POSTSCRIPT / February 3, 2011 / Thusday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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Prosecutors have no resolve, imagination

MOLEHILL ONLY: Many of us non-lawyers cannot follow some of the twists and turns in the prosecution of retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia, who was accused of amassing illegal assets in relation to his work as former armed forces comptroller.

For instance, if state prosecutors could not see plunder in Garcia’s accumulating a mountain of obscene millions why did they give up easily and insist on seeing only a molehill of petty cash?

Assuming one or two elements of plunder were absent, as they claimed, could they not have gone after Garcia instead for graft or another crime more serious than perjury?

Covering previous corruption cases has taught us that if an official amasses wealth manifestly out of proportion to his legitimate income, the law presumes this was illegally acquired and may be subject to seizure by the government.

In this legal situation, the burden of proving that the assets were legitimately earned shifts to the defendant.

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WHY NOT GRAFT?: Why did not the prosecutors charge Garcia with graft and press the seizure of ALL his assets grossly out of proportion to his legitimate income? Why settle for only HALF of the questioned assets and then set the defendant free?

If a man killed somebody but may not be charged with murder because one of the elements of murder is missing, some prosecutors who take their duties seriously do not give up easily and work instead on a homicide angle to keep the killer on hold.

They also said that a wife’s declaration cannot be used against her husband. Ergo, the statement of Garcia’s wife that the couple routinely received gifts from contractors — to explaintheir wealth — could not be used against the general?

Granting that a person cannot testify against his/her spouse, note that in her statement to U.S. authorities, Mrs. Garcia was NOT TESTIFYING AGAINST her husband. On the contrary, she was testifying FOR OR IN HIS (AND HER OWN) DEFENSE.

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GOOD NEWS: Over at Customs, the drastic reforms being instituted by Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez pertaining to the administration of customs bonds look like a step in the right direction.

Alvarez, who ordered a management audit about three months ago, revealed that billions of pesos had been lost due to serious defects in the present customs bonds management structure.

He pointed out that the setup allowed corruption to breed and unreliable surety firms to proliferate. Illegal practices, such as recycling of bonds with the connivance of some industry players, were also rampant.

He said the total amount due and demandable bonds that some 24 surety firms failed to liquidate to the prejudice of the government as of Jan. 15 has reached over P2.3 billion.

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BONDS REFORM: Discovery of the staggering uncollected amount prompted Alvarez to issue an order outlining the reforms to be undertaken to reform the bonds administration in ports operations nationwide.

The order specified that Customs shall ensure that personnel assigned to the bonds division of the various ports must have a thorough knowledge of the mechanics or dynamics of the customs bonding system.

Security and custody of the bonds must be prioritized. Litigation and other court processes might be hampered when the integrity of the bonds are compromised. Bonds custodians must therefore be appropriately bonded and subjected to security clearances.

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ACCREDITATION: The accreditation system of surety firms must be revisited to allow the introduction or institution of a claims fund that is callable on demand.

An Information Communication Technology system will be institutionalized to eliminate discretion in bonds issuance, raw materials withdrawals, entry liquidation, bonds cancellation as well as aging of matured and not cancelled bonds for purposes of litigation and prosecution.

Only single shipment or specific warehousing bonds will be allowed — to eliminate recycling, untaxed bonds and unauthorized use of bonds. It will also make easier the retrieval of bonds policy for immediate court action.

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FEEDBACK: On our question “How do you solve the problem of corruption in the military?”, these were some of the earlier reactions via email:

Maryloualbert maryloualbert@yahoo.com: Putting them in jail will not benefit the country. Since they are not likely to return the money, I suggest: Those charged, or to be charged and convicted, be made to fund a housing project for soldiers. They should fund monthly supplies of a battalion/unit, like ammunition, uniforms, and similar needs; fund gasoline/repairs of army vehicles especially in Mindanao.

Alan borer yahudi_2005@hotmail.com: Have the BIR use its tax investigation and prosecution departments to go after AFP personnel for income tax evasion. In the US, the IRS uses “visible means of support” to go after unreported income whether from legal or illegal sources. What about the possibility that some bankers may have assisted in moving/hiding funds for the individuals after monies came out of government accounts?

Rem Maclang, Marikina City: Let all top officers go on a one-week seminar in Tagaytay and leave their posts to their next in command. Then grill those subordinates on what they know about the issue with a promise to keep their acting position should they squeal on their superiors.

Cesar Roque Albaño: PNoy EO to mandate 90-day amnesty to return government assets. All officials’ financial privacy rights must be waived while in government. Mere suspicion of the following should trigger an audit/lifestyle check: official supporting mistresses/other families, expensive homes, vehicles, real estate holdings, extravagant lifestyle, and business holdings

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 3, 2011)

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