#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.

 

Special treatment — again — for ex-President


li-620-arroyo-cp-01586020The House of Representatives Committee on Justice has approved a resolution seeking house arrest for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The administration of her successor, President Benigno Simeon Aquino III, has filed several criminal charges against Mrs. Arroyo.

Mr. Aquino’s administration managed to stop Mrs. Arroyo from leaving the country, ostensibly to seek medical treatment for a degenerative neck and spine condition. She has since been under hospital arrest at the Veterans’ Medical Center in Quezon City.

Why are lawmakers scrambling to accord special treatment for the ex-president?

Even if that resolution is non-binding, the concept behind it shows them bending backward for the former leader.

The committee, headed by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, green lighted a resolution for Mrs. Arroyo to be placed under house arrest.

Why?

While some cases against Mrs. Arroyo has been dismissed, she still faces a plunder case. That’s probably one of the most serious crimes a national leader can face.

The only other crime that comes near it is mass murder or serial murder. That’s more the turf of the man Mrs. Arroyo once loved to call her hero.

Here’s what Tupas said:

“According to the Philippine National Police, Arroyo is not a flight risk. We asked doctors, and despite her medication, Arroyo has not been responding…,”

If it’s a physical problem, then all the more reason for her to stay put in the hospital. If Tupas is tip-toeing around the notion that Mrs. Arroyo is suffering from depression, I will commiserate. But that is still not enough reason for the special treatment. Any survey of any jail around the country will find a substantial percentage of prisoners saddled with the blues, whether they just be in the dumps or actually suffering from clinical depression.

There’s little reason for Mrs. Arroyo to be allowed the comforts of their sprawling La Vista residence. She has very comfortable space in that hospital. I doubt if more than a handful of soldiers wounded in battles aimed at preserving the republic have ever enjoyed that kind of accommodation.

News reports have quoted the prosecution opposing Mrs. Arroyo’s request for the Sandiganbayan to allow house arrest:

In a comment filed by the prosecution before the Sandiganbayan First Division, they opposed the former president’s Motion for Modified Custodial Arrangement, wherein she requested that she be transferred either to her Quezon City house or Lubao, Pampanga house.

The prosecution said “the argument raised by the accused that she be placed under house arrest runs counter to her actual medical conditions.”

The prosecution also emphasized that there is “no rule that allows house arrest to an accused whose bail petition and demurrer have been denied.”

Some people note: “But she’s a former president. Give her the respect she deserves.”

Last I checked, leaders — with all the privileges, perks and powers they enjoy — have very clear legal guidelines on what or what not to do during their terms of office.

philippine-president-gloria-macapagal-arroyo1Pomp and circumstance should not be mistaken for respect or one’s right to it.

Respect is earned when you do the right thing for the right reasons, no matter the difficult odds faced.

Those who, having been given plenty by the people, and choose to trample on their sacred tasks, are not deserving of respect.

That goes for officials of the incumbent administration, including President Aquino’s favourite protector, his chief dispenser of pork, as well as the Vice President with the mostest.

This resolution has nothing to do with compassion. I suspect it is in aid of contributions. Or votes.

READ :

WHO OWNS THAT BACKHOE? (Revisiting the Ampatuan Massacre)

Who doesn’t? 

Only those who did not kowtow, did not pander, did not channel funds and arms to the Ampatuans of Maguindanao.

Only those who refused to keep silent as the clan harassed and burned and killed to wrest control of lands to annex for their kingdom.

Only those who did not bargain away people’s lives and rights for a slot in command tickets come election time. November 23, 2014

I am not surprised by Tupas and company. Legislators once urged a pardon for convicted plunder president Joseph Estrada. He’s not only Mayor of Manila today; he is also thinking of running in the 2016 national elections — or positioning himself as king (or queen) maker.

[The prosecution handling Mrs. Arroyo’s cases have pointed out:  “in Estrada’s case, his house, which was adjacent to the Philippine National Police’s Camp Capinpin, was converted into a police camp and was “for all intents and purposes” a police camp”. That didn’t stop the fun, by all accounts.]

You can only wonder who’s the next beneficiary of legislators’ bleeding hearts. Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile? And after this administration steps down, friends will remember and return the favor.

In fact, many so-called exit strategies in this country seemed aimed at finding protectors who will shield them from accountability.

And we wonder why some things never change.