#Jueteng = #GoodGovernance?


pineda-together again
photo from Rappler news site

Mar Roxas resigned from the Cabinet of ousted president Joseph Estrada on November 3, 2000 at the height of the #Jueteng scandal. 

Today, he celebrates the Pinedas of Pampanga – underwriters of Estrada and then former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, and supposedly the region’s gambling lords.

He heaps praise on Pampanga Governor Lilia Pineda:

Roxas said that in his view, Pineda’s leadership can pass as an example of “Daang Matuwid.” He cited the provincial budget surplus of more than P1 billion, with all basic services and education subsidies provided to Pineda’s constituents.

This is the man who claims to be the successor of Daang Matuwid.

Pineda is efficient. So is former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay. The latter is accused of corruption, plunder included, has specialised in a dance of evasion and should be, as he likes to say, abjured.  Estrada, the man Roxas abandoned when the ship was sinking, liked to say he didn’t steal from the people’s coffers.

Is this the line Roxas and his vice presidential bet Leni Robredo want to sell? That bathing in the profit well of criminality is preferable to bathing in the tub of corruption? Is this the lesson we get from six years of Tuwid Na Daan?

Roxas, the Wharton economics graduate, showed his lack of historical context in his comments about “Muslim invaders”.

His historical amnesia also goes for illegal gambling – among the scourge of this country and also said to be linked to other criminal activities, including money-laundering.

Just to refresh Mr. Roxas’ memory – and ours:

Who are the Pinedas?

Lilia is the wife Rodolfo Quijano Pineda – better known as Bong Pineda.

Pineda is no run-of-the-mill jueteng collector. Amid political intramurals in the country, Pineda gained strength from one administration to another.

 

The beneficiary of Mr. Estrada’s ouster was Mrs. Arroyo. As the Los Angeles Times pointed out, she, too, had tight links with Pineda.

“… many because of her detractors’ charge that she has links to Bong Pineda, the gambling lord of central Luzon island. She dismisses criticism about her being godmother to one of Pineda’s children, saying that, as vice president, she is godmother to hundreds of children.”

gma with lilia

A more detailed, historical report on Pineda was done in 2001 by Newsbreak’s Chay Florentino-Hofilena. Circa Estrada:

The reported lord of jueteng gained nationwide notoriety because his alleged operations had corrupted and harmed no less than the institution of the presidency. Almost legend, Rodolfo Quijano Pineda was implicated by Ilocos Sur Governor Luis “Chavit” Singson in his testimony before the Senate last year about jueteng collections channeled to deposed President Joseph Estrada.

Pineda, “Bobong” to his townmates, was ordered by the former President to stop delivering collections to his (Estrada’s) Polk Street residence. The Pinedas also maintain a house in nearby Northeast Greenhills. According to Singson, the deliveries were getting far too obvious, and perhaps embarrassing, for Estrada.

Because he ate into Pineda’s collections, Estrada, according to one resident familiar with political goings-on in the town, ended up competing with the locals. Pineda was unable to shower as much money on them because of the former President’s demands—and the people felt it, too.

Circa Arroyo:

Pineda, unlike his tamer predecessors, has exhibited greater audacity by directly influencing and meddling in politics, not just at the local but also at the national level. Not content with the anonymity offered by small-time operations, he has ventured into jueteng big time.

This May, as in the past, he is expected to influence voting in President Arroyo’s province, in much the same way that the Catholic Church or Mike Velarde is able to exercise their clout over their flock during the election season. But Bobong Pineda has his own style.

But wait, we shouldn’t even stop with Estrada or Arroyo.

Slippery Pineda is a survivor. In 1996, he was named by Potenciano “Chito” Roque, former head of the defunct Task Force on Anti-Gambling from 1986 to1989 under former President Aquino, as among the jueteng operators who gave him protection money. Along with four other suspected jueteng operators, he was charged with “corruption of public officials” but was acquitted in 1998.

