Saturday, June 19, 2010

PCOS’ backdoor console for fraud entry discovered

PCOS’ backdoor console for fraud entry discovered

By Danessa O. Rivera and Charlie V. Manalo


In a sign of bad faith, Smartmatic, the technical provider and partner of the Commission on Elections (Comelec), failed to disclose that its precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines had console ports or “secret backdoors” which anyone could open without the need for passwords or usernames to gain complete control over the units’ operating system and obviously could be used for manipulating votes.

This backdoor port gives anyone the opportunity to either modify, erase, save or overwrite files and programs in the PCOS machines, an IT expert yesterday disclosed during a media forum at the Sulo Hotel.

At the same time, in another forum held at the Manila Polo Club in Makati yesterday, LRA Pacific operations director Jonathan Manalang disclosed that there were several concerns that were seemed highly questionable. Manalang said some concerns were on the proper inventory of the PCOS machines.

As he and his team called technicians in different precincts to confirm if they had received the right number of PCOS machines, they were informed that some received less than the designated number of PCOS machine while some received more.

They reported this matter to Smartmatic officials but all the tech provider officials said was “they will handle it.”

Manalang added that certain PCOS machines only allowed a certain number of votes, an issue that became a concern, when some precinct polling places received the wrong PCOS machines.

LRA Pacific was the outsourcing company hired by Smartmatic to handle the technical support during the elections.

Manalang served as a witness during the hearings regarding election fraud at the House of Representatives on June 30 but this was cut short a few days before the last day of hearing by Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. who headed the congressional committee.

Contrary to assertions of Smartmatic that its PCOS machines are tamper-proof, an IT expert, Roberto Verzola, yesterday bared that the

voting machines used in the May 10 polls contained a backdoor entry which can enable anyone to access their data, overwrite them or use them for any purpose one may deem beneficial to his intention.

At the weekly Kapihan sa Sulo, Obet Verzola, the IT expert, said investigators conducting a forensic examination on the 60 PCOS machines found in the possession of a Smartmatic technican in Antipolo City, had discovered a backdoor or portal at the back of the machines, which is called a console.

Verzola said that this console can be used by anyone simply by accessing it through a cable and once access has been gained, the “intruder” can easily access the data, overwrite them or use the data for whatever purposes desired.

Through the consul, Verzola added that the hacker can easily erase all data including the audit trail which Smartmatic claims is a fool-proof mechanism to detect if the machines had been hacked.

Smartmatic’s chief in the Philippines, Cesar Flores, during a congressional hearing admitted in the face of evidence, after denying it earlier, that the audit log entries can be altered, that compact flash (CF) cards can be reprogrammed as desired, and that votes can be rescanned, erased or added to another candidate.

Although not concluding the machines might have indeed been hacked and programs over-ridden and overwritten, the IT expert said the console only substantiate claims that the PCOS machines are not tamper-proof as Smartmatic claims them to be and the probability of the results having been compromised is relatively high.

Making matters worse, Verzola said, is that Smartmatic, did not disclose the existence of the console.

“We don’t know what other secrets these PCOS machines have,” said Verzola. “If there still things we don’t know about the PCOS machines, Smartmatic should now come forward and bare them all.”

At the moment, Flores is selling Comelec and the public the idea of the poll body buying the PCOS machines—all 82,600 of them—for P2 billion, claiming that these machines can be used for the next 10 years, and many more automated elections to come. It is doubted whether Smartmatic would disclose anything negative.

Comelec apparently is also keen on the idea of purchasing these easy to tamper machines, despite all the discoveries of a fraudulent automated election.

But with the discovery, the IT expert reiterated his call for the Comelec to expedite its audit on the 76,000 PCOS on where they have been brought after the May 10 elections, inventory the CF cards, and release the results of the random manual it has conducted.

Verzola stressed the three issues should be resolved immediately as they could be used to determine whether the election results as based on the election results transmitted by the PCOS machines are credible or if they had been hacked.

“But up to now, the Comelec has yet to release results of its audit,” said Verzola.

The IT expert also reiterated his call to upload the images of the ballots captured by the PCOS machines in the Comelec so that people can also help in determining whether fraud was committed in the country’s first automated polls.

“Uploading these JPEG images of the ballots cast in the May 10 polls could also be used to audit the votes. And it could be easily done as these images are contained in the CF cards,” Verzola stated.

Verzola also noted that PCOS operating system “permanently records an application log only which is saved to an audit log file in the removable CF card. The operating system log is saved not to the CF card but to volatile memory also called a RAM disk whose contents are lost everytime the PCOS machine is turned off. Thus, intrusions through this secret backdoor leave no record for forensic examination. In addition, intruders can also overwrite a recent audit log file with an old copy, allowing them to hide their tracks from the application log as well.”

“You can erase any trace of intrusion with this backdoor access,” Verzola said.

To access the PCOS operating system, he said, anyone can merely connect the console port to any computer using a special cable.

Verzola asked why Smartmatic, government’s poll automation contractor, did not inform Advanced Science and Technology Institute (ASTI) about the console ports.

“ASTI said those are only output ports for getting data from the machine,” he said.

Meanwhile, a privately-funded group yesterday said that there was massive fraud in the first electronic elections held May 10 as the Comelec and Congress violated the laws in the electoral process and in the canvassing votes which call into question the very legality and constitutionality of the entire elections and the proclamation process that followed.

The Movement for Integrity in Governance and Honesty and Truth in the May 2010 Elections (MIGHTe2010) said in its first public forum that the Comelec ignored and set aside many vital requirements of the Automated Election System Law (Republic Act 9369) while the Congress violated constitutional provisions governing the canvassing of votes for president and vice president.

Sen. Jamby Madrigal said the proclamation of the elected officials was illegal on grounds that there was no Congress joint session held as election returns were counted.

This was seconded by Lawyer Homobono Adaza, saying that the canvassing of votes must be done through a joint session by the Upper and Lower House with all members present that should be done publicly.

In the forum, several witnesses presented how the fraud in the elections occurred. Philippine Computer Society Director Edmundo “Toti” Casiño said the election returns were not signed by election inspectors, which was a mandate as stated in the Batas Pambansa (BP) 881, questioning the legality of the votes.

He also said that some of the election returns had results with different dates other than May 10 which could have been “premature scanning of ballots.”

Another witness, Pastor Ronald Tan, a vice mayor candidate in the city of Tagaytay, said election fraud did not start in the transmission of election returns but it started in the voters’ list, saying that the “Comelec must be put to task and be held accountable.”

He also said three days before the elections, he was offered 10 Compact Flash (CF) cards in exchange for the amount of P5 million by a Smartmatic Information Technology (IT) personnel and a Comelec employee to get a sure win in the elections.

