Friday, September 21


Fortunately or unfortunately for Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (GMA), the Sandigan Bayan criminal court’s verdict on her predecessor Joseph “Erap” Estrada has more or less been settled. Despite the latter’s understandable yet shallow claims of a martyr’s innocence, even those of us, myself included who seven years or so ago were at the forefront among those demanding for his resignation, now look upon today’s karma-confronted Erap with some pity and empathy. Or even sympathy. Why so? Because Erap’s past mistakes as President though serious and truly condemnable, appear to be much less vicious and hypocritical than…

GMA’s social, marital, economic, Catholic and political pedigrees obviously constitute an overwhelming 100-to-1 advantage in life for her, over those of Erap. In moral theology and particularly in relation to the parable on Silver Talents (Matthew 25: 14-30), GMA’s God-given 100-to-1 capital advantage for life, will certainly also require from her that much more rectitude and moral excellence in governance, than from Erap. And perhaps even more so because she has often publicly flaunted her supposed miraculous and thus “God-ordained” assumption to the Philippine presidency. Therefore, her personal and moral culpability for her sins of misgovernance, would at least be also 100 times more than Erap’s!

And if, as the following excerpts from non-partisan and knowledgeable opinion makers today strongly suggest, GMA appears to be ten times worse than Erap ever was as a benighted leader, shouldn’t GMA tremble in fear a thousand times more, every time she appears before the Lord at Holy Mass, without a clean and honest conscience? Especially whenever she receives the “Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity” of our Lord in the Holy Eucharist?

By the way, corrupt Catholic politicians and bureaucrats including those who condone corrupt practices through their own silent acquiescence or grotesque attempts to cover-up, should be reminded that it is outright sacrilege and a mortal sin, everytime we receive Holy Communion without having been a) genuinely sorry, b) sincerely committed to adequate restitution for our victims, and c) have confessed these mortal sins, especially those involving grave injustice and rank hypocrisy.

Excerpts from the Philippine Daily Inquirer of 21 September 2007

Turning point

The testimony of businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III before the Senate on Tuesday and the testimony of three Cabinet secretaries before the same Senate committees yesterday define a true turning point in post-Edsa People Power II politics. Beyond the all-consuming question of an unpopular president’s continuing political survival, we face history’s ruthless judgment: Do we ever learn?

The political sharks certainly smell blood in the water. But the red stain is wide and visible even from a distance. The wounds the Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo administration has sustained are real; whether they are deep enough to prove fatal will be determined in the next few weeks or so…

What do we know for certain?

The young De Venecia’s testimony was, by and large, credible. Some inconsistencies exist, and the failure to mention the alleged “Back off!” encounter in his affidavit is problematic. But overall, with its sometimes gratuitous specificity, his testimony has the ring of truth…

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago’s musings on human nature are absolute nonsense. As in the Estrada impeachment trial six years ago, Santiago again suggests that people -- lawyers then, businessmen now -- are motivated only by base greed or sheer self-interest. It may be that that is the world she lives in, but her world is not ours…

First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo’s belated response to the young De Venecia’s allegation that he had tried to intimidate him into backing out of the National Broadband Network project, as coursed through his lawyer Jesus Santos, sounds plausible... As we said, it sounds plausible, but it is hardly credible…

The by-now-clearly-documented role of Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos in the ZTE Corporation’s proposal for a national broadband network is incomprehensible -- and truly reprehensible. He has denied his involvement, but he can no longer deny the unusual trips to China, the series of meetings with the young De Venecia, and now that alleged mid-March meeting with Arroyo. Of all officials involved in the ZTE scandal, he has the most to explain…

We have long called for this disgraced and disgraceful official’s resignation or impeachment. Abalos’ involvement in the ZTE scandal is further reason to repeat our call... We cannot imagine enough congressmen mustering the political courage to impeach him. We certainly cannot imagine him resigning. We will have to bide our time and wait for a plunder case to be filed against him…

As I See It
Neil H. Cruz

I think we will discover more overpriced projects as the administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo winds down to 2010. In basketball lingo, this is its last two minutes and public officials, knowing they would be out of jobs and out of power in less than three years, are now providing for their futures. What better and faster way to do that than to overprice projects.

