WAR IN THE PALACE
Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor
IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.
Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.
On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.
The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.
A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).
On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.
Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.
While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.
Seed of Discord
The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.
The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.
However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.
The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.
Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.
Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.
“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.
Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.
The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.
Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.
On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.
Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.
What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.
Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.
From boom to doom!
Sheer coincidence or not, but the eloquence of truth is fast overtaking the pack of lies being desperately peddled around by spin doctors of the ruling power.
Thanks to enlightened and alert citizenry, they can’t be easily swayed by any claim to fame and glory in the remaining days of President Aquino’s six-year term in office.
Nothing can be farther from the truth as facts can easily be discerned from fiction, especially as the countdown in the run-up to Aquino’s uneventful tenure begins soon.
That the economic boom being bandied about by the powers-that-be is more imagined than real is simply beyond dispute.
Just look around and bear witness to the fact that the benefits of the so-called inclusive growth have yet to trickle down to the grassroots levels in the countryside.
On the contrary, the supposed growth has become more inclusive to those in possession of wealth and influence to the exclusion of the depraved and ignorant.
Apparently, the boom times those in power refer to are nothing but a self-serving claim meant to inflate certain egos of dyed-in-wool politicians.
Or they could be intended to mislead the people of their country’s true state of affairs as Aquino will deliver soon another sequel of his state-of-the-nation address.
The lingering pork scam, certainly a blot in Aquino’s stay in power, remains fresh in the public mind and any unintended mention would likely dwarf any other issue, either political or economic, because of its debilitating impact on the national psyche.
By: Al Labita
The looming scenario looks dreadful.
Should President Aquino’s push to create a Moro state fizzle out, history would be unkind to him.
At the rate criticisms are heaped on his substate-for-peace deal with the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Aquino may likely end up on self-imposed exile in Malaysia, his chief backer in peace talks with the rebel group.
Since the deal was inked last month, it has drawn a barrage of flaks, likening it to a sellout of part of Philippine territory, apparently Aquino’s way to put an end to decades of a bloody secessionist movement in the resource-rich region, the country’s second largest island next to Luzon.
Questions on constitutionality are hounding the envisioned Bangsamoro (Islamic state). These center on the time-honored Constitutional ban on the creation of a state within a state, a provision Aquino appears to have glossed over in pushing the proposed law
What legal experts find revolting, however, are certain provisions virtually diminishing the government’s sovereign powers, relegating some of them to Bangsamoro.
Specifically, they refer to the creation of the Bangsamoro Transition Commission (BTC).Composed of government and MILF representatives, the BTC would work on amending the 1985 Philippine Constitution, the basic law of the land.
“This is beyond ridiculous,” said Senator Miriam Santiago in a press statement. .“Say again?! Wh a – a – a – t?!”
Santiago, widely regarded as a Constitutional expert, is the first senator to call the so-called peace pact unconstitutional.Overall, she described the Malaysia-backed PH-MILF deal as an attempt to redefine the country’s sovereignty.
Like other legal experts, she questioned the provision in the agreement providing that the powers reserved to the central government will depend upon further negotiation with the MILF.
“Thus, the agreement diminishes the sovereignty of the Philippine government by listing what are the powers that the central government can retain,” the former regional trial court judge said.
In gist, the agreement not only reduces the sovereignty of the central government, but also provides that in the future, such sovereign powers as have been reserved may be further increased,provided the Bangsamoro agrees.
“It will therefore be the Bangsamoro which will determine what should be the remaining sovereign powers of the central government,” Santiago, a member of the International Court of Justice, said.
Bangsamoro, planned to be a new region with wider political and economic powers, will replace the graft-ridden Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
Santiago, chairperson of the Senate committee on constitutional amendments, hinted that she will not support the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law which, if passed in Congress, will be subject to a plebiscite for approval or disapproval by the public.
“While I am chair, it will be extremely difficult to convince me, as a student of constitutional law, that the Bangsamoro Agreement respects the Philippine Constitution,” Santiago said.
Some groups are poised to question soon the deal before the Supreme Court, despiteassurance by the government and MILF that the proposed Bangsamoro law would comply with the Constitution without the need to amend it.
But on closer look, the PH-MILF pact contained provisions similar to those of the earlier scuttled Memorandum of Agreement on Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD).
That deal was supposed to be inked between the government of then President Arroyo and the MILF, but in October 2008, the Supreme Court struck it down as unconstitutional because it sought to establish a state within a sovereign state.
Under the MOA-AD, the existing five-province ARMM would have been expanded by more than 700 additional villages, subject to a plebiscite.
