De Lima: Abcede not PCGG officer-in-charge

De Lima: Abcede not PCGG officer-in-charge
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Leila de Lima nullified yesterday an order of Commissioner Ricardo Abcede designating himself as officer-in-charge (OIC) of the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG).

De Lima said in a statement that Abcede’s memorandum last July 14 is void since it did not have her required approval. Abcede’s memorandum was addressed to the PCGG rank and file, declaring himself as OIC, being the most senior commissioner, until a new PCGG chairman or any new commissioner is appointed.

De Lima, who has administrative control over the commission, said the position of OIC of PCGG remains vacant since her office is still in the process of determining from the records who exactly is next in rank and the most senior official of the PCGG.

“Once a determination has been made, an OIC will be designated,” she clarified.

She also ordered Abcede to explain why he should not be charged for declaring himself as OIC without the approval of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

De Lima assailed what she thinks was a “preemptive announcement” made by Abcede that he has been designated as temporary chief of PCGG until President Aquino appoints a new chairman, based on a legal opinion of the DOJ.

“We cannot take shortcuts. So we will look carefully into the records of the PCGG, in order to accurately determine who should be the next OIC. Let no one preempt our decision,” she stressed.

De Lima explained that any designation of OIC of the PCGG would be valid only upon her express and written approval.

In her memorandum circular issued last July 16, De Lima said: “Chairman Sabio is deemed separated from office as of 30 June 2010. The next-in-rank and most senior official of the PCGG, who shall take over as Officer-in-Charge, shall replace Chairman Sabio in the performance of duties and discharge of responsibilities until July 31, 2010 or until a replacement has been appointed or designated.”

But she clarified that there is nothing in her opinion that expressly named Abcede as OIC already.

The STAR reported that Abcede claimed that De Lima’s opinion in effect has already named him as OIC of the commission.

De Lima said she was surprised by the statement of Abcede, who even declared in a memorandum last July 16 that he recognizes the authority of DOJ and also assures her of his full cooperation with her directives.

She said that there was a clear “attempt (by Abcede) to designate himself as OIC.”

Another PCGG executive – Danilo Daniel, the agency’s most senior officer and the commission’s director for research – also claimed to be the OIC of the commission last week.

Daniel issued a memorandum order last July 2 announcing that he was assuming as OIC in view of Memorandum Circular 1 issued by Malacañang

declaring that all coterminous officials appointed by Arroyo are resigned effective last June 30.

Bongbong denies talks with PCGG

Bongbong denies talks with PCGG
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star

VIGAN, ILOCOS SUR , Philippines  – Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate Ilocos Norte Rep. Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. denied reports that his family has reopened talks with the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) over P140-billion ill-gotten wealth.

Marcos denied reports from PCGG Commissioner Ricardo Abcede that there are new negotiations for the settlement of the ill-gotten cases pending against the Marcos family.

“We are not talking to the PCGG. We are not negotiating, no deal, no talks, they (PCGG) are only lying and part of politics. There is no deal, there have been no negotiations, and there are no talks. I think that the PCGG itself will officially come up with a statement,” Marcos said.

Marcos, however, confirmed that his brother-in-law, Gregorio “Greggy” Araneta, husband of his youngest sister Irene, recently met Abcede but it was purely a “social meeting.”

“Nakipagkita lang sya wala silang pinag-usapan sa mga kaso kundi sosyalan lang. Walang deal, walang pinirmahan, walang kahit na ano. Ito ay maliwanag na pamumulitika lang,” Marcos said.

Marcos branded the reports as politically motivated and explained that the cases against the Marcoses are now in the courts and settlements at this time are impossible.

Asked if the Marcoses are willing to negotiate with a new administration, Marcos said it is not impossible.

“Maybe if the next administration will be sympathetic, maybe there is something to talk about. But right now, all the cases are out of our hands. Everything is in the courts, you cannot really negotiate. You will just have to wait for the outcome,” Marcos said during the NP campaign here last Sunday night.

Noynoy hits midnight deals of GMA

Liberal Party presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III assured the people that all midnight deals of the Arroyo government would be reviewed to know if they should be rescinded including the alleged PCGG deal regarding the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family.

The PCGG announced that it has started a negotiation to make a deal to recover what remains of the Marcos assets.

The PCGG said the agency is working out what it described as a “universal settlement” with the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Commissioner Abcede said he met Araneta last Tuesday to talk about the recovery of about P140 billion in Marcos assets tied up in 520 civil cases in the local courts.

“I think the minimum is we review all of that (midnight deals). As you know, I have already been pointing out that (the Arroyo government) has been entering (into) so many deals that further impairs government to be able to fund projects already in the budget,” Aquino said.

