Monday, October 31, 2011

Arroyo may skip Nov 3 poll fraud preliminary probe

Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo may skip the preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice on election-related charges on November 3, her spokesman said Sunday.
Arroyo’s spokesman, defeated senatorial candidate Raul Lambino, said Arroyo is likely to send a lawyer to attend the proceedings instead.
“Hindi ko masasabi sino ang available lawyer to represent her on November 3," he said in an interview on dzBB radio.
Last Tuesday, Arroyo was served two subpoenas to attend the preliminary investigation on election-related charges on November 3.
The subpoenas included two for electoral sabotage charges filed by Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III, and for violating the Election Code as alleged by the joint panel of the DOJ and the Commission on Elections (Comelec).
The former president is still recovering from three surgeries performed on her cervical spine.
Meanwhile, Lambino brushed aside anew concerns that she would attempt to evade facing the charges against her in the Philippines once she is allowed to go abroad for treatment.
He said Arroyo is aware that seeking exile in a foreign country without an extradition treaty with the Philippines will jeopardize diplomatic ties.
“Magkakaroon ng repercussion 'yan sa diplomatic relations ng ating bansa kung gagawin niya yan," he said.
But he maintained there is still no determination of probable cause in the charges against Arroyo so far. As such, he said there is a chance the DOJ and the Ombudsman can still dismiss the complaints lodged against Arroyo.

Palace: Raps await coddlers of Ligots

MANILA, Philippines - Coddlers of former military comptroller Jacinto Ligot and his wife Erlinda will face charges, MalacaƱang warned yesterday.
“Certainly, (possible coddlers) will have a liability under the law. I’m not quite clear if it would be aiding and abetting a fugitive or the offense under the special penal law of obstruction of justice,” deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte told radio station dzRB.
The Ligots are being hunted down by the police after the couple reportedly went missing following the issuance of an arrest order by the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) for tax evasion.
Valte said the Palace was not disappointed that the couple could not be found since they were free to travel before the warrant was issued for their arrest.
This time, she said the Department of Justice can issue a hold-departure order for the fugitive couple.
“That is the normal procedure to be done,” she said.
Valte said they would look into the case of the Ligots and determine why they managed to evade arrest.
“From what I understand, there was a case filed against them, but there was no warrant of arrest prior to that. Even from the Senate, there were no restrictions on their movement and on their travel. But we will have to see,” she said.
Valte called on the Ligots to come out and face the charges against them in court.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima earlier said that based on records from the Bureau of Immigration, the couple is still in the country.
CIDG joins manhunt
Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) have joined the hunt for the couple.
Philippine National Police (PNP) spokesman Chief Superintendent Agrimero Cruz Jr. said the police force is mandated to arrest individuals wanted by the law.
“Part of the PNP mandate is to go after persons with warrants of arrest… CIDG has trackers teams for the purpose,” said Cruz of the manhunt against the Ligots.
The Department of Justice had ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to lead the manhunt and effect the warrant of arrest issued by the court against them.
De Lima said the Ligots are now considered fugitives from justice since they have not posted bail.
They are facing charges for violation of Articles 254 and 255 of the National Internal Revenue Code for attempting to evade payment of tax from 2002 to 2004.
In a resolution issued by the CTA, the Ligots were accused of failing to report a total income of P165.4 million and as a result incurred a total tax deficiency of P153.2 million, exclusive of interest and penalty charges.
The resolution was promulgated on Sept. 28 but was made public only last Friday.
The court decision covers only the taxable year 2003. Four other tax evasion charges filed against the Ligot couple remained pending at the CTA.
Last March, the Bureau of Internal Revenue filed tax evasion raps against the couple for failing to declare their income of about P459.6 million from 2002 to 2004. The Ligots allegedly used the money to acquire several properties here and abroad.
The BIR said the couple also owed the government 428 million from 2003 to 2004.
Of the P428 million, the retired general has a tax deficiency of P290.2 million while his wife owes the government P137 million.
‘Surface to ferret out truth’
The military yesterday said it would be best if the Ligot couple surface to help ferret out the truth about their case.
“We cannot tell them what to do since they are not under our jurisdiction but this (surfacing) would help shed light on the issue,” Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) spokesman Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr. said in a telephone phone interview.
“It (surfacing of the Ligots) would be beneficial since it could ferret out the truth,” he added.
Burgos also said that measures have been undertaken to stop corruption in the military.
“(AFP chief) Gen. (Eduardo) Oban (Jr.) is serious about combating corruption. We are implementing reforms in our procurement and financial systems,” he said.
“We have been working with agencies like the DBM (Department of Budget and Management) to ensure that the funds would be handled properly,” the AFP spokesman said.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Impeachment case vs. Aquino won't prosper, say solons