MIGHTe2010 is a non-partisan gathering of civil society organizations, political groups, business entrepreneurs, and concerned citizens which include the Philippine Computer Society, Bangon Pilipinas, Ang Kapatiran Party, Anti-Trapo Movement of the Philippines, Brigada Berde, Bantay Garci 2010, Mahal Ko Bayan Ko, Center for Alternative Development Initiatives, Buklod National Political Party,Quezon City Political Coaltion for Truth, Para Sa Bansa Movement, Buklod Political Party, Atripeda and many more.

MIGHT e2010 has three goals namely to unravel the truth surrounding the May 2010 elections; to restore honesty and truth in our electoral processes; and to advance moral integrity and true service in the governance of our country.


Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Daily Tribune Without Fear or Favor

PMP bares proof of massive fraud

Charlie V. Manalo


The camp of former President Joseph “Erap” Estrada showed documents yesterday which it will use to support allegations of massive electronic fraud in the country’s first automated elections held last May 10 some showing pre-programmed votes that are dated way ahead of election day.

At a press briefing held at Estrada’s Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) headquarters in Mandaluyong, party campaign manager Ernesto Maceda presented photo copies of election returns signed by members of the Board of Election Inspectors (BEIs), but were dated before the May 10 polls.

Maceda said the documents, furnished to him by former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, showed election returns in Manila dated not May 10 but April 28, May 4 and May 9, to support allegations of poll pre-programming.

PMP senatorial candidate Francisco Tatad added the May 10 elections involved a scam so enormous it could make the “Hello Garci” scandal of 2004 a mere child’s play as it involved electronically pre-programmed results, prompting him to call on all the candidates, winners and

losers, to join him and file a petition for a constitutional action with the possibility of seeking the nullification of the election results.

“I am calling on all losing and winning candidates to join me for the possibility of filing a petition for constitutional action for the a possibility of nullifying the election results,” said Tatad citing a precedent in Germany wherein the German High Court declared unconstitutional the E-votes cast.

Tatad said that he would file an impeachment case against Comelec for the deliberate actions done to prevent voters from acquiring valuable information with respect to their votes.

Maceda also claimed receiving reports of anomalies from various provinces.He said in Compostela town in Cebu, the tally in the Certificates of Canvass did not match 34 election returns.

“The integrity of the PCOS machines have been compromised because it has produced falsified electronic documents such as: the tally of the ERs did not match with the COCs, and there were incomplete print logs,” Maceda said, quoting Compostela mayoral candidate Ritchie Wagas. Maceda noted that the first falsified electronic documents were discovered in Compostela, Cebu, wherein he said the election returns in several precincts did not match the certificates of canvass because the flashcards were tampered.

Malacañang, meanwhile, said it will be the Commission on Elections’ (Comelec) discretion on what to do with the controversies hounding the agency related to the alleged electronic poll fraud.

The Center for People Empowerment in Governance (Cenpeg) also issued a statement Friday urging the poll body to stop destroying the defective compact flash cards as these were deemed valuable in assessing the recent poll exercises.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said thee Palace is deferring to the poll body’s discretion in answering all questions being hurled to its officials by the agency concerned. Olivar, however, said insofar as Malacañang is concerned, it was satisfied with how Comelec officials handled the recent poll automation.

Maceda said that even Cebu Governor Gwen Garcia who was expecting a winning margin of not less than half-a-million votes but managed to win by only around 60,000 votes over her rival, has declared the election results to be unbelievable.

In Davao City, Speaker Prospero Nograles, who ran for the mayoralty race, claimed the election was rigged.

In Quezon City, losing mayoralty candidate, Rep. Annie Rose Susano and winning congressional bet Jorge Banal reported cases of pre-shaded ballots.

In Angono, Rizal, the Tribune personally witness pre-shaded ballots in favor of Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Senator Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III being distributed to voters.

“The same complaint was aired by former congressman and congressional candidate Jacinto Paras in the first district of Negros Oriental; among other candidates,” Maceda added.

In Antipolo City, Maceda said 60 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines were in the custody of a technician while nine other PCOS machines were reported missing in Maggao. Iloilo.

In Manila, Maceda said Atienza had also been claiming that the random manual audit had shown huge discrepancies with the PCOS printout. In one precinct alone, a difference of 200 votes was credited to Mayor Alfredo Lim.

“And this is probably the reason why Erap lost heavily in Manila, particularly in Tondo which is one of his strong bailiwicks,” Maceda said.

“And who would imagine Erap losing in San Juan?,” he added.

The PMP campaign manager said he is still at a lost why the Commission on Elections (Comelec) had not done anything to resolve the issue.

“The Comelec, in its own admission, said that 195 clustered precincts, covering 150,000 voters, had faulty transmissions involving faulty flash cards,” said Maceda. “And while it had done practically nothing to resolve the issue, Comelec chairman Jose Melo was quick to on TV and announce the results as if he was the one mandated by law to proclaim the winners,” he said.

Maceda also expressed alarm over reports that the Comelec had started destroying flashcards from certain areas.

“If the Comelec so much as attempts to destroy the flashcards, which will be the key to determining these anomalies, they would be the principal suspect in this massive electoral fraud,” Maceda said.

Maceda stressed the importance of the random manual counts now that these reports of discrepancies in results are surfacing.

“The slow pace in the delivery of the results of the random manual counts is highly suspicious. It is almost as if they are hiding something,” Maceda said.

Tatad questioned, among others the disabling of the built-in ultra-violet detection capability of the PCOS which was meant to prevent the use of ballots without the proper UV markings; the disabling of a feature that allowed the voter to see that the machine was reading his vote right when the votes are cast and the Comelec’s general instruction to the Board of Election
Inspectors (BEI) not to digitally sign the data to be transmitted from the PCOS machine because the digital signature generated by Smartmatic for the inspectors was, according to the Comelec, already encoded into the machine, effectively putting the function of the digital signature generation, transmission and confirmation in the hands of one entity, Smartmatic, without any independent body to check it.

Tatad, describing the elections as Hocus PCOS, expressed his frustration as a candidate and called on all other candidates who feel that they were likewise cheated as well as those who may have won but know that the votes they garnered are not probable, to join hands in this effort to unfurl the massive electronic electoral cheating that just happened.

Tatad clarified, however, that he was speaking not as an Estrada representative but for himself.

“I want to make it clear that in this effort I am not representing President Estrada but speaking as an aggrieved candidate. I feel that my rights as a candidate have been trampled upon,” Tatad said. “My problem now is not whether to claim victory or accept defeat but my problem is how to understand what happened.”

“This Hocus PCOS makes the Garci scandal look like child’s play,” he said.

In the same press briefing, Estrada’s lawyer George Garcia also questioned the hasty delivery of reconfigured flash cards the week prior to the elections as logistically improbable.

