Scandals under Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from 2001-2009
‘Payola’ for FG
Barely had President Arroyo warmed her seat when the first in a series of scandals involving the first family erupted. Correspondence secretary Veronica “Bing” Rodrigo accused first gentleman Mike Arroyo of taking a P50-million bribe in July 2001. The bribery was said to be for President Arroyo to recall her veto on two franchise bills. The first bill involved the Philippine Communication Clearinghouse which sought a franchise to operate a clearinghouse where telco firms were to interconnect for a certain fee. The second bill granted APC Wireless Interface Network a franchise to build a wireless telecommunication system nationwide.
The companies were allegedly owned by Jaime Dichavez, a close friend of former President Joseph Estrada, who allegedly used Pacifico Marcelo as his dummy. According to Rodrigo, a woman named Malou Nuñez from the office of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office under Gabriel Claudio approached her, inquiring about the request to veto the bills.
Rodrigo is a friend of the president, having been classmates in grade school and high school. Their parents were close friends.
Marcelo alleged that President Arroyo called him to stop lobbying for the franchise and that the three of them—the First Couple and Marcelo—will establish their own company. Marcelo turned down the offer.
The president did not recall her veto of both bills. Arroyo also said that the First Gentleman never asked her to recall the veto. Her husband denied receiving any money and claimed that Rodrigo was the one who received the bribe. Rodrigo later retracted her allegations in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.
PCSO funds for admin candidates’ campaign
In October 2001, Roberto Rivero, former consultant of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO), claimed that the first gentleman used almost $5 million of PCSO funds to finance the campaign of some senatorial candidates and to bribe radio commentators. President Arroyo asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate her husband. The PCSO denied Rivero’s accusations. When asked by the Ombudsman for evidence, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who exposed this, was unable to present any.
Years later, in May 2007, another former PCSO senior executive, Cirilo Avila, said the funds were made to appear as payment for ad placements but were really used as People Power Coalition (PPC) campaign funds. Avila narrated that the PPC requested the funds and manager Ver Angelo took it up with the board. The request was approved.
Nani Perez’s ‘extortion’
Four days after assuming office, Arroyo awarded a $470-million contract to Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) to rehabilitate a power plant in Laguna. A few months later, former Manila Representative Mark Jimenez, the man who brokered the deal, accused Justice Secretary Hernando Perez of extorting $2 million in exchange for a justice department opinion that favors the deal.
Jimenez told Senator Lacson that the entire amount was actually $14 million: Perez received $2 million, the National Power Corporation “boys” got $1 million, Malacañang was given $4, and $7 million went to Jimenez.
In April 2008, the office of the Ombudsman, headed by Merceditas Gutierrez, filed graft charges against Perez, his wife Rosario, Ernest Escaler, and Ramon Antonio Arceo Jr.
But the graft and robbery charges were junked by the Sandiganbayan in November 2008 as the Ombudsman failed to expedite the complaints, making Perez immune from the charges, indirectly acquitting Perez.
Perez’s pending case with the Sandiganbayan is on his falsification of public documents.
In May 2009, Perez filed his third petition asking the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges of unethical practices filed against him for allegedly not declaring $1.7 million in his 2001 Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) saying that Arroyo herself approved his SALN when she assumed office. Perez was then a member of her cabinet.
The godmother’s ties to the Pinedas
President Arroyo agreed to be the godmother of alleged jueteng boss Bong Pineda’s son. In an interview with Time, she said that she sought advice from Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who said, “The sins of the father are not the sins of the son.”
Later events revealed the nature of Arroyo’s ties to the Pinedas. In 2005, during the height of the Senate probe on the “Hello Garci” scandal, Army Capt. Marlon Mendoza quoted Virgillio Garcillano and said Pineda gave P300 million to fund Arroyo’s presidential bid in 2004.
Another witness, Michaelangelo Zuce, nephew of Garcillano claimed that Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda, handed out envelopes containing P30,000 each in January 2004 during a party hosted by the president in her La Vista home in Quezon City.
Profit from anti-poverty bonds?
Conceptualized by the Caucus of Development (Code-NGO), the PEACe bonds (Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificates) were issued by the government supposedly to help raise funds for the anti-poverty activities of its member organizations. But there were allegations that Code-NGO used its political connections to profit P1.4 billion in a series of transactions from the PEACe bonds worth P35 billion pesos.
