POSTSCRIPT / August 21, 2011 / Sunday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Many more will die after Reyes, Pinpin?

THE HOUNDS: How many more people will have to die, or be driven to suicide, to satisfy the partisan hounds scavenging for evidence that will put former President Gloria Arroyo behind bars?

The question is disquieting.

The latest collateral damage of the relentless campaign to shame the former President (if conviction is not possible) is Benjamin Pinpin, a lawyer of the Development Bank of the Philippines who hanged himself Aug. 2 after signing an affidavit on some questioned bank loans being linked to Arroyo’s husband.

In his suicide notes, the 43-year-old Pinpin sounded remorseful about having made false statements under duress.

His case recalls that of Gen. Angelo Reyes, who had served in the Arroyo Cabinet. Last Jan. 8, he shot himself by his mother’s grave at the height of a public inquiry into missing millions in the military during the previous administration.

One gets an eerie feeling from this macabre turn of events that the administration’s campaign, ostensibly a search for the “truth,” could claim more lives.

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NEW JUSTICE: We still regard with awe the magistrates of the Supreme Court.

But, pardon my saying it, many of us cannot find any awe-inspiring qualification in Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, the latest appointment of President Noynoy Aquino to the High Court.

The President picked his long-time friend Reyes from the six nominees of the Judicial and Bar Council reportedly after finding the others to have been identified with the previous administration.

A 1971 graduate of San Beda College of Law, Reyes was vice president for legal and corporate affairs of R.C. Silverio Group of Companies from 1975 to 1981. He became presiding judge of Malabon regional trial court in 1990, then associate justice of the Court of Appeals in 2000.

In 2008, the SC reprimanded Reyes in connection with a case involving the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) and the Government Service Insurance System. He was “found guilty of simple misconduct with mitigating circumstance, with a stern warning that a repetition of the same or similar acts will warrant a more severe penalty” along with other magistrates who had handled the case.

That’s his qualification?

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CUTTING POVERTY: The World Bank and the Australian Agency for International Development have found that by doling out around P2 billion to the poor, the Philippine government had increased the beneficiaries’ income by 12.6 percent. (Of course!)

The WB and the AusAID concluded that by giving P6,200 each year to a family, the Aquino administration has reduced poverty incidence by 6.2 percent.

Never mind if that extra income is a mere doleout from the government.

They arrived at that brilliant conclusion working up from data showing that previous average per capita income of a beneficiary family was only P9,205, which was way below the P16,841 national poverty line.

No wonder the administration now wants to distribute more billions to the poor on its social welfare lists — and thereby get another pat on the back from WB for “alleviating” poverty.

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P.R. OFFENSIVE: Another pat came from the US State Department, which said the ability of terrorist and militant groups to launch attacks in the Philippines now has greatly diminished because of stronger government counterterrorism measures.

In its latest “Country Reports on Terrorism,” the department said: “The ability of terrorist groups such as Abu Sayyaf Group, Jemaah Islamiyah, and the New People’s Army to conduct terrorist activities inside the Philippines continued to decline.”

The State Department did not forget to commend itself, reporting that with the help of the US the Philippine government was able to maintain constant pressure on terrorists. It added that while the Aquino administration has no policy innovation on counter-terrorism, it continued to have strong collaboration with the US.

It seems that, for some still undisclosed agenda, the US is on a PR offensive with the Aquino administration.

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DIRTY JOB: Newly installed Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel may want to hold his horses before he, as chairman of the committee on electoral reforms, sallies into an investigation of the reported massive fraud in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

Having emerged as victor in his electoral protest over former Sen. Miguel Zubiri – who resigned after seeing the inevitability of his being found to have actually lost in 2007 – Koko should not be too excited about mounting an inquiry.

If he does, he will become the ringmaster of a circus of politicians investigating fellow politicians on what they do best – cheating.

Cannot Koko see that Sen. Ping Lacson is just baiting him into doing the dirty job?

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QUIET PROBE: After all, there is already a proper investigation set by a joint panel formed by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Chairman Sixto Brilliantes Jr. The duo, both veteran election lawyers, can do a more thorough job than Koko or any other politician.

Senators, as it is with congressmen, should just concentrate of making laws, which is their prime duty.

Also, if the purpose is to find out how fraud and all that cheating is done at the polls, politicians need not hold a public hearing or investigation. They already know all the dirty tricks – from experience.

But if Koko is bent on pursuing a probe, he can have a quiet investigation done by Sen. Lito Lapid, his committee’s vice chairman who is also chairman of the committee on silence.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 21, 2011)

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