but this was postponed to June 1972 and finally to September 1972.
MEETING AT A GIRL SCOUT CAMPcollage1
Among those flying in, or driving up, to San Francisco for the Kalayaan conference were: Eddie Escultura from Chicago, Greg Santillan from Philadelphia, Jaime Geaga and Esther Soriano from Los Angeles, Paul Bagnas and Felix Tuyay from San Diego, Terry Bautista and Sylvia Savellano from Oakland, John Foz and Joe Tolero from Daly City, John Silva, Tessie Zaragoza and Bruce Occena from Berkeley, Cathi Tactaquin from Salinas, Emil de Guzman, Bill Sorro, Gil Mangaoang, Estella Habal and Gil Carillo from San Francisco.
We were crossing the Golden Gate Bridge and joyfully basking in the warm glow of a glorious sunset when suddenly the news blared out over the radio that Ferdinand Marcos had just declared martial law. We were all shocked but not entirely surprised by the news as we had been predicting it for months. We were saddened by the thought that thousands of our compatriots in the Philippines were being arrested, tortured or killed resisting martial law. We imagined the closure of democratic institutions like the courts, the press and the Congress.
When we arrived at the girl scout camp that night, we quietly gathered together at the main cabin and decided to scrap all our painstaking plans for the growth of Kalayaan-International as the events in the Philippines had overtaken us. We would now have to focus on how we were going to respond to the challenge of martial law.
We decided to form a national organization and establish chapters all over the US. We called our group the National Committee for the Restoration of Civil Liberties in the Philippines (NCRCLP). When Sen. Raul Manglapus later formed his own national group in Washington DC in 1973, he had the right idea. Movement for a Free Philippines (MFP), short and sweet.
MAPPING STRATEGIC PLANS
We laid out plans to organize a National Day of Protest on October 6 to show the world that Filipinos in America were opposed to the Marcos dictatorship. We set up pickets in front of the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC and in front of Philippine Consulates throughout the US. In San Francisco, I invited the students in my Philippine History class to join me in the picket line. All but one did.
It was pure coincidence that our conference fell on the weekend martial law was declared as it would have taken us months to plan and organize a national conference to deal with martial law. It was serendipity.
We analyzed that Marcos would not have declared martial law without the consent and approval of the United States so we believed that key to ending martial law was to lobby the US Congress to cut off military and economic aid to the Marcos Dictatorship.That would be our national strategy.
We created an NCRCLP Research Committee which met regularly in the basement of the Berkeley home of Lydia Araneta and Nilo Sarmiento, with Craig Scharlin and Lilia Villanueva, Mike and Elena Swanson, and Lydia’s “kids,” Christine and Anna Tess. We would later establish contact with Dr. Ellen Snow, the foreign policy adviser of California Sen. Alan Cranston, regularly providing her with information about martial law. collage2
SEN. CRANSTON DENOUNCES MARCOS IN THE US SENATE
The information we provided Dr. Snow inspired Sen. Cranston to deliver a speech on the floor of the US Senate on April 12, 1973, which include this gem: “Foreign dictators seem to feel that all they have to do is proclaim their anti-communism and we will rush to their side with dollars and guns. A few of them, such as President Marcos, even pretend that they are strengthening democracy.”
Two young activists who were arrested and imprisoned in the Philippines during martial law were then deported to the US because they were US citizens. When Melinda Paras and Deanie Bocobo arrived in San Francisco, we met with them and arranged for them to go on a national speaking tour.
Another American who was deported from the Philippines was Fr. Bruno Hicks, a Franciscan priest who spent 10 years in Negros Occidental province organizing farmers cooperatives, before he was arrested by Marcos soldiers, imprisoned and deported back to San Francisco. In the speaking tour we arranged for him, Fr. Hicks described “simple and conscientious peasants forming their own political opinions, expressing them, beginning to vote independently of their landlords and their employers. Could this have been the reason martial law was declared because democracy was actually beginning to work, because the grievances of the masses were finally getting organized, getting aired, and bringing pressure to bear on the political institutions?”