“Were the 76,000 flash cards really returned and reconfigured or were the so-called substitutes already prepared and ready for delivery in the short period of three days?” Garcia challenged. “And if there was really nothing irregular going on, why is it that the Comelec did not allow the presence of media and party watchers during the reconfiguration?”

Garcia also put into the question the participation of Venture Link Int’l, saying they must also be held accountable for the irregular flashcards.

“Did the Comelec know and approve the subcontracting by Smartmatic to Venture Link of the reconfiguration of the flashcards that failed in the tests?,” he said.

Garcia said Smartmatic must be held fully accountable for the malfunctioning and misuse of the PCOS machines, which caused the disenfranchisement of over 10 million voters.

Garcia appealed to Congress to see to it that the flashcards used in the elections are stored to be made available to Congress when needed.

“Congress will be the last bastion to ferret out the real votes cast. We urge Congress to require the submission of the flash cards as well as manual counting in a certain number of municipalities to establish the veracity of the counts,” said Garcia.

However, when asked if they would push for a manual recount of all the votes should huge discrepancies be discovered, Garcia said it would be up to Congress to decide.

“The Palace supports whatever decisions the Comelec wil render concerning this issue. It has always been our position that the Comelec is the only one authorized to answer all issues relevant to the conduct of elections,” Olivar said.

Olivar reiterated that Malacañang feels vindicated with the recently concluded poll exercises for it was able to disprove longstanding allegations by some quarters on NO Elections(Noel) and Retain Arroyo through failure of elections(Rafael) scenarios. “Our firm position (in favor) of the Comelec’s competence during those critical periods makes us feel vindicated,” Olivar said. “And so, given that, we see no reason why we should change our position (on the matter) if ever there are still some issues that are yet to be resolved,” he added. Olivar stressed that their trust and confidence to the poll body will never waver whatever against all the issues it is facing.

Aytch de la Cruz


Thursday, May 06, 2010

Smartmatic under fire for chaotic bugs -, Philippine News for Filipinos

Smartmatic under fire for chaotic bugs -, Philippine News for Filipinos

SC gives Comelec 2 days to disclose all poll preparations - Eleksyon 2010 - GMANews.TV

SC gives Comelec 2 days to disclose all poll preparations - Eleksyon 2010 - GMANews.TV

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

P700-M poll scam junked -, Philippine News for Filipinos

P700-M poll scam junked -, Philippine News for Filipinos

Whistleblower Serrano

Sunday, March 28, 2010

12 “People’s Criteria” to Help Filipino Voters Choose Next President - Bulatlat

12 “People’s Criteria” to Help Filipino Voters Choose Next President - Bulatlat

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Unsafe water deadlier than war – UN chief

Unsafe water deadlier than war – UN chief

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Daily Tribune Without Fear or Favor

The Daily Tribune Without Fear or Favor

Arroyo’s UMID: A National ID System in Disguise? - Bulatlat

Arroyo’s UMID: A National ID System in Disguise? - Bulatlat

Stark choices

Stark choices

Defense official probing anomalies fired

Defense official probing anomalies fired

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Thursday, December 31, 2009

Arryo regime brought Philippines deeper into crisis

MANILA — The Arroyo administration is, hopefully, about to end its term by the middle of next year. Lasting for nine years and a half, it is the longest-running presidency since the Marcos dictatorship. In fact, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is second only to Ferdinand E. Marcos who, for 20 years, held the reins of power the longest in the country’s history. But the similarities between the Marcos dictatorship and the Arroyo government do not end with them having the longest terms.
They both grabbed power when the country, and the world, was in deep economic crisis. By Marcos’s second term, in 1969, the world was moving toward a deep economic crisis, which resulted in the US being the world’s biggest debtor from being its biggest creditor. The value of the dollar plunged, thereby causing the devaluation of all currencies tied to it, such as the Philippine peso. The turn of the decade signaled a shift from the World War II-era Keynesian economics to neoliberal economics, or what we now call globalization, which is actually a drive to fully open up the economies of underdeveloped countries to foreign trade and investments. This pushed the Philippines deeper into economic crisis such that Marcos had to declare martial law to keep himself in power because the Filipino people’s protest actions were intensifying since the “First Quarter storm” of 1970. At the same time, the contradictions between the ruling elite was also worsening with the opposition led by the late senator Benigno Aquino Jr. and erstwhile Marcos ally, the late vice president Fernando Lopez, denouncing Marcos and his corrupt practices.
When Arroyo was catapulted to power via People Power II in 2001, the world was also being rocked by a crisis. The US, which until March 2000 was the only country that seemingly was shielded from the crisis, was already reeling from the bursting of the “high-tech or dot-com bubble.” The Filipino people, already feeling the effects of the crisis, were moved to action because of former president Joseph Estrada’s brazen display of profligacy amid the worsening poverty. The ruling elite was also hopelessly divided, with Arroyo, who was then vice-president, joining the opposition a few months before Estrada’s ouster.
While both Marcos in the 1970s and Arroyo in 2001 promised to usher in a new government that would supposedly benefit the people, the Marcos and Arroyo regimes pushed the country deeper into crisis.
By the end of the Marcos dictatorship the country was deeply indebted, prices were skyrocketing, unemployment and poverty had reached new highs, and all institutions of government were warped by the unbridled power and corruption under martial law. “Never again to martial law” became the people’s rallying call.
Also, by the end of the dictatorship, the divisions within the ruling elite were even deeper as manifested by the series of coups d’ etat that the Aquino government had to face and the unprecedented number of presidential aspirants — seven — during the 1992 elections. Another sign of the worsening political and economic crisis then was the increasing strength of the Communist Party of the Philippines-New People’s Army-National Democratic Front of the Philippines (CPP-NPA- NDFP).
Now that the Arroyo government is about to end (hopefully), prices have reached new highs in spite of the low inflation rates reported by the government; the country is experiencing the longest-running high unemployment and underemployment rates: as of July 2009, there are 4.3 million unemployed, 7 million underemployed, and 20.3 million either in “unpaid family work” (3.8 million), “own account” (12 million), and non-regular wage and salary workers (4.5 million); and the country is about to confront another round of fiscal crisis in 2010 with the deficit expected to reach P293 billion as per Finance Secretary Margarito Teves’s estimate. It could be remembered that the first fiscal crisis under the Arroyo government occurred in 2002 prompting Arroyo to promise, on Rizal Day, that she would not run again — a promise that she, of course, did not fulfill. Poverty has also worsened.
All institutions of government have likewise been warped by the impunity in corruption and bribery, electoral fraud, attacks on civil liberties and political killings. The Arroyo government has recorded the second highest number of extrajudicial killings at 1,118, second only to Marcos, and the third highest in enforced disappearances at 204. The Aquino government had the most number of enforced disappearances at more than 600 and the Marcos dictatorship second. However, only the Arroyo government has, as part of its counterinsurgency program Oplan Bantay Laya, clearly targeted legal political activists for “neutralization”. Marcos’s record of preemptively arresting leaders of activist organizations prior to planned protests actions pales in comparison to the Arroyo policy of subjecting all legal political activists to harassments, killings and abductions. The country may not be under martial law but it has become the most dangerous place for journalists. If the Arroyo government had its way — without the Filipino people protesting — civil liberties could have been severely constricted by now. She did try to experiment with martial law in Maguindanao but it was met by protests from a broad segment of society even as everybody feels the need for swift justice for the Amptuan massacre.
The divisions within the ruling elite have likewise deepened as manifested by the extreme isolation of the Arroyo government, the restlessness within the ranks of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and Philippine National Police (PNP), and the six-cornered fight for the presidency. The Ampatuan massacre has raised the level of barbarity in Philippine politics. Arroyo’s fear of stepping down from power — thus her attempts at charter change and her bid for a Congress seat — is also a manifestation that the contradictions within the ruling elite have sharpened so much that she no longer feels secure after May 2010. Also, the strength of the CPP-NPA-NDFP has continued to grow despite Arroyo’s desperate militarist efforts to put an “end to the insurgency.”
While it would take more than a change in president to effectively address the worsening economic and political crisis, if Arroyo and her minions are able to get away with keeping themselves in power — by declaring a failure of elections, martial law, or charter change — the Filipino people would sink faster and deeper into the quagmire of backwardness and poverty. (