 Electoral fraud

Newsbreak said “at least P4 million a day” is collected from Central Luzon bettors. This was more than a decade ago.

gma with lilia

If Mar Roxas and his vice presidential bet, Leni Robredo, claim good governance can be compartmentalized from jueteng, they are either lying through their teeth or dangerously naïve. I will be blunt and say it is the former.

There is no shortage of evidence showing how illegal gambling and other crimes often underwrite electoral fraud.

In 2005, as congressional hearings went on with regards Mrs. Arroyo’s electoral fraud in the 2004 elections, a new reports noted:

Senators heard testimony from an army officer on Wednesday who said he witnessed widespread election fraud in Arroyo’s favour on the southern island of Mindanao, where the allegations against the president have centred.

Captain Marlon Mendoza testified that former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano bragged during a drinking session that a gambling lord gave 300 million pesos (RM20.2 million) to help Arroyo win a second term in the May 2004 polls.

Mendoza, the chief security officer for Garcillano from April to June 2004, also said he saw a presidential employee distribute cash to an election officer on polling day.

Lest we forget, the Liberal Party senators run under Arroyo’s 4-K ticket in the 2004 “Hello, Garci elections.” Yes, the elections that focused on defeating action superstar Fernando Poe, Jr., the father of Senator Grace Poe.

The Liberal Party waved off persistent claims of fraud. It was not until much later – some of them even tried to prevent the airing of the ‘Hello Garci’ tapes – when the wages of sin were too heavy that they broke away from Arroyo. (In 2010, they embraced Arroyo’s minions, who have become the most vociferous attack dogs of the LP.)

Et tu, Leni?

Roxas’ is known for his strong self-preservation streak. He will bask in reflected glory and wash his hands of collective fault (check out the second presidential debates last week).

The times he stands up – or screams “P***ngi*a” after telling aides to corral media – is hardly ever a matter of principle. In Mamasapano hearings, he cried and presented a woebegone face but never said a word about President Benigno Aquino III appointing a suspended police chief to oversee a highly delicate, perilous operation. People urged him to break away then. I knew he wouldn’t – no way Roxas stood a chance without the infinite lardchest of the government.

If that penchant doesn’t serve Roxas these days, it’s because people have grown wiser after six years double standards that have shown how only enemies fall under the LP’s banner of corruption. Enemies and the people they see as latak or those who have outlived their usefulness because a more powerful and richer  padrone has come along.

But Leni, aaaah, Leni is the true disappointment.

From her own press release:

Naniniwala tayo kay Gov. Pineda bilang mahusay na lingkod bayan. . . . Hindi naman tayo nakipag-alyansa dahil sa links niya sa jueteng,” Robredo said when asked if she finds any conflict between her position against jueteng and her acceptance of Pineda’s backing.
Asked if Pineda’s support overshadows her alleged jueteng links, Robredo said, “Wala naman siyang hinihinging kapalit. Lahat ng nag-ooffer ng tulong naa-appreciate ko, pero iyong may hinihinging kapalit, ibang kwento iyon.”

Utang na loob. Leni, have you forgotten how one of the reasons for the prolonged sidelining of Jesse – even after he took the interior department portfolio – was because of his opposition to #Jueteng lords?

Where were you when Pineda money was bankrolling Arroyo’s elections?

Electoral fraud

pineda 222

Guns, goons and gold are the staples of Philippine elections. Pineda’s operations also allegedly funded electoral fraud, according to Newsbreak:

Of all schemes, the “cadena de amor” was perhaps among the most efficient, if not the most novel of ways to guarantee that Pineda’s anointed candidate got the votes. How does it work? One campaign manager explains that during the first voting hour, a trusted person of Pineda, with a hidden sample ballot, goes to the precinct to get a real ballot. He or she goes to a voting booth and writes on the sample ballot, then drops it in the ballot box. The real and clean ballot is pocketed then brought to the Pineda compound along the Gapan- Olongapo road. Here, voters who are being dined and entertained are waiting.