The NCRCLP Bay Area Cultural Group was formed where the members sang patriotic Filipino songs like “Ang Bayan Ko” and performed skits depicting the effects of martial law in the Philippines and exposing the US role in the declaration of martial law. We held our public forums and cultural events at the Glide Memorial Methodist Church in downtown San Francisco as the Rev. Cecil Williams was an early suporter.
CONSUL-GENERAL BALIAO DEFECTS
In October of 1972, the Philippine Consul-General in Los Angeles, Ruperto Baliao, privately informed NCRCLP members of his reservations about martial law. He joked that he may even be joining us soon. On May 18, 1973, Consul Baliao held a press conference in L.A. to announce his defection from Marcos whom he called “the new Hitler”. He read his cable to Secretary of Foreign Affairs Carlos P. Romulo, Consul Baliao where he said: “after many sleepless nights of soul-searching, I have finally decided that I cannot in good conscience continue serving your administration which is dedicated to the perpetuation of Pres. Marcos despotic rule and the continued suppression of our people’s civil liberties.”
Consul-General Baliao revealed a telegram dated April 25, 1973 which he received from the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (ISAFP) containing a list of over 100 Filipinos in the United States whose activities were considered “detrimental to the national interest.” He was given instructions not to renew or extend the Philippine passports of those in the “blacklist”.
Consul-General Baliao accepted our offer to go on a nationwide speaking tour to denounce Marcos and martial law. In Washington DC on June 9, 1973, he even led a demonstration in front of the Philippine Embassy where he was joined by Raoul Beloso, the former chairman of the Small Farmers Commission of the Philippines.   
PICKETING MARCOS EVERYWHERE
Wherever Imelda Marcos traveled in the US, she was met with NCRCLP pickets. On one occasion, when we learned that she was passing through San Francisco, we rushed to the San Francisco International Airport to picket her. But when we got there, airport security stopped us from setting up our picket line. So I went to the white courtesy telephone and requested the airport announcer to please page a certain individual. As Imelda Marcos was walking through the lobby of the airport, she could hear this loudspeaker announcement “Calling Miss Ibagsak C. Marcos, Miss Ibagsak C. Marcos, please come to the white courtesy telephone.”
In April of 1973, the Methodist Church offered us free offices at the UNITAS House in Berkeley. Next door to our office was the group fighting the Brazilian Dictatorship. When I asked them how long they had been organizing in the US against the Brazilian generals, a member responded “since 1964”. That was 9 years at the time and I told him that the Marcos Dictatorship would not last that long. “The Filipino people will never accept it. We will topple Marcos very soon and civil liberties will be restored in the Philippines,” I said confidently.
How wrong I was. Martial law in the Philippines would last for nearly 14 years from 1972 through 1986.
But unfortunately, NCRCLP would not last anywhere nearly as long. After we published our 36-page newsmagazine, Silayan, in July of 1973, the NCRCLP, as a national organization, ceased to exist.
CADRE OVER MASS
Melinda Paras, who had gone on a speaking tour all over the US after she was deported from the Philippines, forged a political alliance with Bruce Occena of our Kalayaan Collective and together they initiated intense discussions among our NCRCLP members about the need to create a “cadre” organization to surpass the “mass” organization that was the NCRCLP.
The result of their efforts was the formal organization of the Katipunan ng mga Demokratikong Pilipino (KDP) – which was formed in Berkeley, California in July of 1973. Elected as the national chair was Melinda Paras who insisted, despite my pleas, that NCRCLP must be dissolved in order for the KDP to thrive.     
One by one, the NCRCLP chapters around the US dissolved, all except for the Los Angeles chapter under Esther Soriano, Lilian Tamoria, and Eric Lachica. That last NCRCLP chapter, which would later be led by UCLA Prof. Enrique De La Cruz and Atty. Prosy Abarquez De La Cruz, would resolutely continue the NCRCLP until the end of martial law in February of 1986.
So ended what began with the convoy crossing of the Golden Gate Bridge in September of 1972.
(The author taught Philippine History at San Francisco State University when martial law was declared and would later serve as Secretary-General of the NCRCLP. Send comments to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call ).