The proposed new entity then, to be called the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity, would have had its own police and military force and its own judicial system, among others.
“Both the MOA-AD and the Bangsamoro Agreement appear to facilitate thesecession of the Bangsamoro from our country, in a manner similar to the secession of Kosovo and Crimea,” Santiago warned.
Although the Constitution provides that natural resources belong to the state, in the Bangsamoro territory, only Bangsamoro will have exclusive jurisdiction over them.
Similarly, the pact’s annex on power sharing gives Bangsamoro “exclusive powers,” defined as powers or matters over which authority and jurisdiction pertain to the Bangsamoro government.
The accord also provides that only the Bangsamoro shall be under a ministerial form of government, while the rest of the country will operate under a presidential form of government.
Pundits say that in allowing itself as signatory to the deal with the MILF, Malacanang may have infringed upon the powers of the legislative branch.
As it appears, the agreement should not have identified the executive as the “Philippine government.”
The reality is that only one of the three branches of government – the executive branch, consisting of the Office of the President acting through a peace panel of negotiators – represented the government in talks with the MILF.
It may also be argued that the executive branch alone does not represent the Philippine Government, a fact that the MILF may have just shrugged off to speed up the signing of the accord for its own sake alone.
Simply put, the executive branch, in negotiating the agreement with the rebel group, had no power to bind the two other branches – legislative and judicial — to the controversial deal.
By all accounts, the executive “misrepresented” itself as the government, an error in judgment on Aquino’s part for which he will pay a costly political price – the likelihood of ending up in exile in neighboring Malaysia.
Who Is In Charge of Local Disaster Management?
By Ike Señeres
PRESIDENT Noynoy Aquino set the right tone when he said that we need not wait for a disaster in order to help each other, because there are many poor people who need our help every day. How I wish that his message will be heard not only by the people in the government, but also by all Filipinos here and abroad. As I see it, he actually issued a call for action, in a way declaring a war against poverty on a daily basis.
I find it amusing that our entire nation was scandalized by the ten billion pesos more or less that was stolen by the pork barrel scam, when in fact the amount was less than 2% of the national budget. Perhaps our national outrage was triggered by the high level of noise that the issue caused in the mass media, but how come no one seems to pay attention to how the rest of the 98% is being spent? Will this not need the same level of noise that the mass media gave to the pork barrel issue?
Our National Government Agencies (NGAs) are the institutions that are supposed to work on a daily basis, and these are the same institutions that are funded on a yearly basis by the General Appropriations Act (GAA). This is what line item budgeting basically means, to appropriate annual budgets to line agencies, instead of appropriating the funds by way of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).
By way of comparison, line item budgets are for objective purposes, intended to fund projects that are programmed for implementation by the NGAs. The PDAF on the other hand is, or was intended for subjective purposes, referring to local development projects that could not be “seen” by the Congress from where they sit. The legal fiction here is that only the local people could “see” the need for these projects, supposedly with the guiding “eyes” of their congressman.
As the head of the executive branch of the government, the President is in effect the head of all the NGAs, the same agencies that are supposed to work on a daily basis. In theory, the President does not have to order the actual heads of these agencies to do anything, because they are supposed to think and act on their own, without waiting for the President to tell them what to do. This is what institutions are supposed to do, and that is the reason why they are funded by the Congress to do what they are supposed to do.
What did CNN news anchor Mr. Anderson Cooper mean when he said that there was “no government” in Tacloban? What did he mean when he said that “there was no one in charge”? Was he referring to the local government, or the national government? As a matter of fact, the local Mayor was still around, even if he was practically paralyzed to do anything at all. Was he referring to the national government? Did he not notice that the NGAs were there on the ground from day one?
Considering the fact that the local government was practically paralyzed in Tacloban, there is no debate that the national government was there, and so it is not correct to say that there was “no government”. That said, the only remaining question is whether or not there was someone “in charge”, as asked by Mr. Cooper. As I see it, there was someone “in charge”, even if Cooper did not recognize him. I am sure that there were many local officials of the national government who were there when Cooper was there, but perhaps he was looking for someone higher.
There is no question about the fact that the President is “in charge” of national affairs, whether there is a disaster or not. Same is true about the fact that the Mayor is always “in charge” of local affairs no matter what, period. The case of Tacloban is an obvious exception to the rule, because the Mayor there was a victim himself, aside from the fact that he was left with no means to function. Since Tacloban is a chartered city, is it the reason why the provincial Governor did not see a reason to be the one “in charge”?
