To go on killing or give up killing on war against illegal drugs

 

It is very unfortunate that I have to write about the subject upon deciding to resume blogging after my second successful total knee replacement surgery.

I could have chosen something pleasant to write about but the reality that the country is facing today relative to President Duterte’s war against illegal drugs continue to be the defining thrust of his administration now and, perhaps, for the rest of his term, that the end result could either break us or make us citizens of a nation with potential future. Thus, the subject makes it all the more important for me.

It cannot be denied that we are a nation trying to survive an identity crisis that has been so demeaning all these many, many years – that of being a corrupt nation with equally corrupt political officials.

We have seen presidents come and go with reform policies and programs for a better future for the country and it s people. But at the end of their terms the country is no better than before and the Filipinos find themselves mired even more in the morass of corruption, criminality and illegal drugs.

The fact that I mentioned illegal drugs does not mean that this scourge was not there before Duterte’s presidency came into the picture. Corruption comes in many forms and shapes, but like the way politicians and government officials discovered that there was money for their deep pockets in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), they also found out that there was even a continuous flow of dirty money in illegal drugs worthy of being nurtured for political purposes regardless of the negative consequences it had on the poor users, just like the PDAF scam had an adverse impact on the marginalized Filipinos for which it was intended for.

One impressive difference between past presidents and Duterte today is that the latter knew, after experimenting in Davao City as its mayor, what illegal drugs can do to people’s brain and what bad publicity can do to a place resulting from crimes committed due to its usage.

Duterte took his task as mayor to heart and turned the city around by using his unorthodox style of leadership manifested by guts, political will and bullets – all for the love of his city and his belief that the residents deserved a better life.

Duterte won the presidency in 2016 because most Filipinos got dissatisfied with conventional politicians leading the country. They had had enough.

Part of Duterte’s presidency is history now and it looks like that the remainder of his term will have history repeating itself as many times over for there is no turning back now in his fight against narco-politics that if not controlled will determine the destiny of this nation.

The country today is undergoing birth pains in charting its destiny brought about mainly by drug related killings that are so prevalent and far reaching, even to include the Marawi siege.

Many are speaking out now against what they call the ‘slaughter of mostly poor Filipinos’ especially in the wake of the outrage over the killing of Kian Loyd de los Santos, a grade 11 student, during a police drug operation in Caloocan City last week.

Yes, there is a very high probability that the policemen responsible for Kian’s arrest may have committed murder, but should we allow this unfortunate incident to derail the momentum  Duterte’s administration has in bringing deliverance to this country from the menace of illegal drugs engulfing the country today? Duterte himself has not minced words in his doubts about the killing of Kian. Even the Philippine Ambassador to the UN, Teddy Locsin Jr., showed his disgust about the killing when he called the arresting cops “hijos de putas!”

I am not losing hope for this country with Duterte at the helm and even if the killing continues, for to give up killing, which cannot be avoided if the drug lords, peddlers and users insist on destroying this country and its youth, is tantamount to letting the unscrupulous  people triumph over the vast number of Filipinos praying for deliverance.

 

Duterte fighting terrorism and corruption in two fronts

 

We all know the terrorism happening in Marawi City and to its beleaguered residents who have hastily fled to Iligan City, as this is what all sorts of media are talking about, including the blogs I posted which you can read at these links: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/05/25/yes-to-martial-law-in-mindanao/ and https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2017/05/26/yes-to-martial-law-in-mindanao-part-ii/.

While lawlessness is happening in southern Philippines, to the consternation of the people, especially the president, a sense of satisfaction, however, is felt by many Filipinos because at the opposite end of the country the Duterte administration is also going after corrupt government officials.

Former Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Sen. Antonio Trillanes, Sen. Leila de Lima, Sen. Franklin Drilon.

According to reports Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has announced that former budget secretary Florencio Abad and Senators Antonio Trillanes, Leila de Lima, and Franklin Drilon, will soon face plunder charges in connection to the scandalous Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or what is more known as the P10-billion pork barrel scam.

This, after the lawyer of the alleged brains behind the scam, businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles, said they will be filing charges before the (DOJ) against prominent personalities, among them the aforementioned politicians, which they said have benefited from the scam.

We all know that Napoles herself is facing plunder charges for allegedly masterminding the scam in which pork barrel allocations from lawmakers were funneled into the non-government organizations she set up to fund bogus or non-existent projects to the detriment of the poor who were suppose to be the beneficiaries of the funds.

Whether or not these are drum-up charges that are politically motivated remains to be seen.