 
 
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‘The Filipino people can handle the truth’

It is important for the government and for government officials to be honest to the people.  Truth is the best bridge to build trust and confidence between the government and its people.  

My memory always takes me to the 1992 motion picture “A Few Good Men” when the subject of government and public official integrity is brought up.  Remember the movie?  For most who have seen it, the following dialogue and exchanges between actors Tom Cruise (“Lt. Daniel Kaffee”) and Jack Nicholson (“Col. Nathan Jessep”) are unforgettable---

Col. Jessep:  You want answers?
Lt. Kaffee:  I think I'm entitled to them.
Col. Jessep:  You want answers?
Lt. Kaffee:  I want the truth!
Col. Jessep: You can't handle the truth! Son, we live in a world that has walls. . .

 

The subject of lying and demanding truth from government officials is again a hot issue in the Philippines after President Rodrigo Duterte admitted in public that he made up the bank account number that he accused Sen Antonio Trillanes IV of having at a Singapore bank.  The president also said that he knew in the first place that the senator had no such account.

What is happening here?  Did the president forget the sacred oath that most Filipino boys of his generation were taught during their years in the Boy Scouts--- 

“On my honor, I will do my best.  To do my duty to God and my Country and to obey the Scout Law; To help other people at all times; To keep myself physically strong, . . .”   

The admission of the president leads many people now to question more strongly his bloody war on drugs and whether the number of drug users and addicts as claimed by him are true.  

According to the official estimates in 2012, there were 1.3 million users, which amount to 1.3% of the country’s population in 2012.  The primary source for this information is the government’s own Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB). 

But during his political campaign for presidency and when he assumed office, President Duterte started feeding the public that there are “3.7 to 4 million addicts or even more.”  

Then this year the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) estimates that there are 4.7 million drug personalities in the country, the highest figure cited by the administration since launching the drug war which now leads the Philippine president to claim that the problem is already a “national security threat.”

Many Filipinos believed the president’s numbers and his pronouncements at first including his promise that he will “solve the drug problem” in the country in three to six months.  More than a year has passed since he took office and it is estimated that more than 10,000 deaths have resulted from his drug war, but recently, he admitted that the problem cannot be solved during his term. 

Then came this recent boast that he “fooled” Sen. Antonio Trillanes about the offshore bank account in Singapore.  But by not being truthful and making admissions about statements said that are not true--- who actually is making a fool of himself?    

The president should never forget that the public and the people listen to him and they remember what he says.  And what he says will affect the people’s trust in him if he is caught lying.

The Filipino people remember that their president told them many times before that he grew-up poor, that he slept under a “mosquito net” just like any ordinary poor person, and that he could relate to those who are disadvantaged in society because his family was also poor.  But now that his net worth and assets are at issue, President Duterte claims that what he has came from assets that he inherited from his family.

The president needs to be told and he needs to know that the Filipino people want the truth and that they deserve to know the truth.  He should also start believing more and trusting the people’s intelligence and that it is not up to him to decide and to make the call whether his people can handle the truth or not--- especially when it comes to matters of public safety, liberty, and government and public official integrity.    

Jojo Liangco is an attorney with the Law Offices of Amancio M. Liangco Jr. in San Francisco, California.  His practice is in the areas of immigration, family law, personal injury, civil litigation, business law, bankruptcy, DUI cases, criminal defense and traffic court cases.  Please send your comments to Jojo Liangco, c/o Law Offices of Amancio "Jojo" Liangco, 605 Market Street, Suite 605, San Francisco, CA 94105 or you can call him (415) 974-5336.  You can also visit Jojo Liangco’s website at www.liangcolaw.com.

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Think of getting married after 2 months of entry? Think again.

Question: I entered a couple of months ago to the U.S. I want to get married and file my adjustment application. Do you see any problems with that?
Answer: Yes, it will be a problem. On September 1, 2017, the Department of State (DOS) updated the Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) with new guidance on the term “misrepresentation” for purposes of determining inadmissibility under INA §212(a)(6), which provides: Any alien who, by fraud or willfully misrepresenting a material fact, seeks to procure (or has sought to procure or has procured) a visa, other documentation, or admission into the United States or other benefit provided under this Act, is inadmissible.
Specifically, it has been substantially revised, the “30/60 Day Rule” has been eliminated, and new sections regarding status violations or “inconsistent conduct” within 90 days of entry, and after 90 days of entry have been added. The changes articulated in the FAM can have potentially significant consequences for individuals who apply for adjustment of status or change of status after entering the United States on a nonimmigrant visa or temporary basis.
 
Question: What Activities Will Trigger the Application of the 90-Day Rule and How Has This Changed from the 30/60-Day Rule?

 

Answer: Though the wording is slightly different, the following actions that are sufficient to trigger the application of the rule: • Engaging in unauthorized employment; • Enrolling in a full course of academic study without authorization and/or the appropriate change of status; • A nonimmigrant in a status prohibiting immigrant intent marrying a USC or LPR and taking up residence in the United States. • Undertaking any other activity for which a change of status or an adjustment of status would be required, without changing or adjusting status.
 
