Government press probed for printing campaign materials
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Philippine Information Agency (PIA) Director General Conrado Limcaoco is launching a probe into reports that officials of one of the printing offices that he is supervising have been illegally using facilities to print election materials for their own or their relatives’ political campaign.
Limcaoco was reacting to a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) that some members of the board of the APO Production Unit, Inc. who are running for local elective posts, are using their printing facilities for their campaign materials.
The PCIJ report said the officials were taking advantage of the ambiguity of the status of the APO, whether it is a government corporation or a private entity.
The Omnibus Election Code prohibits the use of printing presses owned or controlled by the government in any election campaign or partisan political activity.
The penalties for officials of such an entity caught in violation of the law range from one to six years in prison, along with disqualification from public office and forfeiture of the right of suffrage, the PCIJ pointed out.
The PCIJ said APO officials alternately assert the agency is a government office or a private entity depending on the kind of printing job it undertakes.
“I will investigate these and I promise you that if anybody is guilty, he will be appropriately dealt with under the law,” Limcaoco told The STAR. “I know nothing of these allegations.”
He said the APO was transferred to the PIA about two months ago by President Arroyo and denied that he sought the move.
He said he presided over a board meeting of the agency a few weeks back over the issue of its status as well as the “long-festering problems” in the employees’ and management ranks were raised.
Limcaoco however admitted that he would not be able to resolve the problems before the Arroyo administration hands over power to the new government on June 30.
Among the members of APO Board of Trustees are Benjamin Defensor, chairman; Renato Tobias, treasurer; Juan P. Dayang, corporate secretary; Taciana Verceles, comptroller; and Raul Corro, chairman, committee on legal affairs, and Roberto Brillante.
Its president is Francisco Arellano, a nephew of Sen. Joker Arroyo.
The PCIJ noted that Brillante is former councilor and vice mayor of Makati City and Defensor is an uncle of former congressman and presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor, who is now running for mayor of Quezon City.
“Tobias is said to be a protégé of former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita while Dayang is a media person close to Malacañang. Verceles is the widow of the late Immigration Commissioner Leandro Verceles Sr. and Corro was recommended to the Board by then Press Secretary Ignacio ‘Toting’ Bunye,” the PCIJ report said.