President Aquino was correct when he said that in our system, it is the local government that is the first line of defense. The problem is, the general public, as they are fired up by the mass media, would always want the President to be on the scene right away, as if he has nothing else to do. As the news would usually come out, it is even implied that if the President is not on the scene right away, he is probably not doing anything.
I think that it is a dangerous trend to always expect the President to practically behave like a Mayor. It seems that President Aquino is not the type who is not inclined to always hug the headlines, but imagine what will happen if we will have a President in the future who will hug the headlines all the time, in order to satisfy the demand of the general public? What will happen to all the other urgent national concerns that the President is supposed to attend to?
In this time and age of high tech communications, it is more practical to assume that the President would have the means to give instructions to his subordinates wherever they are, and at any time. In reality, the Command Post is where the President is, and from that point, he could order everyone in the bureaucracy and the military to do what they have to do, as they are supposed to do. If the President is not seen on the scene, it does not necessarily mean that he is not doing anything.
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LIES AND DECEIT
By Al Labita
NOTHING to crow about the Aquino government’s self-serving claim that under its watch, the economy has expanded at a rate faster than what its officials could imagine.
Reckoned with realities, however, the growth only perpetuated the perennial rich-poor gap, one of the world’s worst, despite Aquino’s much-ballyhooed reform agenda.
While statistics only tell half a story, they nonetheless betray the painful truths lurking behind a façade of lies and deceit.
The inclusive growth Aquino has been harping on has been largely inclusive only among the few moneyed elite to the exclusion of the vast majority – the poor.
As the economy grows, it also exponentially drives up the wealth of those in command and control of the lives of Filipinos.
The figures are grim — only 40 families such as the Ayalas, Sys and Tans account for nearly 80 percent of the economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), an OpinYon’s research shows.
In stark contrast, some Asian neighbors had managed to whittle down the rich-poor ratio as they gained headway in democratizing their economy over the past decades.
In Thailand, the same number of families account for only 33.7 per cent of the economy and in Malaysia, 5.6 per cent, indicating how the Philippines has lagged behind in addressing the urgency to spread out the nation’s wealth.
Ironically, the glaring disparity vis-à-vis sharing a nation’s wealth explains why the Philippines has more billionaires (in US dollar) than in more prosperous Thailand and Malaysia.
GDP and PPP
They are the same people who take advantage of lucrative contracts, including profit guarantees and tariff increases, under the government’s Public-Private Partnership program (PPP), Aquino’s centerpiece in pushing infrastructure projects.
“The regime has consistently favored the few billionaires while further marginalizing the poor. Aquino now wants to enrich them even more by giving them various perks for the PPP projects,” says the militant Bayan Muna in a statement.
Based on the account of US-based magazine Forbes, the combined net worth of the Philippines’ 50 richest totaled US$65.8 billion in 2012, more than a quarter of the nation’s GDP.
Mostly of Chinese origin, these families own companies which have grown—aided largely by generous government incentives—to become conglomerates with shares traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange and in some cases offshore, notably in cash-rich Hong Kong and Singapore.
Millionaires to Billionaires
Their vast and diverse corporate tentacles extend far and wide, catering to the lives of Filipinos, literally from womb to tomb, leaving them with no choice but to enslave themselves under the weight of an oppressive western-style economic system.
As shown in the list of Singapore-based UBS Billionaires Census 2013, the Philippines ranked 9th in Asia, with 13 billionaires with a combined net worth of US$35 billion.
In 10th place was Malaysia with 10 billionaires worth a combined US$37 billion, while Thailand ranked 11th with 10 billionaires worth US$25 billion.
As usual, ethnic Chinese taipans Henry Sy and Lucio Tan topped the list of the Philippines’ mega rich whose ranks had swelled as more of their kind continued to amass wealth at the expense of those marginalized by the government’s pro-rich, anti-poor economic policies.
Sy, who operates shopping malls, saw his assets surge 44 percent to US$7.2 billion in 2012 alone and remains the Philippines’ richest man.
According to the Forbes 2012 annual rich list, Sy and Tan whose businesses range from retail to property and other related ventures were worth a combined US$13.6 billion, equivalent to six per cent of the Philippine economy.
While GDP has undoubtedly risen over the past years, every Filipino’s share of it is unfortunately the lowest among Asean countries.
Based on the latest data of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), the Philippines’ per capita GDP) stood at only US$4,339 in 2012 compared with Singapore, $61,461; – Malaysia, $16,976; Thailand, $9,609; and – Indonesia. $4,971.
GDP is the amount of goods and services produced, while per capita is derived from dividing the population in relation to GDP.