The President cannot stop her subordinates from doing that because she is a lame-duck president. She is still in MalacaÒang only because of the support of her allies. If she cracks down on them, they can withdraw their support and where would she be? Look at what happened to former President Joseph Estrada. Ms Arroyo knows that what she did to him can also be done to her. So she will just sit tight, please her allies and hope that she lasts until 2010.

In fact, it is possible, she herself is thinking of providing for her future. She will need lots of money for lawyers when she is no longer President and plunder and graft cases are filed against her for the things she did while in office.

I hope not, but it is also possible she is the “mystery woman” behind the ZTE broadband case as her husband is the “mystery man.” Circumstantial evidence points to that.

She flew all the way to China to witness the signing of the ZTE contract. Why? Obviously to show her support for the project. What was signed was allegedly “stolen” soon later. Why?

Ms Arroyo did not order that the contract be reconstituted or that a copy be obtained from the Chinese. And in spite of a temporary restraining order from the Supreme Court, she issued a statement that the Philippines would honor the contract which nobody but the signatories have seen.

The pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.

‘Back off!’: the new idiom of corruption
Raul C. Pangalangan

Thirty years ago, we celebrated Sept. 21 as Thanksgiving Day, as declared by President Ferdinand Marcos. A whole nation backed down when told to back off, and ended up celebrating the first day of the dictatorship, the day martial law was proclaimed, to sing hallelujah for their chains.
Jose de Venecia III has implicated no less than President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband as the “mystery man” who tried to bully him out of the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal. Already De Venecia’s life has been threatened and his phone bugged, and nasty personal innuendoes circulate. “Reformers” plot to oust his father as Speaker of the House of Representatives. The chief presidential legal counsel threatens him with jail -- and reminds the Ombudsman of its “motu proprio” powers to investigate without waiting for a complainant -- yes, the same Ombudsman who had to be prodded by the Supreme Court before it charged anyone -- the small fry, mind you, not the big shots -- in the Comelec computerization scam. And for a while, the government even claimed that the NBN contract was either lost or nonexistent!…

NBN is an abrupt reversal of the settled policy of public-private partnerships in “information infrastructure” that shifts the costs to private investors and spares government funds from that burden. Moreover, the project, originally priced at P5.1 billion, has now bloated to a whopping P19.3 billion -- all this to offer a redundant service already performed by private capital on its own…

Without the De Venecia testimony, these weighty issues might not have ignited public outrage. Contrast that to the drama of the Joseph Estrada trial, with the image of a “bayong” [big native bag] full of cold cash hand-carried by thugs to the “lord of all jueteng [underground lottery] lords.” This time, the thievery is far more suave, and players threaten one another in “coÒo English” in chic places.

In the Philippines, there is a class divide even in the treatment of witnesses. The Estrada trial flourished because of witnesses like the warlord Chavit Singson, who is a “Witness Protection Program” on his own, and the bank vice president Clarissa Ocampo, who has her own built-in credibility as a professional. In contrast, who remembers those witnesses against MalacaÒang in all the past scandals? The low-level minions have either recanted and apologized or been shredded to pieces, like T/Sgt. Vidal Doble earlier this week.

And then the young De Venecia came, with all the advantages of both Chavit and Clarissa. Hence the vicious attacks on his character, because the NBN debate is at its core a battle for the hearts and minds of the Filipino public. The UP deans conclude: “The only backbone the government needs today is a moral one, not fiber optic but “fibre politique.’”

The Ombudsman’s “motu proprio” powers? “Cry ‘Havoc,’ and let slip the dogs of war, that this foul deed shall smell above the earth….”

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