In the same manner that former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla are calling their own plunder charges for their involvement in the same scam as harassment and persecution, the above mentioned politicians are also echoing the same sentiments.

But people are really hoping that something concrete comes out of this investigation especially now that Napoles feels like “singing” to escape a much longer jail term.

The people ought to know and the time has come to unmask the culprits.

I just hope that Justice Secretary Aguirre will be able to gather and produce enough evidences to justify the plunder charges especially now that the politician’s names have already been maligned.

 

Reopening of pork barrel scam probe and Dutertenomics

 

President Rodrigo Duterte

You might be wondering why I am lumping up the two together when they are different and distinct subjects.

Well, they are not really contradistinctive.

What makes them related or akin to one another is the fact that both deals with preventing corruption as the country is steered towards growth and development.

Thus, while Dutertenomics is getting to be a popular buzzword here and abroad for President Rodrigo Duterte’s 6-year development plan that aims to make the Philippines a high middle-income status before his term ends in 2022, it is a much welcomed boost for the country also that Duterte is keen and in fact throwing his full support behind the reopening of a congressional inquiry into the scandalous P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel scam.

Dutertenomics is actually about the 10-point agenda that is listed below and which emphasizes transparency and inclusiveness in every step:

  • Higher infrastructure spending, with 5 percent of gross domestic product targeted
  • Lower income and corporate tax rates to better compete with other Asian nations
  • Less red tape and corruption, including permits and land titles crucial to business
  • More state resources for the countryside, reducing poverty and boosting rural growth
  • Strong law enforcement and peace efforts to enhance the business environment
  • Small business gains with GoNegosyo’s Ramon Lopez as Trade & Industry Secretary
  • Better China relations enhancing Chinese trade, tourism and investment flows
  • Charter change to devolve power to the regions and ease foreign investment limits.

In the same manner, in revisiting the pork barrel scam probe, Duterte simply wants to make sure that all those government officials involved in unscrupulously diverting the government funds for the poor and needy into their own bank accounts are taken to task and prosecuted.

I just hope that in so doing Duterte will not interfere and just allow the Sandiganbayan ( a special appellate collegial court) to run its course in prosecuting the high profile accused namely, ex-senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Revilla and Jinggoy Estrada. He will be doing the country a great favor if he does.

Oozing with political will with no one to be beholden to and having the interest of the nation and the welfare of the people foremost in his governance, I am sure Duterte will find success in this twin concerns he is driving at.

 

Enrile’s suspicious visit to Malacañang

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile visiting Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

Former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile visiting Pres. Rodrigo Duterte in Malacañang.

For anybody who has been following the political life of former Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile one cannot help but be suspicious about the circumstances of his much publicized visit to Malacañang for a one-on-one tete-a-tete with President Rodrigo Duterte.

Enrile made a sucker of the Sandiganbayan when the court where government officials, from the President of the Philippines down to the lowest ranked public servant, are prosecuted, ordered for his release after posting bail totaling P1.45 million for the plunder and graft cases filed against him over a multibillion-peso pork barrel scam supposedly masterminded by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles.

Before his release Enrile had been detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) General Hospital in Camp Crame for a little over a year.

Two of his co-accused — former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revila — remain detained in Camp Crame, at the PNP Custodial Center.

Also in detention to this day for the same offense is Enrile’s former chief of staff, Jessica “Gigi” Reyes.

The court said the Enrile should be granted temporary freedom because of his old age and frail health, which did not make him a flight risk.

Enrile may not be a flight risk until now that he has fully regained back his health, but he continues to remain astute as he has always been known to be and his once temporary freedom, for all intents and purpose, is now a permanent one.

Or so it seems because while Enrile may have posted a bail he is still an accused out on bail for humanitarian reasons, but now that he is back in the pink of health the Sandiganbayan should send him back to the PNP Custodial Center for that is where he belongs in reality.

In fact Enrile is strong enough now that he has been able to visit Duterte in Malacañang and reportedly handed the latter a letter and three books that apparently contained unsolicited counsel/guide to help the president address the country’s problems.

Despite presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella’s claim that the meeting of the two political personalities was social in nature that included discussions on “current developments”, still it raised eyebrows of many Filipinos concerned about corrupt politicians on what really was the motive of Enrile’s visit.

We cannot help but hope that Duterte will stay his course and his commitment to the nation that he will have no mercy to those involved in illegal drugs, corruption and criminality that have caused near perdition to the hopes and aspirations of many Filipinos.

