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Road to National Greatness

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The more I try to explain the success of Noynoy Aquino’s presidential run, the more I believe that God has a wonderful life plan for each person modified along the way by how one is brought up by family or without it, influenced by social environment, quality of education, opportunities for advancement, etc.

God must’ve seen in P-Noy among the presidential candidates the honesty our nation needed to effectively address graft and corruption – the country’s worst debilitating problem. Recalling Sodom and Gomorrah, I believe God found many good Filipinos P-Noy can rely on and lead to enable Him to save the Philippines and turn it around from its headlong plunge into impoverishment as has happened to Haiti, some African nations and now going on in the Middle East.

Although it sounds self-serving I equally believe even under the Arroyo administration that Pamusa was God-given to help GMA stop or at least reduce G&C which she didn’t accept. When P-Noy was elected I sensed a big change in Filipino Americans’ attitude from indifference with what’s going on at home to willingness to help and volunteer information the Philippine justice system won’t uncover and prosecute even if it does nothing else during the Aquino administration.

One example was a Marcos confidante very few knew was close to the dictator. I met him occasionally in Malacañang during the meetings called by Ruben Ancheta when I was his consultant in the Overseas Construction Board. Convinced I was talking sense in my GlobalBalita.com column, he has become Pamusa’s most reliable informant on government favors Marcos granted Chinese Filipino businessmen, such as Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei, Peter Go Pailian of Equitable Bank, Emilio Yap who usurped Hans Menzi’s 33% Manila Bulletin equity endowed to Sen. Bongbong Marcos and elbowed out Danding Cojuangco to gain absolute control of the newspaper for his own nefarious ends, and others the late Ralph Nubla recommended.

My informant has a dossier on each of the above individuals how Marcos helped them that’s damaging to the nation up to the present. However, I’d confine this column to Gokongwei and his business practices which I’ve known damaging to the Philippines’ fiscal and monetary integrity during the last 30 years or more.

My informant singled out Gokongwei, moreover, so DOTC Secretary Ping de Jesus can stop the reported sale of Digitel to PLDT for P69.2 billion ($1.6 billion). He claims Digitel is one of the companies borne out of Gokongwei’s misrepresentation that Universal Robina Corp.’s (URC) flour mill would mill corn grits (Cebuano’s staple). Gokongwei and the officers (mostly family members) of Universal Corn Products (UCP), the mill’s original owner, defrauded DBP of foreign exchange guarantee reserved only for preferred industries. DBP’s conditions required that the fraudulent use of the guarantee automatically converted it to a commercial loan with commercial interest rate. That would’ve made the flour mill uncompetitive and couldn’t have survived competing against other local mills.

More so if URC decided not to pay the installments due the machinery supplier and let DBP do it with its easier access to foreign exchange URC couldn’t obtain after the other local flour millers found out he circumvented the ban against new flour mills. In such a situation, when the DBP advanced the foreign exchange payment, the guarantee’s converted to its peso-equivalent commercial loan at market interest rate. Because of his connection with Marcos, Gokongwei ignored the other flour millers’ protest, got away from DBP’s sanction and continued to this day the “technically-smuggled” mill’s highly profitable operation enabling URC’s exponential growth and Gokongwei to expand into banking (PCIB and Far East Bank), property development and retail merchandising (Robinson Land), telecommunications (Digitel and Sun Cellular), airline (Cebu Pacific), petrochemical, etc. Under his holding and flagship company, JG Summit, Gokongwei engaged in securities trading and overseas investments in China, Southeast Asia and USA.

Fortunately, forensic audit would enable Finance Secretary Purisima to stop further violation of law by Gokongwei’s group of companies. The audit would determine the amount evaded for prohibitive rates of customs duties and taxes of banned importation of flour milling machinery and appurtenances, BOI incentives illegally availed of which should be refunded with interest, including the amounts of annual income taxes pruned to rock-bottom by corrupting BIR officials since the start of URC’s flour mill in early 1970s and other manufacturing plants resulting from it.

Consequently, the ownership of Gokongwei’s companies should’ve long been sequestered by the PCGG as Marcos’ crony-corporations in which the dictator most likely had controlling equity. Moreover, because Gokongwei fraudulently obtained DBP foreign guarantee, the bank should collect the difference between commercial loan interest (16%) and guarantee fee (2%) that have accumulated through the years since early 1970s plus fines and interest on the compounded 14% interest differential until paid. It can fairly be assumed even if litigated under the Philippine justice system that Gokongwei’s group of companies really belong now to the government. Since they couldn’t possibly pay off the past due obligations to the government, the companies can be auctioned off to interested local and foreign investors, or Gokongwei may decide to fight in Philippine and U.S. courts at his own perils.

This could be the same for Sy, Tan and others who have made it standard business practice to cheat the government because they thought they can always buy their way out of illegal activities without realizing that advances in accounting practices and international developments in fighting corruption would bury them so deeply they couldn’t extricate themselves out of the holes they’ve dug themselves into.

Meanwhile, Filipinos everywhere recall Marcos’ battle-cry in 1965 “This Country can be Great Again!” After 46 years of dictatorship and four “democratic” administrations later, President Aquino can truly make this nation truly great again. The formula is simple.

The President without fear or favor can dismantle the institutionalized criminal conspiracies since WW II of current and former government officials and political warlords, their immediate family members and close associates, or private businessmen and individuals that colluded with them in committing G&C that have hurt the Philippines worse than the nearly 4-year Japanese occupation. The President should immediately create the Presidential Task Force Against Graft and Corruption (in lieu of the truth commission) to gather evidence for retributive actions under Philippine laws and in cooperation with the USDOJ through Pamusa authorized to work with and submit the same evidence to the FBI to investigate if U.S. laws were violated pursuant to the UNCAC’s international cooperation provisions (UNCAC-ICP) and other multilateral cooperative agreements to investigate tax evasion as it adversely affects international trade, finance and investment.

Whatever amount forensic audit may show each group of companies may owe for back customs duties, taxes, misuse of fiscal incentives, etc., the government almost surely has become majority owner of all companies “owned” by each taipan. At the same time Purisima can throw the books at them for violating the anti-plunder law he announced last August.

Similarly, Purisima should do forensic audit how Kokoy Romualdez amassed his net worth of $111 million the same year as well as the rest of Forbes’ 40 richest Filipinos including GMA and husband. Unless the President showed determined efforts against graft and corruption, his administration would be no better than GMA’s whose 9-year presidency only created a big hole for her, her immediate family members and close associates, or private businessmen and individuals that colluded with them to escape retribution while reducing into inutility the Office of the Ombudsman as an anti-graft institution.

On our own, with the same government evidence the administration hopefully would share with Pamusa, we would run after the taipans under U.S. and Chinese anticorruption laws. They know of the risk of ultimately facing a Chinese firing squad for investing illegal money earned in the Philippines and frustrate China’s efforts to keep its economy clean of corruption before the international economy.




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