In exchange for P500, the ballot is surrendered and Pineda people on top of the operation write on the clean ballot the name of the candidate they are supporting. This way they are absolutely sure that the P500 does not go to waste.

The next person in line then brings the ballot to the voting precinct and then returns with another clean ballot in exchange again for P500. There can be as many as five to 10 people doing this simultaneously, the campaign manager says.

You really think you can keep your hands clean, Leni? Or do you believe the excuse that your supporters have been giving, that politics is addition and that the cleansing will have to wait post-victory?

I expressed disappointment that Poe could not confront the original sin of her patron, Danding Cojuangco, the fount of the entire coco-levy mess. But Danding has lost the case at the SC. This doesn’t excuse Poe of the omission, but between hidden wealth recovered — but not yet distributed to rightful claimants — and seeking the patronage of gambling lords who have amassed power all throughout the post-EDSA I decades, I no which sin weighs more.

Roxas, by the way, did his darn best to win Danding’s Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and in fact counts on NPC bigwigs in Danding’s bulwark, Negros Occidental, as key supporters. So all that righteousness over Poe doesn’t wash.

Not a single shed of illusion over Roxas. But you, Leni, justifying using the proceeds of criminality (unless, you prefer Pineda dips into government funds to help you?) … Aaaah, and we thought some decency remained in government.

 

Who’s afraid of Rico Puno? (Sins of Omission) w Updates


President Aquino swears in Rico Puno as Undersecretary for Peace and Order of the Department of Interior and Local Government. (Photo courtesy of Harvey Keh’s website)

Dedma best describes official attitude towards Undersecretary Rico Puno of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). Dedma is pretending a problem doesn’t exist, in the hope that it goes away. That’s how the administration of President Benigno Aquino III reacts when controversy hounds Puno. The guy has been untouchable since the day his gun-shooting buddy swore him into office. No way one goes around that. The latest incident involving the country’s Undersecretary for Peace and Order (that is NOT a joke) goes beyond the realm of high jinks and skirts the territory of crime. The President can’t ignore this, especially since the “victim” isn’t just the man he’s supposed to be “emotionally attached” to; it’s the government itself and the foundations of tuwid na daan 

Tweet courtesy of Coco Alcuaz, of ANC

WHY THE RUSH?

Page from a a condo bldg logbook showing Usec Rico Puno and his men’s attempt to enter the residence of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo the day after his death in a plane crash. (photo courtesy of TV Patrol and abs-cbnnews.com)

In Anthony Taberna’s exclusive report for ABS-CBN, witnesses and documents — logbooks of buildings — show that Puno and several companions tried to enter the offices AND the Quezon City RESIDENCE of the late DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo on August 19.

This was was  less than 24 hours after Robredo and two pilots died in a plane crash off Masbate island. The Robredo family help reported the attempt to his widow, Leni. It must have been terrible; Leni and her children were still awaiting word on the fate of Jesse. As Sec. Mar Roxas stressed, it was still a rescue operation. And yet Puno was already snooping around like a vulture.

Social Welfare Secretary Dinky Soliman, who stayed with the Robredo family as they awaited news of Jesse, confirmed that phone call. Napolcom vice chair Eduardo Escueta also verified the attempt to enter Robredo’s Napolcom office.

(Update) Mrs. Robredo has since confirmed the report. De Lima reiterates being asked by Mrs. Robredo to secure the documents — but now says she knows nothing about the raid.

 

 

Based on Taberna’s report, the operation was classic Puno: equal levels of confidence and incompetence. In the parallel reality called Punoverse, people must be really guillible and dugo-dugogangs reign supreme. It could be funny in a B-movie villain kind of way. Except when the context sinks in. Taberna’s source says President Aquino knew of the incident. He sent his Presidential Security Group (PSG) to stand guard over Robredo’s offices. Mrs. Robredo requested Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, among her husband’s close friends in the Cabinet, to secure his personal papers. I remember the flurry of activity around that time. Tempers heated up when journalists were barred from interviewing aides and officials who could explain the presence of the PSG. De Lima explained about Leni’s request, but not the reason for the urgency. Taberna’s sources claim Robredo had been investigating Puno when his plane crashed.