While seemingly doubtful, the NSCB data hardly reconcile with Aquino government’s oft-repeated claims that GDP last year expanded by 6.8 percent and even bragged that it outpaced Singapore’s 1.3 percent, Malaysia’s 5.6 percent, Thailand’s 6.5 percent and Indonesia’s 6.2 percent.
Yet, the Philippines’ per capital GDP has been the lowest–and slowest—among its peer group since 2005 despite official claims that it is Asia’s fastest-growing economy.
In what could be an indicator of the country’s ever-widening rich-poor gap, NSCB data also showed that high-income households accounted for more than half, or 60 percent, of the GDP.
The balance of 40 percent of the economy’s income was shared by the bulk, or about 84 percent, of the country’s population.
To be poor meant earning less than 16,800 pesos a year or P1, 400 a month or P47 pesos a day which covers 26.5 per cent of the nearly 100 million Filipinos.
As gleaned from the official poverty data of NSCB, the proportion of poor Filipinos to the total population has been surging from 24.9 per cent in 2003 to 26.4 per cent in 2006, and 26.5 per cent in 2009, an issue Aquino promised to address under his “Daang Matuwid” program of government.
The Philippines has one of the highest poverty rates among emerging Asian economies. The poverty incidence stood at 27.9 percent as of the first semester of 2012, almost unchanged from the 28.6 percent in 2009.
Aware of the magnitude of the problem, the government wants to bring down poverty incidence to 16.6 percent by 2015, an ambitious target difficult to achieve as the rich get richer and the poor poorer, given the economy’s bias for the affluent and the powerful.
In more ways than one, the economy is basically lopsided in structure allowing the oligarchs to gain too much control of the country’s resources and creating one of the worst income inequalities in Asia.
One wonders whatever happened to Aquino’s oft-repeated term “inclusive growth” which seeks to create jobs and reduce poverty by spreading the economy’s gains to trickle down to lower-income segments of society.
More importantly, the rich-poor disparity also draws attention to Aquino’s anti-poverty conditional cash transfer program which has a budget of more than P40 billion this year.
Capitalist vs. Socialist System
The program seeks to see 15 million of the nation’s poorest people receive money directly in exchange for their kids going to school and mothers and children getting proper healthcare.
In releasing its data, NSCB risked incurring anew the ire of Aquino who once bawled out the agency’s officials for portraying the economy in bad light contrary to his government’s rosy picture.
Sign of compassion for the disadvantaged sector of society may be gleaned from how the tycoons responded to the clamor for aid of the hapless typhoon victims in the Eastern Visayas region.
While some, particularly Sy and Tan, handed out P100 million each, others were hardly in the news, apparently opting to work behind the scene with less fanfare.
Billionaire port king Enrique Razon deployed heavy equipment to repair the damaged piers in Tacloban city and Leyte, while the Ayalas and banker George Ty chipped in P10 million and P50 million, respectively, worth of relief supplies.
The cost of putting the typhoon-ravaged Eastern Visayas region back on its feet amounts to a whopping P250 billion, a window of opportunity for the tycoons to share their wealth with those they derived their profits from.
Overall, while there is evidence of progress in addressing the yawning rich-poor gap, it is too slow. One study says it would take dozens of decade for the bottom millions of the nation’s population to achieve 10 per cent of the national income under the current rate of change.
Similarly, it raises questions about the Philippines’ pro-capitalist economic model vis-à-vis the egalitarian-oriented socialist type.
- Philippines’ Aquino Races the World’s Fastest Economies – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- PH poverty almost unchanged since 2006 (rappler.com)
- After Typhoon Recovery, Philippines Needs Jobs – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- The Grim Reality Behind the Philippines’ Economic Growth – Jillian Keenan – The Atlantic (theatlantic.com)
- Country slow to reduce poverty despite dramatic growth (hispanicbusiness.com)
- Divided Filipinos (ireport.cnn.com)
- The Philippine Economy in the Aftermath of Haiyan (live.wsj.com)
- GILLES GARACHON : Promoting French Tourism in the PH (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Philippines Has More to Fix Than Typhoon Damage – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Government: Poverty reduction slow, threatens MDGs (businessmirror.com.ph)
CHRONOLOGY OF THE RIFT: Pacquito Ochoa VS. Mar Roxas
November 28, 2009 – Benigno Aquino III and Manuel ‘Mar’ Roxas II file for candidacy as President and Vice President.