Philippine deficits and debts

MANILA, Philippines - Each Filipino now owes P47,039 to local and foreign creditors, based on the national government's total debt stock as of September.

A month before that, each of the 92.2 million Filipinos owed P45,889.

The culprit: the widening budget deficit that prompts the government to borrow some more. Additional debts, which address current funding needs but could be paid in the future, translate to more debt burden for future generations.

The fact that the Philippines has been spending more than it earns is not earthshaking. Even the richest of countries have budget gaps. But prudence dictates that this deficit, which is a fiscal policy issue, has to be manageable.

Already, there are concerns about how the Philippines is faring as far as fiscal discipline is concerned.

The Philippines blew past its P250-billion fiscal gap target for 2009, recording a deficit of P272.5 billion with one more month to go before the year ends.

If this year's experience is any guide, analysts believe the country's 2010 budget deficit will also breach the government's official target.


Weak revenues—due to slower economic growth, several revenue-eroding laws, the negative impact of typhoons on tax collection, and lackluster privatization of assets—have been blamed for the wider-than-targeted deficit this year.

Except for privatization, which is expected to pick up steam, the same factors are seen to push the budget deficit above goal in 2010.

Despite the continued deterioration in the government's fiscal position, analysts at some of the biggest banking institutions say it's not as bad as it seems.

The government had set next year's budget deficit ceiling at P233.4 billion, but the country's economic managers are looking to increase this "to incorporate realistic assumptions."

They said more revenue-eroding measures that will take effect next year as well as the lingering economic downturn will take toll on the collections of the government's main tax agencies, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and Bureau of Customs.

The government is also expected to spend more for reconstruction efforts following back-to-back typhoons.

Taking these into account, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the actual 2010 deficit figure may hit close to P300 billion, the same as their "worst-case scenario" for the 2009 budget gap.

Teves' forecast is in line with analysts' consensus.

Not alone

Viewed in the context of the current economic crisis, financial experts say the country's swelling budget shortfall is not worrisome at all.

Unlike in 2004, when the poor fiscal state of the country was a product of the government's own hubris, the recent global crisis has made a large deficit more acceptable.

According to Metrobank head of research Marc Bautista, the country needs to incur a deficit to be able to sustain economic growth by curing sluggish demand through increased spending.

He noted that other countries are doing the same thing.

"There is room for deficit spending in 2010, the markets all but expect it already, and the Philippines is not alone in this predicament," Bautista said.

DBS strategist Philip Wee, for his part, said the widening budget gap has not really affected the strength of the Philippines , given the country's steadily rising external liquidity, and the peso's stability.

Fiscal consolidation

Nonetheless, the Philippines is eyeing to wipe out its budget deficit by 2013.

The country first targeted to balance the budget in 2008, but pushed this goal back to 2010 due to adverse external developments, including the rise in commodity prices and the onset of the global financial crisis. The 2010 goal was pushed further to 2013 to accommodate deficit spending for the economy.

As the country consolidates its fiscal position, Teves said that the government’s debt as a percentage of gross domestic product will also drop to 46.1% by 2013 from the programmed 57.6% by end-2009.

Similarly, he said the consolidated public sector fiscal position—the combined fiscal positions of the government, state-owned agencies and government financial institutions—will post a surplus during that year.

In the end, the economic managers will be assessed on how they managed the country’s finances. After all, it is the future generations of Filipinos who will bear the burden of today’s folly. - Text and graphics by Judith Balea,; with reports from Business Mirror, The Philippine Star

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Sunday, December 06, 2009

Martial Law Proclamation 19592


Poll papers seized in raids


Poll papers seized in raids

By Angie M. Rosales


Ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia were among those secured by raiding teams on properties owned by the Ampatuans to reinforce suspicions that the decision to impose martial law on Maguindanao province was also meant to seal off evidence on the massive fraud in the past two national elections in 2004 and 2007, opposition leaders said yesterday.

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. said he received information that election officials assigned to the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) have been ordered to examine and take custody of the poll documents.

Pimentel believed the documents are key to prove the rigging of results in the 2004 polls that enabled President Arroyo to win another six-year term as president and for administration candidates to sweep the senatorial race in the province in 2007.

“The Ampatuans have threatened that if the government would nail them down, they would reveal what really happened in the past two elections,” he said.

Pimentel said he was informed that during the series of raids conducted by the military and police forces, they discovered and confiscated ballot boxes containing election documents.

The senator urged the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to take custody of the ballot boxes and other election paraphernalia that the military obtained in a series of raids on sprawling properties of members of the Ampatuan clan along with caches of firearms and ammunition.

United Opposition (UNO) president and vice presidential bet Jejomar Binay added the martial law proclamation is likely a hunt for evidence of past election frauds.

Binay said great care is being taken to present martial law in Maguindanao as different from martial law in 1972. “It is a supposedly a smiling martial law, without the restrictions that are associated with martial law,” he said.

Arroyo signed Proclamation 1959 placing the entire province of Maguindanao

under martial law, citing the threat of rebellion in the province following the arrest of a scion of the powerful Ampatuan clan identified as the mastermind of the gruesome massacre of civilians –including women and journalists - in November.

Pimentel said it should be the Comelec officials in Manila that should scrutinize and take custody of these documents.

He suggested that a team from Comelec’s main office to be dispatched to Maguindanao and it should be led by lawyer Fernando Rafanan, head of the legal department.

Possibly, he said, one of the reasons for the declaration of martial rule in the province could be for the Arroyo administration to cover up the massive fraud in the province that marred the last two national elections.

