POSTSCRIPT / June 23, 2009 / Tuesday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Abolish inept PCGG, jail its corrupt officials

RELAX A BIT: If President Gloria Arroyo wants to run for a congressional seat next year, let her. There is nothing illegal or immoral about that. Let the electorate decide her fate.

If majority of congressmen want to convene a constituent assembly to propose Charter changes without the necessary co-operation of the Senate, let them try doing it. They won’t succeed.

And, as we have been saying since last year, there will be a presidential election in May 2010. Let us just prepare for it in earnest.

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CROOKS: That the Presidential Commission on Good Government has failed to recover illegal wealth of the Marcoses after two decades of pretending to prosecute is enough basis to suspect that some of crooks there must be in the pocket of plunderers.

The law says that when assets acquired by a public official during his term are manifestly out of proportion to his legitimate income, they must have been illegally amassed. The same law ordains that the dirty pile be seized and the official punished.

Is P13 billion — in jewelry alone — not manifestly out of proportion to the legitimate income of Imelda Marcos during her reign as First Lady? Add the other conjugal assets running to zillions and you get a dizzying total that is grossly out of proportion to their lawful income.

Yet, after two long decades, the PCGG and prosecutors — as well as then Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez — are still talking of possibly giving back to an “impoverished” Imelda those gems taken from her when the Marcoses fled the country.

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GEM COLLECTION: Imelda’s jewelry collection has been categorized by the PCGG into three groups based on where they were recovered.

1. The “Malacañang collection” consists of 300 pieces left behind in the Palace by the Marcoses when they fled to Hawaii in 1986 just as an angry mob was to storm the presidential residence.

2. The “Honolulu (hoard)” was stuffed in 30 Louis Vuitton suitcases but was intercepted by US authorities in Honolulu.

3. The “Roumeliotes collection” was named after a Greek, Demetrious Roumeliotes, who carried on March 9, 1986, some 60 expensive pieces to Hong Kong, where Imelda and a jeweler friend were reportedly waiting. The smuggling attempt was foiled by Manila airport customs officials who arrested the Greek.

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JUNKETS: So what has the PCGG lords been doing aside from living it up while dissipating assets of sequestered companies that they are mandated to protect?

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pointed to one alleged preoccupation — sponsored junkets — of some officials in pursuit of good government.

He cited reports that PCGG chairman Camilo Sabio had gone on vacation to Europe, with family and friends (including a certain Mr. Encarnacion), in a trip allegedly paid for by a sequestered firm.

“The trouble is that Sabio, who is supposed to be the man to run the PCGG is the one not showing leadership,” Enrile said on radio. “He’s the one traveling and enjoying his life with his family at the expense of the companies under PCGG.’’

Malacañang should look into this, he said, adding that the PCGG — “one of the most corrupt agencies” in government — should be abolished.

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ABOLISH IT: Senate Minority Leader Aquilino “Nene” Pimentel agreed, saying “It’s time the PCGG was dissolved in the face of its dismal failure to recover a huge portion of the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses and their cronies and the coconut levy assets worth about Pl00 billion.”

Enrile said it would soon be reported that “billions” have been lost by coconut oil mills under the Philippine Coconut Authority. Officials from the United Coconut Planters Bank, he added, told him the losses were being covered up “to prevent an explosion.”

Pimentel said the ineptness of the PCGG in getting back plundered assets and pressing criminal charges lend credence to suspicion of a secret compromise between the government and the private parties involved.

He said the logical action now is to abolish the PCGG, which he said has outlived its usefulness and has become a big embarrassment to the government.

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MILKING COWS: But some vital documents in the care of the PCGG are now missing, weakening the cases against the Marcoses and the cronies. Insiders have it that the evidence has been “sold” to interested outside parties.

Another alleged sin of PCGG is its sending of agents to manage sequestered firms, but who end up milking them in grand fashion. There is suspicion that these predators turn over a portion of the loot to their sponsors.

Pimentel said it is better that the functions of the PCGG be transferred to competent agencies as proposed in Senate Bill 292 that he has authored.

The PCGG’s authority to investigate and prosecute criminal and civil cases involving ill-gotten wealth can be taken over by the Office of Special Prosecutor of the Ombudsman, he said. The management and disposition of sequestered assets can be done by the Department of Finance through its Privatization Office.

“The PCGG has been in existence for 23 years and has been repeatedly reminded to do its job,” Pimentel said. “Twenty three years are more than enough for any agency to perform. If after that long period they still failed to establish if sequestered assets are ill-gotten and who the owners are, they will not be able to do so even if you give them another hundred years.”

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 23, 2009)

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