NP standard-bearer Sen. Manuel Villar Jr. had said he is open to the review of the pending cases filed against the Marcoses once he is elected president.

Villar, however, refused to speculate on the reported negotiations between the PCCG and a member of the Marcos family.   – With Aurea Calica

Aquino: Body to probe Arroyo

Aquino: Body to probe Arroyo
Win first, Palace twits LP candidate
By Philip Tubeza
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—If elected president, Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III Monday said one of his first acts in office would be to set up a commission that would investigate the various scandals that had engulfed President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

“We want to set up an office or commission that will create a mechanism that would provide closure to all the issues surrounding this current administration,” Aquino said in an interview over GMA Channel 7’s Unang Hirit.

The Liberal Party standard-bearer said the commission would be modeled after the Presidential Commission on Good Government that went after the ill-gotten wealth of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies.

“If there is a crime, someone should pay. There should be a mechanism so that there would be closure for items like ‘Hello Garci,’ the fertilizer fund scam and ZTE. There should be focus on this,” Aquino said.

He said the commission “should make sure that there would be no technicalities that would cause more and more delays in resolving these cases.”

He cited as an example the Senate inquiry into the alleged involvement of First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, his son Juan Miguel and brother Iggy—both congressmen—in “jueteng,” an illegal numbers game.

Sen. Manuel Villar, the Nacionalista Party presidential candidate in the May 10 elections, has claimed credit for mounting the jueteng investigation, Aquino said.

“It turns out there was not even a report about it after all those hearings,” Aquino said, ostensibly referring to speculation that Villar was secretly aligned with the Arroyos.

“We now have no (report) to use as basis for the filing of charges,” he said.

Advisory council

Aquino also said that he would convene an advisory council to be composed of representatives from the three branches of government—the executive, legislature and judiciary—to reform the country’s justice system.

“We should improve the delivery of justice so that it would not take six years, at each level of the judiciary, to resolve cases and that the conviction rate of only 18 percent would be improved,” he said. “We will try to make sure that it would not take decades to resolve cases.”

Aquino said he would also set up a group that would study whether there was a need to change the Constitution. “We want to know if there is a public clamor for that. That is what we are going to do in our first hundred days,” he said.

Palace: Scandals settled

Reacting to Aquino’s plan, deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar told reporters that the Liberal Party presidential candidate “is perfectly entitled to put together whatever kind of agenda he believes is appropriate for the country.”

“(But) Senator Aquino first has to get elected before he can implement this agenda,” Olivar added.

“Do we investigate the sins of the past or do we continue what has been achieved in the past and keep on moving the country forward? That is his choice to make and if this is the choice he is offering to voters and we trust that the voters will make their respective decisions accordingly,” he said.

Olivar said the Palace had always maintained that these controversies “were already properly heard and properly settled through available due process.”

Villar’s spokesperson, Gilbert Remulla, said that if the Nacionalista Party candidate won, Ms Arroyo would be investigated properly and that cases would be filed against her.

“The next administration will not be lacking in cases that will be filed against Gloria Arroyo,” said Remulla, who is running for a Senate seat. “She will surely have her day in court.” With reports from Christine O. Avendaño and Nikko Dizon

San Pedro

San Pedro
By Lito Banayo

HOW could a piece of property sequestered by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), and a lis pendens annotated upon its transfer certificate of title, land in the hands of a corporation called Crown Asia, owned and controlled by the so-called “brown taipan”, Manuel Villar, who wants to be president of the land?

The 2.18 hectare property is in the vicinity of a swanky golf course called TAT, before that Filipinas Golf Course, and even before that, during the Marcos years, known as Holiday Hills, in the municipality of San Pedro Laguna. It straddles the boundary of the first town of Laguna with the last city of Metro Manila, and is now connected to the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) by an interchange, and to Las Piñas and Bacoor to a so-called Daang Reyna, which in turn connects to Daang Hari. Pretty good property, one must say.

It used to be titled to one Maximo Argana, remembered by many to be the feared and powerful mayor of Muntinglupa during the martial law years. When the dictatorship fell, the newly-created PCGG went after the unexplained wealth of Marcos, his cronies and other public officials. They went after Maximo Argana’s wealth, and this San Pedro property was one of them. Because Argana had meanwhile died, the PCGG attached an encumbrance upon the title, what is called a lis pendens, which means the property cannot be sold, leased, or otherwise encumbered while the case is pending. And up till today, that case pends before the Sandiganbayan.

Meanwhile, the informal settlers who had stayed in the property by tolerance or sufferance of the registered owner, Argana, had hoped that when the government finally got full leave of the court to confiscate the San Pedro property, they could apply for land ownership under the social justice programs of the State.