Pimentel said he is worried that the election documents may be tampered with or destroyed because certain election officials in the ARMM were involved in the cheating operations in the 2004 and 2007 polls.

“Due to martial law, the public may not be able to know what is happening. The people are afraid to speak. Even journalists may not be able to report the truth because of threat to their lives. Warrantless arrest are being enforced and they can be picked up on order of martial law authorities,” he said.

Pimentel said he does not find any legal ground for declaring martial law as a means of going after the perpetrators of the November 23 massacre that resulted in the murder of 57 civilians.

He argued that the conditions laid down by the Constitution for imposing martial law were not present in Maguindanao, specifically the threat of rebellion and invasion by an external force.

“What happened in Maguindanao was that members of the Mangudadatu family and their companions, including lawyers and journalists were ambushed, abducted and massacred. Where is rebellion there?” the senator from Mindanao said.

Pimentel said even military commanders dispatched to Maguindanao reported that while they were able to confiscate huge cache of firearms and ammunition from the weapons arsenal of the Ampatuans, they saw no indication that these political warlords and their followers were attempting to fight back.

“Clearly, there is no basis for the claim that there is a threat of rebellion from the Ampatuans. May be this is just a gimmick to say there is a ground for martial law. But as I see it, this is just a ploy to hide the evidence of massive cheating in the last elections,” he said.

Pimentel said he and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile have agreed that the Senate will first meet at 9 am today to discuss Arroyo’s martial law proclamation.

He said the Senate will also hold a joint session with the House of Representatives tomorrow at the Batasang Pambansa building in Quezon City also to take up Proclamation 1959 that imposed military rule on Maguindanao.

The President is required to report to Congress within 48 hours from the time she declared martial law. The President may appear personally before the legislature or submit a written report.

If Congress finds no justification for the martial law declaration, it can overturn the President’s action and she could not veto it, the senator said.

He said that while the Constitution prescribes a 60 day period for the effectivity of martial law, it can be shortened if warranted by circumstances.

Pimentel said the Senate is likely to vote against the martial law declaration if it is not convinced of the grounds cited by the Chief Executive. But he said the voting at the House may turn out to be different because it is dominated Mrs. Arroyo’s legislative allies.

Binay said the various conditions cited by Palace officials for justifying the declaration of martial law in the province have been disputed by the Supreme Court and known legal luminaries.

“The claim that there is a state of rebellion is factually doubtful since the mere sighting of armed men does not constitute rebellion. And the Supreme Court itself had denied government’s claim that the courts in Maguindanao are not functioning,” Binay said.

With the factual basis and legal basis for the declaration of martial law in doubt, Binay said the question arises as to the real motive behind the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao.

If the Ampatuans’ threat to expose the extensive cheating in the province during the 2004 presidential elections is proven true, Binay said the Arroyo administration is “committing another injustice to the victims of the Maguindanao massacre.”

“They are exploiting the nation’s outrage to cover up another serious crime, that of stealing the 2004 elections,” he said.

“It would now appear that the Arroyo administration is using the full might of the state – the Armed Forces, the police and all agencies of government - to recover original election returns or certificates of canvass reportedly in the possession of the Ampatuans,” he said.

“A state of martial law will allow the administration to conduct raids and searches without going through the courts,” he added.

Maguindanao has long been considered an administration bailiwick, delivering the votes for Mrs. Arroyo in the 2004 presidential elections over opposition bet Fernando Poe Jr.

In the “Hello Garci” recordings, former election commissioner Virgilio Garcillano mentioned that “there would be no problem” for Arroyo in Maguindanao. DAILY TRIBUNE


Saturday, December 05, 2009

Over 1,000 cops sacked, 400 militiamen disarmed in Maguindanao

Over a thousand policemen were sacked, while more than 400 members of the government's militiamen were disarmed a day after President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed a proclamation declaring martial law in Maguindanao province.

Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina, spokesman of the Philippine National Police (PNP), said in an interview with a television station on Saturday that a total of 1,092 policemen were relieved, while 429 members of the Civilian Volunteer Organization were disarmed in Maguindanao where 57 people were massacred almost two weeks ago.

Espina said that practically, the province's entire police force was dissolved and replaced by authorities from the PNP's mobile groups and special action force to ensure "effective police control of Maguindanao" and for an "impartial" probe of the November 23 grisly killings.

Likewise, total disarmament is being observed in the province, where permits and licenses to carry firearms have been suspended, according to Espina. - GMANews.TV


Full text: Arroyo's declaration of martial law in Maguindanao

Full text: Arroyo's declaration of martial law in Maguindanao

Proclamation 1959: Proclaiming a State of Martial Law and suspending the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the province of Maguindanao except for certain areas.

Whereas, Proclamation No. 1946 was issued on 24 November 2009 declaring a state of emergency in the provinces of Maguindanao, Sultan Kudarat and the City of Cotabato for the purpose of preventing and suppressing lawless violence in the aforesaid areas.

Whereas, Sec. 18 Art. VII of the Constitution provides that “in case of invasion or rebellion, when public safety requires it, the President may, for a period not exceeding 60 days, suspend the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus or place the Philippines or any part thereof under martial law."

Whereas, Republic Act 6986 provides that “the crime of rebellion or insurrection is committed by rising publicly and taking arms against the government for the purpose of depriving the Chief Executive or the Legislature, wholly or partially, of any of their powers or

Whereas, heavily armed groups in the province of Maguindanao have established positions to resist government troops thereby depriving the Executive of its powers and prerogatives to enforce the laws of the land to maintain public order and safety.

Whereas, the condition of peace and order in the province of Maguindanao has deteriorated to the extent that local judicial system and other government mechanisms in the province are not functioning; thus, endangering public safety.

Whereas, the implementing operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General Cessation of Hostilities dated 14 Nov. 1997 provides that the following is considered a prohibited hostile act: “establishment of checkpoints except those necessary for the GRP’s
enforcement and maintenance of peace and order and for the defense and security of the MILF in their identified areas as jointly determined by GRP and MILF."

Now, therefore I, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, President of the Republic of the Philippines, by virtue of the powers vested in me by the Constitution and by law, do hereby proclaim as follows:

Sec. 1: There is hereby declared a state of martial law in the
province of Maguindanao except for the identified areas of the Moro
Islamic Liberation Front as referred to in the implementing
operational guidelines of the GRP-MILF agreement on the General
Cessation of Hostilities.

Sec. 2: The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall likewise be
suspended in the aforesaid area for the duration of the state of
martial law.

Done in the City of Manila this 4th day of December in the Year of Our
Lord, Two Thousand and Nine.

