Updated April 30, 2009 12:00 AM
Rodolfo Lozada Jr. can surely afford to post the minimal bail bond needed in a criminal case filed against him. But Lozada’s refusal to post bail drives home one point: there are many individuals who should be behind bars or at least on trial in connection with the broadband network deal between the government and China’s ZTE Corp. So who gets a warrant of arrest first? The whistle-blower.
Lozada was arrested yesterday on orders of the Manila Regional Trial Court. The warrant stems from a perjury case filed by Michael Defensor, President Arroyo’s former chief of staff, who was implicated by Lozada in what he described as an effort to stop him from testifying before the Senate on the ZTE deal.
The fate of the other players in that incident explains Lozada’s refusal to post bail. The Malacañang official directly implicated in the effort to keep Lozada quiet, Manuel Gaite, has been promoted from deputy executive secretary to commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, replacing an official at the heart of the Legacy Group scandal. The security escorts who “greeted” Lozada upon his arrival at the NAIA from Hong Kong have disappeared, their reported ties to the Presidential Security Group swept under the rug. Other officials mentioned by Lozada in the attempt to keep him away from the Senate are still with the government.
Beyond that incident upon his arrival, which Lozada suspected was a kidnapping attempt or worse, no one has been prosecuted in connection with the ZTE broadband scandal. Benjamin Abalos, though forced to quit shortly before the end of his tenure as chairman of the Commission on Elections, is enjoying his retirement. Leandro Mendoza, who signed the deal with ZTE executives in Boao, China in the presence of President Arroyo, still has his job. And Romulo Neri, the former director general of the National Economic and Development Authority who initially disclosed a P200-million bribe allegedly offered by Abalos, now manages billions of pesos of the private sector’s pension fund after he invoked executive privilege and learned to keep his mouth shut.
Only one man is being punished in connection with a $329-million deal that the government was forced to scrap: Rodolfo Lozada Jr. Michael Defensor is well within his right to want to clear his name, but Lozada’s prosecution is rubbing salt on a festering wound. It is a good example of the selective justice that has come to be associated with this administration.
MANILA, Philippines — The United Opposition (UNO) slammed the police’s handling of the case involving broadcaster Ted Failon, saying they acted like “hooligans” in effecting their arrests.
“The professional conduct of the police is deplorable. Even the presence of media did not deter them from acting like hooligans instead of law enforcers,” said UNO president Jejomar Binay in a statement.
Binay said the PNP disregarded its own rule of not presenting suspects to the media when it “publicly humiliated and paraded” the helpers and relatives of Failon like they were convicted criminals.
He said that under the law, a person was always presumed innocent until proven otherwise but the law enforcers reportedly failed to observe this — thus violating the rights of those arrested.
“During martial law, the police would use obstruction of justice to justify the arrest of oppositionists and activists. It seems that the practice continues and is being invoked against ordinary citizens,” said Binay.
Manhandling people, as what the officers did when they forced Failon’s kin and staff into the patrol cars, seemed to have become “standard operating procedure,” he added.
AFTER watching the way the police have been handling the investigation of the death of Trinidad Arteche Etong, ABS-CBN news anchor Ted Failon’s wife, Filipinos have reason to be afraid — very afraid — of their so-called protectors.
From the time the Quezon City police began working on the case, it was clear they wanted to pin down Failon in a murder charge.
With little to go on but a fertile imagination, Superintendent Frank Mabanag, chief of the Quezon City Police District’s Criminal Investigation and Detection Unit, theorized that Etong could have been killed in their Pajero and brought up to the bathroom where Failon claimed to have found her lying in a pool of blood.
Right in his own house, Failon was made to undergo a paraffin test as police investigators gleefully posed behind him for souvenir photos.
Even as Etong was undergoing emergency treatment for a bullet wound to her head, the police “invited” Failon to submit to an investigation that would drag through the night up to the early hours of morning.
Eight hours later, the investigators finally let him go.
But soon after that, Mabanag announced that a “manhunt” had been launched for the broadcaster who, it turned out, had just gone back to the hospital to be with his wife.
