POSTSCRIPT / July 21, 2009 / Tuesday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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$64 question: Will Mike travel with GMA to US?

GLOBOCOP: The scheduled US visit of President Gloria Arroyo in the last week of July, possibly with her husband, has stirred speculations on what US President Barack Obama might take up with her aside from common concerns on security.

Ms Arroyo’s critics have suggested that the issue of big-time corruption and human rights violations during the Arroyo regime be brought up by the US President when they meet at the White House.

It is not good form for one sovereign to lecture to another, especially on a visit, but with the US having assumed the role of a world enforcer the superpower sometimes tends to inflict on friends and foes alike its own moral code.

In the background, the US Department of Justice has received from a California-based private think tank information on crimes involving mail and wire fraud, money laundering and corrupt practices that reportedly may cite President Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.

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EMBARRASSMENT: Whether Mike Arroyo will travel with his wife is being watched because of reports that the moment he sets foot on American soil, he would be held and questioned about their alleged unusual holdings in the US.

Such a scenario, however, is speculative as the US government has not announced anything by way of official action on alleged Arroyo assets stashed away in the US.

In case tagging along may be potentially embarrassing, the First Gentlemen could always have his blue-chip doctors certify that he may not travel for medical reasons. He could also check in at a hospital to dramatize the claim.

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KLEPTOCRATS: In an article carried by Global Balita, a US-based service, Adolfo Paglinawan wrote that Barry Sabin, then deputy assistant attorney-general, told the think tank that brought up the charges in November 2007:

“The Departments of Justice, the Treasury and State actively assist countries seeking to recover official assets misappropriated by kleptocrats.

“The Federal Bureau of Investigation is the investigative arm of the Department of Justice and we rely on the FBI to do the initial fact-finding for federal criminal issues… The FBI will review the materials (submitted) and determine whether a federal investigation may be warranted.”

The rap sheet reportedly named President Arroyo, her husband, and several “co-conspirators,” many of them cronies and businessmen.

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U.N. TREATY: Paglinawan wrote: “America has an obligation to ferret out the involvement of these persons in the light of what an international treaty dictates as obligations of countries in curbing their culpability in financial crimes. The United Nations Convention against Corruption is explicit in its intents, while the Philippines and the United States are committed signatories.”

The treaty says: “Countries agreed to cooperate with one another in every aspect of the fight against corruption, including prevention, investigation, and the prosecution of offenders.

“Countries are bound by the Convention to render specific forms of mutual legal assistance in gathering and transferring evidence for use in court, to extradite offenders. Countries are also required to undertake measures which will support the tracing, freezing, seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of corruption.”

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DENY ACCESS: To enforce the UNCAC, President George W. Bush promulgated in August 2006 the “US Strategy to Internationalize Efforts against Kleptocracy” mandating the US government’s enforcing the UN convention under a provision that reads:

“A critical element in our fight against grand corruption is our effort to deny kleptocrats access to fruits of their corruption. The United States has a wide range of mechanisms to prevent, detect, and prosecute grand corruption, and trace and recover the proceeds of such corruption.”

Many concerned sectors are therefore asking, Paglinawan wrote, if Obama has reversed the Bush doctrine on kleptocracy in light of his kind invitation to President Arroyo.

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RETURN BOUT: While others liked it, one reader ridiculed as illegal and impractical my suggestion for a return bout between Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio and defeated rival Ms Lilia Pineda to determine the real choice of their cabalen.

Maybe he misunderstood the suggestion. There is nothing illegal for the governor to run for reelection in the May 2010 elections and Ms Pineda to challenge him – assuming that both parties are willing to face each other again.

But as I pointed out, there could be a distortion of the outcome if other major candidates (such as Vice Gov. Yeng Guiao and Sen. Lito Lapid) join the fray and take away votes from either Panlilio or Pineda.

Such a one-on-one was suggested because the recount of the contested 2007 votes, as allowed by the Supreme Court, could be overtaken by the May 2010 elections. The costly recount could be dropped if the protagonists agreed to just run again.

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PANLILIO DILEMMA: Flushed with his razor-sharp victory in 2007, Panlilio succumbed early in his three-year term to the temptation of attempting to rush and grab the highest office in the land.

Distracted by presidential delusions and hobbled by his lack of political skills, the priest-turned-politico now finds himself not even sure of retaining the governorship in a return bout with Pineda or in a three-cornered fight with Lito Lapid and Yeng Guiao.

Pineda has not shown interest in running again for governor. If her son Dennis, who is mayor of Lubao, runs for the Congress under a party list banner, she might opt to run to replace him.

And if Lito Lapid runs for the same post that he won for three successive terms in 1992, 1995 and 1998 — without campaigning! — he would be a formidable force.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 21, 2009)

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