An impeachment case filed against President Benigno Aquino III may not prosper, lawmakers said.

Marcos loyalist Oliver Lozano reportedly filed an impeachment case, the first for Aquino, for refusing to provide state honors for the burial of the late former president Ferdinand Marcos.

“I doubt if it will fly in the House and if it is an impeachable ground. In fact, I even doubt if my father, the principal author of the resolution on Marcos’ burial will endorse the complaint,” said Senator Francis Escudero.
Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago said the case won't be taken seriously too.

“I don’t think anyone takes it seriously,” Santiago said.

“There’s a prayer of hope in the House of Representatives, which is divided into political power blocks, if at least one group expresses support. But if there’s no support expressed at all then there’s even not a prayer that it will succeed.”

The Palace has also reportedly issued a statement brushing off the impeachment case. “The complaint is utterly baseless.

Lozano is known to be an eager filer of impeachment complaints. From 2005 to 2008, he has consistently charged former president now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with impeachment cases in connection with the “Hello, Garci” scandal.

Lozano filed the complaint before Congress earlier this week, for Aquino’s alleged violation of the equal protection clause of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.

Lozano said Aquino violated the equal protection clause when he refused to give military honors for the burial of Marcos, a former head of state and whom the military had already recognized as a war veteran.

“If other lower ranking military officers were buried with military honors, President Marcos is also entitled to be buried with military honors,” the complaint said as quoted in a report.

Aquino earlier dismissed a hero's burial for Marcos.

But the Marcos loyalist insisted that the opposition of so-called human rights victims is not a legal ground to deny a former head of state and war veteran the rights accorded to him by the Constitution.

Lozano said Aquino betrayed public trust when he disregarded the recommendation of Vice President Jejomar Binay who was ordered by Aquino to conduct public consultations and studies on the proposed military honors for Marcos.

Convinced that his case is a ground for impeachment, the lawyer will send copies of the impeachment complaint to each of the 200 members of the House of Representatives.

He said he expects some of the 200 lawmakers, who signed a resolution calling for the state burial for Marcos, to endorse the impeachment complaint.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Chinese toddler left bloody in hit-and-run dies

