POSTSCRIPT / August 23, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Bongbong opens his mouth 17 years late

A DUD: The pieces of paper that Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. brought to the Sandiganbayan last Tuesday to prove his late father’s claimed business ties with tycoon Lucio Tan turned out to be unauthenticated copies of missing documents.

And the “bombshell” testimony of the brand-new congressman from Ilocos Norte sounded like a dud dropped 17 years too late.

At the witness stand in a smart blue suit, Bongbong was reduced to a mere spectator as Tan’s counsel — former Marcos solicitor general Estelito Mendoza — tangled with lawyers of the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

How the PCGG, which is pressing countless recovery suits against the Marcoses, ended up as an ally of the family of the late strongman is another mystery waiting to unravel.

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INADMISSIBLE: The key issues that day centered not on the content of Bongbong’s “evidence” — as he and the PCGG had wanted — but on whether the papers were admissible at all and if the PCGG’s new Xerox litigation style is proper.

Bongbong and his PCGG partners looked pathetic peddling photocopies of supposed documents held by the US Treasury. In their excitement, they forgot to produce the “best evidence” – the originals or at least authenticated copies.

His copies were those of a Sept. 27, 1990, letter of the US Treasury to former PCGG Commissioner Cesar Parlade and of documents seized by US customs agents from the Marcoses upon their arrival in Hawaii after fleeing the Philippines.

Despite repeated objections that photocopies are inadmissible and that any testimony based on them would be “purposeless,” the court initially gave PCGG enough leeway.

In the end, however, defense lawyers prevailed. The Sandiganbayan’s fifth division ruled that Bongbong would be allowed to testify on the questioned documents only if the originals were presented.

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WASTE OF TIME: Mendoza told the media later it was surprising that while the PCGG had the copies for the past 17 years it did not exert effort to secure the originals.

He also said it was intriguing that Marcos’ lawyers have a copy of the US Treasury letter to Parlade when it should be in the possession of the PCGG.

Nothing was achieved in the hearing, Mendoza said, “It has all been a waste of time.”

He stressed that the question is not whether the Marcoses owned part of Tan’s companies, but whether those companies were acquired using government money. If they were, he said, they would be ill-gotten.

If indeed the PCGG has the goods on the Marcoses and Tan, it should move with dispatch. Too much time and resources have been wasted. Allowing cases to drag is unfair both to the government and the defendants.

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PYRAMID SCAM: Lack of documents and direction also hobbles the investigation of a multimillion-dollar pyramiding scam that had victimized would-be investors lured by the prospects of mega-profits.

The National Bureau of Investigation has been sidetracked into harassing a firm whose only fault was that its name PFEC (Performance Foreign Exchange Corp.) sounded like PIPC (Performance Investment Products Corp.), the firm in question.

After that fumble, the NBI seems headed for another misstep – which is the filing of complaints against some of the victims themselves who just happened to work for the firm used by the main suspect.

Now people are asking if the NBI is just incompetent or so naive that it was sucked into a grand coverup.

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VANISHING ACT: The NBI might just haul in some incorporators and minor stockholders of PIPC Corp., a business outsourcing company established in the Philippines by Singaporean Michael Liew, the key suspect.

Another twist is that the swindle was reportedly consummated not through PIPC Corp., but through Performance Investments BVI, a British Virgin Islands-based firm of Liew.

The NBI should focus on getting Liew, who has vanished allegedly with some $140 million to $250 million of investors’ money. The bureau should not turn into victims twice over those who had invested with Liew.

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ANOTHER BLUNDER: While PIPC Corp. was put up by Liew, the Securities and Exchange Commission has found out that the firm was just doing market research for its offshore clients and that it was not involved in trading.

It was Liew through his Performance Investments BVI who reportedly emptied the bank accounts of his investors. Thus, the NBI should be chasing him and not making substitute defendants out of PIPC personnel.

The NBI may want to study a recent blunder by Philippine authorities wherein Indonesia refused to extradite a number of Filipinos accused here of gypping investors.

As it turned out, the Philippine investigators did not do their homework. They failed to charge the suspects with crimes that are also punishable in Indonesia.

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DUO SOUGHT: The point here is that the NBI should cut to the chase by going after Liew and his alleged right-hand man, one Albert Chua.

It was a former employee of PIPC Corp., Cristina Gonzalez-Tuason, who asked the NBI last week to widen its dragnet to include Chua.

Tuason broke the news on the possible absconding of investors’ money. She did not just go to the media, but also filed a complaint with NBI Director Nestor Mantaring last July 19, seeking the Interpol’s assistance in locating Liew.

Her complaint can be the basis of the NBI in filing complaints against Liew and Chua. She said that Chua is another Singaporean whose real name may be Chua Pwey Chan.

She added that Chua may “have information on, or himself had a hand in the disappearance of Mr. Liew apparently together with funds of Performance Investments in the British Virgin Islands.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 23, 2007)

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