Saturday, 05 March 2011 16:52
If the trial of the Ampatuan clan members, alleged perpetrators of the Maguindanao massacre on Nov. 23, 2009, hasn’t been concluded to date and nobody is yet named the mastermind, it begs the question how could the Philippine criminal justice system prosecute let alone convict current and former government officials, their immediate family members and close associates, or the private businessmen and individuals that colluded with them in amassing ill-gotten assets from the proceeds of graft and corruption within President Aquino’s 6-year term?
The above doesn’t include tax evasion and smuggling cases filed by the BIR and Bureau of Customs with the DOJ which eventually would be the basis of serious charges of violating the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act or the Anti-Plunder Law.
Congress and the President should address immediately the fact that the DOJ is clogged by an increasing number of common criminal cases that are forgotten when high-profile felonies such as the said massacre and the rise of carnapping cases that get priority attention by investigation and prosecution services resulting in rising criminal rate when people begin thinking they can get away with almost anything.
There’s evidence to suggest that high-profile crime rate increases in direct proportion with those committed with impunity by people with connection to high places. Hence, the justice system has become analogous to an old man with Alzheimer disease. He can sense crimes being committed all around him but he’s mentally and physically helpless to do something about it.
The situation has been exacerbated since Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez took over from Simeon Marcelo, who may yet make a clean breast of prematurely resigning. Gutierrez has reduced the office to complete inutility by violating her oath and her almost obscene belief she owed her position to the appointing power not the people that she now invokes as the plaintiff to defend Gen. Carlos Garcia’s plea deal as valid.
By what can be no more than legal gobbledygook, Gutierrez’s defense that Garcia’s plea garden is valid and needed no consent of the AFP which wasn’t asked because the offended party’s the state represented by her office.
Another serious flaw of the Philippines’ justice system is the inability of DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima and Gutierrez to accept an NGO’s like Pamusa’s assistance for reasons they’ve yet to make clear to me as a matter of courtesy. I know for a fact both ladies refused Pamusa’s help despite my assurances that as a U.S. NGO, Pamusa has better access with the FBI and other federal agencies when asking assistance that could lead to transnational enforcement of U.S. laws against corruption.
Since 2007 I’ve made GMA know of Pamusa’s help to bring graft and corruption cases to the States because I obtained the USDOJ’s authority to work with and submit to the FBI evidence of corruption in the Philippines for investigation if U.S. laws might’ve been violated, thus liable to prosecution under U.S. laws pursuant to the UN Convention Against Corruption’s international cooperation provisions (UNCAC-ICP).
I’ve reiterated this offer to Secretary De Lima and Gutierrez almost immediately after President Aquino’s inauguration. My offer was part of Pamusa’s services agreed with former Chief Justice Hilario Davide, Jr. we’d render to the Philippine Truth Commission pursuant to Sec. 10, EO No. 1, to wit:
“SECTION 10. Duty to Extend Assistance to the Commission. – The departments, bureaus, offices, agencies or instrumentalities of the Government, including government-owned and controlled corporations, are hereby directed to extend such assistance and cooperation as the Commission may need in the exercise of its powers, execution of its functions and discharge of its duties and responsibilities with the end in view of accomplishing its mandate. Refusal to extend such assistance or cooperation for no valid or justifiable reason or adequate cause shall constitute a ground for disciplinary action against the refusing official or personnel.”
Gutierrez in fact agreed to enter into a MOA with Pamusa last September to share her office’s evidence on graft and corruption which we could submit to the FBI pursuant to the above USDOJ’s authority. Although she made no condition of what actions Pamusa could take or not, she suddenly became unavailable to sign the MOA after I explained to her assistant what Pamusa could do with the MOA using as example the U.S. business enterprise organized by Mikey and Dato Arroyo and their respective spouses to acquire high-end real estate properties in the San Francisco Bay Area.
I told Gutierrez’s assistant that Pamusa’s legal counsels were unanimous the Arroyo brothers and spouses might’ve violated the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organizations (RICO) Act. If found guilty, they could each be fined up to $25,000 and sentenced to 20 years in prison per racketeering count unless they negotiate a settlement. On top of such punishment, Pamusa can sue them civilly on behalf of the Philippine Government to recover the money they used to buy the properties, which was surely out of proportion to their legitimate income.
The case would also drag into the same situation GMA, her husband and brother-in-law Rep. Ignacio Arroyo for the U.S. properties they acquired, the most well-known being an office building in San Francisco later claimed to be owned by Rep. Arroyo.
The SC adverse ruling on the PTC hasn’t changed Pamusa’s offer to Secretary De Lima, i.e. to name Pamusa attorney-in-fact of DOJ and/or the PCGG and we can hasten recovery of Marcos’ and cronies’ ill-gotten wealth, firstly, by suing Imelda Marcos, her children and brother, Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez, that may also include GMA et al. for civil damages allowed under RICO Act.
Every lawyer I talked to believes there’s no impediment whatsoever for Secretary de Lima to grant Pamusa the needed authority. Her further hesitancy might be interpreted as covering up some people among Pamusa’s targets.
By Frank Wenceslao
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