POSTSCRIPT / November 2, 2014 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

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Binay et al. warned on ill-gotten wealth

BELOW are excerpts from an undated letter to Vice President Jojo Binay written by Francisco Wenceslao, president of the Philippine Anticorruption Movement USA, Inc. (Pamusa):

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FAIR WARNING: “As your friend since the time we joined Mrs. Cory Aquino’s campaign for president I feel obliged to let you know that as Pamusa’s president I will be involved in investigating, locating and recovering your ill-gotten wealth and of your family members and close associates or the private businessmen and individuals that colluded with you in amassing such unexplained assets beyond the statistical probability of your combined legitimate income since 1986 when you were named OIC in the Office of Makati Mayor.

“Pamusa is eight years old now as a nonprofit California corporation authorized since 2007 by the US Department of Justice (USDOJ) to fight corruption in our country under international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) of which the Philippines is a signatory such as the UNCAC, OECD, etc., hence they are parts of the law of the land.

“Under the PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) which enables cross-border investigation of corruption and narcotic trafficking, which if committed in the Philippines by a Filipino citizen, national or corporation is deemed committed also and actionable in the USA when the offenses are more serious in the latter, and vice-versa.”

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ILLEGAL WEALTH: “The USDOJ defines ill-gotten wealth as the proceeds of corruption from ‘a process or series of actions through which income of illegal origin is concealed, disguised, or made to appear legitimate (main objective); and to evade detection, seizure and taxation.’ Hence, putting up dummies as owners of properties actually owned by another, family members or close associates cannot remain hidden because forensic audit and information technology advances can disprove false ownership claim in no time.

“The USDOJ investigators’ ability to dig up hidden assets has been progressively enhanced which led to the downfall of America’s big corporations, such as Enron, Worldcom, etc. including the world’s largest accounting firm, Arthur Andersen. Former high government officials in jail for graft and corruption include Peru’s former President Alberto Fujimori for 37 years for corruption, human rights violation and abuse of power; Guatemala’s ex-President Alfonso Portillo sentenced last May to six years in US jail for laundering millions of dollars through American banks; and Ukraine’s former PM Pavlo Lazarenko to nine years in US prison.

“Recently added are the USDOJ’s forfeiture actions against an upscale house-and-lot worth over $700,000 purchased from the proceeds of corruption of South Korea’s ex-president Chun Doo-hwan’s, and the estimated $30-million assets in the US owned by the second vice president of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea Teodoro Nguema Obiang Mangue that he purchased with proceeds of corruption.”

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DATABASES: “Unbeknownst to many Filipinos, the US Treasury Dept.’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has databases in which all US financial transactions in banks, financing institutions, casinos, money exchanges, etc., are recorded.

“If the evidence submitted by Pamusa to the FBI requires the agency to access FinCEN’s databases to find out that a target of investigation for corruption may have transferred and did not report amount of money deposited in US banks, the aggregate sum of account balances is forfeitable.

“This happened to [the wife of a senator] who was arrested for bringing to the US over $10,000 without reporting the money to customs and immigration authorities. When she was arrested and actually trying to smuggle $40,000 it was later found out she had 23 bank accounts in the Las Vegas area with aggregate deposit of $159,600 the court seized so she won’t go to jail. All the money in her name including the $40,000 plus the bank balances totaling $199,600 was seized and she was sentenced to three-year probation with five-month home confinement as conditions of her plea agreement.”

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DENIED ENTRY: “Take note of Presidential Proclamation No. 7750 issued by President George W. Bush in 2004, ‘To Suspend Entry As Immigrants or Nonimmigrants of Persons Engaged In or Benefiting From Corruption.’ PP7750 basically says the US can suspend entry ‘of certain persons who have committed, participated in, or are beneficiaries of corruption in the performance of public functions where that corruption has serious adverse effects on international activity’ subject to an exception where denying such entry would be contrary to US interests.

“A precedent was set in 2006 by President Gloria Arroyo’s ex-agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn ‘Jocjoc’ Bolante who defied a Senate committee’s subpoena to shed light on the loss of the P728-million fertilizer fund. Bolante left for the USA via Seoul. He did not know that Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., committee chairman, asked the Senate President to petition the US embassy to cancel Bolante’s US visa for defying the Senate’s subpoena powers. The embassy complied while Bolante was on a flight for Los Angeles.

“On arrival at LAX, Bolante found out his US multiple-entry visa had been cancelled and he could not get out of the airport terminal. He was asked to board the next flight to Manila as an illegal entrant when an American lawyer made representation that Bolante would ask for asylum because his life was in danger at home. He was detained by immigration authorities at a US Customs and Immigration detention center in rural Wisconsin during his 2-1/2-year stay until his three appeal motions were heard and denied.

“xxx I see your best option to avoid impeachment and dismissal from office is to give up aspirations to be President, because unless you do so, settlement of your ill-gotten wealth… is impossible to be accepted by reasonable people.”

(First published in the Philippine STAR of November 2, 2014)

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