graft and corruption


(Delivered by Secretary Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr.)

Mr. President,

Distinguished delegates,

The Philippines is one with the world in keeping the promise of achieving the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

Ten years after the UN Summit that crafted the MDGs, our country has made considerable strides in meeting most of its targets. The Philippines is on track in meeting the targets on child mortality; malaria and tuberculosis incidence; increasing access to sanitation and safe and potable water; and providing equal education for girls.

But despite the gains attained in the last decade, we need to push ourselves more to meet the MDGs, particularly where we lag behind. Moreover, the Philippine scenario is characterized by wide disparities. Our latest progress report also shows that climate change poses a threat to the achievement of our targets. The population above the poverty threshold is declining as a result of low capacities to cope with the effects of shocks leading to more “transient poor.”

It has been over two months since our country had a peaceful transition of power. The fresh mandate from the people has given the government the needed political will for reforms. The new administration’s cornerstone of good and effective governance will be a potent force in addressing challenges impeding attainment of the MDGs by 2015. Thus, it is very crucial for the Philippines to eradicate graft and corruption, so that public resources will be efficiently channeled to attaining the MDGs.

The Philippine Government will unveil its Medium-Term Development Plan for the period 2010 to 2016. The policies and strategies outlined will reflect our commitment to prioritize the MDGs. The Plan will make sure that this growth will be shared with the poor and the vulnerable by paving the concrete access of every Filipino to quality health, education and employment opportunities through appropriate mix of physical and social infrastructures, and by strengthening social safety nets, like conditional cash transfers and universal healthcare.

Regional dimensions and dynamics are considered in the Medium-Term Development Plan to address development disparities. The next Regional Development Plans shall contain localized targets and strategies in the regions.

We will focus measures to adapt to the global effects of climate change. An archipelago with a diverse ecology, the Philippines is highly vulnerable to disasters. Periodic (natural) disasters increase the vulnerability of poor Filipinos, thus derailing our efforts to reduce poverty and achieve the MDGs. We will integrate climate change adaptation strategies and measures to protect what we have already achieved and continue our work toward meeting MDG targets. We urge all UN member-states to likewise take the necessary action of adapting to climate change and help fellow citizens of this Earth cope with its effects.

The Philippines has always recognized the role of various stakeholders in the MDGs. Our Medium-Term Development Plan aims to harness the partnerships between the public and private sectors, including those in civil society, business, the academe, media, religious groups, and our international development partners. We will put in place an enabling environment for these stakeholders so that the MDG outcomes will be felt even in remote areas.

We will also ensure that environmental sustainability shall not be compromised in the process of economic growth.

The legislative branch is likewise proactive in building the legal foundations for the MDGs. The Philippine House of Representatives retained the Special Committee on the MDGs which prioritizes measures responsive to the MDGs.

In line with our MDG strategies, we also ask the UN System to share their knowledge on successful development approaches in other countries, particularly in areas where we lag, such as reducing poverty and hunger, dropout rates in the schools, maternal deaths, and HIV/AIDS cases.

Finally, as developing countries struggle to achieve the MDGs, it is essential that international development partners keep their promise. Four decades ago, privileged nations pledged to share a small portion of their Gross National Income to developing countries. As 2015 draws near, we urge these economically advanced countries to fulfill their commitments.

Excellencies, as we enter the last stretch, the Philippine Government is exerting all means to deliver on its promise to realize its MDGs, not just as an international commitment but because our people demand it. Let us remember that each and every one of our citizens deserves a life of quality, meaning and dignity.

Thank you and Mabuhay!

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission

photo by Dondi Tawatao - Getty Images AsiaPac

photo by Dondi Tawatao/Getty

Aquino signs EO on Truth Commission
By Maila Ager

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III signed on Friday Executive Order 1, creating the Truth Commission tasked to look into graft and corruption allegations that hounded the past administration.

“Today, I signed Executive Order No. 1, establishing a commission to investigate allegations of anomalies during the last nine (9) years. The process of bringing a necessary closure to the allegations of official wrongdoing and impunity has begun,” Aquino said in a statement on Friday.

Aquino said the executive order was in line with his promise to form the Truth Commission in the first 100 days of his administration.