Plunderers deserve no less than death penalty

 

death-penaltyI have always been for death penalty and my most recent verbalization on this can be seen at this link: https://quierosaber.wordpress.com/2016/12/21/the-revival-of-the-death-penalty/.

Understandably House members are still debating on House Bill No. 4727, which seeks to re-impose the death penalty in the country.

But what I do not understand is why some representatives want the crime of plunder be excluded from those heinous crimes punishable by death.

As suitably defined in our laws, plunder is the criminal act of “amass(ing) accumulat(ing) or acquir(ing) ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt or criminal acts… in the aggregate amount or total value of at least P50 million,” punishable with reclusion perpetua to death, according to Republic Act 7080 as amended by Republic Act 7659.

But the penalty of death was abolished for all heinous crimes (including plunder) after former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006 signed Republic Act 9346, which repealed all laws imposing the penalty of death.

What is more ironic than a former president repealing the penalty of death for all heinous crimes, including plunder, when Arroyo herself got ordered to be arrested for plunder.

But that is neither here nor there now as the Supreme Court dismissed the plunder charge against Arroyo and ordered her freed immediately after five years of hospital detention.

What I am just bringing to light here is that plunder can be and is, indeed, a heinous crime especially if committed by high-profile public officials.

Death penalty becomes even more warranted when public officials sworn to serve and protect the Filipinos are the ones making the lives of the poor people more wretched and miserable.

As if we have not heard of the greatest plunderer of all, the dictator Marcos, and how ravaged the country was after he was booted out.

Fresh in our minds is the alleged despicable participation in the pork barrel scam by former senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla and Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada. While Enrile was allowed bail for humanitarian considerations, both Revilla and Estrada are still in detention.

I don’t even agree that a certain amount of money has to be willfully stolen first, like P50-million, before one is charged with plunder. Hell, any inconceivable amount will do for it is not really about the amount of money plundered by an elected or appointed government official, or by someone from the private sector, that matters most, but rather it is the scandalous, disgraceful and dishonest way of enriching yourself at the expense of the earnest respect, belief, trust and confidence of the people that have placed you in your position of influence and power that you deserve to be hanged.

I could not agree more, therefore, with Sen. Panfilo Lacson when he said: “A plunderer kills more people than a murderer. A murderer kills one person while with a plunderer, many people die of hunger because of the plunder.”

Or it can also be said that a murderer destroys a life or two, but a plunderer commits a heinous crime that could destroy a family and possibly the future of a  generation to come.

 

The fate of corrupt politicians in the PDAF scam

pork barrelLet us recall first what the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, more popularly known as pork barrel scam, is all about before it loses its meaning and importance to the vast number of Filipinos who have come to appreciate the prosecution of corrupt politicians in government.

The pork barrel scam is a political scandal of the highest order involving the alleged misuse by several members of Congress of their lump sum discretionary fund granted to them for spending on priority development projects, most especially on the local level.

It is estimated that the Philippine government was defrauded of some P10-billion in the course of the scam, reportedly from 2003 to 2013, and at the expense of the poor and marginalized Filipinos.

Going after noted corrupt government officials, the likes of retired chief justice Renator Corona and the high-profile senators in the PDAF scam, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla for plunder has given many Filipinos hope that we can be a better country yet.

Though Enrile was granted bail by the Supreme Court and is back in the Senate throwing barbs at President Aquino still many people believe that he should have remained detained together with Estrada and Revilla at the PNP Custodial Center in Camp Crame, Quezon City until such time that they can prove themselves innocent of the crimes charged against them.

The reason why I am bringing this up is my fear that people might forget the significance of this political will exercised by Aquino in bringing these corrupt politicians to face justice and instead elect someone who will just willingly open the gates to free these unscrupulous individuals.

What I am saying is that there are still many more of their ilk out there who should be prosecuted, but because the man who would be the next president in 2016 is against everything that Aquino has done, that everything also will come to naught.

I don’t think this is acceptable.

Many are in favor of what Aquino has done along this path, given the circumstances. It has to be sustained and pursued even more to the hilt if that is the way the poor of this country can attain justice. Servants of the people these arrogant politicians are not.

I am sure Enrile, Estrada, Revilla and the many more politicians in the Ombudsman’s list to be prosecuted are hoping that Jejomar Binay would win. Birds of the same feather, so to say.

Or maybe Grace Poe and Rody Duterte who will easily show nothing but kindness and sympathy to movie stars and politicians now expressing their support for them with their ulterior motives.