Question: At What Point Does the 90-Day Rule Create a Presumption of Misrepresentation and How Has This Changed from the 30/60 Day Rule?

 

Answer: Under the new 90-Day Rule, a presumption of willful misrepresentation will be applied to a person who violates his or her nonimmigrant status or engages in conduct inconsistent with that status, as described above, within 90 days of entry. This is significantly different from the prior rule, which allowed for such a presumption only if the status violation or conduct occurred
within 30 days of entry. Under the prior rule, if the status violation or conduct occurred more than 30 days but less than 60 days after entry, no presumption of misrepresentation would apply but if the facts gave rise to a “reasonable belief” that the individual misrepresented his or her intent, he or she would be provided the opportunity to present evidence to the contrary.
 
Question: What if the Conduct Occurs More Than 90 Days After Entry into the U.S.?
Answer: Under the new 90-Day Rule, no presumption of willful misrepresentation arises if the individual violates status or engages in conduct inconsistent with his or her nonimmigrant status more than 90 days after entry into the United States. However, if the facts of the case give rise to a “reasonable belief” that the individual misrepresented the purpose of his or her travel at the time of the visa application or application for admission, rather than providing the opportunity to
present evidence to the contrary, the Consular Officer must request an Advisory Opinion.
This, it now is easier for officers to make the fraud charge and harder for clients to get around it. Thus, be sure before you do anything inconsistent with the B2 Visitor Visa status that you seek the advice of an immigration attorney.
 
 
 
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CJ Sereno camp wants to cross-examine impeachment witnesses

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHT. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's legal team want to cross-examine Larry Gadon's witnesses in the impeachment complaint against the chief justice. Photo by Lian Buan/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Citing the House of Representatives’ rules of impeachment, the camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday, September 28, asked that they be allowed to cross-examine witnesses that will be presented against her should the impeachment process reach that stage. 

Sereno’s lawyer filed a letter before the committee on justice. 

 

Her camp, in a statement issued by her spokespersons, said the Chief Justice "has been more than cooperative throughout the process of her own impeachment... Despite the perjurious nature of the complaint and the dubious method of obtaining documents." (READ: Sereno impeachment: Supreme Court OKs release of documents to aid VACC complaint)

“Despite the short amount of time, she complied and filed her answer, responding to all points and attaching all necessary documents,” they added. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint)

Asked why they were filing this letter in the first place, Sereno’s spokesperson cited information from sources, including “friends [and] allies.” “There are alarming indications that she will be denied the right to cross-examine,” said her camp. 

"We humbly submit that under the House Rules, persons who would testify during the hearing would not be considered mere 'resource persons' who would be questioned solely by committee members. Those persons would be full-fledged witnesses, who would be examined by a proponent, and cross-examined by an opponent," Sereno's lawyers said in the letter. 

'Fake news' 

They also insisted that the complaint must be junked in the first place. 

Earlier, referring to allegations about non-disclosure in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, her spokesman, lawyer Carlo Cruz said, "All the documents are there, the income tax returns and everything, these would show the public that these particular allegations of Atty (Larry) Gadon appear to have been made perhaps on misinformation."

"She maintains that the complaint is baseless, malicious, based on conflated hearsay, even contrived. It is a purveyor of fake news... there is no place for fake news in any civilized society and Congress, for that matter," said lawyer Josa Deinla in a chance interview after they filed the letter. 

Lawyer Anzen Dy, a member of Sereno's legal team, added: "Cross examination is a very important tool in finding the truth… this is not just for [Sereno but for the committee to find out the truth." 

Her team cited Section 6 of the House's impeachment rules which states that "the Committee, through the Chairperson, may limit the period of examination and cross-examination." Sereno's team said that it does not makes sense to impose limits if the option to conduct direct and cross-examinations don't exist in the first place. 

While the House Rules state that the Rules of Criminal Proceedure under the Rules of Court also apply to impeachment proceedings, Sereno's team contended that this contradicts Section 6, which makes a reference to direct and cross examinations. Under the Revised Rules on Criminal Procedure, examinations and cross-examinations are not allowed. 

Justice committee chairperson Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali had earlier said himself that Sereno would have the "Constitutional right to confront the witnesses." 