(Originally Signed)

Gloria M. Arroyo

By the President:

(Originally Signed)
Eduardo Ermita
Executive Secretary

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

2 US soldiers, RP Marine killed in Sulu bombing

09/30/2009 MALAYA


TWO American servicemen and a Philippine Marine were killed and two other Filipino soldiers were wounded yesterday morning in a roadside bombing in front of a military detachment in Indanan town, Sulu.

Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP public affairs office chief, said the Americans, who were members of the US Seabees, were to supervise the construction of the five-kilometer Kagay road in Indanan.

"It was an EID attack or improvised explosive device attack," he said.

"These US servicemen, from the data we gathered, were non-combatants," said Brawner.

He said the soldiers, who were on board a US Humvee and escorted by Philippine Marines, were on a re-supply mission.

The US servicemen were the first two casualties of the US armed forces in Mindanao since October 2002 when a military training facility in Malagutay, Zamboanga City was bombed by suspected Abu Sayyaf terrorists, resulting in the deaths of a US soldier and several Filipinos.

Early this month, a pillbox exploded at Jolo town pier in Sulu while US troops were unloading supplies from a watercraft. No one was killed or injured but the US troops and their Marine escorts fired warning shots.

Brawner said they still have no information as to the identities of the suspect or suspects but he noted that members of the Abu Sayyaf operate in the area.

Brawner said the military believes that the US-assisted projects in the area would not be affected by the incident. "We believe that the projects will still go on," he said.

He said the US soldiers have completed similar construction projects in Indanan such as the Barangay Kagay Medical Clinic, Barangay Buansa Elementary School, Barangay Buansa road, the Barangay Bato-bato road, Barangay Kagay Elementary School.

The US embassy in Manila, in a statement, confirmed the death of two servicemen but withheld their identities pending notification of their kin.

"They lost their lives serving others, and we will always be grateful for their contributions to improve the quality of life on Jolo," US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said in a statement.

Sen. Francis Escudero said the deaths of the two US soldiers emphasize the need to renegotiate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement and the presence of American troops in Mindanao.

"Now is the time to renegotiate the RP-US Visiting Forces Agreement to clarify the US role and presence in Mindanao and to correct the onerous provisions of the treaty," he said.

"In a situation where American troops are embedded in our own military, casualties are inevitable in a war of attrition," he said.

"It is my hope that this incident will not lead to direct US involvement in combat operations," he said.

Senators had adopted on second reading a resolution filed by Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, calling for the renegotiation or outright abrogation of the VFA.

Escudero said the Arroyo government should explain to the people the actual benefits on the presence of American troops in Mindanao before it starts renegotiating the VFA with the US.

"The US military presence in Mindanao is aimed at protecting America’s strategic interests. Let us not fool ourselves into believing that they are there for us," he said. – With JP Lopez

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Gloria Arroyo admits government can't cope with disaster

GMA admits gov’t can’t cope with disaster

Daily Tribune 09/29/2009

With the death toll rising to 140 and still counting, along with still too many residents in flood stricken areas remaining unrescued, shivering, wet and hungry, with relief goods yet to reach them, the Arroyo government yesterday admitted that it is unable to cope adequately with Saturday’s disaster, as victims were crammed into makeshift evacuation centers without clean water or medicine, looters roamed and some people remained completely stranded.

Overwhelmed rescue workers battled waist-deep waters and a dire lack of resources in a desperate effort to help nearly half a million flood survivors, as the death toll hit 140, according to official estimates, seen to be on the ultra-conservative side, since local government executives in just their areas have been reporting bigger numbers of deaths.

It is widely expected that the death toll would climb, as local government officials said there were dozens of deaths that were not included in the government’s figures.

The international community also rushed aid, where at least scores were killed and nearly half a million displaced by freak floods.

US Navy commando teams fanned out across the flooded section of eastern Manila and rescued some 52 marooned residents, including one woman in labor, as well as elderly residents and children.

The United States, China, Japan, Singapore and United Nations agencies also raised funds for relief work and to get the capital’s broken health infrastructure working again.

Washington sent $50,000 for the relief efforts, China pitched in $10,000, while Singapore raised $30,000 and a further $20,000 in seed money to jumpstart a donations drive by the Red Cross.

Tokyo, meanwhile, said it would send $220,000 worth of relief goods to the Philippines, where rescue and emergency workers and the health infrastructure have been overwhelmed by the flooding.

In a letter to the Philippines, Japanese Foreign Minister Katsuyo Okada expressed his "heartfelt sympathy" for the loss of life and serious damage to infrastructure in Metro Manila and other regions.

"I was deeply saddened to learn of the loss of life and destruction to property caused by the storm that swept through the central Philippines over weekend," added Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong.

The UN’s World Health Organization (WHO) meanwhile said those crammed into evacuation centers were at risk of water- and air-borne diseases.

"There is also a greater risk of acute respiratory infection and injuries, (and) wound infection from doing repairs after the floods," the agency said as it announced a 42,000-dollar relief fund.

"Healthcare management is also a priority," it said, while noting that public and private hospitals were flooded and many have become inaccessible.

"Many hospital staff were not able to report for work because of the impact of the floods on their own families and homes," the WHO said.

Meanwhile, humanitarian agency World Vision said it had begun distributing relief packs by helicopter and was assisting the Philippine coastguard.

It said it planned to raise about two million dollars and was appealing for more funds from its donors.

"We are concentrating on massive relief operations. (But) the system is overwhelmed, local government units are overwhelmed," the head of the National Disaster Coordinating Council, Anthony Golez, told reporters.

"Our assets and people are spread too thinly."

The nine-hour deluge left some areas of Metro Manila, a city of 12 million people, under 20 feet of water, with poor drainage systems and other failed infrastructure exacerbating the problem.

Eighty percent of the city was submerged and, with parts of Manila remaining waist-deep in water on Monday, local television reported that some people had spent more than 48 hours stranded on the upper floors or roofs of their homes.

Other areas where flooding had subsided also remained covered in knee-deep sludge.

Adding to the chaos, telephone and power services in some parts of the city were still cut, while local government officials said survivors in makeshift evacuation camps were desperately short of food, water and clothes.

At one open-air gymnasium in eastern Manila, 3,000 people were sheltering in hot and humid conditions alongside the bodies of 11 neighbors lying in coffins.

There was no running water, and human feces lay only a few feet from where people were sleeping on the concrete floor.

In a wealthier part of Manila that was also swamped by the floods, residents raced against looters to retrieve televisions and other valuables, with hardly any sign of police to stop the crime.

Nearby, gangs of men pushing wooden carts went into abandoned homes and emerged with muddied electric fans and television sets.

Health authorities also warned of disease outbreaks and made appeals to the public for donations of medicine, clean water and food, as well as for medics to volunteer their services.

Official reports from the NDCC said that as of yesterday afternoon, 56 deaths were confirmed in Region IV-A or the Calabarzon, 36 in Region III; seven in Metro Manila; and one in Cordillera Administrative Region.