June 30, 2010 – Atty. Pacquito Ochoa Jr., handler of Aquino’s legal affairs since his run for Congress in 1998, is chosen to be Aquino’s Presidential Executive Secretary. Atty. Ochoa’s father (former mayor of Pulilan, Bulacan) is a longtime close friend of Aquino. Ochoa is a partner in the Marcos-Ochoa-Serapio-Tan law firm (MOST), with Atty. Liza Araneta-Marcos, wife of Ferdinand ‘Bongbong’ Marcos Jr. and cousin of Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Araneta Arroyo, former presidential husband.
May 10, 2011 – May 13, 2011 – Political analysts and veteran government officials Ernesto Maceda (ex-Marcos executive secretary and former senator) and Albay Gov. Joey Salceda (ex-Arroyo chief of staff) predicted in an interview with ABS-CBN that a clash between the Ochoa and Roxas camps are inevitable. Maceda previously stated similar concerns in his Philppine Star column.
June 29, 2011 – In an interview with Newsbreak, Ochoa denies influencing Aquino in his appointment of Roxas as incoming DOTC chief rather than as supposed Chief Of Staff, as insinuated by Aquino in past press interviews.
June 30, 2011 – Despite public expectations that Mar Roxas will be appointed as Aquino’s Chief Of Staff, Roxas accepts Aquino’s offer to take on the then-recently vacated position of Secretary of Transportation and Communications, right after former DOTC head Ping De Jesus resigned.
August 31, 2012 – Aquino appoints Roxas as new DILG chief, and Cavite Rep. Joseph ‘Jun’ Abaya as new DOTC head.
September 3, 2012 – DILG Secretary Mar Roxas and Ochoa gave contradicting statements to the public on DILG Undersecretary Rico Puno’s exit. Roxas claimed that the President is giving Puno a different assignment, while Ochoa insisted that no such decision has been made by the President yet.
August 25, 2013 – Malacañang dismisses Brian Raymund Yamsuan, consultant to Ochoa, after being mentioned as the one who brokered the meeting between Napoles and the editors of Philippine Daily Inquirer.
September 10, 2013 – Ochoa denies link to Janet Lim-Napoles. His law firm MOST used to represent Napoles, as indicated by NBI affidavits with the MOST imprint in them.
November 4, 2013 – Palace denies rumors about infighting within the Aquino administration’s ranks. Mar Roxas and Pacquito Ochoa appear together in public, beside each other, during an awarding ceremony for the soldiers in the Zambo siege.
Nov. 6, 2013 – According to Francisco Tatad’s column in Manila Standard, “Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa was quoted in this paper as saying it was Roxas who had pushed Aquino to make that widely derided ‘I am no thief’ speech on television, which has now become the latest national calamity under the Aquino administration.”
-Compiled by Eric Fabian
- Snake Pit (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Trouble at the top (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Aquino moves to stem skid in ratings (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Nancy Binay questions Mar Roxas’ housing program (rappler.com)
- Coloma tags MST report ‘speculative’ (manilastandardtoday.com)
- An irrelevant president (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Palace mum on Roxas-Romualdez tiff (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Roxas: ‘Yolanda’ relief efforts clear but need is as huge as a ‘swimming pool’ (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Get him out of there (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Roxas disputes Aquino’s ‘No Build Zone’ order (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
By Miguel Raymundo
MOST of us believe the pork scandal is a corruption issue. Yes it is, but to some high-risk political operators, this is just the start of the 2016 presidential campaign. The last three years in Malacañang has been the most dangerous, if not unproductive, for sitting President BS Aquino. Not only has he found himself abandoned, but also tamed even by his most trusted allies. As expected, powerful forces are now on each other’s throat in what could easily be a warm-up fight for the presidential contest two and a half years from now.
But if you think the war is between Malacañang and the opposition, you fail to see deeper into what is happening behind doors in the current pork barrel scandal. The war is now between forces inside Malacañang. Manila Standard Today reported that DILG Secretary Mar Roxas is to blame for the 12-minuter fiasco, the “I-am-no-thief” televised speech of PNoy. The Manila Standard also reported of a Laygo survey that said PNoy’s popularity rating is down by 35 percent, a major slip in his ratings. The broadsheet said Malacañang is in panic. The paper said they have a Malacañang insider for a source. OpinYon sources inside Malacañang say the Manila Standard story is half-true. It is true that there is a bloody war between forces of Executive Secretary Pacquito “Jojo” Ochoa and those of the Liberal Party led by Roxas. It is too bloody that PNoy has been reduced to become a victim of the ambitions, greed and fears of the Ochoa camp.