When the paraffin test yielded a negative result, a gentler and more humane police force would have taken it as a cue to ease up a bit and give Failon, his kin and his household some space to rest and maybe try to come to terms with the tragedy.
But no, the frustrating outcome seemed only to have roused the Quezon City police to intensify their persecution of everyone closely or remotely involved in the case.
In a series of operations, policemen arrested first, Failon’s two maids, his driver and a utility man, and later, two of his in-laws.
Especially brutal was the arrest of Failon’s sister-in-law, Pamela Trinchera, who was dragged protesting and screaming out of the hospital where her sister was being treated.
The police recommended that all, except Failon’s brother-in-law, be charged with obstruction of justice, an offense the police were hard put to define.
The four house help stand accused of tampering with evidence because they cleaned up the bathroom where Etong was reportedly found and the car in which Etong was brought to the hospital.
All claimed they did it on their own (to spare Failon’s younger daughter the trauma of seeing her mother’s blood, according to the maids) and without any intention of hiding a crime.
It seems not to have occurred to the investigators that if indeed Etong died by her own hand — a possibility they say they have not ruled out — then no crime was committed, in which case they will have to explain what kind of evidence was tampered with — evidence of a non-crime, perhaps?
The case against Trinchera (which the prosecutor mercifully dismissed) was even curiouser.
The police wanted her charged for blocking a procedure that the policemen themselves described as inconclusive.
That was what they said when the paraffin test on Failon yielded a negative result.
Why did they insist on doing a test that has been discredited (according to one forensic expert) on a woman who was fighting for her life?
It is not for us to say whether Etong’s death was suicide or murder.
What we can say is that what the Quezon City police have done is an overkill.
Chief Superintendent Roberto Rosales, the National Capital Region police chief, says the investigation is being conducted carefully and by the book.
But as crime investigations go, this one has been going at lightning speed for a police force that remains clueless about assassinations of two Cabinet undersecretaries, not to mention the murders of scores of journalists and activists.
It is clear that the investigators are rushing to implicate anyone and everyone on anything, and especially Failon if they can.
And the reason is obvious: Failon has been a thorn in the side of the Quezon City police, with his biting radio commentaries on the rubout of suspected car thieves on EDSA a couple of months ago and the recent upsurge of carjacking cases in the city.
This is sweet revenge for some city police officers, and they don’t care who gets hurt.
Neither do they care if the whole nation watches as they wage their vendetta in the glare of television cameras.
Their message to the media and the public is unmistakable: Don’t mess with us or else…
Perhaps it is time Filipinos began to ask whether they should continue to support with their taxes an organization that is going berserk.
Continuing to do so is beginning to look like suicide.
CTALK By Cito Beltran Updated March 20, 2009 12:00 AM
We have finally become what New York City was once popular for in the US: “the most crime ridden city” in the country. Government officials are shot in broad daylight, car windows being smashed for their contents inside church parking lots, motorists being attacked on an urban highway, etc. In fact, we should start printing brochures about how to safely navigate your way around Metro Manila after dark in order to avoid becoming a victim.
In the last two months, we have witnessed increasing reports of shootings, vehicular homicide, robberies, and burglaries. Now there is the growing thread of internet stories about physical assaults at “open parties” and the tales of terror along the South Super highway just off Buendia Avenue.
Many people don’t know what to make of it but it seems that more and more people are coming on the net and telling others about what they personally experienced or witnessed on a stretch of road that has long been considered “no man’s land”.
The danger zone lies between Buendia Avenue and Quirino Avenue, which historically was the home court of snatchers, nothing more. But in a bold and daring display of criminality, the local thugs are reportedly more blatant in their crimes. They try to enter unlocked vehicles or get you to come out by kicking your door or breaking some part of the car like an antenna. Go down and you get mugged!
To be quite honest, none of this is new.
Such “In your face” crimes have long been going on in places like Araneta avenue especially near E. Rodriguez Ave. in Quezon City or the old “clover leaf area” of Caloocan City or near the Smokey mountain area. I’m certain that once we ask where these crimes happen in the “In-Box” section, we will all discover how commonplace these attacks and crimes are. What really worries me is that the rise in incidents is directly proportional to the growing poverty, desperation and flat-footed behavior of local government officials and the barangays.
