POSTSCRIPT / October 25, 2007 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Erap's assailing Sandigan can delay grant of pardon

QUIET LANG MUNA: Former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada and his senator son Jinggoy are spoiling the chances of Erap’s getting an early pardon by noisily taking potshots at the Sandiganbayan and the justice system.

Justifying withdrawal of Erap’s motion for reconsideration of his conviction for plunder, they keep saying that they could not get justice at the Sandiganbayan anyway, or even the Supreme Court, so he might as well abandon his recon bid.

If President Gloria Arroyo pardons Erap, she would appear as agreeing with their contention that there is no justice in our courts. That is bad.

Erap should also stop demanding “full and unconditional” pardon. He should just ask for “pardon” with no adjectives attached.

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FALSE NEWS: The owners of the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat) are fuming over news published days ago that “extrapolated” a Court of Appeals resolution issued last June on a 1998 complaint.

A reading of the three-page resolution issued by CA Justice Martin S. Villarama Jr. shows none of the legal implications reported in the news.

Contrary to reports, the court did not rule in favor of the bloc of Enrique Locsin and Concepcion Poblador, much less did it say that the members of the Locsin-Poblador Group are the duly elected board of Philcomsat and the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC).

Readers not familiar with the workings of media will wonder how such distorted stories are invented and printed.

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SEC RULING: In a resolution in CA G.R. CV 88360 issued last June 8, the CA dismissed a petition filed by Potenciano Ilusorio and Katrina Ponce-Enrile. That was after the duo withdrew their petition, because it had been mooted by supervening events.

The case stemmed from a supposed 1998 special stockholders’ meeting wherein Benito Araneta and Ronaldo Salonga were elected Philcomsat directors. Ilusorio and Ponce-Enrile complained to the Securities and Exchange Commission about the lack of quorum and lack of notice to POTC, which wholly owns Philcomsat.

The SEC restrained Araneta and Salonga from acting as directors and officers of Philcomsat. All petitions filed by Araneta and Salonga questioning the SEC decision were dismissed by the Court of Appeals.

After a scandal involving a questioned land deal between Philcomsat and Araneta’s cousin, Tonypet Araneta, both Araneta and Salonga were replaced as government nominees.

* * *

SPECIAL MEET: On Sept. 22, 2000, POTC held a special stockholders’ meeting attended by those owning more than 80 percent of the total capital stock, including the government represented by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

At that meeting, the members of the Bildner Group, together with the government nominees who replaced Araneta and Salonga, were elected POTC directors.

The same group proceeded to hold a Philcomsat special stockholders’ meeting and, again, the members of the Bildner Group and the new government nominees were elected directors.

Because there were already new Philcomsat directors, there was no more reason to pursue a case involving the supposed 1998 stockholders’ meeting, hence, the request of Ponce-Enrile to withdraw their petition.

* * *

NO SUCH THING: Contrary to news reports, there is nothing in the Villarama resolution that mentioned the Locsin-Poblador Group. Neither did the resolution uphold the dismissal by the RTC-Makati based on lack of jurisdiction.

In fact, the Sandiganbayan ruled in a case filed by Enrique Locsin that intra-corporate controversies involving POTC and Philcomsat should be brought before the RTC-Makati.

Neither Enrique Locsin nor Concepcion Poblador is a stockholder of POTC and Philcomsat. With that, the POTC and the Philcomsat said that any transaction entered into by them in the name of the two firms will not be honored.

Is the PCGG waiting for President Arroyo to order it to rein in its nominees or agents accused of plundering sequestered firms?

* * *

DECEIT: This is not the first time that some PCGG nominees and their lawyers have used tricky tactics.

In March 2000, misrepresentation was used in a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Supreme Court on the compromise agreement that had reduced government equity in Philcomsat from 40 to 35 percent.

The compromise had been approved by the Sandiganbayan and then President Fidel Ramos. But the SC still granted the TRO — months after the implementation of the compromise that was to be restrained.

The PCGG nominees used the TRO obtained by deceit to assert control. They combined the mythical 40 percent with 89-year-old Nieto’s 13 percent, when in reality the government had only 35 percent + 13 percent, or 48 percent, which is hardly a majority.

* * *

SC MISLED: In 2005, the Supreme Court issued its decision with finality and said that it had been “misled into issuing the TRO” back in 2000.

Too late. Through six years, some PCGG nominees allegedly looted P1 billion from Philcomsat and Philcomsat Holdings — using the “control premise” that was concocted by duping the SC.

All the while the PCGG would have us believe that they are the “good guys” sworn to protect government or the public interest.

* * *

AUDIT REPORT: A few days ago, a lawyer of PCGG nominee Locsin, who is also the acting chair of Philcomsat Holdings Corp., called for the resignation of President Arroyo. It did not matter that his client owes his Philcomsat seat to the President?

The accounting records of PHC, btw, show Locsin having received over P15 million in just three years (excluding his company-financed cars) while the bills for lawyers and court expenses in just one year exceeded P10 million.

This is documented in the Auditors Working Papers of PHC’s auditors presented to the SEC in 2006 and to the Senate committee that investigated and uncovered the anomalies and asset dissipation in PHC.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of October 25, 2007)

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