Sereno's camp is also asking that they be allowed to object to "improper questions" during the direct examination of the witnesses. They also want copies of evidence submitted before the committee in support of the charges against Sereno.

Impeachment process

The first verified impeachment complaint against Sereno, filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, was declared sufficient in both form and substance by the committee on September 13. They junked a second complaint against the chief justice. 

Sereno filed her reply to the complaint on September 25. Gadon is expected to file his own reply on September 28. Once all pleadings, affidavits, and counter-affidavits have been filed, the committee will then vote on whether there is sufficient grounds for impeachment. 

If the committee finds there is sufficient grounds for impeachment, it shall conduct a hearing, according to the House rules of impeachment. Once the hearing is over, the committee will then vote and submit to the House its findings and recommendations. 

If, through a majority vote, the committee finds there is probably cause for the complaint, it will submit to the House a resolution containing the Articles of Impeachment. Otherwise, it will be dismissed.

A one-third vote from all members of the House is needed to move the complaint forward. Even if the complaint is junked by the committee, a one-third vote from all House members can override this. 

It then moves on to the Senate, sitting as the impeachment court.

In a statement, Albay 1st District Representative Edcel Lagman supported Sereno's request. "While an impeachment proceeding is a political process, it is imbued with a judicial nature akin to a criminal prosecution," he said. Lagman is not a member of the justice committee.

Bayan Muna Carlos Zarate, who is part of the committee, likewise supported Sereno's request. "The Chief Justice should be given the opportunity to confront the witnesses against her, even at the level of the House of Representatives in the determination of probable cause," he said.

Zarate added that it would also benefit the House since allowing Sereno to cross-examine witnesses would help members in fleshing out the truth. 

"At the same time, the proceedings in Congress are highly political, therefore we should prevent a situation where the Congress would be accused of being one-sided and unjust," said Zarate, a member of the Makabayan bloc. – Rappler.com 

 

 
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Jolo councilor abducted while biking at night

ABDUCTED. Jolo Councilor Ezeddin Tan is abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf-Ajang Ajang members. Sourced photo

MANILA, Philippines – A Jolo, Sulu municipal councilor was abducted Wednesday evening, September 27.

According to Brigadier General Cirilito Sobejana, commander of the Joint Task Force Sulu, Councilor Ezeddin Tan was biking with friends along Barangays Tagbak and Timbangan in neighboring Indanan town at around 6 pm when he was abducted.

According to Sobejana, Tan was abducted by suspected Abu Sayyaf-Ajang Ajang members.

Tan is the nephew of former Sulu vice governor Abdusakur Tan. – Rappler.com

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Revilla camp wants to exclude P190M SARO from evidence

PLUNDER TRIAL. Former senator Bong Revilla attends his plunder hearing on September 28, 2017 as his lawyers try to block the inclusion of P190 million worth of SARO in 2010. Photo by Darren Langit/Rappler 

MANILA, Philippines – The camp of plunder defendant former senator Bong Revilla wants to exclude from evidence a P190 million worth Special Allotment Release Order (SARO) from February 2010.

The anti-graft court Sandiganbayan First Division will resolve before October 3 the Ombudsman prosecutors’ motion to include it as evidence.

 

Revilla’s camp blocked the testimony of Magno Oasan from the Commission on Audit (COA) who would have testified on the SARO. During a hearing on September 14, the court sided with the defense and did not allow Oasan from testifying.

“The said SARO from 2010 is where the kickbacks to Revilla was based,” lead prosecutor Joefferson Toribio told the court in the continuation of Revilla’s plunder trial on Thursday, September 28. 

According to the defense camp, the SARO should not be included because it was never covered in the preliminary investigation, nor was it alleged in the information.

“To require that the SAROs covering the releases of accused Revilla’s Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) for the years 2006 to 2010 must be alleged in the Information would be stretching the law too far,” the prosecutors said in their motion for reconsideration. (READ: Navigating the PDAF scam affidavits)

The hearing on October 3 will depend on the decision of the court to include or exclude the SARO as evidence. If it will push through, it may be the last witness of the prosecutors before they rest their case.

Kickbacks?

SARO No. ROCS-G 10-00952 dated February 12, 2010 was worth P190 million. Oasan was the COA auditor who audited the transactions of the National Livelihood Development Corporation (NLDC) from 2010 to 2012.

