POSTSCRIPT / February 25, 2014 / Tuesday


Opinion Columnist

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More state witnesses than targeted senators

STEALING, MADE EASY: At the rate the crooks who had dipped into the pork barrel or raided the Priority Development Assistance Fund have been turning state witness, the justice department may soon have more witnesses than political foes to prosecute.

The lesson being taught is: It is all right to steal public funds as long as there is a political enemy of the Administration who is also involved and more guilty. Just turn witness against him, gain state protection and laugh all the way to the bank.

No wonder “TitaMom” (@TitaLuv13), for one, was moved yesterday to ask on Twitter: “There are 38 whistleblowers. Lahat absuelto? And they get to keep the loot? Nyahahaha!”

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LIFESTYLE CHECK: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima once boasted the government has an airtight plunder case against targeted opposition senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada.

Does the recruitment of more witnesses mean De Lima did not have enough solid evidence to begin with, contrary to her claim? And, btw, how come senator Bong Revilla is no longer being mentioned?

Freshman senator Grace Poe raised related questions on “provisionary” state witness Dennis Cunanan, chief of the Technology Research Center who went on leave after being charged with graft for alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam.

Noting during a TV interview that Cunanan as a government official was supposed to protect public interests, Poe said that before being taken as a state witness he should be subjected to a lifestyle check and disqualified from ever holding public office. We agree.

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RETURN THE LOOT: The Department of Justice must first establish Cunanan’s credibility, Poe said, by conducting a background check and reviewing his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Even if Cunanan claimed he did not pocket a single centavo from lawmakers’ PDAF ghost projects, the DoJ should still check his activities and background, she said.

“We should be very selective, it might help our case, but at the very least, if we’ll take him into the Witness Protection Program, he has to return whatever he may have benefited,” she added.

Cunanan had said under oath that Enrile, Estrada and Revilla had endorsed to the TRC fake non-government organizations as PDAF recipients. De Lima described his affidavit as plausible and credible.

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INQUISITION: On such witnesses, listen to what Fr. Ranhilio Callangan Aquino, dean of the Graduate School of Law, San Beda College, has to say:

“Isn’t it common sense? Luy, Tuason, etc., were recipients of loot, their hands in the cookie jar, their lips smeared with crumbs. Their names appear in documents, so nailing them would be no problem.

“So why do they swagger around like returning heroes? Because they are all too willing, hired assassins that they are, to damn senators that the Administration has long wished to humble. This is their chance to be off the hook.

“All they do is read a script, and sometimes with unction, as Tuason, and they are off the hook, while their victims are named, shamed and detained by this Administration that is as insidious as was the Inquisition.”

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NOY DEFENDED: Many business and political leaders in Central Luzon think that President Aquino is not keen on the rapid development of the Clark Freeport and the dual operation of Clark International Airport with the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Metro Manila.

But Rep. Oscar Rodriguez of the third district quashed this misimpression in a forum Friday in Clark with the Capampangan in Media Inc. (CAMI) sponsored by the Clark Development Corp. and the Social Security System.

Rodriguez explained the President’s position after a recent “Clark stakeholders’ summit” discussed growth problems and urged Malacañang to make a clear policy statement and start speeding up development around Clark.

“What is needed is for proponents of Clark’s transformation into a modern metropolis to work out and present ‘unsolicited’ concrete projects to realize this vision,” Rodriguez said.

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DUAL AIRPORT: The President looks positively, he said, at the “twin or dual airport system” to integrate the international operations of NAIA and CIAC broached earlier by Victor Jose I. Luciano, CIAC president and CEO.

Rodriguez cited the “active” proposal to build a dedicated rapid train system linking NAIA and CIAC as bolstering the feasibility of operating a twin or dual airport system. He said the plan can go forward faster if proponents integrate their ideas into a doable “unsolicited” project.

The Clark Freeport, sprawling on 26,000 hectares, is moving toward becoming a fully-integrated logistics, tourism, manufacturing, and agro-industrial complex. Its airport complex occupies an extra 2,367-hectares.

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NO TO CHA-CHA: The Liberal Party lawmaker clarified that the President has not changed his position against amending the Constitution, which his allies in the House of Representatives are pushing to affect only economic provisions.

Rodriguez said the Cha-Cha movers may be impelled by good intentions but that their plan contradicts the President’s pronouncements for a status quo.

Cha-Cha proponents want to liberalize constitutional limitations on land and corporate ownership imposed on foreign investors as a way of attracting more alien capital and triggering economic development.

The charter bans foreigners from owning land or real estate except in condominium buildings and residential subdivisions, where 40 percent of the total number of units or lots may be sold to a foreigner.

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GOLFING NEWS: The first Clark Golf Cup will be held March 21, a Friday, in the Mimosa Golf & Country Club at the Clark Freeport. Registration starts at 6:30 a.m. and the tournament blasts off at 8 a.m. shotgun. Those who want to compete for the game and raffle prizes, including SUVs for holes-in-one, better get tickets early.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of February 25, 2014)

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