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 Post subject: hala bira
PostPosted: Mon Jun 07, 2010 2:11 pm 
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http://opinion.inquirer.net/inquireropi ... its-stench


THE Ombudsman of the Arroyo administration recently cleared President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of any wrongdoing in connection with the aborted $329-million ZTE-NBN deal. For those with short memories, I offer a brief refresher course.

Of all the scams that the Arroyo administration tried to foist on the Filipino people, none equals the ZTE-NBN scandal in terms of greed and impunity. The reported over-price which would have gone to various Arroyo characters amounted to $140 million, or roughly P7 billion, an amount that the Filipino taxpayer would have had to repay over the years similar to that which he paid for the Bataan nuclear power plant that to this day has not delivered a single kilowatt of power.

In terms of impunity, this is how I described the events that took place more than two years ago.

For starters, Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada’s narration of his abduction—make no mistake, it was an abduction—brought back memories of a similar event some 25 years ago. The account of his experience was almost identical with what took place at the old Manila International Airport in August 1983. An arriving passenger from abroad is escorted by armed men who take his luggage and hold him by his arms, leading him out of the arrival tube down to the airport tarmac. Like Ninoy Aquino, Jun Lozada did not go through immigration or customs. But here the similarity ends.

Fortunately for Lozada, he is kept alive and driven around for several hours before being brought to La Salle Greenhills to be reunited with his family. He and his sister are asked to sign all kinds of statements and requests, basically to justify the Grand Tour which he had been given.

Now, ordinary policemen do not just carry out these things on their own. Someone is orchestrating the whole operation and someone higher than the conductor is calling the shots. That’s the beauty of the cellphone. One can easily keep in touch with “ES” and “Ma’am”—whoever they are. This must be part of the growing culture of impunity which the Makati Business Club (MBC), the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP), the Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines (Finex) and the Foundation for Economic Freedom (FEF) suggested in their newspaper statement some time ago.

Lozada who describes himself as just a “probinsyanong Intsik” must represent a serious danger to the Arroyo government. Less than 24 hours after his press conference at La Salle Greenhills, the big guns of the administration had all the ammunition to fire against Lozada—proof not so much of the sins he may have committed as Philippine Forest Corporation president, but of the ruthless power that can be generated instantly to demolish those who dare displease the gods. But the revelations merely highlighted his humanity, and his demeanor in admitting that he was not a saint only gave him greater credibility.

I suggested that in the search for truth, we should reflect on some simple questions:

(1) Why would Deputy Executive Secretary Manuel Gaite, based on an overseas call at 2 in the morning, give P500,000—money which he was going to use to renovate his house and which he borrowed from his relatives—to a complete stranger? No collateral, no repayment plan.

(2) If the idea of providing security for Lozada was in order to protect him, why was he given a Tour of Southern Luzon by a disorganized security team that did not appear to know what were the threats facing their man?

(3) If the idea was to help him avoid testifying in the Senate—assuming that Lozada did not wish to do so—wouldn’t this be called “obstruction of justice”? This appears to be similar to the case of Joc-joc Bolante who was summoned by the Senate to testify on missing fertilizer funds. Instead, Bolante was allowed to leave the country, thus avoiding the Senate committee of Sen. Jun Magsaysay.

* * *

In the years of the Arroyo administration, the Filipino taxpayer lost P1.3 billion in an election computerization deal under former Comelec chair Benjamin Abalos. Incidentally, Abalos is also a key figure in the ZTE-NBN caper.

In the Mega Pacific case of 2003, the Comelec awarded a contract for the supply of automated counting machines for the 2004 elections to Mega Pacific Consortium. Five individuals and entities protested the award; however, the Comelec chair, Mr. Abalos, rejected the protest and declared that the award would stand up to the strictest scrutiny. Unfortunately for Abalos, upon elevation of the case to the Supreme Court, the justices by a vote of 9-5 declared the contract between the Comelec and Mega Pacific null and void. (It is interesting to note that of the nine justices who voted to invalidate the award only two remain in the Supreme Court: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Conchita Carpio Morales. Of the five who were of the opposing view, one is still with the Court—Chief Justice Renato Corona.)

In its decision penned by then-Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban, the Supreme Court directed the Office of the Ombudsman to “determine the criminal liability, if any, of the public officials and conspiring private individuals, if any, involved in the subject resolution and contract.” It also directed the Office of the Solicitor General to “take measures to protect the government and vindicate public interest from the ill effects of the illegal disbursement of public funds...”

So far, no one has been prosecuted and punished, and no public funds have been recovered.

The Filipino farmer lost P728 million in fertilizer funds that was allegedly utilized for political objectives in the 2004 elections. The suspected mastermind, Agriculture Undersecretary Joc-joc Bolante, fled to the United States seeking asylum in the face of supposed threats on his life from the New People’s Army (NPA). In the last elections, he lost his bid for governor of the province of Antique.

So far, no one has been prosecuted and punished.

Prior to the Arroyo administration, the Armed Forces of the Philippines lost more than P5 billion in modernization funds from the proceeds of the sale of Fort Bonifacio. Not a single military officer, retired or active, can attest as to how the money was spent.

It simply vanished into thin air.

No one has been prosecuted or punished. Each time I pass by the Global City I am reminded of this mystery that has never been unraveled.

Is it any surprise that we continue to have scams such as the ZTE-NBN project?

Until we get leaders who will lead by example, who say enough is enough, and back up their words with strong or even harsh action, we shall continue to suffer from this cycle of greed and corruption which has plagued our country for so long.

_________________
Someday in the distant future, scientists will score a breakthrough and replicate the amazingly powerful adhesive with which Gloria Arroyo has managed to cling to power.

http://www.hotmanila.ph/ESP/2010/gloria_aeterna-01.html


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