Prosecutors insist that based on the ledgers of whistleblowers Benhur Luy, Merlina Suñas, Marina Sula, Revilla received P33.5 million in kickbacks and commissions.

KICKBACKS? Bong Revilla earned P224.5 million worth of kickbacks from 2006 to 2010 according to whistleblower Benhur Luy. Data from prosecution
     

KICKBACKS? Bong Revilla earned P224.5 million worth of kickbacks from 2006 to 2010 according to whistleblower Benhur Luy. Data from prosecution 

In their findings, Revilla was found to have “irregularly disbursed” the amount through NLDC to Agri-Economic Program for Farmers Foundation Inc. (AEPFFI), Agricultura Para sa Magbubukid Foundation (APMFI), Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc (MAMFI) and Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI).

In these transactions, prosecutors said Revilla authorized staff Richard Cambe, his co-accused in the plunder charge, “to act and sign in his behalf all other documents needed to monitor the progress of the said PDAF projects.”

Whether or not Revilla only got P33.5 million in 2010 is not clear because Luy said “sometimes transactions are not recorded in his ledger because Napoles herself personally delivers the commissions to the legislators or their representatives outside the JLN Corporation Office.”

What the prosecutors are saying is that they have included in their initial evidence that Revilla got kickbacks in 2010, and the SARO in question would help prove that.

If it was not tackled in the preliminary investigation, prosecutors said it should not be a reason to exclude it.

“Preliminary investigation is merely inquisitorial. It is not a trial of the case on the merits. Its sole purpose is to determine whether a crime has been committed and whether the respondent is probably guilty of the crime,” their motion reads. – Rappler.com

 

 
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Trillanes to file plunder complaint vs Gordon

PLUNDER. Senator Antonio Trillanes IV eyes plunder charges against Senator Richard Gordon over alleged corruption in the Philippine Red Cross.

MANILA, Philippines – Opposition Senator Antonio Trillanes IV is set to file plunder charges against Senator Richard Gordon over alleged corruption in the Philippine Red Cross (PRC).

Trillanes said this is on top of the ethics complaint that he would file against Gordon, who earlier filed a similar case against him before the Senate ethics and privileges committee.

“‘Di lang ethics complaint, criminal complaint din (Not just an ethics complaint, but also a criminal complaint). I intend to file a plunder case against Senator Gordon,” Trillanes said in a press conference on Thursday, September 28, 2017.

Trillanes, in an earlier privilege speech, said he would expose Gordon’s anomalies in the Red Cross.

The two earlier faced off after Trillanes called Gordon’s blue ribbon committee as “comite de absuwelto” for clearing President Rodrigo Duterte and his families.

At the time, Gordon responded to Trillanes' speech and said he does not get "any salary or allowances" from the organization. He also lamented Trillanes' attacks on the PRC.

"I am also a governor of the International Federation of the Red Cross. I just appeal to the senators to be very, very careful. You may hurt me but not the movement," Gordon said.

"But to malign the Red Cross in this hall... That has always been the problem. He thinks he does his job by making sure his conclusions are in his mind and when he asks questions, he thinks he's already proven his point. That's why he's trying hard to understand what hearsay is," he added.

The Senate ethics committee has found Gordon’s complaint against Trillanes as sufficient in form and substance

But Trillanes is positive the case would not prosper.

“It will not reach second base, hanggang filing na lang yan. Wala akong ginawang unparliamentry. Alam ng mga senador yan,” Trillanes said.

(It will not reach second base, it will end at filing. I have done nothing unparliamentary. The senators know that.) – Rappler.com

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WATCH | CSC exec says SALN is ‘instrument of transparency,’ it must not be used to unlawfully enrich public servants

File photo of CSC Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Ariel Ronquillo from e-newsletter of the Philippine Civil Service

MANILA, Philippines — Because the SALN “is an instrument of transparency,” the document should not be shaded to hide information about the wealth and possessions of public servants, an official of the Civil Service Commission (CSC) said Wednesday. 

Dapat walang itinatago d’yan [There should be nothing hidden there]. Dapat we are ready to show the people how we accumulate our wealth while we are working in government,” said CSC Assistant Commissioner for Legal Affairs Ariel Ronquillo during an interview with reporters at the Senate. 

Ronquillo made the pronouncement after the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) reported that at least 28 Cabinet members submitted Statements of Assets, Liabilites and Net Worth with their addresses and the acquisition costs of their personal and real properties blacked out.

