Villar to Aquino: Let’s take tests together

Villar to Aquino: Let’s take tests together
By Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer

NACIONALISTA PARTY (NP) PRESIDENTIAL candidate Sen. Manny Villar on Saturday challenged his main rival, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino of the Liberal Party, to undergo a psychiatric test and other medical exams to prove his sanity and fitness to become Chief Executive.

Villar said that he too was willing to take “a comprehensive physical and mental examination in order to ascertain (our) fitness to occupy the highest office of the land.”

Both the Ateneo de Manila Psychology Department and Fr. Tito Caluag, S.J., whose signature purportedly appeared on the results of a psychiatric test report (edited – Pro Pinoy) on Aquino, declared it as bogus.

But Villar said denying that the signature on an alleged psychiatric report was authentic was not enough.

If Aquino had sought the help of a psychiatrist in 1996, Villar said it was “the right of the people to know since he is running for president. Denial should not be (a) technical (defense). This is a very serious matter.”

“Noynoy cannot hide behind his claim to privacy because the mental state of anyone who aspires to be president or vice president is a matter of public concern,” said Villar.

“There’s a far more dangerous scenario than the blind leading the blind, and that is for a mentally challenged person to lead a nation of millions,” Villar added.

NP not source of report

Villar, who is lagging behind Aquino in the surveys, stressed that challenging Aquino to undergo psychological and medical tests did not mean the NP was the source of the alleged psychological report on the state of Aquino’s mental health.

The NP has “absolutely nothing to do” with the outing in public of a psychological test conducted on Aquino purportedly in 1996, said Villar.
Besides his rival’s state of mind, Villar said what was also worth looking into was Aquino’s purported use of marijuana.

Villar said it was easy to evade facts by attacking the source of the information.

“But the question is—can you (Aquino) outrightly say that you were never treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist, or never took medicines for that disease, or never smoked marijuana when you were young?”

LP answers back

Lawyer Edwin Lacierda, spokesperson for Aquino, issued a statement in response:

“Manny Villar is desperately trying to salvage his declining numbers, this time using the fake report the Nacionalista Party black propagandists have concocted, spread all over the Internet, and leaked to the media. It has been confirmed by ABS-CBN that the Nacionalista Party is the source of this black propaganda,” said Lacierda.

“By calling upon Sen. Noynoy Aquino to answer the fake report, Villar dignified it even as it has been debunked as a forgery by two independent sources—Fr. Tito Caluag and the Psychology Department of Ateneo de Manila University.”

The lawyer called on Villar to “stop trying to compensate for the failure of his black propagandists.”

To which Villar replied:

“On Father Caluag, his signature was the only one analyzed. The point is the content is more important (than the authenticity of the signature).”

The test recommended continuing psychological therapy for Aquino, citing his depression, his sexual repression that led to his breakup with his flight attendant-girlfriend, and his alleged substance abuse, particularly marijuana use.

According to the bogus report aired by ABS-CBN, the psychological test results showed the following:

On “Substance Abuse History,” the report said the patient smoked two packs of cigarettes a day, had teenage experimentation with marijuana and various pills, and is a “solitary drinker.”

“There was some difficulty in communicating due to his deep depression and melancholia. On the mental state examination, he was a lanky man of medium height who was mildly psychomotor-retarded with a latency of verbal replies, and a slowness of movement.”

The report said that Aquino had “denied being in need of medical assistance and explained his presence at the school as being due to his sister’s concerns, but did not appear suspicious of possible motives or irritated by his presence in the department.”

Didn’t accept medication

“He denied that he had any cognitive deficits. He said he required medication and dietary modification, but did not accept medication offered, in fact, requiring detailed explanation on why the medication had to be taken,” it added.

Aquino has demanded an apology from ABS-CBN for airing the report.

Regardless of the truth or falsity of this report, former Sen. Francisco Tatad proposed during a press forum in Quezon City on Saturday that all candidates in the May election voluntarily submit themselves to psychiatric testing in order to establish beyond doubt their mental and psychological fitness to hold public office.

