POSTSCRIPT / May 13, 2012 / Sunday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Fair warning to VIPs with arrest warrants

GO GET ‘EM!: The word is out that there are instructions from the top to carry out long-standing arrest warrants against prominent people to show that the Aquino administration is serious in enforcing the law.

This may have been the reason why the police swooped down Monday on the Valle Verde residence of former Senate president Jovito Salonga and nearly dragged him from his sickbed to the station on estafa charges.

The case was filed by a doctor who reportedly bought in 1997 a condo unit in a Tagaytay project of Salonga and a certain Ferdinand Bañez. The buyer complained that until now the unit has not been delivered.

The 93-year-old Salonga was so sick that he could not be taken out of his house, so his lawyer son Steve went with the police to explain everything.

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LOCSIN NABBED: Another big fish caught last week in Makati was Enrique Locsin, former director of Philippine Communications Satellite Corp., who was arrested at the corner of Ayala Ave. and Rufino St. on graft charges.

The filing of the charges, with former Philcomsat executive Manuel Andal as co-accused, was approved last Nov. 11 by Ombudsman Conchita Capio Morales after reviewing the files left by her predecessor.

Operatives of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group carried a warrant issued by the Sandiganbayan. They had staked out the lobby of the nearby Tuscany condominium where Locsin stays and caught up with him on Rufino.

He was taken to the CIDG office at Fort Bonifacio where he had to pose for the usual mug shot and undergo fingerprinting. Locsin is out on a P30,000 bail, while Andal is being hunted.

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FAT FEES: Records showed that Locsin and Andal were accused of collecting “grossly exorbitant salaries” of P300,000 a month both from Philcomsat and the Philippine Overseas Telecommunications Corp., and other benefits from the sequestered firm.

Audit reports said Locsin received P15 million between 2003 and 2005 in “unexplained reimbursements.” But he and Andal justified the amounts as in keeping with their status as officers of the corporation.

They said that they were not government nominees or appointees to the Philcomsat board and, thus, could not have violated Memorandum Circular 40 that set a maximum of P180,000 on the salaries of board members of sequestered companies.

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40 THIEVES: The case recalls the privilege speech in 2008 of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, whose family owns substantial shares in Philcomsat.

In his speech titled “Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves,” Enrile accused several individuals of “wanton and unjustifiable looting, pillaging and plundering” of P56 million worth of Philcomsat resources.

Among those he mentioned were Locsin and one-time Philcomsat officer Benito Araneta, cousin of former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo.

Aside from the alleged dissipation of millions, Enrile found unconscionable Locsin’s reportedly charging to Philcomsat the cost of a P180,000 hearing aid, a laptop, leather case and a wallet.

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‘ALKANSIYA’: Enrile said Araneta chaired the Executive Committee that approved, authorized and issued a check all in just one day a P125-million loan to a family corporation solely on the basis of a promissory note— without collateral and without board ratification.

He said that Araneta had received compensation and allowances amounting to P5.2 million, including a $10,000 travel allowance, and failed to liquidate millions in advances.

The senator remarked that the company was being treated as a private “alkansiya” (piggy bank).

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RISING HUNGER: Alarmed by the growing number of hungry Filipinos, Sen. Ralph G. Recto is calling for a review of the government’s flagship anti-poverty program called Conditional Cash Transfer.

The senator was taking off from a survey report that some 4.8 million families were skipping meals at least once in three months. At five members per family, that runs to about 24 million Filipinos or a fourth of the national population.

He suggested that the Department of Social Welfare and Development re-assess its CCT strategies to ascertain that the intended beneficiaries are being served.

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RETHINKING CCT: “In spite of the CCT billions, the number of the poor and hungry is increasing,” Recto said. “There must be something wrong.”

Recto, chair of the Senate ways and means committee, asked if the government is really hitting the intended beneficiaries.

He said, “We might need to rethink the strategy.”

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BACK TO BASICS: Before rethinking strategy, we may have to go back to the basic idea of allocating billions to feed some of the poor and put a little money for a few days into their pockets.

Surveys have shown that CCT has not significantly alleviated poverty, assuming these polls give reliable measurements of the human condition.

But even with CCT, the number of those who are statistically considered poor keeps growing. This is also despite the lowering of the line below which a person or household is considered poor.

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MENDICANCY: From an outlay of P21.9 billion in 2011, the CCT is now a P34.9 billion poverty-alleviation program.

We have not seen any audited report on how much of the total reaches in a meaningful way the target beneficiaries.

Our guess is that for every CCT peso, 30 centavos are eaten up by administrative expenses, 10 centavos dissipated as system loss, and 20 centavos swallowed by graft – leaving only 40 centavos per peso to be doled out in the name of poverty-alleviation.

This may be why CCT is performing better in propagating instead a culture of mendicancy.

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ILLUSION: The grim figures suggest that what is needed is an honest review of the very basis of the CCT program.

After a few hundred CCT pesos are slipped into a beneficiary’s pocket, he may momentarily feel he is not poor. He may even feel empowered since we have been conditioned to think that money is power.

But how long will the illusion last? Is this the reason why when the survey people come around the respondents admit that they do get hungry at times?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 13, 2012)

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