Sunday, 01 May 2011 17:27
Even though Pamusa’s supporters and volunteers particularly legal counsels (Pamusa Group for brevity), who’ve been my most reliable sources, are growing impatient with President Aquino’s incoherent advisers’ efforts against graft and corruption they nonetheless continue pressing him with their research and studies that the administration is now on the threshold of stopping corruption in the public and private sectors like withdrawing their drug addiction requiring only presidential political will and leadership.
They believe the worst corruption addicts are in the government-business sector conspiracy that could be dismantled like when U.S. gangsters reigned during the Prohibition Era. G&C can be defeated by punitive actions against big businessmen that have nurtured it. The president should focus on the richest such as Henry Sy, Lucio Tan and John Gokongwei and make them examples to stop cheating the government the way they do business, bids rigging and overpricing government procurement of goods and services, and perpetrating unlawful activities such as smuggling, jueteng, drug trafficking, etc.
Equally important is for the Cabinet departments, bureaus and agencies in the frontline of fighting G&C to be coherent and get their act together. The government’s problem is the lack of single-minded focus while mixing up efforts of those concerned with day-to-day activities so that at the end of the day they’re like burning cogon without digging out and also burning the roots leaving the grass to resume growing the next day.
There’s urgent need for the creation in lieu of the truth commission of an interagency Presidential Task Force Against Graft and Corruption (PTFAGC) to gather, assemble and synthesize the sum total of evidence of concerned agencies, for instance, against Generals Jacinto Ligot, Carlos Garcia, et al.; and Mikey Arroyo, his wife and co-conspirators such as jueteng king Bong Pineda and Mikey’s favored contractors in no-bid Mt. Pinatubo Rehab Projects that former DPWH Sec. Florante Soriquez might turn state witness after GMA let him be convicted for anomalous WB-funded projects to cover up former FG’s involvement, from tax evasion up to violation of the Anti-Money Laundering Law (RA 9160); Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) or Anti-Plunder Law (RA 7080); the law on forfeiture of unlawfully acquired property (RA 1379) including perjury and falsification of public documents. Pamusa can submit the same evidence to the FBI for investigation if U.S. laws were violated, such as wire fraud, money laundering, racketeering, foreign corrupt practices and conspiracy.
For starters, Secretary Leila de Lima shouldn’t dilly-dally anymore in designating Pamusa and/or me as its president in a MOA to make and receive requests from the U.S. Attorney General regarding the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of criminal offenses, and in proceedings related to criminal matters in accordance with the US-Philippines Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). This will double Pamusa’s usefulness to the administration since it’s already authorized by the USDOJ to work with the FBI and other federal agencies to submit evidence of corruption in the Philippines pursuant to the UNCAC.
On the other hand, if De Lima’s reason to oppose the MOA is she can seek USDOJ’s assistance on government-to-government basis through diplomatic channels to recover the illicit assets stolen from the Filipino people, the President should ask his justice secretary to better broaden her international outlook that government-to-government cooperation is only good on paper. De Lima doesn’t appreciate that Pamusa could bring both criminal and civil suits in the U.S. in the search and recovery of Marcos’ and cronies’ ill-gotten wealth including the illicit assets from the proceeds of G&C during post-Marcos administrations exemplified by the following “big fishes,” to wit:
1. Henry Sy – The incredible growth of SM Group of Companies stemmed from the lease of the GSIS property for the site of SM City EDSA shopping complex allegedly with Imee Marcos’ intervention. The late dictator enabled Sy to multiply the returns of his capital and loans through (i) Falsification of import documents to reduce payment of customs duties and taxes in stocking his shopping malls and department stores; (ii) Squeezing suppliers of locally-made goods by open competition among producers of similar goods until their prices hit rock-bottom; (iii) Delaying payment to suppliers of goods and services with 90-day postdated checks to force them to discount receivables with Banco de Oro at 3% per month, thus making extra 9% profit on sales without paying income tax; (iv) Exploiting millions of workers with 5-month contractual employment after which they are laid off and not rehired to deny them of entitlement to benefits provided for in the Labor Code; and on top of it all, the BIR has probable cause of Philippine and income taxes evaded by SM Group of Companies by corrupting its officials and having different balance sheets that exclude foreign investments from domestic operations and violating laws such as anti-money laundering, anti-graft and corrupt practices or anti-plunder including U.S. and Chinese anticorruption laws for investing in the two countries unlawfully earned funds in the Philippines.
2. Lucio Tan – By usurping Marcos’ 60% equities in his companies the Supreme Court has ruled forfeited to the state which Tan continues to fight in the Sandiganbayan he’s actionable for violation of both Philippine and U.S. anticorruption laws. Tan may have opened himself to charges of violating not only U.S. but also Chinese laws with investments in the two countries most likely part and parcel if not the fruits of Marcos’ ill-gotten wealth while growing his corporate assets and personal net worth by non-payment of correct customs duties, taxes and other government obligations. The PNB-Allied Bank merger is Tan’s Achilles’ heel after the buyer withdrew his offer to buy the Allied-owned California’s Oceanic Bank as a condition for the merger by U.S. bank regulators. The buyer reportedly withdrew for fear the regulators would find out from Oceanic’s U.S. records that Marcos had substantial holdings in Allied when it bought about 28% of the U.S. bank’s equity. If this is true, it could be the “last straw that will break the camel’s back” and bring to an end Tan’s business empire like Enron and other corporate America’s conglomerates because of criminal suits he’d face in the Philippines, U.S. and probably China.
3. John Gokongwei – His “philanthropic” activities of donating PhP200 million each to De la Salle and Ateneo de Manila Universities and the media’s “praise” releases won’t hide the fact anymore that Gokongwei was one of Marcos’ most-favored cronies. The incredible and statistically improbable growth of Gokongwei’s JG Summit Group stemmed from two medium-scale enterprises, Universal Corn Products (UCP) and Consolidated Foods Corporation (CFC), which ballooned into flour milling (Universal Robina Corporation whose milling machinery were “technically” smuggled by his defrauding the DBP of foreign bank guarantee and the BOI of fiscal incentives discussed in my previous column); banking (FEBTC, PCIB and Robinson Bank); merchandising and property development (Robinson Land); airline (Cebu Pacific); Telecom (Digitel and Sun Cellular); petrochemical JG Summit Petrochemicals) and overseas investments [property development in Singapore and China (Hong Kong, Beijing and Tanjin)].
To recover what belongs to the Filipino people the PCGG should immediately retain an accountancy firm with U.S. partners to conduct forensic audit of the growth of corporate assets and personal net worth of Sy, Tan, Gokongwei and others like them to track Marcos’ favors they got and the illegalities they perpetrated like those that led to the collapse of Enron Corporation.
Enron’s nontransparent financial statements did not clearly depict its operations and finances with shareholders and government regulators, or the latter simply went along with whatever had been presented to them. Unethical business practices, absence of strict government control and supervision of accounting practices to misrepresent earnings and modify the balance sheets, and portray a favorable depiction of performance led to steady accumulation of habits and values and actions that began years before and spiraled out of control.
Until as Bob Hope said of Hollywood stars, Sy, Tan, Gokongwei and their ilk started believing their own “praise” releases.
I’ve just sent President Aquino Pamusa Group’s recommendation to stop G&C for good that we’re hoping he’d favorably consider. It may be argued that any hesitancy of the President to act decisively on G&C with the weapons he has now might be construed there’re “big fishes” he doesn’t want to be “caught in his net.” My next column is how prospective respondents can negotiate compromise agreement which is better in the States that’s encouraged to prevent further clogging of court dockets.
By Frank Wenceslao
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