The agency also reported that 32 remain missing and five were injured.

Unconfirmed reports, however, indicated that in Marikina alone about 50 to 70 people have died but the NDCC official count listed only one death only.

The Rizal provincial disaster coordinating council also said they have recorded 84 deaths in the province already but the NDCC official tally mentioned of only about 40 deaths in the province.

PO3 Joshua Brizuela, information officer of the Rizal PDCC, said their record indicated that 21 were injured and 49 others were missing in Rizal. He said they recorded 25 deaths in Tanay town, 13 in Antipolo, 12 in Angono, five in Baras, 10 in Rodriguez, four in Morong, 10 in San Mateo, two in Teresa and one each for Taytay and Cainta.

When asked for the other casualties not reflected in the NDCC tally, Defense secretary and concurrent NDCC chairman Gilberto Teodoro Jr. said: "Some are not tallied because their death has still no certification so we cannot really tally."

Teodoro admitted the NDCC casualty count is expected to go higher, noting that Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno has confirmed 17 deaths in Antipolo alone. The NDCC casualty count did not list any fatality in Antipolo.

As of yesterday, the NDCC also said 89,953 families or 451,683 persons in Region 1, NCR, Region III, Region IV-A, Region IV-B, Region V, Region IX, Region XII, and CAR. Of the figure, 23,147 families or 115,990 persons are in 205 evacuation centers

Teodoro also said the focus now is to conduct massive relief operations for nearly 500,000 people who have been affected by tropical storm Ondoy which battered Metro Manila and adjacent provinces with continuous heavy rains since Friday night

"The general concentration of the NDCC (National Disaster Coordinating Council) is to bring food to the relief centers. "Relief, relief, relief, that is the challenge. Its going to massive," said Teodoro.

Teodoro said the Department of Social Welfare and Development, one of the attached agency of the council, has already set aside P20 million for the relief operations.

"There is going to be probably more needed," said Teodoro, adding that a team had been dispatched yesterday to conduct to assess the effect of Ondoy.

In Metro Manila, Teodoro said the NDCC is providing direct assistance, on top of the assistance being provided by local government units. In the provinces, he said the NDCC is "helping out as much as we can."

On whether the relief operations is the biggest that they are conducting, "The largest that I experienced (as NDCC chair). I do not know before, I think there are bigger (relief operations) like typhoon Yoling," he said, while noting typhoon Yoling that pounded Luzon in 1972.

Teodoro said some residents in areas that are still flooded would not leave their homes gbut now the challenge is to get food especially because they don’t want to leave the areas where they stay.

"We’ll just try to divide our resources as judiciously as possible. We have really to man the evacuation centers and the relief centers that the local governments will establish but beyond that, we will try our best, if possible, to service the people on the roof," he said.

"But the general concentration of the NDCC is to bring food to the relief center. Distribution is a local government duty but we will try to help out as we can," added Teodoro.

Some continue to plead though radio stations about the need to rescue people trapped in their residents.

To those who were not reached by rescue teams, Teodoro said: "We really feel their anger and pain but it is physically impossible to reach each and everyone with the conditions that we face."

He pointed out that the shift to relief operations does not mean that they are abandoning the rescue operations. "The concentration is relief. If there is anybody, for example, somewhere that needs to be rescued, we have to rescue the person," he said. Mario J. Mallari and AFP

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Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Wealth of the Arroyos

First of Three Parts
by Malou Mangahas

A FORTNIGHT ago in her ninth State of the Nation Address, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo fired sharp, staccato broadsides at her critics, and in a tone bold and boastful declared: “I am falsely accused, without proof, of using my position for personal profit.”
There isn’t a day,” she said, “I do not work at my job or a waking moment when I do not think through a work-related problem. Even my critics cannot begrudge the long hours I put in.”
“A president must be on the job 24/7, ready for any contingency, any crisis, anywhere, anytime,” Arroyo continued, because “the people deserve a government that works just as hard as they do.”
By all indications, President Arroyo has worked very hard. In fact, she has worked so hard that during her first years as president, official records show her declared wealth as growing faster, and by amounts much bigger, than the combined growth in the declared wealth of three presidents before her.
The late President Corazon C. Aquino’s declared net worth grew by only 4.8 percent from 1989 to 1992. By comparison, Fidel V. Ramos’s rose by 34.2 percent from 1992 to 1998, and Joseph ‘Erap’ Ejercito Estrada’s, by 7.2 percent from 1998 to1999.
PCIJ reports in 2000, though, revealed that the mansions and other assets held by Estrada and his mistresses were worth multiple times more than his declared net worth. Less than a year later, Arroyo came to power after a botched impeachment trial of Estrada for unexplained wealth triggered a people-power revolt.
Exponential growth
But the lessons of Estrada’s downfall seem to have been lost on Arroyo. In her eight years in office, Arroyo’s declared net worth more than doubled (pegged only on the book or acquisition value of her assets), from P66.8 million in 2001 to P143.54 million in 2008. The increase of P76.74 million represents a growth rate of 114 percent.
If her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs) are plotted from 17 years ago when she first served as senator, Arroyo’s declared wealth charts an exponential growth of 2,000 percent.
Her net worth in 1992 was only P6.73 million; for eight years before the presidency, her wealth grew by a heftier P60.07 million or a rise of 890 percent.
Since she got into Malacanang in 2001, Arroyo added P10.97 million to her net worth year on year on average, or 20 times more than her lawful gross salary as president of only P45,000 a month.
If various allowances are thrown in, her monthly pay would total at most P100,000 or P1.2 million a year before tax. Yet even then, this represents only 10 percent of the P10.97-million average annual increase in Arroyo’s net worth since 2001.
Arroyo’s SALNs, however, offer few clues on how she raised the big difference, or whether she has other lawful sources of income. Since 2001, the president has apparently taken the path of token compliance instead of going for full disclosure in form and substance of her assets and liabilities, according to the Constitution and law. As a result, her SALNs in the last eight years have been remarkably full of gaps in data.
For sure, they pale in comparison to the detailed documentation that former Presidents Aquino and Ramos exemplified in their SALNs. Both Aquino and Ramos even attached to their SALNs photocopies of their income-tax returns (ITRs) and checks attesting to payments they made with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Arroyo did not attach her ITRs.
Not a good example
At the very least, Arroyo’s SALNs may not pass as what should be expected from the chief executive, who ideally sets the example for all of the country’s 1.5 million civil servants.
Comments Karina Constantino-David, who worked as Civil Service Commission (CSC) chairperson under Arroyo: “When a high official like the president is unable to fulfill the responsibilities expected of her according to the constitution, how can she convince other public servants to take seriously the dictum ‘Public office is a public trust’?”
In recent years, token compliance with the law on filing SALNs had caused mayors, military officers, customs and revenue officials, and other civil servants of less senior status jail terms, stiff fines, and dismissal or suspension from work.
Failure to disclose properties in the name of his wife and children, for instance, earned Armed Forces general Carlos Garcia a two-year stint in jail.
While in the National Bilibid Prisons for murder and rape, former Calauan, Laguna Mayor Antonio Sanchez was also fined P5,000 per year for four years for what lawyers say passes for perjury by omission: defective compliance or non-compliance with the SALN law. More details