Villar: I'm mentally healthy

Villar: I’m mentally healthy
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. yesterday said he is mentally healthy as he challenged his rival Sen. Benigno Aquino III to address the issues contained in an alleged psychiatric report, which claimed among other things that the Liberal Party (LP) bet suffered from depression and smoked marijuana.

Interviewed over dzMM yesterday, Villar boasted that he has never smoked cigarettes, more so marijuana, and that he keeps himself in good shape.

“I don’t smoke. I drink red wine, which is good for the health. I never smoked. I regularly go to the gym; my weight is okay. I never took drugs and I can categorically say never. I also have never gone to see a psychiatrist, never,” he said.

Aquino has admitted that he is a smoker and that he could not promise to quit.

Villar said Aquino should answer the issues contained in the document point-by-point and not just dismiss the document as being nothing but black propaganda from the NP camp.

“I have read that but first of all, it did not come from us. I am quite surprised at why they have been saying that it came from us,” Villar said.

“But as far as I am concerned, when I read it, I found that it contained very serious information,” he added.

Villar said that Aquino cannot just dismiss the claims as being ridiculous because the people deserve to hear his answers to some very important questions.

“He should say if he ever went to a psychiatrist. If he didn’t, then he didn’t but at least he should deny that he never saw a psychiatrist,” Villar said.

“Because if ever he did go to see a psychiatrist and he is running for president, we need to know the results because as president you will be the commander in chief of the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines). Every decision is a major decision,” Villar said.

Villar said he answered the allegations coming from the LP camp that he was never really poor and that he was making spurious claims about this as part of his campaign.

Among the issues raised against Villar was that his family was able to bring his brother Danny to a reputable hospital for treatment of his leukemia and that when he eventually died, he was brought to a big funeral home.

There were also questions raised about how his supposedly poor family could have afforded a well-sized house within a gated subdivision.

Villar argued that since they were both seeking the highest post of the land, they owe it to the people to answer all allegations and issues raised against them.

“Can you say outright that you were never treated by a psychiatrist or psychologist or never took medicine for that or you never smoked marijuana when you were young?” he added.

Aquino and the LP camp have claimed that the psychiatric report that was being circulated was a fake.

The document, which carried the letterhead of the Ateneo De Manila University’s (ADMU) Department of Psychology, also contained the signature of Fr. Tito Caluag.

ADMU has denied the veracity of the report while Caluag said that he did not sign that document and that he never worked under the university’s psychology department.

ABS-CBN, which ran the story, has said that the NP was their source of the document.

Petition is a joke

Villar also laughed off the petition filed by two senatorial bets of the LP to disqualify him from the presidential race because of alleged vote buying.

Villar told reporters in Daet, Camarines Norte last Friday that the petition was a joke and that the public should not take this seriously.

Villar said the petition was nothing but a mere ploy by two candidates in the rival LP to gain some publicity to boost their chances in this May’s general elections.

The petition was filed by LP candidates Nereus Acosta and Martin Bautista before the Commission on Elections on Thursday.

According to the petitioners, Villar violated the country’s election laws when he allegedly engaged in vote buying in two separate occasions last February.

Acosta and Bautista said Villar’s camp handed out scholarships to some children during a concert held at the Mall of Asia grounds in Pasay City last Feb. 25.

The other incident involved Villar handing out P20 bills to some children while he was on a market tour in Lipa, Batangas the following day.

Villar has repeatedly claimed that he did not commit any illegal act in those two incidents and that even his lawyers were laughing at the claims of the LP.

He explained that the distribution of scholarships during the Mall of Asia concert was merely ceremonial since these were promised to the children at an earlier contest held during the daytime variety show Wowowee.

On the Lipa City incident, Villar said he was approached by the children who were asking him to buy them some food.

At the time, Villar said that he could not say no to the children because he felt pity for them.

The NP has argued that the incident could not be considered as vote buying since the children were not voters anyway.

However, the NP did hit back at Acosta yesterday, telling him to explain the graft charges that were filed against him before going on a smear campaign against Villar.

In a statement, the NP criticized Acosta for claiming to be an anti-graft and corruption advocate when he is facing graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman.

The NP said Acosta has no “moral authority” to present himself as an “honest leader” who deserves a seat in the Senate.

