POSTSCRIPT / June 28, 2009 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Be a PCGG big shot, see the world for free!

FOOTLOOSE: If you think President Gloria Arroyo is travelling too often, look at her subordinates.

At the Presidential Commission on Good Government, for instance, it seems that when not dissipating assets that they are supposed to conserve, footloose officials are busy seeing the world before they are kicked out of office.

Look at the travel log of PCGG Chairman Camilo L. Sabio and his subordinate Danilo M. Coronacion (not Encarnacion as misstated earlier by Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile), and weep.

The duo made a staggering 50 foreign trips from 2006 to mid-2009. In those 42 months, Sabio went abroad 23 times. Coronacion, president and CEO of the sequestered coconut farmers-owned CIIF-Oil Mills Group, traveled 27 times.

On the average, Coronacion traveled once every one-and-a-half months. Sabio, on the other hand, went abroad every two months.

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ON THE RECORD: We have Bureau of Immigration records showing their departure dates, the carriers and the flight numbers.

Coronacion was logged as out of the country 225 days from 2006 until the first half of 2009. He beat his boss, Sabio, who was abroad for 188 days during the same period. One wonders how they still find time to work.

Who authorized their trips? Did they travel with their staff? Enrile said he has been informed that Sabio was with family members on some trips. How much did they spend? Was the money taken from the PCGG or siphoned from sequestered firms?

A Senate or an Ombudsman inquiry is in order. An independent audit should look into PCGG handling of assets entrusted to it.

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OIL MILL LOSSES: There is sense in the position taken by Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera to sell the Oil-Mill group’s shares in San Miguel Corp., considering the way the oil mills have been managed under Coronacion.

Newspapers have reported that a private firm offered more than P50 billion for the SMC shares. Selling them might be better than seeing the oil mills run to the ground under sequestration.

The proceeds can then be distributed to legitimate coconut farmers.

Sources said the Oil-Mill group, which controls six coconut oil mills, lost about P1.5 billion from 2005 to 2007. They used to earn oodles of money, but are now on the decline.

Interestingly, in all the six coco-oil firms, the president is Coronacion, while Sabio is chairman is four of them.

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PAGCOR ADS: A spokesman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. wrote to clarify some issues discussed in an earlier Postscript on political advertisements of public officials:

• Although PAGCOR chairman Efraim Genuino is featured prominently in the gambling firm’s multimedia advertising, he is not running nor campaigning for public office.

• The avalanche of PAGCOR ads on radio, TV and print is not being paid by Genuino but by the gambling corporation.

• Batang Iwas Droga (BIDA), where Genuino and President Arroyo ride on prominently, is one of PAGCOR’s so-called “corporate social responsibility” projects. The crowd shots in the ads are not edited to look bigger.

• The President is inserted in the layout (side by side with Genuino) because PAGCOR is one of the biggest charity arms of the Office of the President. This has been the practice since 2001.

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MODERATION: Time, not self-serving press releases, will tell if Genuino will run for public office. Watch him, because somebody in his situation might just need a public office to protect him when he is no longer PAGCOR chairman.

Public officials and Malacañang favorites nesting in money-making state firms must not be allowed to promote themselves as potential candidates with the use of official funds.

“Corporate social responsibility,” like greed, must be moderated by corporate fiscal responsibility. The overkill in the placement of PAGCOR ads, many of them projecting “Kuya Efren,” is just astounding.

An audit by a citizens’ group of PAGCOR’s advertising and promotions expenses is in order. The audit should include the spending for the 2007 elections where two of Genuino’s children ran in Makati.

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PENNY-PINCHING: For every budget peso, probably only 30 centavos trickle down to actual public services — mainly because of “system loss” occasioned by corruption and maladministration.

If only for this, officials whose hands are on the levers of power must exercise due care in spending taxpayers’ money.

In the case of Health Secretary Francisco Duque, for instance, he could have cut at least by half his infomercial spending by using private media’s readiness to help disseminate for free urgent information on public health.

Media are anxious to help educate our people on such hazards as the Influenza A(H1N1) pandemic. Duque need not buy expensive time and space just to display his picture with health advisories.

President Arroyo should caution her subordinates against using her picture to deodorize (it does not) these brazen political advertising in the guise of public information or social responsibility.

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PRIVATE EXPENSE: Reacting to the same Postscript, Adel Tamano, spokesman of the Nacionalista Party, told me that the advertisements of Sen. Manny Villar are not funded by his Senate office, but by the senator himself.

It would be interesting to hear from other high officials who are presidential aspirants with ongoing advertising campaigns: Vice President Noli de Castro, Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, Sen. Mar Roxas and Mayor Jojo Binay.

Those spending their own money need not go into elaborate explanation, provided they report the expenses in their sworn campaign disclosure to the Commission on Elections.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 28, 2009)

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