Code-NGO was chaired by Socorro Camacho-Reyes, sister of then Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho. Camacho-Reyes denied, in a Senate hearing, that her brother helped him.
Silencing the Marines
Rear Adm. Guillermo Wong, then Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, exposed irregularities in the Philippine Marines’ procurement of equipment worth P3.8 million.
This did not sit well with Marine officials. Then Armed Forces chief of staff Angelo Reyes offered Wong another post, chief of the Northern Command, practically demoting him. This forced Wong to resign.
When asked to comment, President Arroyo said Reyes had done “the right thing.” Fresh from retirement, Reyes was immediately appointed defense secretary.
A foul deal
In 2007, the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC, formerly Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines or CDCP) and Radstock Securities signed a compromise agreement obliging the PNCC to pay Radstock P6.2 billion in the form of: 19 pieces of real estate properties; 20% of the outstanding capital stock of PNCC; and 50% of PNCC’s share in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corporation for 27 years.
Senators Sergio Osmena III and Franklin Drilon cried foul because it disposed of almost all the assets of PNCC, a company acquired by the government after President Marcos forced government financial institutions to exchange debt owed to them by the company for stocks.
The deal, they said, gave Marubeni/Radstock preferential treatment over other bigger creditors, particularly government. As of December 2002, the PNCC owed the government through the Assets Privatization Trust P41.39 billion, according to the Commission on Audit, and has pending liabilities amounting to P6.9 billion, a bulk of which was from the Philippine government.
Overpriced Macapagal Boulevard
Sulpicio Tagud Jr., then board director of the Public Estates Authority (PEA), exposed the P600-million overprice of the construction of the GSIS-funded 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in the Manila Bay reclamation area. The contracts were approved during the Estrada administration and were given to three companies: Shoemart Inc., DM Wenceslao, and Jesusito D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC).
A series of supplemental contracts with JDLC were later approved by the PEA board under the Arroyo administration that increased the original approved cost of their section of the highway. According to Tagud, while the SM group of companies constructed its part of the boulevard at P54,000 per lineal meter, JDLC built its section at P302,000 per lineal meter.
Arroyo asked PEA and the Government Service Insurance System officials to submit a full report on the project to Presidential Legal Counsel Avelino Cruz. After the the report was submitted, Arroyo asked the entire PEA board to go on leave until the Presidential Anti-graft Commission submitted the results of its investigation.
In February 2008, the Sandiganbayan said it will continue the probe on JDLC despite the firm’s motion to dismiss the alleged overpricing of the boulevard.
The garbage contract
The Jancom controversy involved a $360-million (P18 billion) incineration project in which the Jancom Environment Corp. (JEC) would burn 3,000 tons of Metro Manila garbage a day for a tipping fee of $10 per ton. During his term, President Ramos did not approve the contract and President Estrada likewise debunked it because JEC raised the tipping fee from $10 to $59 per ton.
Despite the passage of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (both banned the use of incarcerators) , the Supreme Court declared the contract valid in April 2002 in a decision penned by Justice Jose Melo.
Still, Arroyo said the deal had many flaws. Arroyo passed the decision to the Manila Metropolitan and Development Authority (MMDA) to decide whether the deal is disadvantageous to the government or not. Although negotiations had started between the MMDA and Jancom, Arroyo called off the deal in April 2002.
Issues on mismanaged funds by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the GSIS caught the public eye in 2002. PAGCOR had been experiencing negative cash flows that bloated to P850 million in 2003. A Pagcor manager gave three reasons behind the financial difficulties: ‘onerous’ contracts, profligate spending, and massive, mindless donations.
GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia ordered its units to stop the processing of claims and loan applications because of financial difficulty. The Kapisanan ng Manggagawa attributed the financial problems to the following: Garcia’s cash advances amounting to P3.4 million, the establishment of district offices worth P4 million each, and the appointment of outside legal counsel for P200,000 a month.
Garcia allegedly used GSIS money to purchase Juan Luna’s Parisian Life painting. Likewise, Garcia was said to earn P540,000 a month and appointed some 130 vice-presidents who earn P70,000 a month. There were allegations that GSIS contributed at least P100 million to the campaign funds of Pres. Arroyo. Garcia was retained in his post despite appeals from GSIS employees.