Two weeks before the crash, Robredo allegedly informed the President of the investigation.

This makes the glaring omission more serious. And since even after the President announced Roxas as Robredo’s successor, Puno has been riding high:

The President has remained silent. And we don’t know what to make of all this. Surely he’s not waiting for the two factions in his Cabinet — “Balay” under Roxas and “Samar” under Vice President Jejomar Binay and Ochoa — to go to war and see who survives to take the spoils? This isn’t just about internal squabbling. This is about accountability. The President must tell the public whether or not Robredo had informed him of the investigation into Puno. Otherwise those conspiracy theories that spread in the days following the crash could flare up again. Maybe due process prevented the President from sidelining Puno after learning of the Robredo probe. But for Puno  to remain in place even after his aborted attempts to raid Robredo’s papers, calls into question the government’s commitment to tuwid na dawn. There doesn’t seem any doubt about Puno’s August 19 activity. It comes very close to obstruction of justice, generally recognized as criminal efforts to interfere  with the work of police, investigators, regulatory agencies, prosecutors etc. In the Philippine context, obstruction of justice includes this:

b. Altering, destroying, suppressing or concealing any paper, record, document, or object with intent to impair its verity, authenticity, legibility, availability, or admissibility as evidence in any investigation of or official proceedings in criminal cases, or to be used in the investigation of, or official proceedings in, criminal cases.

The possibility of obstruction of justice is among the reasons allowed in preventive suspension. This reviewer on public officers by Atty. Edwin Sandoval, states:

Imposed during the pendency of an administrative investigation, preventive suspension is not a penalty in itself.  It is merely a measure of precaution so that the employee who is charged may be separated, for obvious reasons, from the scene of his alleged misfeasance while the same is being investigated.  Thus preventive suspension is distinct from the administrative penalty of removal from office such as the one mentioned in Sec. 8(d) of P.D. No. 807.  While the former may be imposed on a respondent during the investigation of the charges against him, the latter is the penalty which may only be meted upon him at the termination of the investigation or the final disposition of the case.  (Beja, Sr. v. CA, 207 SCRA 689, March 31, 1992 [Romero])

Sandoval underscores:

Preventive suspension pending investigation is not a penalty.  It is a measure intended to enable the disciplining authority to investigate charges against respondent by preventing the latter from intimidating or in any way influencing witnesses against him.  If the investigation is not finished and a decision is not rendered within that period, the suspension will be lifted and the respondent will automatically be reinstated.  If after investigation respondent is found innocent of the charges and is exonerated, he should be reinstated.  However, no compensation was due for the period of preventive suspension pending investigation.  The Civil Service Act of 1959(R.A. No. 2260) providing for compensation in such a case once the respondent was exonerated was revised in 1975 and the provision on the payment of salaries during suspension was deleted.

UNTOUCHABLE? Puno’s confidence probably isn’t misplaced. Filipinos learned during the Quirino hostage crisis, just how Robredo had been sidelined. (Jesse said he was “out of the loop” during the hostage crisis). Puno was there, as head of the national crisis committee. But the fact-finding body created by Mr. Aquino absolved him of any wrong-doing — because he wasn’t supposed to head that committee. This is what it said:

National or Local Crisis

The authorities considered the crisis a local crisis and therefore handled by the local CMC of Manila.  The basic parameter being that the locality where the crisis is occurring will determine which CMC has jurisdiction.  Thus, the crisis was handled by Mayor Lim as the Chairperson of the Manila CMC.  It appeared that at no point was the elevation to the status as a national crisis considered even while practically all the hostages were foreign nationals and even while representatives from foreign embassies or consular offices were already involved. The Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) on Crisis Situations does not have clear parameters on when, or under what circumstances, should a crisis be elevated to national status. It is also not clear as to which agency, or who in the bureaucracy, will initiate the elevation of the crisis to national status.  Will it be by endorsement or initiative of the local CMC or will the elevation be through a “take over process” initiated by the national agency concerned? It is also not clear on what is the scope of the authority of the CMC.  Is it advisory or does it make a decision based on consensus of the members of the CMC which decision is then to be implemented by the Ground Commander?