BEIJING (AP) — A toddler who was twice run over by vans and then ignored by passers-by on a busy market street died Friday a week after the accident and after days of bitter soul-searching over declining morality in China.
The Guangzhou Military District General Hospital said that the 2-year-old girl, Wang Yue, died shortly after midnight of brain and organ failure. "Her injuries were too severe and the treatment had no effect," intensive care unit director Su Lei told reporters.
The plight of the child, nicknamed Yueyue, came to symbolize what many Chinese see as a decay in public morals after heady decades of economic growth and rising prosperity.
Gruesome closed-circuit camera video of last Thursday's accident, aired on television and posted on the Internet, showed Yueyue toddling along the hardware market street in the southern city of Foshan. A van strikes her, slows and then resumes driving, rolling its back right wheel over the child. As she lays with blood pooling, 18 people walk or cycle by and another van strikes her before a scrap picker scoops her up.
Yueyue's death touched off another round of hand-wringing about society and personal responsibility. Many comments posted to social media sites said "we are all passers-by."
Li Xiangping, a professor of religion at Huadong University, said on a Twitter-like service that it is too easy to blame others. "What after all prompted such a sad phenomenon? Officials? The rich? Or is it our own cold-heartedness?" Li said on Sina Corp.'s Weibo.
Police have detained the drivers of both vans on suspicion of causing a traffic accident but have not said what formal charges they would face and if manslaughter would be among them now that the girl has died.
The people who could be seen on the video passing by the injured Yueyue have recounted being harassed for ignoring her. The respected Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper quoted a man it identified only as a hardware merchant Mr. Chen as saying that he had been receiving crank calls ever since someone picked him out as the 16th passer-by. He said he hadn't noticed the child.
Some experts said an unwillingness to help others is an outgrowth of urbanization as migrants pour into cities and create neighborhoods of strangers.
"Rapid urbanization not only affects China or Foshan, but anywhere in the world where you have a lot of high-rise buildings, where there is high population density, then the relationship with the neighbors, and with each other is affected," said Yao Yue, a psychologist and director of telephone help-line for distressed people in Beijing.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Witnesses bare how much Arroyo spent to 'cheat' in polls

More witnesses come out in the open to accuse former president and now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of massive cheating in the 2004 and 2007 polls.

Former Shariah judge Nagamura Moner confessed that he received P8 million to orchestrate the cheating in the 2004 elections, P1 million of which was used to pay off election officers who helped Arroyo win, and P3 million pesos to silence his companions from exposing poll fraud, he said.

Another former Shariah judge Casan-Ali Limbona, Maulawi Calimba and Amer Hassan Doro corroborated witnesses' statements, confirming that they served as accomplices of Moner in the alleged electoral fraud in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Moner said he paid Limbona P50,000 to contact and pay former Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol P5 per Arroyo's lead vote against the late Fernando Poe Jr.

Limbona backed Moner’s statement, adding that he only monitored the canvassing to look at the final numbers for Bedol’s payment.

Calimba claims that he helped distribute money to the election officers but he only participated in the cheating because he was interested in the election process.

Doro, Moner's student, told senators he received money from Moner’s son which was in turn given to a police officer.

Ansari Alonto, a consultant of the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, who also testified in the hearing, said opposition watchers could not go near the venue of the canvassing and that the votes were not counted but “discussed.”


Attorney Ray Sumalipao, Lanao del Sur's acting provincial election supervisor in the 2004 polls, denied Alonto’s allegations saying that canvassing took place and the proceedings were all recorded.

Sumalipao, now promoted to Comelec ARMM regional director, was implicated in the “Hello, Garci” wiretapped conversations between Arroyo and former elections commissioner Virgilio Garcillano.

“In so far as I’m concerned, I did not cheat your honor,” Sumalipao said.

Although he denied his involvement, the Comelec director cannot confirm that there was no poll fraud and that he cannot answer for and in behalf of others.

“I’m inclined to believe that there were irregularities in the 2004 elections with all these witnesses,” he said.

Sumalipao admitted that he did not do anything when the results of the certificates of canvass showed zero votes for FPJ.

“Kung wala pong dayaan, malayong-malayo ang panalo ni FPJ. FPJ would have won by one million votes,” Moner said.

The former Shariah judge denied that there was cheating in the 2004 elections during the 2005 probe but recently reversed his statements in a Senate hearing in September.

“I would rather go to jail by not telling the truth than risk the safety of my family,” Moner said.

He earlier implicated Alfonso Cusi, former director general of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, who was allegedly an Arroyo ally in the massive election fraud.

Cusi categorically denied that he was Moner’s handler saying that Moner’s statements are “baseless” and “unfounded.”

Senator Teofisto Guingona III, chair of the blue ribbon committee, and Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, chair of the committee on electoral reforms and people’s participation, headed the Senate investigation.

Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Alan Peter Cayetano later joined the joint committee hearing.

Guingona said that in the next hearing, Cayetano will show the correlation of the “Garci” tapes and the areas that were mentioned in the wiretapped conversation.