The CSC official said everybody must know that public servants must not use their positions in the government to make themselves rich through illegal means. 

Para sa kaalaman ng lahat na hindi natin ginagamit ang ating position to unlawfully enrich ourselves,” said Ronquillo.  

“We have to remind them that these are instruments of transparency and therefore should be made available for inspection upon lawful request,” he added. 

The PCIJ said Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar had the most number of SALN redactions.

The following were blacked out in Andanar’s SALN, according to the PCIJ: filer’s address; spouse’s office address; name, date of birth, and age of unmarried minor children; description of real properties; exact location of real properties; acquisition costs of real properties; acquisition costs/amounts of personal properties; outstanding balance of liabilities; business address of business interests and financial connections; and ID No. of filer and/or spouse.

Next to Andanar are Department of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and Department of Health Secretary Paulyn Jean Ubial, who each had nine blacked out pieces of information in their declarations.

Omitted in the Ubial and Aguirre’s SALNs were filer’s address; ID No. of filer and/or spouse; acquisition costs of real properties; acquisition costs/amounts of personal properties; exact location of real properties; outstanding balance of liabilities; and spouse’s office address.

Also blacked out in Aguirre’s SALN were the address of his business interests and financial connections and the description of his real properties.

In Ubial’s declarations, the following were also redacted: name of o her creditor and name, date of birth, and age of her unmarried minor children.

Ronquillo said on Wednesday that under the CSC’s guidelines, the only portion that could be shaded in the SALN is the filer’s address. 

Sa guidelines na in-issue namin, ang p’wede lang i-shade ay ‘yong address ng filer.” 

Last Tuesday, Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV filed a resolution urging the Senate to investigate the removal of information from the SALNs of Cabinet officials. 

Trillanes said the Senate needed to know whether there was a law violated with the SALN redactions, including the executive order on freedom of information issued by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The senator added that it appeared that there were a “special breed” of public officials and employees under the administration because the Office of the President did not question why they submitted redacted declarations.

But Ronquillo on Wednesday said Cabinet officials should not be immediately blamed for the redactions as it could be possible that other individuals were behind the shading of some information in their declarations. 

“We cannot attribute that automatically to the filer kasi hindi naman sila ang nag-shade. As far as they are concerned, nag-file sila ng SALN na kumpleto. Kung shinade ‘yon ng iba, baka hindi natin p’wedeng sabihin na kasalanan nila ‘yon automatically.”

[We cannot attribute that automatically to the filers because they were not the ones who shaded it. As far as they are concerned, they filed complete SALNs. If the documents were shaded by others, we can’t automatically say that it’s their fault.]

WATCH A RELATED VIDEO REPORT BY NEWS5:

 

https://web.facebook.com/News5Everywhere/videos/1023687867787967/

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‘On the precipice of economic hardship’ | Rights violations can have consequences on Pinoys’ livelihood – lawyer

The European Union flag. (Reuters file photo)

MANILA – The Philippines’ dismal human rights record does not just affect the lives of victims and their families, but also the livelihood of thousands of people whose work relates to Philippine products that enjoy greatly reduced or zero tariffs when exported to the European Union.

This was underscored by TV5 legal analyst and Far Eastern University Institute of Law Dean Mel Sta. Maria on Tuesday during the Chief Justice Panganiban Professorial Chairs on Liberty and Prosperity Public Lecture at FEU Makati.

In his paper “Human Rights, Politics, International Law and Trade Arrangement and Economic Prosperity: A Reading of the Philippine Situation” Sta. Maria explained that trade arrangements between and among countries had recently factored in the upholding of human rights by the parties. 

The Philippines is one of the countries benefiting from the EU’s Special Incentive Arrangement for Sustainable Development and Good Governance (GSP+). Products such as processed fruit, coconut oil, footwear, fish, and textiles are among thousands that enter the EU with eliminated or greatly reduced tariffs under GSP+.

Among the conditions to be eligible for GSP+, according to the European Commission website, are: that the country must have ratified the 27 GSP+ relevant international conventions on human and labor rights, environmental protection, and good governance; and that the monitoring bodies under those conventions have not identified any serious failure to effectively implement them. 

Sta. Maria observed, however, that the Philippines was not compliant with many of these human rights-related conventions, especially the following:

1. International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
2. Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women
3. Convention on the Rights of the Child
4. United Nations Convention against Illicit Traffic in Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substances
5. United Nations Convention against Corruption 

Although the GSP+ is valid until 2023, the EU says it monitors whether beneficiaries are abiding by its commitments. 