BOC: Cash Cow
The Ochoa camp is not ready to give up its control over Malacañang even after PNoy is gone. That is the ambition and the greed. The fear is should an enemy group take control of Malacañang, Ochoa and company could be joining another President behind bars. The fears of Ochoa’s group are not unfounded. There are persistent reports that some top Malacañang officials are in control of smuggling. Billions of pesos in lost taxes and government revenues end up in the pockets of the relatives of these Malacañang officials. Out of power, they will not only lose this cash cow, their boys might even be charged of corruption. The Bureau of Customs is the favorite cash cow of any political party in power. It has lately become a center of controversy and power play between Samar and Balay groups. Attempts by the Balay group to take control of BOC has always been derailed resulting in Ruffy Biazon keeping the post even with his dimwit performance. Also the agencies known for massive corruption like the DPWH are controlled by the Samar group. There is sharing of powers in some agencies that bring in the cash. The bigger pie almost always ends up with the Samar group.
In the elbowing in the power game, pockets and egos are bruised creating deep resentment and plotting between the two forces. The war inside Malacañang is a very interesting as regards the use of dirty tricks. Unbelievable it seems the claim that only the Roxas camp is to blame for the 12-minuter speech fiasco. The report said that PNoy delayed facing the camera for that “I-am-no-thief” speech to give time for corrections of the speech by Ochoa. Being the last official to tinker with the transcript, Ochoa should take the blame for the final copy. But the Manila Standard source from inside Malacañang said that Roxas takes the blame and played up the slant that he is bringing down the President.
Who owns Manila Standard?
An OpinYon source said it is the other way around. The almost perfect handling by dirty tricks operators of Samar is making Roxas the bad boy. Almost perfect is the handling in the demolition of Roxas except that the top broadsheets appear to be treating the story with suspicion. So does OpinYon, forcing us to sneak in and get our side of the truth. Why is Manila Standard on top of this “inside sources” trick? This brings us to ask: who owns Manila Standard? That paper is owned by the Romualdezes, who are actually the Marcoses. We encourage you to do your own math and we would end up with the same conclusion. Notice one story finding space and getting viral in social media: the Marcos wealth and insinuations that its return will solve poverty in this country. Another interesting side of this 2016 battle for the presidency is how the camp of Binay is being treated by these two forces inside Malacañang. It appears that a decision has been made that Binay is not a serious contender, if not an already destroyed potential enemy.
Binay, A Goner?
With Binay already reduced to ashes, ironically by his own acts and moves by Malacañang, the two groups are now on each other’s throats, suspecting that whoever takes Malacañang will have the other join the President behind bars. Roxas has minced no words in seeking the presidency come 2016, but speculations are rife that Ochoa may have a different agenda – backing the presidential bid of opposition Senator Ferdinand Marcos “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. The Ochoa-Marcos link is via a law firm – the Marcos, Ochoa, Serapio and Tan, thus the acronym MOST. Marcos refers to Liza Marcos, wife of Senator Marcos, while Ochoa is Aquino’s executive secretary and S and T for Edward Serapio and Joseph Tan, respectively. The law firm was recently tagged as lawyering for pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles, accused in a case of kidnapping and serious detention.
It should be noted, as well, that as early as Aquino’s 2009 presidential campaign, the salt to the wound has already been added. Members of the Balay faction of Aquino supporters, the one headed by Roxas, started blaming the Samar group under Ochoa for the failure of the Aquino-Roxas banner, after Chiz Escudero endorsed the Aquino – Binay tandem, without the knowledge of the said candidates. Escudero even went as far as to print t-shirts saying ‘Aquino-Binay’, which did not help the already widening division between the two groups that are supposed to be united under the Aquino flag. The publicity spin doctors in Malacañang were quick to rush and patch up the holes created by the infighting, but not fast enough that sources from inside were able to spread the knowledge that Aquino is running a divided political household.
Since Filipinos are known for putting premium on keeping up appearances, Ochoa and Roxas would come in public ceremonies together, standing side by side, just to make it appear that allegations of infighting are baseless. Other than the obvious nonverbal tension that one can observe in this play-acting to feign truce, we know that the Filipino public has seen the same political drama repeated over and over again, and they are not fooled.
As preparations for the 2016 elections begin, we see a repeat of the 2010 battle royale between these two groups. But this time, it will be bloodier and it might trigger the fall of Pnoy even before the 2016 elections.
Malacañang is now the most dangerous place to be: a snake pit.