Comelec will also reveal in the succeeding investigation the discrepancies in the results of the election returns, he added.

Pimentel has charged Arroyo and her husband and other officials with election fraud before the Department of Justice on Monday.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

5 suspects linked to Manila jewelry shop heist held

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - Police arrested five men believed to be members of the "Martilyo Gang" which pulled late Thursday afternoon a heist at a Manila jewelry store resulting in the death of three men, including two of the robbers, and injury to nine other persons.
Members of the Manila Police District homicide section, headed by Senior Insp. Joselito de Ocampo, and the Southern Police District Intelligence Division Special Operations Unit led by Supt. Allen Ocden, swooped down Friday on the group's alleged hideout at Block 46 Lot 21 Maharlika Village in Taguig City.
The operation resulted in the arrest of Muktar Agao, 31; Abuber Abdulkador, 29; Mark Kalama, 22; Ben Panday, 22; and Sadam Mato, 19.
De Ocampo told the Inquirer that the five men were positively identified by at least six witnesses to the robbery.
"We were able to get the address off the suspect (Basir Basilon), who was initially arrested by our policemen in Sta. Cruz after he lobbed the grenade. We brought along a witness to the site and our witness spotted one of the robbers going inside the house," the MPD homicide section chief pointed out.
It was then that the police teams rounded up occupants of the house and invited them for questioning to the MPD headquarters.
The suspects pulled out the heist at The Sisters Jewelries and General Merchandise along C.M. Recto Avenue in Sta. Cruz. One of the suspects lobbed a grenade while fleeing, causing injuries to nine other people.

Will Arroyos do a Thaksin Shinawatra or a Joseph Estrada?

Manila (Philippine Daily Inquirer/ANN) - With the possibility raised that former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her husband could be in jail on nonbailable charges by Christmas, some lawmakers are wondering whether the couple will do "a Thaksin" or "an Erap," (Joseph Estrada).
"They may likely do a Thaksin," said Isabela Rep. Giorgidi Aggabao.
"The possibility [of seeking political asylum] is strong considering that the charges against them, ranging from plunder to electoral sabotage, are nonbailable offenses," he said.
Aggabao was referring to Thaksin Shinawatra, the former prime minister of Thailand, who went into exile in 2009 after being convicted under his successor's administration.
To gain political asylum, Arroyo will claim that she and her family are victims of "political persecution," Aggabao said.
"The United States will be a safe bet [for asylum]. Surely they have friends at the US State Department developed over the years she was President," he said.
But Rep. Rodel Batocabe of the party-list group Ako Bicol reckoned that Arroyo would tread the path taken by ousted President Joseph "Erap" Estrada, who faced charges even if it meant being detained for years.
Estrada, who was deposed in 2001, was eventually convicted of plunder and immediately pardoned by Arroyo. He ranked second in the 2010 presidential election.
"I don't think they will seek asylum. As former President, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is cognizant of her place in history," Batocabe said.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Ampatuan massacre victims' kin seek warden's relief

