POSTSCRIPT / July 25, 2013 / Thursday


Philippine STAR Columnist

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Post-SONA question: Where’s Noy taking us?

WHAT TO DO?: Mr. President, Sir, where are you taking us? What is the master plan?

After listening to the State of the Nation Address of President Noynoy Aquino last Monday and then asking fellow newspapermen what they gathered from his 100-minute report, I still cannot see a cohesive grand plan for this nation.

I was keenly watching for three things in the SONA, and I missed them all:

• A review of the Road Map wherein the President, like Moses, points to our national destination — where we are going and what route to take.

• A Scoreboard showing after his three years at the helm the promises made on the basis of the Road Map versus what he has delivered. There should be some comparative measurement.

• A clearer, and preferably reassuring, Preview of what lies ahead, and a recapitulation of what the President plans to do in the coming year and in the next three years.

Many of us who peruse the papers regularly saw nothing new, heard nothing inspiring, in the President’s marathon reading of a kilometric SONA script copy-pasted from old Palace press releases.

* * *

TEAM PLAYER: If you think Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon will be out tomorrow, banish the thought.

Insiders tell us that he will not be removed despite the public scolding for corruption and inefficiency that his bureau got during the President’s SONA. They explained that “Ruffy is a team player.” We leave it to you to guess what that means.

But Customs intelligence chief Gen. Danny Lim, who also resigned after the SONA is a different kind of soldier. By all indications, he is getting out in exasperation.

Lim explained to friends that he could not succeed in his mission because big-time smugglers have access to key people upstairs. Before he could raid a smugglers’ lair, he has to tell his superiors – then the suspects are able to clean up and escape.

A third official — deputy commissioner for internal administration Juan Lorenzo Tañada – also filed his resignation. His fate remains uncertain as we write this.

* * *

ANOTHER TRO: As if that is not problem enough, Customs’ computerization program intended to reduce opportunities for graft by speeding up processes was derailed when a Manila court issued a 20-day temporary restraining order to stop the awarding of the P500-million contract.

Manila RTC Branch 173 Judge Armando Yanga ordered the bureau not to award the Integrated Philippine Customs System contract to the joint venture of Webb Fontaine and Grow Inc. that had won the bidding.

The court wanted time to hear the application for preliminary injunction filed by losing bidder Omniprime Marketing Inc.

The loser claimed that Webb Fontaine had failed to comply with requirements because it submitted papers with the forged signature of a notary public.

* * *

MEDDLING: From the time several Chinese were massacred in a bungled hostage-taking on a tourist bus at the Luneta, the Department of Justice under Secretary Leila de Lima has been into interesting legal situations.

Some cases had arisen from its preemptive taking over of pending cases. That may be justified when the DoJ takes the folder from a local prosecutor or the National Bureau of investigation since they are under it.

But its intervening in matters already before the courts raises questions. While there must be coordination between the Executive and the Judiciary, there are situations when certain matters are best left to the independent judicial bodies.

* * *

UNDER REHAB: We noted one such case in the news: the criminal complaints filed by the Philippine Investment Two Inc. (PI II) against officials of Standard Chartered Bank (SCB).

Undergoing corporate rehabilitation, PI-II (a local subsidiary of the defunct Lehman Brothers) has been working with its creditors, among them MetroBank and Standard Chartered Bank. It owes SCB P819 million, of which, it said, it has paid more than P240 million.

The company is under the watch of the Makati Regional Trial Court as its rehabilitation court.

* * *

INFO KEPT SECRET: PI II said it had learned that its P819-million loan with SCB was over-collateralized and that the court was denied the information that some $90 million in collateral for the loan had been with the bank.

The investment firm also said SCB did not inform the rehabilitation court that it had already gotten relief for claims with the US bankruptcy court for Lehman Brothers for the same P819 million that it was seeking repayment for in Makati.

PI II said that when it filed for receivership, SCB should have foreclosed on the collateral, gotten paid for the loan, and then returned the remaining funds from the collateral back to PI II.

But, according to PI-II, the bank concealed that it already had collateral, and had received P240 million in payments from PI II.

In addition, the bank allegedly applied for relief in New York for the same loan to PI II and got it, a fact that was also allegedly concealed from the Makati court. This prompted the court to remove SCB from PI II’s management committee.

* * *

DOJ TO THE RESCUE: Last December, PI II sued for alleged deceits under the Revised Penal Code against SCB officials. It also filed a perjury case with the Makati prosecutor against the same officials for alleged false statements.

The prosecutor was set to rule on both cases when DoJ intervened last month by transferring the cases to the department and ordering another investigation.

Previously, SCB asked the Makati prosecutor for such a transfer, but its request was denied. What the bank failed to do, the DoJ did for it by suddenly taking over the case.

The justice department should at least explain its unusual interest. Per previous Higher Court decisions, once a case has been investigated and a decision made by the prosecutor, another investigation of the case is not to be made.

* * *

(First published in the Philippine STAR of July 25, 2013)

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