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PH’s anti-corruption program vs. Hong Kong’s

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The people’s trust, can-do perception and high confidence in the President is a good opportunity to fight corruption, said Tony Kwok, former deputy commissioner and head of operations of the Hong Kong Independent Commission Against Corruption (HKICAC) in his paper read at the Haydee Yorac Commemorative Series held by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

Atop everything though is the need for “adequate resources” to match the pervasiveness of corruption according to Kwok — the reason the HKICAC was credited for stamping out corruption in Hong Kong. The Philippine Government (PHG) is short of resources Kwok has listed which explains the failure of past administrations’ anticorruption efforts, to wit: (a) lack of independence of anticorruption agency (ACA); (b) wrong strategy; (c) inadequate legal framework and jurisdiction over the private sector; (d) lack of public credibility and support; (e) lack of coalition; (f) corrupt judiciary; (g) lack of professional career staff; (h) lack of public accountability and internal control; and (i) lack of POLITICAL WILL and LEADERSHIP.

A very important point Kwok wittingly or unwittingly hasn’t included is the boost to the HKICAC when the colony was returned by the UK to China in 1997. Chinese laws replaced the British liberal anticorruption laws Hong Kong had in years, for instance, serious crimes of bribery and corrupt practices became punishable with jail sentence for life or, worse, by firing squad.

The Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday (5/02/11) that a total of 53 officials who were partly responsible for several recent scandals involving the sale of melamine-tainted milk have been punished as China steps up its efforts to ensure food safety. Seventeen of them were dismissed and others faced various penalties, ranging from demotions to demerits and warnings. The move followed the sentencing of 14 people convicted of producing or selling tainted milk powder in Shanxi and Hebei provinces. Among the 14 involved in the four recent cases, two were sent to prison for life, four received sentences of 10 to 15 years and the rest received lighter sentences.

Three years after the use of melamine in infant formula killed at least six babies and prompted a shake-up of China’s dairy industry, the authorities are still seizing tons of tainted milk each year. Farmers or processors add melamine to watered-down milk to ensure it appears to have high levels of protein. One of those sentenced to life in prison by the Intermediate People’s Court in Shanxi’s Jinzhong city, was a producer named Li Baosheng, who had sold 130 tons of milk powder containing melamine, Xinhua said. The other who received a life sentence was identified as Qi Weigang, who was convicted of selling Li 11.3 tons of tainted milk powder.

That’s why it’s futile to ask the Chinese to grant clemency or commute the death sentence of drug traffickers. The main purpose of recent sentencing drug mules to death that ordinary Filipinos won’t understand is to stop the practice.

Kwok has actually validated what I’ve been saying all along that PHG’s anticorruption program is like burning cogon without digging up and also burning the roots for the grass not to resume growing the next day. The failure is due to the “kanya-kanya” system prevailing in gathering evidence, investigating and prosecuting offenders until one agency with own evidence stands alone trying a case in court only to become “cold” or end unsuccessfully.

The truth is since 2006 I’ve been advocating government and non-governmental networking in fighting corruption. Concerned government agencies should link up with Pamusa, for instance, in a cooperative framework to gather, assemble and synthesize the sum total of evidence and match it with domestic and international resources such as the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC), other multilateral agreements adopted as part of the law of the land, and the US-Philippines Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) that hasn’t been effectively invoked until the high-profile extradition cases of former Quezon Gov. Eddie Rodriguez and Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez. I’m just a prophet not honored in my country.

That’s why there’s urgent need for the Ombudsman, PCGG and Pamusa to jointly initiate legal action, for instance, by retaining an accountancy firm to do forensic audit, of course, chargeable to the target to probe the expansion and growth of owned or controlled corporations (OCCs) of Henry Sy, Lucio Tan, John Gokongwei and others (“big fishes” are obviously the best examples) inexplicable increase of corporate holdings and personal net worth was made possible by deals made for Marcos’ favors or as the USDOJ defines of having been derived from ill-gotten gains out of “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, prosecution, seizure, and taxation.” (Emphasis is mine).

The accounting system to probe the above has been tested by the USDOJ in many court cases against the Mafia, terrorist organizations, drug traffickers and corrupt government officials and their private co-conspirators in the U.S. and overseas in accordance with the UNCAC and multilateral or bilateral agreements such as the US-Philippines Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) that took effect in 1994.

Another example of US-China cooperation that Sy, Tan, JG, etc. should fear was when Macau’s banking regulators froze $25 million in North Korean accounts in Feb. 2006 with the Banco Delta Asia, a bank the U.S. Treasury Department had accused in September of helping the North Korean regime launder money and distribute counterfeit U.S. currency. It’s likewise alleged that NK’s leader Kim Jong Il and his late father kept their ill-gotten gains in the Macau bank. A favorable unintended consequence probably intended anyway was forcing the NK leader to come back to the negotiating table with the 5-nation group wary of his nuclear program.

When the Ombudsman and PCGG show cooperation and ask Pamusa to request concerned U.S. and Chinese government agencies to inventory investments in the two countries and match them with their financial statements and corporate records in the Philippines, this should be enough for Sy, Tan, JG, etc. to step up, settle illicit gains derived from PHG’s losses, stop their corporate corruption and unethical business practices by shielding their operations and accounting practices from government control and supervision to misrepresent earnings, modify their balance sheets and portray a favorable depiction of performance that led them to develop habits, values and actions that began years before giving rise to a false sense of security as though they won’t end and spiraled out of control.

Sy, Tan, JG, etc. know full well that any amount of unlawful gains invested in the U.S. and China suffice for them to be charged of foreign corrupt practices, money laundering, wire fraud when applicable, racketeering – violation the U.S. Racketeer Influenced and Criminal Organizations (RICO) Act – conspiracy and violation of related U.S. laws such as perjury and falsification of government documents.

If it were necessary to return the PCGG to the Office of the President not to hurt Sec. Leila de Lima’s sensitivity while opposing the commission’s cooperation with Pamusa or she might have another idea the government could effectively fight without networking with NGOs such as Pamusa, the President would have enough basis to decide whether the PCGG could hasten recovery of Marcos’ and cronies’ ill-gotten wealth and also effectively fight corruption during the post-Marcos era under De Lima’s supervision and control.

By Frank Wenceslao




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