- Trouble at the top (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Coloma tags MST report ‘speculative’ (manilastandardtoday.com)
- PDAF defeat prompts Aquino to fly back to Manila (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- An irrelevant president (opinion.inquirer.net)
- Aunt Tingting vs ‘Digi-President’ (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Coloma gains more air time in Malacañang (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- This Week on OpinYon : SNAKE PIT (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Palace mum on Roxas-Romualdez tiff (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Aquino moves to stem skid in ratings (manilastandardtoday.com)
- LP disowns mayor, mum on Drilon-Napoles link (rappler.com)
MRT3 and Aquino’s ‘Bouncing Czech’
by Mentong Tiu-Laurel
AFTER almost two years of explosive controversy, the full facts of the Ballsy-Eldon Aquino-Cruz and the US$30-million mystery question surrounding the MRT3 deal may have come to light.
The BS Aquino government and the Czech embassy would like the public to think that a third-ranking level neophyte executive is the brain and mover in the MRT3 P4.5-billion project. The said executive being put on “indefinite leave” (which was rejected) is being made a “fall guy” and the story used to abort the awarding of the MRT3 “capacity expansion” project (additional train coaches) to the lowest bidder in the hopes of keeping the highest bid—the Czech trains—alive.
Instead of being the villain, the “fall guy” is actually the public’s champion. MRT3 General Atty. Manager Al Vitangcol conducted a comprehensive study with the MRT3 Technical Working Group consisting of Engr. Mike Narco, Ms. Natividad Sansolis and Eng. Raphael Lavides, and other professionals. Aquino’s DOTC secretary and LP politico, Emilio Abaya, issued a special order to include two personal factotums: Usec. Julianito Bocayon, a longtime buddy at the Naval Intelligence Group, and Honorito Chaneco an Abaya appointee and Philippine Science High School classmate, apparently to sway the technical committee.
The significance of the technical committee is that after thorough study is recommended government estimate of US$1.89 million/coach against the Czech Inekon’s US$3 million/coach. Vitangcol and the technical men in the Technical Working Group established the best and lowest government estimate for the project. Inekon’s bid for the LRV, light rail vehicle, started at US$3.3-million/coach in early 2012 negotiations.
The Inekon people and the Czech embassy had been working on the MRT3 deal years earlier and it is in this long series of deal-making effort that the “syndication” by the Czechs with the Aquino family is revealed. Among them are: the appointment as Inekon agent of Yorgis Psinakis, nephew of Aquino and Lopez clans’ crony Steve Psinakis; Aquino’s first cousin Jorge Aquino-Lichauco as “handmaiden”; DOTC Usec. Rene Limcaoco, brother of Cory-Gloria-Yellow stalwart Dodi; involvement of LP stalwarts in talks with Inekon and the Czech ambassador.
Jorge Aquino-Lichauco who has denied involvement actually acted as “handmaiden, and Usec. Limcaoco are caught with the “smoking gun” in a memo issued by the latter to Atty. Al Vitangcol, dated 10 April 2013, transmitting the “Sample Terms for LRV (light railway vehicle) Terms of Reference from Jorge Lichauco” who does not have any official role in the DOTC and with any of the parties involved in the MRT3 transactions but carries the weight of Usec. Rene Limcaoco’s official letterhead which “transmit” Lichauco’s “non-official” communication to a DOtC third rank official.
These have been reported by Charlie Manalo of the Tribune, who has been giving a blow-by-blow account of these since mid-2013 in the mentioned publication.
The MRT3 $ 30-million “kickback” story emerged after a radio network broke the news with unattributed sources claiming that Ballsy Aquino-Cruz and Eldon Cruz, sister and brother-in-law of BS Aquino III, were involved in “extortion” of the Czech company for awarding of the MRT3 deal. The Czech Inekon’s chairman and CEO Josef Husek and ambassador Josef Rychtar had been asked repeatedly whom they were really “extorting” but persistently been coy in naming anyone beyond suggestive affidavits about “an informal dinner in a Makati restaurant on July 9, 2012”, and a meeting in Rychtar’s Forbes residence where al Vitangcol was not even present and quoting only a Mr. Wilson de Vera.
Why is Atty. Al Vitangcol being made the “fall guy” in the mainstream media when the Czech company Inekon’s officials, Josef Husek, and ambassador Rychtar have denied any direct accusation against Vitangcol while naming Wilson de Vera? In a Husek affidavit to the NBI on Oct. 5, 2013 is Mr. Wilson de Vera whom he stated, “While talking about the tender, Mr. Wilson de Vera suggested that we would be selected as (the) supplier of the tram vehicles and related services, provided that we (pay) to an unknown entity a certain amount of money. Mr. Wilson de Vera indicated such payment should amount to USD 30 million.”