He said that former Supreme Court Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. will head the commission that has been tasked to investigate and seek the truth about corruption allegations that were committed over the last nine years by government officials and their accomplices in the private sector.

The commission, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said at a press conference, has until Dec. 31, 2012 to complete its mission.

This year, however, De Lima said the commission would be doing “organizational and initial stages” of its work.

The President's Men and Women: Dinky happy to be back in DSWD

The President’s Men and Women: Dinky happy to be back in DSWD
By Helen Flores
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Social Welfare Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman said she is happy to return to work in “one of the most committed bureaucracies” and vowed to further improve the government’s existing poverty alleviation programs.

Soliman said she received a warm welcome from officials and staff of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) when she took control of the agency once again last July 1.

Soliman served as DSWD secretary under the Arroyo administration.

But in 2005, she and nine other Cabinet and senior officials, known as the “Hyatt 10,” called on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to resign after she apologized and admitted it was improper for her to have called an election commissioner linked to poll fraud in the 2004 presidential elections.

“I really feel very encouraged… sunflowers were all over the place. I could feel the warmth of their embrace, very welcoming and they were all glad to see me again,” Soliman said.

Soliman said sunflowers are her favorite flowers.

“I work with one of the most committed bureaucracies that have very little, if at all, scandal on graft and corruption. The people here work 24/7,” she said.

Transformation process

Soliman said she accepted the post from President Aquino despite all the criticisms against her because she wants to be part of the “transformation process.”

“I accepted it because first of all, all my life since I started being engaged as a social worker, I always had the motivation and the passion to be part of a transformation process of the Philippines,” she said.

“I chose to continue the commitment of being part of a transformation process by accepting the challenge of working again with the department whose main mandate is to work with the poorest of the poor,” she added.

“I believe in the President. I believe President Noynoy will truly be able to make major changes in our culture, politics and economy. I believe in his integrity and leadership and he has given me the privilege to be part of the change that is going to happen,” Soliman said.

Soliman graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Social Work from the University of the Philippines-Diliman in 1973.

She finished her Masters in Public Administration at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Boston, Massachusetts in 1998.

She was born on Jan. 27, 1953 and is married to Hector Soliman. They have two children, Sandino and Marikit.

Sustainable livelihood

One of the priority programs of the new government is the provision of sustainable livelihood to poor Filipino families, Soliman said.

These livelihood projects will complement the existing poverty alleviation programs in the country such as the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) and the Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services (KALAHI-CIDSS).

“To ensure that communities we have assisted move out of poverty, they need to have assistance in getting sustainable livelihood. That is the first priority,” Soliman told The STAR.

Soliman said they plan to involve families in the poorest provinces in product development programs.

“We are looking at product development, specifically food, and link them to the market,” she said.

She said they are likely to enter into partnerships with the private sector in these undertakings.

Soliman said she has also called for the review of the National Household Targeting System to make sure that the right beneficiaries will get support from the government.

The National Household Targeting System for Poverty Reduction, which was implemented last year, was aimed at establishing a database of households classified according to poverty level.

The system intends to rationalize the allocation of government resources to those who are most deserving of assistance.

No more street children

The DSWD chief also plans to rid the Philippines of street children by 2011.

Soliman said the DSWD, along with local government units and the private sector, will focus on developing more shelters, which she feels is the best way to handle street children.

“We will be working with the LGUs and the private sector to help us in this, particularly those in the housing sector, because street families really need a place to stay, that’s why they are in the streets,” Soliman said.

“I want to be able to eliminate (street children) in a year’s time. When I say to eliminate I mean that there is no child in the street begging,” she said.

Soliman said street children are often involved in road accidents and human trafficking.

Villar faces new raps for bank’s ‘sweetheart deal’

Villar faces new raps for bank’s ‘sweetheart deal’
By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Nacionalista Party presidential candidate Manny Villar benefited from a P4.5-billion “sweetheart deal” between a bank he owned and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the party-list group Akbayan charged Thursday.

In a press conference, Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros, now a Liberal Party senatorial candidate, said the 1998 deal predated the C-5 road extension controversy also involving Villar.