In 2004, before the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, Garcia dismissed the charges and said GSIS is “the country’s top performing government-owned and controlled corporation.” He did not comment on the Juan Luna paintings.
FG as OFW envoy
In December, President Arroyo designated Mike Arroyo as an OFW envoy so he could represent her in the countries she could not visit. However, critics assailed Arroyo’s announcement when they learned that his activities as OFW envoy would be funded by a proposed overseas workers legal assistance fund. They feared that the Arroyo couple would use the funds for her 2004 campaign. While the President did not recall her husband’s designation, the First Gentleman voluntarily resigned.
Naia’s Terminal 3
In 2002, Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez obtained overpriced subcontracts for public works projects related to the terminal. Among these is Wintrack Builders Inc., owned by Alvarez, which bagged a site-development project.
Piatco was also accused of paying huge sums of money to Alfonso S. Liongson, PR consultant and said to be an associate of the First Gentleman, for permits or supplementary agreements to the contract. In 2003, Arroyo revoked Piatco’s build-operate- transfer contract and the government took over the airport in 2004. After almost a decade, the airport was partially opened in 2008.
In February 2003, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla revealed that 600,000 metric tons of rice imported from India were found to be rotten and moldy. Kishore Hemlani, an Indian trader allegedly close to Arroyo, reportedly bagged the P9.5 billion contract for the rice importation.
Anthony Abad, head of the National Food Authority, had to dispose of some P2.2-million worth of moldy rice stocks and tried to dispose of the remaining sacks in order to recover at least P2.5 billion.
Undeclared wealth in San Francisco
Since she got elected in 1992 as senator, Arroyo had failed to declare in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth the properties her husband Mike Arroyo bought in San Francisco through his California-based LTA Realty Corporation. According to Newsbreak, Mike acquired, resold, and managed at least five properties with a total value of at least $7.1 million in the Bay City from 1992 to 2000. The First Couple said the properties were bought in trust for Ignacio or Iggy Arroyo, Mike’s younger brother.
Mikey Arroyo’s imported horses
In August, news broke out that presidential son Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo planned to import 32 thoroughbred horses from Melbourne, Australia worth P384 million (at P12 million per horse). Mikey denied the allegation but admitted that he was in the horse-trade business.
He owns Franchino Farms along with cousin Franchino Pamintuan and friend Ralph Mondragon. (We requested for Mikey’s SALN but it has not been granted as of press time.)
Jose Pidal accounts
In August, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of money laundering: he allegedly siphoned off at least P321 million in campaign funds and contributions and put these in a secret bank account under the name Jose Pidal. He also supposedly used the names of his aides in three other accounts. According to Lacson, among the donors was then Rep. Mark Jimenez who gave P8 million. Arroyo’s younger brother, Iggy, came forward and admitted he is Jose Pidal.
Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes’ alleged involvement in selling arms and ammunitions to guerilla and bandit groups moved 300 young officers and enlisted men of the AFP to rebel against the government in July. Reyes was forced to resign a few weeks later. The rebel soldiers were detained.
The 321 armed soldiers apologized for the failed rebellion. In 2004, 133 of the soldiers were freed. Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, one of the alleged leaders, escaped in December 2005. Four other leaders escaped after Faeldon did. Faeldon was captured in 2007 but escaped again a few months after.
Reyes, since then, has held other Cabinet posts: environment secretary and energy secretary.
Congress vs. Supreme Court
The clash of the two co-equal bodies was all about the billions of pesos in Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and how it was spent. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and its allies in Congress, peeved that they were being ignored by the Supreme Court, went after Chief Justice Hilario Davide. They almost impeached him.
President Arroyo acted on the controversy only when it reached crisis proportions. She was balancing between competing interests: her political support from Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s NPC and Davide’s tenure on the Court.
The super-rich general
In December, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia’s son was apprehended by US Customs officials at the San Francisco airport for carrying $100,000 in undeclared cash. AFP Chief of Staff Narciso Abaya asked Garcia to explain and transferred him to another position.
Later in the year, US Customs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation transmitted to the office of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo a list of the amounts that General Garcia had brought into the US from 1993 to 2003, which was estimated at P71 million.