“He has been accused of defrauding the taxpayers during his term as congressman of Bukidnon’s first district in 2002,” the NP said.

‘Reveal true self’

The Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP), on the other hand, yesterday told Villar to come out of the closet and reveal his true colors.

PMP spokesman lawyer Ralph Calinisan said only the truth will set the presidential candidate free from any more attacks on the political front.

Calinisan said Villar has been accused that he is the Arroyos’ presidential bet.

“It is only hard in the beginning. After the denial stage, acceptance comes next,” he said.

Calinisan also alleged that their party has received information confirming the alleged links between Villar and Malacañang. – With Christina Mendez and Sandy Araneta

Palace has list of pols in drugs, says Sotto

Palace has list of pols in drugs, says Sotto
By Cathy C. Yamsuan, Leila Salaverria
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The list of politicians suspected of involvement in drug trafficking is known to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and does not include the names of current presidential, vice presidential or senatorial candidates.

This was disclosed by Vicente Sotto III, who chaired the Dangerous Drugs Board (DDB) until November 2009, and who warned Thursday against exposing the “confidential” list in connection with the US Department of State’s concern that drug money would be used to influence the national elections on May 10.

The US agency expressed its concern in a strategy report based on the findings of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).

According to Sotto, the DDB and PDEA began forming the list right after the President declared herself the national anti-drug czar in January 2009.

He said regular meetings attended by DDB and PDEA representatives were held in Malacañang since then.

In one of those meetings, Ms Arroyo asked about the status of government efforts to arrest and prosecute suspected drug traffickers, Sotto said.

“Who are these personalities and why have we not arrested them yet? How do we get them?” he quoted Ms Arroyo as saying in Filipino.

US state dept. has no copy

Sotto said he and the PDEA head, retired military general Dionisio Santiago, gathered the names of suspected drug dealers from the orders of battle of the agency, the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.

He said the list was completed in less than a month.

“By the third quarter of 2009, we had submitted our list to the President, who immediately directed the AMLAC (Anti-Money Laundering Council) and BIR (Bureau of Internal Revenue) to monitor those listed,” said Sotto, a former senator who is seeking reelection under the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

He said the US state department had not been given a copy of the list containing the names of “suspected mid- and high-level drug dealers.”

“There were also some names of local government officials, but their direct involvement has not yet been established. Otherwise, they should have already been arrested,” he said.

Sotto said that by the time he resigned from the DDB in November 2009, some of those listed had “already been charged.”

“Some are now under surveillance and some have also gone into hiding,” he said.

It is for this reason that it would be unwise to publicize the list, Sotto said.

“While there is no specific threat to national security if we do so, there is the possibility of retaliation against law enforcers. Or whoever exposes the names can be charged with defamation or be accused of witch-hunting,” he said.

Disruptive of intel work

Election Commissioner Rene Sarmiento Thursday added his voice to those calling on the PDEA to name the candidates involved in narco-politics, and to identify as well those who were providing the illicit funds.

“I think it’s part of the voters’ education and responsible citizenship of PDEA to name not only the candidates, but the sources of this money,” Sarmiento said.

But Sotto said disclosure of the list would “disrupt the work of the intelligence community.”

“Publicizing the list would make all intelligence work useless because it is a confidential list,” he said.

Besides, he said, those listed were already being monitored on different fronts—by drug enforcement agencies as well as the BIR and AMLAC.

Private persons, local officials

Sotto said the list was dominated by the names of private persons and included those of a number of local elected officials.

“The names of local officials are listed because they are in areas notorious for distribution of illegal drugs, or are themselves suspected drug users,” Sotto said.

“But let me clarify that these names are included in intelligence reports only for possible involvement, whether directly or indirectly. That’s why their activities are also monitored,” he said.

Sotto lamented that politicians had been quick to assail PDEA for the US state department report.

“If they want a copy, they can ask for it but we request that it should not be made public. Those who reacted only read the Inquirer report but not the entire US state department report,” he said.

“Why not take note of some highlights, like the one that showed declining numbers of drug users from 6 million to 1.7 million? Is that not an achievement?” Sotto asked.