Their hopes brightened with the enactment of the Urban Dwellers Act during the Cory administration, otherwise known as the Lina Law.

But lo and behold! In the year 2000, a corporation called Crown Asia suddenly claimed ownership of the property, on the basis of a deed of sale executed between it and Capitol Bank. Both Crown Asia and Capitol are owned and controlled by the spouses Manuel and Cynthia Villar. Crown Asia, along with its sister corporations, had already acquired other properties in the vicinity, which it was then developing into medium and high-end housing projects.

How did this happen? There was a lis pendens on the property, and a check with government agencies, including the Office of the President shows that the Argana title should not and must not be the subject of a deed of sale, not even a contract of lease, for as long as the courts would not lift that lis pendens (or pendente lite, which means pending legal resolution of the case.

But apparently, Capitol Bank foreclosed the property from a certain Jose Nunez, who failed to pay a short-term loan, and made no effort whatsoever to restructure or re-schedule the loan, as most are wont to do, but instead, immediately had his property foreclosed by the Villar bank. And the Villar’s Capitol Bank turns around and sells the property also immediately, to Crown Asia. Seems like this is a pattern, a modus operandi of the Villar’s interlocking corporations.

In 2002, Villar’s Crown Asia posted security guards and then ordered demolition of the settler’s houses. The demolition squad succeeded in destroying 30 houses and led to the killing of Quirico “Rico” de los Santos, a leader of the neighborhood association of poor informal dwellers called ironically, Paradise Park. But the informal settlers resisted and they remain there to this day, their Paradise Park Neighborhood Association knocking from one government agency door to another, hoping to seek justice and their urban dwellers’ rights under the laws of the benighted land. There are now some 205 family houses walled inside the 2.18 hectare property, with no basic services such as electrical connections and water. They have to walk to buy expensive retailed water and inter-connect or share one electricity source. Guards of the neighboring walled subdivision, armed with shotguns strictly monitor their movements. They are not allowed to bring in construction materials even to repair their rickety dwellings.

Is this another racket where fake titles are produced surreptitiously, and prey on helpless landowners, such as the Dumagat and Remontado farmers in Norzagaray, Bulacan (read our articles of February 25 and 27, Malaya)? In Norzagaray, the titles issued during the Japanese occupation, which under Commonwealth Act 141, as amended, have been declared null and void, were “foreclosed” by Capitol Bank, and then paid in kind to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas which had earlier issued an emergency loan to the said Villar-owned bank of 1.5 billion pesos.

In San Pedro, property encumbered in temporary favor of the Republic of the Philippines, pending resolution of a sequestration case, is suddenly claimed by a family corporation which “bought” the property from the same family-owned bank, which in turn foreclosed the same from a person, fictitious or real, who “borrowed” a short-term loan and “failed” to pay.

But the Paradise Park homeowners are now in mortal fear of imminent ejection, should this “poor man turned billionaire”, whose heart “bleeds for the poor”, and who makes a holy vow (panata) to end poverty (tatapusin ang kahirapan), become president. Truly, night will fall upon the lives of these poor people “squatting” on government-owned land. Because if Villarroyo succeeds with his money, and buys the presidency come May 10, 2010, with secret help from the woman who replaced the man he impeached in 2000, then the “government” and their nemesis will be one and the same.

“Mayaman na siya. Huwag na niyang agawin sa amin ang karapatan na manirahan sa lupang hindi naman kanya”, said Aling Gloria Barrameda of the Paradise Park Neighborhood Association , who along with some 40 other settlers marched and picketed the front of the historic Laurel House that Money Villarroyo bought two years ago, and from whence he launched his quest for the presidency.

The man who claims to have shared the tribulations of the poorest of the poor, who used to live in a single-room house with his entire family (but transferred as a kid later to a 560 square-meter property in San Rafael Village in Balut, built by his government employee of a father and his industrious fish merchant of a mother) and used to sleep in a narrow bench in Divisoria market (but was schooled in a Catholic parochial school where he and brood were fetched by a stainless steel owner-type jeep), and virtually mocks the toil and sacrifices of his truly industrious parents in order to propagandize alleged poverty, now sends his guards to confiscate property held by the Republic, at the expense of poor, landless settlers, one of whom was executed by his unknown security guards.

As Aling Gloria stated in poignant anger: “Sa ginagawa niya sa aming mahihirap, kasinungalingan ang sinasabi niyang siya ay para sa mahirap at siya ay may malasakit. Siya ang tunay na pasakit. Siya ang tunay na pahirap”.


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