I don’t think Estrada, Revilla, and especially Enrile, would want Miriam Santiago or Mar Roxas to win. The same goes with the politicians in the Ombudsman’s list. No easy way out for them.

Thus, it really matters who we elect to succeed Aquino if Filipinos consider the downfall of a Supreme Court chief justice and the arrest and detention of three notable senators of the realm to be a milestone in the democratic history of this country.

PNoy’s ‘tuwid na daan’ advocacy is not so ‘tuwid’ after all

 

President Benigno Aquino

President Benigno Aquino

I had been always praising President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) for his ‘tuwid na daan’ (straight path) advocacy and like a horse with blinders I had been looking straight at it from the monetary point of view.

How else should one react except to utter hosannas for a job well done in going after corrupt government officials who have enriched themselves in office at the expense of the well meaning Filipino taxpayers and the poorest of the poor who were expecting help through the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF, popularly known as ‘pork barrel’), a lump-sum discretionary fund granted to each member of Congress for spending on priority development projects of the Philippine government, mostly on the local level, but got channeled instead into the deep pockets of the politicians themselves and some unscrupulous people who hatched the scam.

We are all witnesses to what happened to ex-Supreme Court chief justice Renato Corona and we are all seeing where Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr. are now.

One cannot say therefore that PNoy lacked the political will to do what he did, for the events surrounding the ouster of Corona and the detention of the high-profile senators are living testament of his strong ‘tuwid na daan’ advocacy.

But like “Jekyll and Hyde”, PNoy exhibits also another personality that makes his ‘tuwid na daan’ advocacy short of being perfect, and therefore questionable.

Not until I saw this article from Rappler did I realize how blinded I was not to have noticed that PNoy’s ‘tuwid na daan’ advocacy should not only apply strictly to grafters and plunderers who are his political foes, but should also include his unprincipled and dishonorable friends and supporters.

No wonder then why former PNP chief Alan Purisima is still around and why, even, Vice President Jejomar Binay continues to stay in PNoy’s cabinet.

PNoy’s ‘tuwid na daan’ advocacy is not so ‘tuwid’ after all.

For more on PNoy’s unfavorable personality, I am reprinting below an article from Rappler, dated June 20, 2015, and written by Judith Balea.

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and President Benigno Aquino

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla and President Benigno Aquino

INSIDE STORY: The real reason behind Petilla’s resignation

EXCLUSIVE: Sources close to Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla say his resignation was prompted by President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to appoint Geronimo Sta Ana as the 5th commissioner of the Energy Regulatory Commission

Former Customs Commissioner John Sevilla and outgoing Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla didn’t just resign back to back. They had similar reasons for doing so, too.
While Petilla’s resignation was attributed to his plans to run for the Senate, sources close to him said it was, in fact, prompted by President Benigno Aquino III’s decision to appoint Geronimo Sta Ana as the fifth commissioner of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC). Sta Ana is reported to be a nominee of one of the country’s biggest power players, the Aboitiz group.

The appointment didn’t sit well with Petilla because it compromises the ERC and jeopardizes public interest, the sources said.

The ERC is the body tasked by law to protect energy consumers and ensure competition in the electricity sector. It is in the process of determining whether or not power players, among them a unit of the Aboitiz group, colluded in jacking up electricity prices for millions of customers of the Manila Electric Company (Meralco), the Philippines’ largest electricity distributor, in 2013. The ERC’s recent probe found the Aboitiz unit, Meralco, and 11 other power firms liable for “market abuse” but it didn’t say if they were guilty of conspiring with each other.

Petilla officially announced his resignation on April 28, six days after Sevilla tendered his to the Office of the President. Sevilla revealed in an exclusive interview with Rappler that he left the Customs bureau after an appointment he believed was part of a political deal with the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC). The INC, with its 2.25 million followers, is known to be a powerful bloc vote during elections.

On Thursday, June 18, Petilla said he would stay in the department until June 30.

A favor to the Aboitizes?

Petilla actually resigned ahead of Sevilla. At least two independent sources in the power industry, with whom Petilla shared his story, narrated to us what happened in the run-up.

Based on the informed sources’ accounts, Aquino asked Petilla sometime in 2014 to recommend names for the last ERC commissioner post that was vacant for two years. The appointment would complete the ERC’s 5-commissioner line-up. Petilla submitted to the President in November 2014 the name of an engineer who had years of experience in his field and a doctorate under his belt.

The President further asked Petilla to have the person vetted by other Cabinet secretaries, and Petilla willingly obliged.