Relatives of the slain victims of the Maguindanao massacre have sought the immediate relief of the warden of the jail facility in Taguig City where the murder suspects are detained.
Private prosecutor Nena Santos, who represents families of 26 of the 57 massacre victims, on Thursday accused Senior Inspector Edgard Bernardino Camus of being "biased against the complainants" in implementing security procedures inside the Quezon City Jail Annex inside Camp Bagong Diwa.
In particular, Santos criticized Camus for not designating a secure holding area for witnesses awaiting their turn to take the stand during proceedings.
In one instance, according to Santos, Camus asked a group of witnesses, along with their armed escorts, to stay outside the jail facility while the trial was ongoing.
"Bakit niya pinalabas sila eh delikado iyon. Kung may mangayri sa kanila. Kinapkapan naman sila pati iyong escorts ah," Santos said.
Santos also raised security concerns about the accused Ampatuan clan members being allowed to use the door near the judge's chamber in entering and exiting the court room.
Santos claimed QC jail Annex personnel were "more strict" on them than on others.
The private prosecutor said she detailed all these observations and complaints in a letter sent to Secretary Jesse Robredo of the Department of Interior and Local Government last September 8.
Besides, Santos added that Camus - who replaced former warden Chief Inspector Glennford ValdepeƱas in late May - should already vacate his post because he has already been overstaying.
This was in light of the standing order of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology director Rosendo Dial on the regular reshuffle of personnel at the jail warden every three months.
Camus responds
In an interview at the sidelines of Thursday's hearing, Camus admitted he has nothing against Santos' request to have him replaced. However, Camus belied Santos' accusations about bias as untrue.
"Ang gusto ko kasi bago ako umalis dito at least may maiwan akong magandang alaala," Camus said. He said he would ensure a smooth transition when he leaves.
Camus said it has long been disallowed for witnesses and their armed escorts to get near the courtroom. This is meant to prevent inmates from possibly snatching the escorts' firearms and harming people attending the hearing.
"This has all been agreed upon in our meeting with the Department of Justice before. But the old prosecution panel was already replaced, so the new ones do not know about that agreement," Camus said.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima installed new prosecutors to handle the high-profile case after observing that the old panel allegedly lacked the "zealousness and aggressiveness" in pursuing the case.
Camus stressed that during his tenure as warden, he was able to further tighten the security measures for witnesses being brought in court by converting one of the rooms at the jail facility into an air-conditioned witness holding area. The other half of the room is now an infirmary.
Camus also took pride on the newly-installed biometric system to go with the electronic identification system - both aimed at preventing inmates from disguising themselves then escaping, and at the same time, monitoring people going in and out of the facility.
Under the biometric system - which was set up through a P30,000 loan by the BJMP - inmates, jail officials, and visitors – including visiting family members, lawyers, and even the media – will have to register into a computer database all their basic information, photograph, and fingerprints.
These were all on top of the upgrade of the eight closed-circuit television (CCTV) cameras installed all over the jail facility.
He also denied being too hard on the prosecution, saying he was even responsible for the improvements of several amenities inside the facility for the convenience of both camps.
A "computer room" at the entrance has been set up where a duty officer will oversee all items deposited by lawyers and other visitors. A common comfort room has already been expanded and split to two - for men and women - and has been fully furnished

Impose death penalty vs. corruption, Pinoys suggest

Nothing less than capital punishment should be meted corrupt public officials, Filipinos suggested in an academic study on anti-corruption strategies.

Three professors from the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP NCPAG) asked students, civil society and members of the academe nationwide for their suggestions on how to solve the problem of corruption in the Philippines.

In their report titled “From Pinoys to PNoy,” the authors said respondents recommended to President Benigno Aquino III the imposition of the death penalty on crimes involving corruption.

The study, which was presented by the professors on Friday at UP NCPAG, also compiled advice from political experts who proposed enacting an Omnibus Anti-Corruption Code as a guidebook.

Another proposal called for the government to establish parameters in the budget allotted to support anti-corruption agencies and programs at the local and national levels.

Empower the whistleblowers

In addition to enforcing stiff penalties, respondents suggested that whistleblowers be given a share of the corruption money they divulge as an incentive.

Experts, for their part, proposed a comprehensive law protecting whistleblowers.

“The lack of support for whistleblowers discourages other potential whistleblowers to come out,” the study said in part.

According to the report, bills to protect whistleblowers have been filed in the 13th and 14th Congress but were never passed into law despite the surge of whistleblowers who have come forward with tales of corruption during the Arroyo administration.

Key public participation

The study concluded that initiatives to fight corruption over the years failed to prosper because they were viewed as the responsibility of the government. The public “merely watched, kibitzed and criticized.”

On the contrary, “the battle against the cancer of systemic corruption cannot be resolved by government alone,” the study emphasized. “The public must participate. They are part of the solution.”