For over six months now, I have regularly warned friends and neighbors alike to pay more attention to security and safety because I know that the financial crisis we have all been talking about has long been the reality among those who can’t read or write or afford to buy the newspaper.
While many of us live in real homes and often with some form of security or deterrent against criminals, most of the poor people in Metro Manila are poorer and more desperate. Anyone who lives outside walled and guarded villages are familiar with the increasing number of men who go around on foot looking for fruits to pick from someone else’s garden or anything of value that can be pulled, ripped or carted away. Your dogs are not safe, your cars are not safe, heck even your maids are not safe!
Where are the DILG and the PNP in all these? Is anybody still in-charge or are they all busy being tourists or re-electionists?
Every barangay official generally knows what goes on in their territory and who is behind it. Why has the criminality in the mentioned areas gotten out of hand? Is it merely poverty and desperation, omission, or collusion? Perhaps Secretary Puno should also remember that poverty and crime equals illegal drugs, which equals more violent crimes! In at least one known case with the PDEA, the barangay captain was both the drug lord and the crime boss!
Will Secretary Puno wait for someone to be stabbed dead or shot in self-defense? What if someone decides to use a half-ton truck or a car as their weapon of choice to bring down such criminals on the South Super Highway?
Where are the Police? Where are the barangay Tanods who get paid as force-multipliers?
The most common complaint on the danger zones is the common observation that in spite of the repeated attacks, no regular patrols are seen or posted. The cops are so busy checking motorcycle riders and manning their fixed checkpoints while all the criminals on foot are attacking civilians like a walk in the park.
So far only Gen. Magtanggol Gatdula has responded to the problem of criminality in the Cloverleaf area. We still have to know what the cities of Makati and Manila will do with the barangay officials and the police who left the “no man’s land” unchecked in their shared space.
Exaggerated or real, the observable fact is that the areas mentioned seriously need police presence and monitoring. Snatching and muggings may be petty crimes for the cops, but when people start flooding the internet about what goes on in Metro Manila, it does not take long for the rest of the country to know!
General Rosales of the Western Police District still gets flak from an email that was circulated about how three WPD cops extorted from a student over a year ago. Rosales took action, suspended the cops and had them investigated and charged last year. But up to this day, the negative email about the incident still makes the rounds.
As for the rest of us ordinary people, the shared information tells us to have heavily tinted vehicles, make sure your doors and door locks work well, make sure you have a very loud horn, and if you can make sure you carry a tear gas gun, a pepper spray, or a zapper. Always have the police emergency number with you (117). It would also help more people if we text blast everyone the minute we witness such crimes.
Like the shift supervisor on Hill Street Blues always says: Be careful out there!
From military deputy chief for comptrollership to convict, the journey has been a long one for retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia. The highest ranking military officer to be indicted for a criminal offense, Garcia nearly managed to retire in peace in 2004, with his colleagues in the Armed Forces of the Philippines seemingly reluctant to go after a two-star general on accusations of corruption. But the Ombudsman at the time, Simeon Marcelo, doggedly worked to pin down Garcia. In the end, Garcia was court-martialed and faced several criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan.
Yesterday, over five years after Garcia’s son was apprehended by US Customs authorities at the San Francisco airport for failure to declare $100,000 in cash, the disgraced general was convicted of perjury by the anti-graft court. Though the maximum sentence of two years was less than the time Garcia has already spent in detention, the conviction for failure to declare P7 million in his account with the AFP Savings and Loan Association Inc. could strengthen the bigger case against him for forfeiture of undeclared wealth.
Garcia was indicted over a year after junior military officers staged a curious mutiny in a posh Makati hotel to denounce, among other things, corruption in the AFP. Garcia’s court-martial was complemented by a major overhaul of the procurement process in the AFP and Department of National Defense. Under the reform program, red tape was cut and transparency in bidding and procurement promoted. The AFP and DND must not go back on those reforms and must in fact work to strengthen them.