In October 2004, Garcia was charged with violating Articles of War 95 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman) and 96 (acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline) for failing to declare all his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and for possessing a US green card. In April 2006, the military court sentenced Garcia to a two-year confinement without pay and allowance and dishonorable discharge. Garcia also faced graft charges in the same court.
In February 2009, Garcia’s sons, Juan Pablo and Ian Carl were indicted in the US with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, failing to file a report of monetary instruments, and making false statements to a US government agency. The sons were placed in US custody until proven innocent. On the same month, Garcia was found guilty of misdeclaring his assets and liabilities in 2000. He was acquitted from two other perjury cases.
On June 2009, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Garcia of the last perjury case, saying there was no proof that the retired general lied in his 1997 SALN. However, the retired general is still facing plunder and forfeiture cases in the Sandiganbayan and is still being detained in Camp Crame.
No bidding for Northrail
The Northrail project started during Ramos’s administration but it was only in February 2004 when Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong entered into a credit loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China. The agreement granted the Philippine government a $400-million loan facility to finance the construction of the project.
Critics said the interest rate on the loan per annum (3%) is much higher than the rate on other loan packages that the Philippines could have availed itself of. China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation was designated as the prime contractor for the project without public bidding. The Senate probed the issue but the hearings were stalled in 2005 after Malacañang issued EO 464, requiring Cabinet members to seek presidential clearance before they could testify in congressional hearings.
Fertilizer fund scam
The controversy started when President Arroyo was accused of using fertilizer funds for the 2004 election. The fund, worth P728 million, fell under the Ginintuang Masagana Ani Program. Jocelyn Bolante, agriculture undersecretary and regarded as the architect of the fund, left the country and sought asylum in America. He came back to the country in 2008 and faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Bolante told the Senate that (1) he does not know who nominated or recommended him to be an agriculture undersecretary, (2) it was former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo who requested the release of the funds, (3) the fertilizer fund was valid and legal and was approved by the DA, and that (4) when he left the department in August 2004, 91% of the fertilizer funds had been liquidated already.
The committee recommended the filing of plunder and other criminal case against him and nine other persons but no case was filed. In January 2009, the panel who investigated the fertilizer fund scam submitted the proposed resolution to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
No reports on the investigation have been released from both the Ombudsman and the justice department. In March 2009, Bolante disclosed a plan to run either as governor or congressman in Capiz, Roxas.
Philhealth cards for campaign
Six weeks before the May 2004 elections, two lawyers filed a disqualification case against President Arroyo, saying she was behind the enhanced Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Greater Medicare Access or GMA program. Public funds were allegedly spent to enroll families in PhilHealth for one year. The premium cost of P1,200 for each family member was chargeable to PhilHealth and the PCSO. The IDs, bearing Arroyo’s picture and name, were coincidentally distributed during the start of the election campaign.
More than a year after the election, a recording of a telephone conversation between President Arroyo and election commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano was released to the public. In this conversation, Arroyo directed him to make sure she wins by one million votes. After weeks of ducking the issue, Arroyo apologized for “a lapse in judgment” in talking with an election commissioner but explained that she merely wanted to protect her votes.
Eight cabinet members and two bureau heads, called the Hyatt 10, filed their irrevocable resignations in the aftermath of the “Hello, Garci” scandal and requested Arroyo to resign. The Hyatt 10 is composed of Secretaries Florencio Abad (education), Juan Santos (trade and industry), Emilia Boncodin (budget and management), Cesar Purisima (finance), Dinky Soliman (social welfare and development) , Rene Villa (land reform), Alberto Lina (customs), Guillermo Parayno (internal revenues), Teresita Quintos Deles (adviser on the peace process), and Imelda Nicolas of the national anti-poverty commission.
In Senate hearings on jueteng that began in May 2005, jueteng operators and bagmen said the President’s husband, Mike, her son Mikey, and her brother-in-law Ignacio or Iggy were among those who received monthly payoffs from gambling lords. The payoffs ranged from P500,000 to P1 million.
One of the key witnesses, businesswoman Sandra Cam, testified that in December 2004, she personally delivered the cash to Mikey and Iggy at the House of Representatives; the money came from retired Chief Supt. Restituto Mosqueda, former police director for Bicol and alleged protector of jueteng operations in Luzon.
