POSTSCRIPT / February 15, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Telling the truth is not life-threatening

FEAR NOT: President Gloria Arroyo must show to the watching world that she does not tolerate venalities in government, especially when there are insinuations that her husband Mike may be involved in rigging biddings for World Bank-assisted projects.

The first impulse of a guilt-less man is to step forward and speak up forcefully to assert his innocence. But the President and her husband prefer to keep quiet, as if waiting for the storm to just blow over.

Instead of making the World Bank look like the culprit, why does not the President make a strong statement and personally direct a no-nonsense investigation?

Although a lawyer, Mike Arroyo does not seem to see that the Senate inquiry is not a court process to determine the guilt or innocence of anybody. His testimony is sought not as an accused, but as a resource person.

Why is he afraid to tell the truth? There is nothing stressful or life-threatening about telling the truth.

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CASE DISMISSED: There are still state prosecutors who have a clear understanding of the law and can see through perjurious narration of concocted facts.

The Makati City Prosecutor’s office dismissed last Feb. 9 the malicious charges filed against 14 individuals, including this columnist, plus some John Does, for alleged robbery in band and violation of the Bank Secrecy Law.

Throwing out the complaint is the only logical and just action. In the first place, no robbery ever took place. And then, in my case, how could I have conspired with all the other accused whom I do not even know? I also do not know the location of, nor have I seen, the office we allegedly robbed.

Second Asst. City Prosecutor Hannibal V. Santillan had no choice but to recommend dismissal of the ridiculous complaint. First Asst. City Prosecutor Romulo I. Nanola endorsed its dismissal, and City Prosecutor Feliciano A. Aspi approved it.

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OUTSIDER SUES: The complaint was filed by Philip Brodette, the same person summoned to the Senate inquiry into the drugs buy-bust operation that netted another Brodette and two other men referred to in the news as the “Alabang Boys.”

Brodette has been mentioned in the bribery side-issue in the drugs scandal, but our case has nothing to do with Alabang. It is about the owners/officers of the Philcomsat Holding Corp. entering the PHC offices to secure its premises and assets.

Posing as a director, Brodette complained that that was forcible entry. Their taking over and securing office assets, he said, was robbery. So he filed a robbery in band complaint.

The alleged violation of the Bank Secrecy Law stemmed from Brodette’s claim that the taking over of office documents, including his financial records, had exposed his bank transactions. Many of those transactions involving PHC funds had been questioned.

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NEWSMEN HARASSED: Four newsmen, including me, who wrote about the dispute based on public documents, audited financial records and a privilege speech of Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile, were included by Brodette in the robbery charges.

The other writers included in the scatter-gun charge were Demaree Raval, Victor Agustin and Amado Macasaet. Raval was out of the country when the supposed robbery in band was committed on Dec. 18, 2007.

Others accused – but also cleared by the prosecutor — were Lorna Kapunan, Erlinda Ilusorio-Bildner, Kelly Ilusorio-Raab, Raul Baria, Dennis R. Manzanal, Bernadette Yanzon-Blanco, John Benedict Sioson, Jose Ma. Ozamiz, Wilfredo Muñoz and Jose E. B. Antonio.

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NEW PHC BOARD: The group of Kapunan, Bildner, Raab, Baria, Manzanal, Blanco, Sioson and Ozamiz pointed out that the PHC is 81 percent owned by the Philippine Communications Satellite Corp. (Philcomsat) which in turn is owned by the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp. (POTC).

After President Arroyo nominated the government representatives to Philcomsat companies partly controlled by the state, the PHC reorganized its board in a stockholders’ meeting on Dec. 11, 2007.

The new board authorized the Kapunan group to take possession of the PHC office in the Pacific Star building in Makati. The group said it moved in to secure the remaining assets that were allegedly being looted and dissipated.

Brodette, who was once with PHC but is no longer on the new board, was questioning the entry of the new officers and the auditing of company funds. He had allies on the old board, but it was only him who filed robbery charges.

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INTENT TO GAIN: Prosecutor Santillan said Brodette failed to discredit the documents presented by the Kapunan group showing that they were acting on behalf of the new board, whose legitimacy had been recognized by the Presidential Commission on Good Government.

(The PHC, incidentally, is not a sequestered firm. Agents of the PCGG who lord it over firms suspected as owned by the late President Ferdinand Marcos should not poke their fingers into it.)

The prosecutor agreed with Kapunan that not all the elements of robbery were present in the takeover. The legitimate board members entered the premises under claim of ownership, something that Brodette, an outsider, could not claim.

Kapunan said there was no “intent to gain” (one of the elements of robbery). Precisely, she added, the intention was to secure the premises and assets of the company on instructions of the duly elected board.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 15, 2009)

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