In December 2005, a military court found Garcia guilty of undeclared wealth. He was dishonorably dismissed from the AFP and sentenced to two years of hard labor. The Sandiganbayan, for its part, must speed up its resolution of the other cases against Garcia. The two-star general found himself in trouble after his wife Clarita, coming to the defense of their son, explained in writing to US Customs authorities that the $100,000 came from her husband’s miscellaneous earnings as a comptroller. This is one of the rare cases where efficient prosecution has led to the conviction of a big fish. With more cases like this one, crooks in government may finally realize that in this country, not everyone can get away with crime.
Updated February 19, 2009 12:00 AM
(Editor’s note: In RP stealing P30,000 can land the thief in jail for many years but diverting P728M to P10B plus is still okay as noted by the author.)
LAW enforcers in RP, according to my cousins in New York and Chicago, are too “friendly”, even kind to suspects, too patient waiting at hospital lobbies, or perhaps too quick to accept favors like dining and eating first before completing and executing the process called warrant of arrest.
Governor in cuffs
My sister in Chicago saw federal agents on TV towing a meek Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich of Illinois to jail, in cuffs. Rod was booted out of office by the state Senate (37 Democrats and 22 Republicans) voting 59 – 0. He was also stripped of all political rights, like running for any public office or accepting public appointment in all of the US.
And Rod’s fault: Trying his best to sell Obama’s senatorial chair to the highest bidder after it was vacated “noon” of January 20, 2009. The “auction sale” was recorded on CD by the FBI who played the whole proceedings to the Senate of Illinois.
Sooner or later long vacation in jail
The governor’s problem is far from over. He faces a litany of criminal charges that can fetch prison terms of more than 15 years, soon. He was Mr. Illinois who may want to run for president one day after Obama and Abe Lincoln.
Martha Stewart, the nation’s popular TV anchor, fashion and fine-living guru in the US, owner of a string of business firms, was arrested for a minor offense of insider trading. She was handcuffed by federal agents (like our NBI) but peacefully accepted national humiliation in jail to await trial. She was convicted in a matter of days and sentenced to serve a few months in prison. She did not fight back. After the jail term she resumed doing business and gained respectability all over again.
It’s different here
It’s different in our culture of big/petty graft in offices high and low, of common-place bribery, of vote-buyers bragging about basement bargains per voter reporting minutes before closing of polls, of politicians training and telling wives, parents, in-laws, children, grandchildren, etc. to embrace politics as sacred but highly profitable.
Giving all 91.8M of us nothing to be proud of and many things to be ashamed of.
Like escorting Bolante, deported from the US, from the NAIA to St. Luke’s to take a bath first before ordering his army of doctors, good and shy, to take his BP (slightly up), pin ECG terminals to his body, and give him a bouquet of stethoscope and all “tools to hear his heartbeat, lungs, stomach, etc.
Or waiting at the gate of Paule and asking his legion of doctors if it’s okay for them to move in and lift Paule’s stretcher all the way to Pasay’s city jail, called “mabaho, marumi at mainit” by his lawyers.
And listening to Delos Angeles lecturing to senators, BSP, SEC and all RP’s high officials in all offices that “regulate and protect” depositors’ investment in water and air who meekly spread deposits not to exceed R250,000 each as ordered so that insurance can give a 100 percent refund – a computation long studied by con men and swindlers who don’t dress or look like thieves in the strictest sense of the word.
Thanks for everything
But thanks to the PNP for showing Lozada all the sceneries in Laguna and Cavite, both fearful and fancy, before asking him to sign “voluntarily” a piece of paper that everything was well and good when he was met at NAIA after his Hong Kong “religious and business retreat.”
Lastly, it turns out that falsifying GSIS checks of less than R30,000 can give the employee/forger a stay of 15 years plus in jail.
But stealing R728 M tax money and more than R10 B of investors’ hard-earned savings may or may not result in a month’s bed/board in jail. Amen! (Comments are welcome at email@example.com)
By Atty. Romeo V. Pefianco
Opinion and Editorial