Richard Garcia and Demosthenes Abraham Riva also told a Senate hearing that the three Arroyos had been receiving payola from jueteng operations in Bicol. Michaelangelo Zuce, an aide of former commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and a former staff member of presidential adviser on political affairs Joey Rufino, directly linked the President to jueteng by saying that before the 2004 elections, the President distributed money to several election officials in her house in La Vista, Quezon City, in the presence of Bong Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda.
Garcia and Riva retracted their statements a few months later and said they were merely “coached” by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Zuce’s testimony failed to take off after one witness did not corroborate Zuce’s claim. Former Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr. who was also said to have been present at the La Vista meeting, flew to the US and refused to come to Manila to testify.
Aragoncillo, the spy
Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino American in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was arrested for allegedly taking classified documents from computers in Vice President Dick Cheney’s office and the FBI and sending them to opposition leaders in the Philippines. The documents were primarily analyses of the Philippines’ political situation by US Embassy officials.
Among others, the documents said that: “Arroyo has always exhibited paranoia and the need to control every aspect of the Philippine economy and politics. As time ticked out for her administration, it was clear the biggest problem was Arroyo herself.”
Aragoncillo was charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government or official and faces up to 25 years in prison.
Mega-anomaly in Comelec
According to Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo, the botched P1.3 billion poll modernization project of Comelec was overpriced by P500 million. Comelec ignored its own bidding rules and changed these to suit one favored bidder: MegaPacific Corp.
The SC deemed the process flawed and declared the contract null and void. The Office of the Ombudsman committee created by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez initially indicted Commissioner Resurreccion Borra but cleared him a few months later. Abalos and company were ruled to be not liable for the voided contract.
Oliver Lozano filled an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo during the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Congress declared the complaint to be technically deficient. Oliver Lozano filed another impeachment complaint against President Arroyo on 2006. Like the first one, his second complaint was defeated due to insufficiency in substance.
For the third time, Lozano filed his impeachment complaint against the President on 2007. Like the second version, this impeachment rap was dismissed for insufficiency in substance. Critics say Lozano’s impeachment complaints were moves to hinder the submission of a solid complaint against the President.
Weeks after former Arroyo ally Jose De Venecia filed his impeachment complaint in 2008, Lozano took his fourth try with a four-page impeachment complaint penned with his daughter, Atty Evangeline Lozano, and another lawyer, Elly Pamatong.
Former First Lady Imelda Marcos asked a Manila court to stop a Philippine Commission on Good Government auction of her P15-billion jewelries. Marcos claimed the jewelries belonged solely to her. No restraining order was issued by the court.
The PCGG has two of the three jewelry collections in the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Philipinas and planned to auction off majority of the jewelries in May 2009, with strong resistance from Mrs. Marcos.
FG in $20,000 hotel suite!
During Manny Pacquiao’s match with Erick Morales in Las Vegas, the First Gentleman allegedly stayed in a $20,000-a-night suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mike said that there was nothing corrupt about accepting the free luxury suite offered to him by the hotel. He argued that as the husband of a head of state, he was entitled to such perks.
No German bank account
Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that a member of the Arroyo family maintained a bank account in Germany amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. First Gentleman Arroyo flew to Germany and secured a certification from the bank to disprove Cayetano’s claims. Upon his return, he sought Cayetano’s expulsion from Congress but without success.
The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was signed between Arroyo and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The treaty aimed to promote investments and trade between the two countries. Various civil society groups contested the agreement because the government did not consult them. According to these groups, although the agreement secures employment in Japan, the treaty includes an “environmentally unjust bilateral trade.”
In 2008, the Senate finally ratified the agreement by a vote of 16-4 as the agreement was favorable since 95% of exports from the Philippines to Japan will have zero duties.
Meanwhile, numerous representatives from the House questioned the Senate decision as the agreement “will bring a tsunami of unfair trade and toxic wastes.”
After spending six years in detention for plunder and graft and corruption charges, former President Estrada was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Sandiganbayan in October 2007. Three days after, President Arroyo granted him pardon citing a policy to release prisoners aged 70.