Undersecretary Rico E. Puno

Interior and Local Government Undersecretary Rico Puno revealed that he was the caretaker of the national crisis management committee, and that the local crisis committee was headed by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, although Puno said that he did not receive any order activating the local CMC.  During the entire course of the hostage incident, he admitted getting in touch with the local CMC three to four times only. Usec. Puno cannot and should not have acted as “caretaker” of the national crisis committee because the rule provides for the following organizational structure to which his position as Undersecretary is not found… It is the conclusion of the Committee that, the improper assumption by Usec. Puno of the functions of the Secretary of DILG as the chairman of the National Crisis Committee, in the light of his admitted lack of training and experience, may have compromised the readiness of the national CMC to take over the responsibility when it became apparent that the local CMC could not properly handle the hostage situation. That readiness could have been the immediate answer to the worsening situation. Puno’s failure to call upon the other members of the national CMC to be on standby reflects this lack of capacity. While he may have good intentions, rules must still be followed, and the organizational structure of the national CMC must be maintained. (boldfont mine)

Which makes you wonder about the legal minds who gave Puno that power and why the Palace never acknowledged that it had erred in giving Puno that power. Jueteng Malacanang was quick to defend Puno in the Quirino hostage crisis aftermath, as quick as they sniffed with disdain at Robredo.

Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio “Sonny” Coloma said Puno has the experience and skill to oversee various agencies under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) such as the Philippine National Police, the Bureau of Fire Protection, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and the Philippine Public Safety College…. Coloma said critics who question Puno’s leadership skills should “justify their claim”.

Mr. Aquino himself personally defended Puno and then Philippine National Police chief Jesus Verzosa, as on old scarredcat  post notes:

In the aftermath of the hostage crisis, Mr. Aquino spoke scathingly in public of local police officials who botched the rescue of Hong Kong tourists. But he defended Puno, who had claimed to have been his eyes and ears, and Verzosa, who had left Manila just before the standoff entered its bloody end-phase. Of Puno and Verzosa, Mr. Aquino said their big contributions to his anti-corruption campaign should be given weight rather than the lone debacle of the hostage crisis. Yet the Ombudsman has charged Verzosa’s wife among those who illegally tried to bring personal funds to Europe during an October 2008 Interpol congress in Russia. Given the Ombudsman’s charges, the testimony of Verzosa before a Senate inquiry, that the 105 euros (P6.5 million) were from the police vaults, merited new scrutiny. Yet on this and other controversial issues, Mr. Aquino has remained mum.

The hostage crisis was followed by an even more sordid event, involving links to illegal gambling lords. In a Senate probe of jueteng operations in the country, Puno (who had been named by a bishop as among the alleged protectors of jueteng lords) admitted talking to jueteng lords’ emissaries — his friendsHere’s another scarrecat post around that time

What does it say of the DILG executive that he was approached by jueteng emissaries and never even bothered to file a written report? This sin of omission becomes even more glaring when put in the context of an August 10, 2010 letter by his boss, DILG Secretary Jesse Robredo, asking about persistent reports that he and (just retired) national police chief Jesus Versoza – now vacationing abroad – were on a jueteng payroll.