On March 25, however, things took a surprising turn when a report came out announcing the appointment of 75-year-old Sta Ana, an accountant by profession. “It appeared to be a last-minute insertion,” said one source.

Puzzled by the report, the source said Petilla confronted Aquino about it. He wanted to know who Sta Ana was, what his credentials were, and if he was qualified. What Petilla discovered upset him.

Recalling snippets of the conversation between the two officials, the sources said the President admitted appointing Sta Ana upon the request of the Aboitizes, adding that it was the only time he did the business group any “favor.”

“Sec said he literally almost fell off his seat,” one of the sources recalled, noting it was an obvious case of influence-peddling.

This same source said Sta Ana’s nomination was made through Petilla’s predecessor, former energy secretary and now Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras. Almendras is one of the President’s closest friends who actively helped him in his 2010 presidential campaign. He was also a former official of Aboitiz companies.

This is not the first time that an ERC appointment was linked to Almendras. Josephine Patricia Magpale-Asirit, Almendras’ niece from his sister, was appointed ERC commissioner in July 2013.

Rappler reached out to Almendras and Sta Ana for their side, but they did not respond.

We also sought a comment from Aboitiz group officials and they told us: “It is the President who appoints the ERC commissioners. We cannot comment on this as the Aboitiz group is not involved in the appointment process.”

The President appointed Sta Ana on March 19, but the ERC didn’t announce it until April 8.

Petilla tendered his irrevocable resignation on March 26, effective April 30. He however remains in his post and will be there until the end of the month.

Web of connections

Petilla’s confidantes pointed out the connections among Almendras, Sta Ana, and the Aboitizes – all of whom hail from Cebu.

Founded in the late 1800s, the Aboitiz group is one of the country’s oldest conglomerates that successfully transformed itself from a shipping to a highly diversified company with a focus on power.

Industry data show it now accounts for over 2,700 megawatts or 15% of the Philippines’ total power generation capacity. It comprises the “big three,” along with San Miguel Corporation, which accounts for also 15% of the total capacity, and the Lopez family, which accounts for 14%. In power distribution, Aboitiz owns the second and third largest electric utility firms in the Philippines – Visayan Electric Company and Davao Light & Power Company, respectively.

Like the Aboitizes, Sta Ana is a well-entrenched member of Cebu’s business sector, having served as partner at auditing firms there for more than 11 years. Among other posts he held, Sta Ana was the president of the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry from 1992 to 1993 and was a trustee from 1994 to 1997 and 2008 to 2010.

Almendras is the glue that holds them together. Before being appointed to the government as energy secretary in 2010, he spent nearly 3 decades in the private sector in Cebu. He sat as president and CEO of Cebu Holdings and Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corporation, both parts of Ayala Land.

Prior to this, he was treasurer of Aboitiz Company, the privately held company of the Aboitiz family, and Aboitiz Equity Ventures, the family’s publicly listed holding company. He has reportedly maintained his close ties to the Aboitizes, with critics claiming he had favored his former employer in his decisions as energy secretary. The Zamora group, for instance, accused Almendras of keeping Mindanao in darkness by blocking the development of hydropower projects in favor of costlier projects of the Aboitiz family.

One of Almendras’ siblings is a friend of Sta Ana, revealed one source close to Petilla, though the source didn’t identify which sibling. Almendras’ sister, Agnes Almendras-Magpale, is Cebu Vice Governor, while his brother Ruben is the chairman of Cebu City Traffic Operations Management and former Metro Cebu Water District chairman.

Conflict of interest

Petilla didn’t fail to warn the President about the repercussions of his decision and what it means for Filipino energy consumers, sources said.

A questionable appointment puts the ERC’s credibility and competence in question – fundamental things demanded of the regulatory body.

Republic Act No. 9136, known as the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001 (EPIRA), squarely puts the burden of protecting the interest of consumers and ensuring competitiveness in the power sector on the shoulders of the 5-member commission.

In a nutshell, the ERC’s roles revolve around making sure electricity prices passed on to consumers are rational and at the least cost. The ERC is also tasked to promote true market competition, and prevent and penalize market abuse.

To ensure its independence, it must have commissioners who have neither run for political office nor previously worked for, or are affiliated with, any player in the power industry. It is crucial that individuals with unquestionable integrity are appointed to the body. There is no room for conflict of interest.

Putting a commissioner nominated by a power player at the ERC results in a compromised regulatory body. “How can you be sure that the ERC will act in favor of the public and not the power player?” an industry insider lamented. – Rappler.com