Fallout from ZTE
The scandal was exposed in August 2007, a few months after Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp Vice President Yu Yong signed a $329.5 million contact for a national broadband network deal in April. President Arroyo and the First Gentlemen were said to have visited China for the contract-signing.
Rep. Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) said that Comelec chairperson Benjamin Abalos also joined the President in China to broker the deal. Abalos denied brokering the deal but admitted going to China four times. In September 2007, the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr testified that he was with Abalos in China and that Abalos demanded money from ZTE officials.
The following day, the Supreme Court promulgated a TRO stopping the deal between the Philippines and China and gave ZTE 15 days to comment.
NEDA chair Romulo Neri testified in the Senate hearings and said Abalos tried to bribe him with P200 million but he refused to answer some senators’ questions, citing executive privilege. Abalos resigned as Comelec chair in October 2007 as President Arroyo cancelled the deal in a trip to China.
Jun Lozada, former chief executive officer of Philippine Forest Corporation and NEDA consultant, testified in February 2008 that Abalos and the First Gentlemen were to receive kickbacks once the deal was signed. Speaker Jose de Venecia was unseated and got dragged into the deal when his son said he was also in China.
On July 2008, the SC dismissed three petitions that question the constitutionality of the deal and declared it moot and academic.
Impeachment: Pulido’s version
Lawyer Roel Pulido filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. Endorsed by an administration ally, Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis, it was seen as a move to foil another complaint against the President.
Congress thrashed the complaint.
Money from Malacañang
Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio revealed that he was given a paper bag containing P500,000 in a Malacañang meeting in October 2007. The money was allegedly for community projects. The bags were handed out by a female Malacañang staff. Panlilio said he accepted the money because because no conditions were attached; he did not consider it a bribe. Various versions of the source of the money came out as other local officials present in the meeting admitted receiving either P500,000 or P200,000.
Other officials who confirmed receiving money were Governors Joselito Mendoza, Leo Campos, and Representatives Rachel Arenas, Antonio Cuenco, Bienvenido Abante, Mauricio Domogan, Tomas Dumpit Jr, and some others who refused to be named. The named 9 officials were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving bribes. Due to numerous versions on the source of the money, Sen. Miguel Zubiri said during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that the money has no direct link to the Palace.
Glorietta 2 and Batasan bombings
After the string of controversies hounding the Arroyo administration, bombing incidents happened in Glorietta 2 and the House of Representatives. The police, in a speedy investigation, found that the bombing of Batasan was initially intended for Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar.
The Glorietta 2 bombing, on the other hand, resulted from gas leakage. Rumors spread that the bombings were perpetrated by the government to divert the public’s attention away from the Arroyo scandals.
The Batasan bombing happened the day before Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio was set to testify on the bribery of local officials in the Senate and a day before the House justice committee was to hear the impeachment case.
The Glorietta 2 bombing happened during the height of the bribery case which took place in Malacañang.
Manila Pen siege
Antonio Trillanes IV, together with Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and 25 other Magdalo officers walked out of their trial and marched on the streets of Makati City. Former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona and some soldiers from the AFP joined the march that ended in Peninsula Manila Hotel. After several hours, the group surrendered to the government forces after a military assault. They were arrested and several journalists were detained.
Missing: Jonas Burgos
Of the numerous human rights violations, political killings, and abductions during Arroyo’s administration, the case of activist Jonas Burgos has become the most prominent. Burgos was missing since late April and eyewitnesses said he was dragged from a mall in Commonwealth to a Toyota Revo by five men. The license plate of the Revo was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Bulacan.
In 1991, Claudio Teehankee Jr was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of killing Maureen Hultman, John Roland Chapman, and wounding Jussi Leino. Last November 2008, President Arroyo granted Teehankee pardon. It was reported that the Hultmans “approved” the pardon and received a settlement of P6 million. The Hultmans were enraged that the pardon was “kept secret” and denied receiving the money.
In an Interpol conference in Moscow, police comptroller director Eliseo De la Paz and his group were detained because of carrying undeclared cash worth 105,000 euros (P6.9 million). At the time of the conference, De la Paz had already retired from service.
When the group returned, the Senate called for hearings on the issue. De la Paz said the money was “cash advance” for “emergency cases.” His statement was questioned as PNP Chief Jesus Versoza said the money was for purchasing intelligence equipment.