Sta. Maria cited a Philippine Star report in May 2017 that the EU was the biggest and fastest-growing export market for Philippine goods, with USD901 million of total exports. 

According to the same report, however, the European Parliament had said, referring to the spate of extrajudicial killings related to the Philippines’ war on drugs, that “in the absence of any substantive improvements in the next few months, procedural steps (will be taken) with a view to the possible removal of GSP+ preferences.”

“A removal of the EU GSP+ will impact our economy negatively,” said Sta. Maria.

Dire consequences

“Consequently, this may entail increased expense on the part of Philippine exporters,” he warned. “They will pay entry-charges and taxes collectively amounting to millions of dollars. Money previously available and used to answer for salaries, employee benefits, government-mandated contributions, supplier bills, overseas transport expenses, local taxes, and other costs of production will be considerably reduced.” 

He continued, “Also, exporters may be constrained not to fill up orders, depriving local suppliers of much-needed business. This will mean less exports and thus, less income for the exporters and the country. Worse, affected companies may resort to employee lay-offs in order to survive the adverse economic impact of the reduction in business. The children and spouses of these laid-off employees will ultimately suffer a period of economic hardship – debts may not be paid, mortgages may be foreclosed, loans with high interest incurred, assets sold to meet obligations, and schooling on the part of children momentarily stopped, among others.”

Despite these possible consequences of the Philippines’ failure to respect human rights, President Rodrigo Duterte himself had said, “I don’t care about human rights, you better believe me.” 

“Every time President Duterte says, ‘I will kill you,’ or when he said, referring to three million drug addicts, ‘I’d be happy to slaughter them,’ he, the head of state, conveys a deadly message discordant with the rule of law. He even threatened to include human rights advocates: ‘I will include you because you are the reason why their numbers swell.’ Misinterpreted to their extreme, the declarations may be taken as words of encouragement, especially for people in authority like the Philippine National Police officers, to have the same motivation and objective. Put into action and ultimate fruition, it is EJK,” said Sta. Maria.

But in the Philippines, the death penalty was prohibited under Republic Act No. 9346. 

“No one is above the law. Not even the Supreme Court can order death as punishment; neither can the President. For the death penalty to be imposed, the law must be amended to allow it. But even if an amendment is done, the President still has no power to order the killing of people because only the judiciary can impose punishment. That is the rule of law in our country. Any death sentence ordered by any other entity or person outside of the courts is extrajudicial. And if the order is carried out, it is EJK, short for extrajudicial killing – the commission of murder no less,” Sta. Maria stressed.

This, he said, is in violation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, as well as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Although EJK was not yet a term used in Philippine laws, it was used to highlight its gravity over other types of murder, said Sta. Maria: “that it is the brutal extermination of ordinary people, especially the poor and the young, caused or executed usually by state agents.”

Message of impunity

He was also worried about Duterte’s assurance to law enforcers that he would pardon them if they killed suspected criminals involved in drugs. This conveyed a message of impunity, which Sta. Maria defined simply as “crime without accountability.” 

As for the violation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), Sta. Maria criticized Duterte for his messages that made light of rape.

“Remember during President Duterte’s meeting on May 26, 2017 with soldiers of the 2nd Mechanized Brigade of the Philippine Army in Iligan City, he jokingly said that, in the implementation of Martial Law, ”Pag naka-rape ka ng tatlo, aminin ko na akin ‘yun (If you rape three times, I’ll take the blame).’ This is a very bad joke. Under Section 7(1)(g) of the International Criminal Court Statute of which the Philippines is a state-party, rape committed during armed conflict is a crime against humanity. Soldiers must not commit rape during war or at any time. They should be advised not to listen to this kind of talk, whether uttered seriously or by way of a jest. How can the President go so low in his attitude toward women, especially in areas of conflict? These are not joking matters,” Sta. Maria said.

The Philippines was also violating the Convention on the Rights of the Child, he said, when state agents exploited children. His example: when Caloocan City police recently searched the home of a 51-year-old woman and stole cash and watches amounting to P30,000, using a minor to do the theft. 

“More alarming though are the apprehension, torture, and eventual killings of the youth, like Kian delos Santos, Karl Angelo Arnaiz, and Reynaldo De Guzman, without due process,” Sta. Maria said.

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