“Before C-5, there was C-4.5, a P4.5-billion anomalous loan the Villar-owned Capitol Development Bank received from the central bank,” Hontiveros said.

Akbayan legal counsel Ibarra Gutierrez III said they were set to file plunder and anti-graft charges against Villar in connection with the deal next week.

Hontiveros said Capitol Bank in March 1998 was able to secure two loans for P2 billion and P1 billion from the BSP through a loan facility under the New Central Bank Act (Republic Act No. 7653) that was authored by Villar himself when he was the congressman from Las Piñas City.

The two loans came due on Sept. 16 and 22, respectively, of the same year.

In April 1998, the BSP issued two more loans to Capitol Bank in the amounts of P1.168 billion and P331.9 million, for a total of P1.5 billion, using the same facility. These loans were to mature on Oct. 19 and 21, respectively, of the same year.

But Hontiveros said Capitol Bank defaulted on the loans.

“It was after a year, on Dec. 13, 1999, that the BSP issued a final demand letter to Optimum Bank, which assumed the loans, asking for a settlement of what stood at the time as a P4.34-billion indebtedness exclusive of accrued interest and penalties,” Hontiveros said.

She said the BSP eventually agreed to accept as payment mortgages from three corporations—Adelfa Properties, Palmera Homes and Carissa Homes—in September 2000 and May 2001, “over two years after the P4.34-billion in loans had fallen due.”

This was in violation of the law, she said. “Furthermore, in June 2001, or nearly three years after the loans came due, BSP records showed Capitol/Optimum Bank still owed P3.333 billion.”

In the case of the P1.5-billion loan, Hontiveros said the BSP foreclosed on properties in Norzagaray, Bulacan, that had been used as collateral. This despite the titles to the properties having been declared fake by the Land Management Bureau, the Supreme Court, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Special treatment

Gutierrez said Capitol Bank received special treatment from the BSP.

The loans should have also been approved by the Monetary Board, he said.

In a press statement issued in response to Akbayan’s allegations, lawyer Nalen Rosero-Galang, Villar’s chief legal officer, said, “This already sounds like a broken record.”

“Capitol Bank’s transaction with the BSP more than 10 years ago is a non-issue.”

“And if indeed there were violations or irregularities committed, they should bring the same to court, instead of parading themselves to enhance their less-fortunate popularity,” the statement said.

Evidence in poll exec's graft case challenged

Evidence in poll exec’s graft case challenged

MANILA, Philippines – Government prosecutors have objected to the admission into the record of several documentary evidence in the graft case filed against former poll commissioner Luzviminda Tancangco in connection with the P6.59 billion Voters Registration and Identification System (VRIS) project of 2000.

In a 12-page comment, Prosecution Bureau I acting director Raymundo Julio A. Olaguer and assistant special prosecutor III Julieta Zinnia A. Niduaza and Judith Antonina R. Boco-Mate challenged the admissibility of Tancangco’s evidence on the grounds of failure to identify them during trial and for being immaterial and irrelevant.

Tancangco, former head of the Comelec’s bidding and awards committee, is accused of favoring Photokina Marketing Corp. in the bidding for the P6.59 billion VRIS project.

The case stemmed from the complaint initiated by the National Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), which accused Tancangco of diverting the commission’s priority from the automation of the counting process to the registration of voters.

Among the documents questioned by prosecutors were Tancangco’s article on the modernization of the Philippine electoral system; excerpts of the minutes of Comelec meetings in 1998; a Senate report on the pilot-testing of the computerized system during the ARMM elections in 1996; various memoranda among Comelec commissioners; a letter from the Commission on Audit regarding the validity of the VRIS project; a copy of the evaluation report on three bidders for the VRIS project; and a copy of the notice of award to Photokina for the VRIS contract.

The prosecution said, Tancangco’s position paper was instrumental in convincing the Comelec to ‘reorganize its automation priorities so that registration ranked first, hence the fixation on the VRIS project; canvassing ranked second; and counting, only third, thereby preventing Comelec to automate counting in time for the May 2001 election’ in violation of the requirements set under RA 8436 in 1997.