The Senate recommended that the justice department and the Ombudsman conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly as the group violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103, the law on allowable travel expenses, and the rule on retired officials or those about to retire. The report also proposed a preliminary investigation on interior and local government chief Reynato Puno and Versoza for allowing the group to travel and for ignoring the travel ban.
As of March 2009, De la Paz settled the remaining 65,000 euros, fully paying for the cash advance and avoiding a civil law suit.
Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal spilled the beans on Senate president Manny Villar when they exposed his double insertion of a P200 million C-5 project in the 2008 budget. After a few months, Villar resigned as Senate president when he learned about the planned “ouster” led by Lacson. Enrile became Senate president.
In May 2009, although Villar was out of the country, the Senate ethics committee deliberated on the alleged C-5 insertion and declared the ethics complaint filed by Madrigal as sufficient in substance.
Meralco and the tainted court
What started out as a tug-of-war between the Lopezes and GSIS over control of Meralco ended up tainting the reputation of the Court of Appeals. The scandal started when Justice Jose Sabio Jr told the media that he was offered a P10 million bribe by an alleged Meralco emissary, businessman Francis Borja.
The Supreme Court conducted a public investigation on the CA justices. Lapses in the justices’ decisions and CA procedures were unearthed. The verdict: Justice Vicente Roxas was dismissed, Sabio and Justice Bienvenido Reyes were suspended, and Justice Myrna Vidal was reprimanded.
Impeachment: Joey’s complaint
Joey de Venecia, son of former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, particularly because of the overpriced NBN-ZTE broadband deal. The complaint was found sufficient in form but was dismissed after House representatives voted 42-8, ruling the complaint as insufficient in substance.
Resurrecting nuke power plant
Tarlac Rep. Mark Cojuangco and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo filed HB 4631 or the Bataan nuclear power plant commissioning act, a bill aimed at rehabilitating the mothballed power plant for $1.4 billion. Various groups were strongly against the re-opening of the plant, stating that more viable and cheaper options are available like renewable energy. A feasibility study was requested from Cojuangco to prove that BNPP’s structures are still in good condition. A consolidated HB 6300 was submitted to the House and will be deliberated after the legislative break in July.
The failed ancestral domain agreement
In June 2001, President Arroyo signed the GRP-MILF Tripoli agreement in Libya, paving the way for peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. By May 2003, due to numerous bombings in Mindanao, Arroyo canceled the peace talks. Talks resumed two months later in Kuala Lumpur.
In January 2004, peace monitors from Malaysia, Brunei, and Libya went to Mindanao to monitor the five-year truce between the two parties. The discussion on ancestral domain progressed and was divided into four strands: concept, territory, resources, and governance.
By November 2007, government panel chair Rodolfo Garcia and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said that the agreement can finally be concluded. But by December of the same year, the ancestral domain negotiations reached a deadlock due to constitutional issues.
The text of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) caused a big stir when it leaked to the press. On August 2008, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the peace agreement and suggested renegotiating the homeland deal.
In September 2008, the government dissolved the panel conducting the peace negotiations with the MILF, formed a new one, and announced that negotiations will depend on whether the MILF will turn over two rogue field commanders and other members who attacked North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and other provinces in Mindanao. The peace talks were set to resume in 2009.
Red Cross kidnapping
On January, gunmen on motorcycles intercepted an International Committee of the Red Cross vehicle and kidnapped three workers: Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. The group behind it, identified as the Abu Sayyaf, asked for ransom. The Philippine Red Cross, under Sen. Richard Gordon, refused to pay the ransom. The group threatened to behead the workers.
Three months after the kidnapping, after numerous negotiations, Lacaba was released. A few days after, Notter was released as well. Vagni, after six months of being held captive, was eventually released July 12.
In 2005, Arroyo initiated a move to change the Constitution and transform the present presidential- bicameral republic into a parliamentary- unicameral form of government but failed.
By late 2006, the House shelved a plan to revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly. In June 2009, two days before the House adjourned, they passed HR Bill 1109. The bill calls for a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1986 Constitution.
Dacer-Corbito double murder case
After spending years in America, Cesar Mancao returned and was willing to speak out on the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000. Mancao became a state witness in July 2009.