Puno’s memory was so faulty he even forgot to remember Robredo was nominally his boss:

He admitted receipt of the letter. He also said he did not give it the time of day, seeing it as part of a plot by detractors. “Hindi ko pinansin, eh. Dahil hindi naman ako involved, eh. Sigurado naman akong black ops yan. Eh hindi ko sila kailangan kausapin. Malinis ang kunsensya ko. Hindi ko kailangan na habulin pa yan o imbestigahan dahil alam ko na ang kulay nila.” (I didn’t give it my attention since I am not involved. It’s a black operation. I do not need to talk to them. My conscience is clear. I don’t need to hear their side because I know their color.) This is breathtaking in its illogic and irresponsibility. Critics will always be around. In refusing to even acknowledge a letter and order by his superior, just because he believes it is part of some vague, obscure plot, Puno sounds more like a Cabinet official of the former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo than a very dear friend and trusted aide of the man who told the nation, “Kung walang kurap, walang mahirap!” (Without corruption, there will be no poverty.)

photo courtesy of wn.com

We will not know, until the government offers information, just what Robredo was probing. Some newspapers have claimed it was jueteng. Other newspapers say Roxas has mentioned Puno in the same breath as jueteng. I only know that the government cannot afford to pretend that the events of August 19 did not occur or pretend Puno had no involvement. Puno isn’t just anyone. He is one of the President’s most trusted friends.

Here is Puno’s background:

Puno’s curriculum vitae, which the Presidential Communications Office gave to journalists, shows that the DILG deputy chief was a “long-time consultant” of then-Senator Benigno Aquino III in the upper chamber’s Committee on Public Order and Safety and Dangerous Drugs and Special Oversight on Economic Affairs body. According to the document, Puno “reviewed and analyzed the pertinent laws and polices of the Dangerous Drugs Board,” and advised Aquino in the Senate Committee on Public Order and Safety. He also served as the “overall ground commander” in Aquino’s 2007 senatorial campaign. Puno was president of Far East Ballistics Corporation from 1992 to 1995, where “he implemented polices for improvement and development in the production of ammunition.” He was also board member of the National Range Officers Institute at Philippine Practical Shooting Association, and was involved in the staging of shooting competitions in the country and abroad.

My 2010 post on jueteng ended with a question: Does Mr. Puno realize what his statements say of Mr. Aquino? Does he even care? Today, we have to ask the President: Sir, do you realize what silence in the face of Puno’s actions says?  UPDATE A follow up report has Leni Robredo confirming the attempt to enter their QC residence:  Verbatim from abs-cbnnews.com: “Totoo yon na yung kasambahay namin sa Manila, siya lang yung naiwan sa bahay dahil umuwi yung mga anak ko. Tumawag ng Augsut 19 nagsasabing may mga tao, hindi niya sinabi kung sino, may mga taong gustong pumasok at may hinihingi na mga papeles. Parang nagtatanong siya sa akin kung papapasukin niya. Ang sabi ko hindi,” she recalled. “Tamang-tama katabi ko si [Social Welfare] Secretary Dinky [Soliman]. Nagpatulong na ako at ipinaubaya ko na kay Secretary Dinky yung pag-asikaso ng problema. Until now, hindi ko pa nababalikan,” she added. Robredo said she also asked the help of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima who later secured documents at the condo unit. “Kung may sensitive documents dun, hindi magiging secure ang mga tao dun kung babalik-balikan sila,” she said.

And here’s De Lima claiming she knows nothing about the raid, again verbatim from abs-cbn.com

“I don’t have that report… I’m not in the position to confirm anything on that… I’m just heeding the request of Mrs. Robredo to secure documents na meron sa condo. Magtatanong tanong lang muna ako siguro about that. Sa mga ganyang report na may pumunta doon, I’m not privy to that,” De Lima said.

De Lima added that she has no idea about what documents Puno’s group was reportedly attempting to obtain. She added that the matter is not under the jurisdiction of the Dept. of Justice (DOJ), thus, any probe into the reported attempted raid will not involve the department.

An ABS-CBN News source bared the documents may have pertained to an ongoing investigation Robredo was conducting on Puno and several Philippine National Police (PNP) officials.