New rules

Alarmed at the possibility of drug money influencing the May polls, Sarmiento said the Commission on Elections (Comelec) should find new ways to regulate the funds used in campaigns.

He said the laws penalizing those giving and accepting illicit funds for campaigning were weak and needed beefing up.

Sarmiento also said he would ask the Comelec en banc to study the US state department report and would suggest that the poll body be briefed by the PDEA on the matter.

“This has serious repercussions on our governance. Imagine if our winning candidates are backed by this kind of support or money. It’s alarming, based on the principle of ‘I’ll scratch your back, you scratch mine’ or quid pro quo,” he told reporters. “We will discuss in the Comelec how to regulate this kind of campaign finance.

Sarmiento said candidates backed by drug money were no different from those backed by illegal gambling rings.

He said that from his own study and his participation in conferences on regulating campaign finance, the rules and regulations to curb the use of drug and illegal gambling money in politics were weak.

“I think it’s high time the Comelec adapted rules on how to regulate these sources of funds,” he said.

Sarmiento said those involved in channeling illicit funds to candidates may be charged with vote-buying under the Omnibus Election Code.

Poll fraud

But the penalty is only one to six years imprisonment, disqualification from public office, and deprivation of the right to vote.

Jose de Venecia III, who is running for senator under the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino, also called for the disclosure of candidates with links to the drug trade.

De Venecia, an information technology businessman who blew the lid off an overpriced P16.5-billion government broadband project, warned that drug money could be used to fund not only an election campaign but also fraud in the country’s first automated polls.

He pointed out that automated election system was vulnerable to fraud because it was untested and “full of operational bugs.”

“The purported huge amounts in illicit funds could be used by favored candidates in their election campaigns, and also in cheating operations to thwart the true will of the people,” he said.

Attention: Navy

De Venecia called on the Navy and the Coast Guard to beef up their efforts in addressing the drug trade. He noted that a key portion of the US state department report cited how “traffickers increasingly took advantage of the Philippines’ long and porous maritime borders to use the country as a transit point for high-grade cocaine and heroin shipments, primarily from India and Pakistan.”

“This finding is a big red flag for both our Coast Guard and Navy to redouble their vigilance and more aggressively operate against sea-borne drug dealers,” he said. With a report from Norman Bordadora

‘Name narco-politicos’ US report on drugs sets off alarm bells

‘Name narco-politicos’ US report on drugs sets off alarm bells
By Norman Bordadora, Cathy C. Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—A flurry of calls for names to be named was raised Wednesday in reaction to the United States’ expressed concern about the possibility of narco-politics influencing the Philippine elections on May 10.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the US Department of State itself should name the candidates receiving drug money from traffickers for their campaign, “so that the voters would know and give time for these candidates to explain and deny” the accusation.

“It’s also important to know this so that any presidential candidate is not … held by the neck by drug lords,” Escudero told reporters.

Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay, the vice presidential candidate of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) and president of the United Opposition, urged the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) to produce a list of politicians benefiting from the multibillion-peso drug trade.

But Binay warned against “a witch-hunt” in the media during the election period, and said the list should include only those politicians whose links to drug syndicates were backed by solid evidence.

“If the authorities have a roster of the most wanted kidnappers why can’t [they come] up with an order of battle for drug lords and narco-politicians?” Binay said in a statement.

“We need specific targets so we can build airtight cases against them that can stand in court, and so the war against drugs will claim no collateral damage that destroys reputations and civil liberties, especially during an election season when such accusations are easy to concoct and circulate,” he said.

Commission on Elections Chair Jose Melo, who was in the Senate Wednesday, said the finding of the US state department was “dangerous.”

But Melo said the Comelec had not heard of such a development in the local scene. He said the poll body was busy ensuring that the first automated elections in the country would be clean.

Check sources of donations

Former Dangerous Drugs Board Chair Vicente Sotto III said candidates for elective posts should check the sources of their donations.

“To prevent drug money from seeping into the polls, the candidates themselves should refrain from accepting financial assistance from unknown sources,” said Sotto, a senatorial candidate of the Nationalist People’s Coalition.

“Unfortunately, some of these candidates might have already been infiltrated. Vigilance is the key,” he said.