Mr. Wilson de Vera is an LP stalwart in Pangasinan and a close friend of Eldon Cruz and Aquino aunt Tessie Oreta. Mr. Wilson de Vera is also a director of the MRT3 maintenance contractor PH Trams, which won the MRT3 maintenance contract over Sumitomo Corporation, evidence of the company’s clout with the new administration. Also in PH trams are Manolo Manalit who is also with the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (Pangilinan’s controlling shares MRT3) and Marlo dela Cruz who is reportedly the Mar Roxas and Korina Sanchez connection and with the Liberal Party. PH Trams maintenance contract has been taken over by Global APT JV (Joint Venture) where Marlo dela Cruz also is.
The Liberal Party imprint on the operations of the MRT3 and the DOTC today is all-embracing, from the secretary down the organization and into its subcontractors. Central to the MRT3 extort scandal is the Ballsy Aquino-Eldon Cruz trip to the Prague and, allegedly, to the HQ of Czech company, Inekon. Jorge Lichauco was earlier speculated as the couple’s tourist guide to the country but later it is revealed that Yorgis Psinakis, Inekon agent, did the honors. The Czech ambassador eventually retracted and exonerated the Aquino couple from the “extort” allegations, but questions linger.
The Aquino-Cruz couple claim they were in Prague to pray at the famous shrine but given Inekon’s official agent making arrangements, and Inekon’s years of “syndication” with Aquino relations and Aquino controlled LP political cohorts, the exoneration and the diversion to a “fall guy” smacks of a cover up.
The lowest winning bid from Dalian Locomotive for the MRT3 capacity expansion project at $ 1.8-million and under the US$1.89-milliion government estimate is now under evaluation. The public’s concern is that the controversy is being stoked to whip up a cloud cover and scuttle the awarding, meanwhile keeping alive the deal seemingly “railroaded” since 2012, which has been working behind the Aquino and Liberal Party cover. Thus the vehemence with which the Czechs have tried to whip up controversy and create diversionary tactics is understandable, such as the “corrupt” fall guy ploy while the Liberal Party operators are allowed to go under the radar.
Does this explain the “bouncing Czech”?
If US$30 million or some amount had not exchange hands, would such vehemence be commensurate?
(Tune to 1098AM, 5 to 6pm, Tues. to Fri.; Destiny Cable, GNN Channel 8 and www.gnntv-asia.com, Sat. 8pm and Sun 8am; visit: http//www.newkatipunero.blogspot.com; text comments to 09234095739)
- Presidential sister Ballsy Aquino-Cruz: Cleared (globalnation.inquirer.net)
- New turn in Philippine corruption case (praguepost.com)
- Prague, Czech Republic (ourtraveladventure.wordpress.com)
- Bc-autoslug (bigstory.ap.org)
- New Bohol Airport Has Final Masterplan (airlinenewsphilippines.wordpress.com)
- Aquino votes in barangay polls in Tarlac (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Sidelines (1rgcruz.wordpress.com)
- Amid corruption worry, Aquino to reform govt fund (bigstory.ap.org)
- A Worm’s-Eye View of the Current State of the Philippines (grbusinessonline.wordpress.com)
- $30 Million MRT Extort Reveals the Evils of RP’s Protectionism and Corporatism (vincenton.wordpress.com)
[by Miguel Raymundo]
THE guessing game is on. Will PNoy finish his term?
The answer to that question is not a dare to impeach him, but also how deep the Filipinos are hurt by an incompetent and dishonest President.
“Impeach me!” President Benigno S. Aquino III dares the people.
Believing in “doctored” surveys, Aquino is confident—and deludes himself that the people love him and his family so much that they can empty with impunity this poor country’s coffers and that still more Filipinos will keep them on the pedestal.
He is likely to lose this dare as the middle class has taken to the streets and is now leading the march to stamp out corruption in government and bring behind bars those who have stolen people’s money. #OpinYon #PNoy #Incompetent #Dishonest#Philippines
read cont | http://bit.ly/15UPQqq
- Sins of Cory (opinyon2010.wordpress.com)
- Aquino dare smacks of political arrogance – militants (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- PH ups penalties for animal cruelty amid ‘crush video’ fury (rappler.com)
- HK newsmen heckle PNoy; axed at APEC (manilastandardtoday.com)
- Aquino warned to heed call to scrap ‘pork’ or face ‘point of no return’ (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Aquino, other gov’t execs in plunder raps (newsinfo.inquirer.net)
- Rappler Newscast | October 2, 2013 (rappler.com)
- Filipino troops retake 70% of rebel-held villages (bigstory.ap.org)
- PNoy rules out second term even if Charter allows it (manilastandardtoday.com)
- PNoy dares critics: Impeach me (rappler.com)