Graft investigators from the Office of the Ombudsman likewise said the VRIS project was ‘overly complicated’ which was supposed to include features of a ‘smart card’ like biometrcs, embedded fingerprints and other data of the ID owner which allegedly caused the project cost to balloon to P6.59 billion although the Comelec only had an approved budget of P1.2 billion for the automation project.

“In short, the VRIS costs P1,900 per ID. In contrast, the Social Security System has established a similar ID system at a much lower cost of US$1 per ID (about P50),” the prosecutors said.

DND talking with 4 foreign governments on buying military equipment

DND talking with 4 foreign governments on buying military equipment
By Alexis Romero
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Department of National Defense is in talks with four foreign governments on the possible purchase of military equipment, even as some sectors have raised concerns about possible “midnight deals” being hatched by the outgoing Arroyo administration.

“I do not want this business of suspecting the AFP (Armed Forces of the Philippines) each time it makes a major procurement. I said we will not deal with private contractors. The modernization that we will try to do will be between governments,” Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales told reporters over the weekend.

Gonzales revealed that Canada, Italy, Israel and South Korea have already laid down their respective offers.

“The Canadians are offering long-range patrol aircraft and medium-lift capability. The Italians are doing the same. Israel is looking at the possibility of giving us combat helicopters and communication systems. The Koreans are telling me they are prepared to give us a credit line of up to $2 billion,” he said.

Gonzales said he is also awaiting a proposal from the French government.

The defense chief said they would still review the offers and expressed hope that the delivery of the equipment would be done within the next two years.

Critics fear that the last-minute projects of the Arroyo administration would be fraught with massive corruption and irregularities.

Last week, Liberal Party presidential bet Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III warned against the government’s “midnight deals” and called on foreign suppliers not to transact with the outgoing administration.

He also vowed to strictly scrutinize the Arroyo administration’s latest transactions.

“If such midnight deals are concluded just the same, they must all be subjected to the strictest scrutiny and immediately rescinded whenever warranted,” Aquino said.

“Every peso stolen from the budget of our security organizations represents a drop of blood of our soldiers, airmen, sailors and police officers who risk their lives in the service of our nation,” he added.

Gonzales admitted that the government is into an “11th hour” preparation to modernize the AFP, but claimed that nothing is illegal with it.

“Yes, we are rushing what we can still do under the AFP modernization program in our very limited time left,” he said. “Aren’t we, Filipinos, known to be good in the last two minutes?”

The DND chief also said the acquisition of new military equipment would enhance the country’s defense capabilities and restore national pride.

The government is planning to buy an armor system for the Army, multi-role vessels for the Navy and long-range patrol aircraft, medium lift aircraft and attack helicopters for the Air Force in the next two to three years.

Malacañang has issued an “obligation authority” to the DND to allow it to enter into multi-year contracts. The scheme is in the 2010 national budget signed into law by President Arroyo last February.

Without such authority, the DND can only spend up to P5 billion per year from the modernization funds.

Sanlakas plans to file plunder charges vs Villar

Sanlakas plans to file plunder charges vs Villar
By Nikko Dizon
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The militant group Sanlakas Thursday said it was considering filing plunder charges against Sen. Manuel Villar, Nacionalista Party standard-bearer, because of a complaint filed by his former lawyer which detailed the alleged corrupt practices of his real estate companies.

“If Villar thinks he can bully attorney Restituto Mendoza, well, he is dead wrong. We have something bigger for him,” Argee Guevarra, Sanlakas legal counsel and spokesperson, said Thursday at a press conference.

Guevarra also acts as co-counsel of Mendoza, who has a labor case against Villar, his companies and corporate officers with the National Labor Relations Commission (NLRC).

In a complaint filed at the NLRC in August last year, Mendoza detailed the supposed irregularities practiced by Villar’s real estate firms in acquiring lands for property development.

Mendoza, 34, was a lawyer of Villar’s various real estate companies handling raw land cases, which he described as “sensitive.”

“This started as a simple labor case and how he (Mendoza) appears to me as a very good resource person to gather facts sufficient to file a plunder case against Manny Villar,” Guevarra said.