Aside from Mancao, 21 others were accused of the same charges. According to Mancao, he is no longer afraid of anyone, particularly of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who consequently denied having a hand in the crime.
Dacer was asked by former President Estrada to boost his image during the height of the BW scam and the latter’s impeachment trial. The publicist was said to have knowledge of BW Resources Corp, a gaming firm in which Estrada owned shares. The scam started when it was found out that BW won an exclusive contract to operate on-line bingo and introduce Quick Pick-2 in 1999, a game similar to jueteng. On that same year, PAGCOR granted BW a nationwide online bingo franchise. Further investigation revealed that Dante Tan, Estrada’s alleged financier during the latter’s presidential bid, had been heavily buying shares in BW.
In late 2000, the charred bodies of Dacer and his driver were found in a creek in Cavite and eyewitnesses said they were abducted and killed by policemen. Some of the witnesses pointed to Estrada as the mastermind of the killing through Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force chief Lacson.
A few days before the House’s legislative break, the body passed House Bill 4077 to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law for another five years. The House appropriated P100 billion for land acquisition and distribution, support services, and other funding requirements. The Senate has also approved its own version of the bill.
In 2007, Arroyo certified an urgent bill to extend the law. The program has yet to distribute a million hectares to another two million beneficiaries.
In June, the controversial House Bill 5043 or reproductive health bill was trashed in the House of Representatives, as it failed to gather enough votes from the lawmakers. The bill was penned by Cong. Edcel Lagman and it advocates, among others, the use of government funds to provide free contraceptives to the poor. The bill reached the plenary on 2008 and has since been under fire from various groups, particularly those with the Catholic Church.
Right of reply bill
The controversial Right of Reply bill (RORB) failed to gather enough signatures and was not passed in the House. Since it was filed last year, numerous groups, especially from media organizations, have contested the passing of the bill.
In February, seven senators reiterated their support for the bill. Arroyo, on the other hand, assured journalists while the bill was being deliberated in the House that she will not hesitate to trash it should it contain provisions that will curtail press freedom.
In March, Arroyo signed Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines law, a controversial law that defines the country’s baselines and claims in the South China Sea. The bill includes the Kalayaan Group of Islands and Scarborough Shoal as parts of “regime of islands.” The other countries who have been claiming the islands are China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.
Misuse of Balikatan funds
Navy Lt. Nancy Gadian revealed an alleged malversation of funds in the 2007 Balikatan joint military exercises with the United States. According to Gadian, Gen. Eugenio Cedo, former Mindanao Command head, pocketed P2.3 million of the money and the rest were pocketed by other higher Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials. The Balikatan exercises were given a P4.6 million fund.
Arroyo ordered the defense department to investigate Gadian’s allegations. Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr, AFP public information officer chief, said the alleged malversed funds were properly accounted for in the Commission on Audit reports. He also challenged Gadian to come out and file a proper complaint.
GMA in Congress?
Due to rumors that Arroyo is planning to run for Congress, election lawyers clarified that there are no provisions that prohibit Arroyo from resigning as president if she runs for a lower post. They cite Sec. 67 of the Omnibus Election Code which was repealed in the Fair Elections Act passed in 2001, Arroyo’s first year as president after Edsa 2.
The Code states that “any elective official, whether national or local, running for any office other than the one which he is holding in a permanent capacity, except for President and Vice-President, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.”
In April 2009, a helicopter carrying eight passengers, two of whom were Cabinet undersecretaries and a senior military aide, crashed in the Ifugao region. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) blamed bad weather for the accident.
Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the senate committee on national defense and security, questioned why the helicopter was allowed to fly from Loakan Airport in Baguio in the afternoon when visibility was low and why there was no back-up helicopter provided at the time. There were allegations that the helicopter was delayed for three hours because it was used to ferry Congressman Mikey Arroyo, the president’s eldest son, from Manila to Baguio.
According to press Secretary Cerge Remonde, the helicopter indeed carried Mikey and the others from Manila and arrived in Baguio at past two in the afternoon, ahead of the other helicopter which carried Arroyo and her party. The same helicopter Mikey used was the same helicopter used by the eight passengers who were supposed to conduct an ocular inspection of the Halsema Highway; Arroyo was scheduled to visit this highway the next day.###(researched by lei chavez of abs-cbnnews. com)