POSTSCRIPT / July 1, 2007 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Priest-governor's move against jueteng awaited

SAN FERNANDO CITY — By the grace of Apung Guinu and the mandate of his cabalen, priest-turned-politician Ed Panlilio took over yesterday the heavy responsibility of being governor of Pampanga.

Among Ed, 53, took his oath before Associate Justice Consuelo Ynares-Santiago at the capitolio here. He was in the same blue jeans-white shirt-sandals getup he wore during the whirlwind campaign that netted him a 1,147-vote lead over his closest rival.

While outgoing governor Mark Lapid quietly moved out, former provincial board member Lilia Pineda, wife of suspected “jueteng lord” Bong Pineda, refused to concede to Panlilio. Her husband reportedly has ruled that out.

The burning question is what this former parish priest of Betis town will do with the jueteng scourge in this province of 1.9 million. The lahar quarrying racket, the other major corruption concern, is a less complicated problem.

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HEALING: Although he has stopped talking about it, Panlilio is expected to ban the illegal numbers game. But how and how soon? And what will he do with the thousands of cobradores, or jueteng bet-takers, who will be displaced?

With his extensive experience in micro-financing, livelihood and job-generation, Among Ed has prepared programs for the less fortunate longing for a better life under the new dispensation.

“We will initially and swiftly focus on three areas: Health, Education and Livelihood (HEaL),” he said in his inaugural speech. “If there is an issue over me, I want it only about these three concerns!”

Referring to jueteng, he said: “If we could really concentrate and develop these programs on Health, Education and Livelihood, people will forget about putting their bets on this infamous numbers game.”

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PHC REJOINDER: Replying to the comments of lawyer Rene Saguisag on the Senate committee report on the alleged looting and mismanagement of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. and the Philcomsat Holdings Corp., special counsel Federico R. Agcaoili of PHC sent in a rejoinder:

“Atty. Rene Saguisag chose to merely assail the Senate Committee Report No. 312 approved by the Senate in its June 7, 2007, session as a ‘midnight’ resolution.

“However, Atty. Saguisag miserably failed to raise any factual or legal argument against the findings arrived at by the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises and the committee on public services.

“The findings point to Atty. Saguisag’s clients, Enrique L. Locsin, Manuel Andal, Julio Jalandoni, Luis K. Lokin, Johnny Tan and Philip Brodett, among others, as culpable in mismanaging PHC and raiding its financial coffers by: (1) highly questionable soaring operating expenses, (2) questionable advances to affiliates, (3) accounting fraud, (4) creation of suspicious bank accounts, (5) reported bribery to government agencies, (6) tax fraud, and (7) various questionable investments.”

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REPORT DEFENDED: Agcaoili continued: “After 11 public hearings conducted by the Senate committees, Atty. Saguisag’s clients failed to substantiate their allegations against the Africa-Bildner Group, who are themselves stockholders of record of the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp., Philcomsat and PHC.

“In fact, Enrique L. Locsin, who styled himself as the chairman of the PHC board, before his election was nullified by the court, could not answer simple questions of the committee regarding the affairs of the corporation he chairs. The records of the Senate committees as well as the transcript of stenographic notes of the hearings are replete with the familiar ‘I don’t know’ and ‘I am not in charge’ answers of Atty. Saguisag’s client, Enrique L. Locsin.

“On the other hand, it was uncalled for and unfair for Atty. Saguisag to state that the report ‘was passed unanimously without anyone understanding what they did’ as copies of the committee report were circulated to the members of the committees prior to its presentation to the plenary.

“The report could not have been presented to the plenary for approval if the same did not have the requisite signatures of the committee members. The senators who approved the report studied it before they affixed their signatures. Nine senators out of 16 members of the committees signed and adopted the report.

“They were senators Richard Gordon, Mar Roxas, Ralph Recto, Edgardo Angara, Sergio OsmeƱa III, Pia Cayetano, Franklin Drilon, Juan Flavier and Francis Pangilinan. In fairness to senator Juan Ponce Enrile, he did not sign the committee report.”

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S.C. RULING: Agcaoili added: “Atty. Saguisag, a former senator, knows the practice and procedure for the circulation, presentation and approval of committee reports. The absence of Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, author of Senate Resolution No. 455, from the committee hearings did not invalidate or render the hearings improper or illegal as Sen. Santiago is not a member of the committees that conducted the investigation.

“Suffice it to say that all the other complaints by Atty. Saguisag on the conduct of Senate’s power of inquiry have already been passed upon with finality by the Supreme Court in an en banc 15-0 decision in the case of Camilo Sabio et al. vs. Senator Richard Gordon et al. in G.R. No. 74340 promulgated on Oct. 17, 2006.

“Finally, the Bildner group was not included among those to be investigated as they were able to present their evidence to the committees amidst the bare allegations of improprieties by Atty. Saguisag’s clients.

“The Senate Committee Report No. 312 which became Senate Resolution No. 455 is available on the Philcomsat website www.philcomsat.com.ph for all the world to read. Enclosed, too, is the Legislative History of Senate Resolution No. 455 which belies Atty. Saguisag’s insinuation of Senate impropriety.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 1, 2007)

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