Show proof

Reelectionist Sen. Jinggoy Estrada challenged the PDEA to show proof for its report to the US State Department that drug money could influence the results of the 2010 elections.

“The PDEA should substantiate the report so we can know if there is truth to it. If that is the case, we are in a very dangerous situation,” said the eldest son of ousted President Joseph Estrada, who is also seeking reelection.

Another PMP senatorial candidate, former Sen. Francisco Tatad, claimed that in a small town in Mindanao, votes could be bought for as much as P15,000 each.

“It’s a drug center,” he said.

Tatad said candidates who were spending the most in their campaign should reveal the sources of their funds.

“[When] the local campaign kicks in on March 26, you might find local candidates spending incredible sums of money,” he said.

Shabu in rice imports

Sen. Richard Gordon, the standard-bearer of the Bagumbayan party, wants the PDEA to look into reports that a rice importation to the Visayas included shipments of “shabu” (methamphetamine hydrochloride).

Gordon cited reports that the rice came “mainly from Vietnam” and entered the country through Bacolod, Iloilo and Capiz.

He said he had planned to investigate the matter as the chair of the Senate blue ribbon committee but that lack of time prevented him from doing so.

“I suspect shenanigans with the [National Food Authority] rice importation. I was supposed to investigate shabu in Bacolod but we ran out of time. I would have wanted the Senate to investigate,” he said.

Gordon said narco-politics could be behind the shipments.

“It could be fund-raising for elections so I suspect narco-politics, but I have no proof. But I have been getting too much noise. Some are even saying everybody knows who’s behind it in Capiz,” he said.

Gordon said he had alerted the PDEA about the shipments “not only in Bacolod but also in many ports around the country.”

“I am expressing alarm,” he said. “The stories I’ve heard are that these are wholesale deliveries. Even the PDEA guy who briefed me said there are a lot of drugs in Iloilo and Capiz. I admonish all port operators to be on the lookout.”

The senator said slipping shabu among the sacks of imported rice could be considered a double whammy.

“At the very least, they are giving us less rice. And at the very most, reports said they bring in ammonium sulfate that can be used for explosives and as an adulterator for shabu. So you have less rice and also low-quality shabu!” he said.

6 in W. Visayas

Paul Ledesma, the PDEA director in Western Visayas, said six candidates in the region had been monitored since last year for drug links.

“We have established their links with known personalities and groups involved in the drug trade,” he told the Inquirer in Iloilo City.

Ledesma said some of the candidates had served as legal counsel for drug personalities and groups, and that others had been monitored as regularly meeting with these groups.

He said the candidates were running for various positions from councilor to congressman in the provinces of Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Antique and Capiz.

Ledesma said the drug groups and personalities had expanded their operations from bribing and influencing law enforcers, members of the judiciary and of the prosecution system to “infiltrating” the legislative and policymaking bodies.

He said officials who had friendly relations with drug groups could use their position to protect the operations of the traffickers.

“It is common knowledge who these candidates are. But we have yet no proof to hold water in court. As soon as we have enough evidence, we will file cases against them,” Ledesma said.

No. 1 region

Randy Pedroso, the PDEA director in Central Visayas, said the agency had been keeping close tabs on persons involved in narco-politics as part of its work.

He said the vigorous campaign has made Central Visayas the No. 1 region in the PDEA’s fight against illegal drugs.

Pedroso said that in 2009, the PDEA had seized P26 million worth of illegal drugs, mostly marijuana and shabu. Last year’s figures represented a big leap from the P4 million worth of drugs seized in 2008.

He said a total of 1,075 operations conducted in 2009 resulted in the arrest of 1,220 drug personalities, all of whom were charged in court.

2 candidates

According to Pedroso, the active participation of the public made it possible for the PDEA and the Philippine National Police to successfully wage their anti-drug campaign in 2009.

He said two candidates—one for councilor in Cebu City and the other for board member in Bohol—were being investigated.

He said the two candidates had a history of arrests because of their involvement in illegal drugs. With reports from Christine O. Avendaño in Manila; Nestor P. Burgos Jr. and Chito O. Aragon, Inquirer Visayas