He said Sanlakas was in the process of unraveling the modus operandi of the Villar companies—“how (they) expanded, how (they) resorted to graft and corruption, to bribing other public officials in order to accumulate vast tracts of land which were originally intended to serve agricultural workers.”

Guevarra described the “modus operandi of land grabbing” supposedly by Villar’s companies as “so serious that it should be a public issue right now.”

The plunder charge against Villar, who is a strong contender for the presidency, does not have to be filed before the elections lest Sanlakas be accused of politicking, Guevarra said.

“We can file it even if Manny Villar becomes President of the republic. We will hound him with impeachment complaints on the strength of the revelations of Atty. Resty Mendoza,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra described Mendoza as the “missing link” in the C-5 deal that had the Senate censure Villar for unethical conduct.

Mendoza was part of the legal team that drafted the contracts for the swapping of property between Adelfa Properties and Masaito Development Corp. for the C-5 road extension project.

Villar can be a dangerous president – Erap

Villar can be a dangerous president – Erap
The Philippine Star

BUTUAN City  , Philippines – Former President Joseph Estrada believes he has a duty as a citizen to reveal the true personality of Nacionalista Party (NP) standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

Speaking to reporters yesterday, the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino standard-bearer said Villar’s alleged involvement in stock manipulation could make him a very dangerous president.

Estrada said he had given Villar the benefit of the doubt, although he did not clearly explain the various allegations against him.

“Not until there is a document,” he said. “That is the time I disclosed it. It’s my duty even as a private citizen to make the people know what some elected officials are like.

“He keeps on telling the people through advertisements that he is helping the overseas Filipino workers, but then he is raking in billions of income from that.

“I have seen the prospectus (of Vista Land). But even if he has facilitated the return of 1,000 OFWs he will still profit from that, that is why his target market are the OFWs.”

Estrada said Villar’s alleged involvement in stock manipulation has given him undue advantage.

“If he can do that while he was speaker, Senate president, how much more when he is already the president,” he said.

PMP spokesman Ralph Calinisan said Villar might have violated Republic Act 3019, the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, when he tried to “persuade” members of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to grant his “request” to unlock his shares of stocks in Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc.

“Moreover, it is also equally illegal for any person who has direct or indirect financial interest to intervene in SEC and PSE board proceedings, especially since he was then Senate president.”

Calinisan said Villar resorted to the weakest form of defense when he merely denied and described as “pure politicking” the allegations leveled against him by Estrada and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile.

Calinisan said Villar’s credibility is now in question.

Villar has been “positively identified” by a number of players in the whole issue, a fact which he cannot deny, he added.

Former SEC chairman Perfecto Yasay Jr. believes Villar’s presence at the SEC was irregular.

“I’m really concerned and deeply disturbed by what is being claimed by the SEC and some other quarters that the presence of Villar in the stock exchange meeting and decision to lift the lockout provision on his shareholding and his calls to the SEC were nothing irregular,” he said.

“Everything is irregular with it especially in the light of our experiences in the country.

“If Villar honestly felt that he was not pressuring people to lift the lockout provision to enable him to sell his shares, then he should not have been there. His presence alone was a tremendous pressure that I am sure impacted on the outcome of the decision, which was to lift the lockout.”

Yasay said Estrada was the last person he expected to expose the alleged irregularity.

“I’m surprised that it is President Estrada who is the one saying this and I’m sure that Estrada had good motives in saying this to help the people,” he said.

Gerard Lukban, SEC spokesman, said the allegations against the agency and its top officials have no basis.

He said Villar was not present in any meeting of the SEC at the time when Vistaland’s initial public offering/listing application was being deliberated.

Allegations that Villar had been calling SEC chair Fe Barin to follow up on the firm’s application were purely speculation, he added.

The SEC is looking into the allegations and has referred the case to the agency’s stock market surveillance department, Lukban said.

Villar countered yesterday that not a single peso of government money was lost but some P130 million in taxes were paid when his company sold shares at the stock market.

Speaking at the NP headquarters in Mandaluyong, Villar said the PSE did not bend rules for his company during the selling of shares. – Jose Rodel Clapano, Christina Mendez, Evelyn Macairan, Aurea Calica