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Monday, July 20, 2009


Second in a series on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's 9th State of the Nation Address
A guide to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's legacy: a yearly calendar of shock-and-awe stories that involve corruption in high places and weak leadership. Research by Lei Chavez,


‘Payola’ for FG

Barely had President Arroyo warmed her seat when the first in a series of scandals involving the first family erupted. Correspondence secretary Veronica "Bing" Rodrigo accused first gentleman Mike Arroyo of taking a P50-million bribe in July 2001. The bribery was said to be for President Arroyo to recall her veto on two franchise bills. The first bill involved the Philippine Communication Clearinghouse which sought a franchise to operate a clearinghouse where telco firms were to interconnect for a certain fee. The second bill granted APC Wireless Interface Network a franchise to build a wireless telecommunication system nationwide.

The companies were allegedly owned by Jaime Dichavez, a close friend of former President Joseph Estrada, who allegedly used Pacifico Marcelo as his dummy. According to Rodrigo, a woman named Malou Nuñez from the office of the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office under Gabriel Claudio approached her, inquiring about the request to veto the bills.

Rodrigo is a friend of the president, having been classmates in grade school and high school. Their parents were close friends.

Marcelo alleged that President Arroyo called him to stop lobbying for the franchise and that the three of them—the First Couple and Marcelo—will establish their own company. Marcelo turned down the offer.

The president did not recall her veto of both bills. Arroyo also said that the First Gentleman never asked her to recall the veto. Her husband denied receiving any money and claimed that Rodrigo was the one who received the bribe. Rodrigo later retracted her allegations in the Senate blue ribbon committee hearing.

PCSO funds for admin candidates’ campaign

In October 2001, Roberto Rivero, former consultant of the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes (PCSO), claimed that the first gentleman used almost $5 million of PCSO funds to finance the campaign of some senatorial candidates and to bribe radio commentators. President Arroyo asked the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate her husband. The PCSO denied Rivero's accusations. When asked by the Ombudsman for evidence, Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who exposed this, was unable to present any.

Years later, in May 2007, another former PCSO senior executive, Cirilo Avila, said the funds were made to appear as payment for ad placements but were really used as People Power Coalition (PPC) campaign funds. Avila narrated that the PPC requested the funds and manager Ver Angelo took it up with the board. The request was approved.

Nani Perez’s ‘extortion’

Four days after assuming office, Arroyo awarded a $470-million contract to Argentine firm Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima (IMPSA) to rehabilitate a power plant in Laguna. A few months later, former Manila Representative Mark Jimenez, the man who brokered the deal, accused Justice Secretary Hernando Perez of extorting $2 million in exchange for a justice department opinion that favors the deal.

Jimenez told Senator Lacson that the entire amount was actually $14 million: Perez received $2 million, the National Power Corporation "boys" got $1 million, Malacañang was given $4, and $7 million went to Jimenez.

In April 2008, the office of the Ombudsman, headed by Merceditas Gutierrez, filed graft charges against Perez, his wife Rosario, Ernest Escaler, and Ramon Antonio Arceo Jr.

But the graft and robbery charges were junked by the Sandiganbayan in November 2008 as the Ombudsman failed to expedite the complaints, making Perez immune from the charges, indirectly acquitting Perez.

Perez’s pending case with the Sandiganbayan is on his falsification of public documents.

In May 2009, Perez filed his third petition asking the Sandiganbayan to dismiss the charges of unethical practices filed against him for allegedly not declaring $1.7 million in his 2001 Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) saying that Arroyo herself approved his SALN when she assumed office. Perez was then a member of her cabinet.

The godmother’s ties to the Pinedas

President Arroyo agreed to be the godmother of alleged jueteng boss Bong Pineda's son. In an interview with Time, she said that she sought advice from Manila Archbishop Jaime Cardinal Sin who said, "The sins of the father are not the sins of the son."

Later events revealed the nature of Arroyo’s ties to the Pinedas. In 2005, during the height of the Senate probe on the “Hello Garci” scandal, Army Capt. Marlon Mendoza quoted Virgillio Garcillano and said Pineda gave P300 million to fund Arroyo’s presidential bid in 2004.

Another witness, Michaelangelo Zuce, nephew of Garcillano claimed that Pineda’s wife, Lilia Pineda, handed out envelopes containing P30,000 each in January 2004 during a party hosted by the president in her La Vista home in Quezon City.

Profit from anti-poverty bonds?

Conceptualized by the Caucus of Development (Code-NGO), the PEACe bonds (Poverty Eradication and Alleviation Certificates) were issued by the government supposedly to help raise funds for the anti-poverty activities of its member organizations. But there were allegations that Code-NGO used its political connections to profit P1.4 billion in a series of transactions from the PEACe bonds worth P35 billion pesos.

Code-NGO was chaired by Socorro Camacho-Reyes, sister of then Finance Secretary Jose Isidro Camacho. Camacho-Reyes denied, in a Senate hearing, that her brother helped him.

Silencing the Marines

Rear Adm. Guillermo Wong, then Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy, exposed irregularities in the Philippine Marines' procurement of equipment worth P3.8 million.

This did not sit well with Marine officials. Then Armed Forces chief of staff Angelo Reyes offered Wong another post, chief of the Northern Command, practically demoting him. This forced Wong to resign.

When asked to comment, President Arroyo said Reyes had done "the right thing." Fresh from retirement, Reyes was immediately appointed defense secretary.

A foul deal

In 2007, the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC, formerly Construction Development Corporation of the Philippines or CDCP) and Radstock Securities signed a compromise agreement obliging the PNCC to pay Radstock P6.2 billion in the form of: 19 pieces of real estate properties; 20% of the outstanding capital stock of PNCC; and 50% of PNCC’s share in the gross toll revenue of the Manila North Tollways Corporation for 27 years.

Senators Sergio Osmena III and Franklin Drilon cried foul because it disposed of almost all the assets of PNCC, a company acquired by the government after President Marcos forced government financial institutions to exchange debt owed to them by the company for stocks.

The deal, they said, gave Marubeni/Radstock preferential treatment over other bigger creditors, particularly government. As of December 2002, the PNCC owed the government through the Assets Privatization Trust P41.39 billion, according to the Commission on Audit, and has pending liabilities amounting to P6.9 billion, a bulk of which was from the Philippine government.


Overpriced Macapagal Boulevard

Sulpicio Tagud Jr., then board director of the Public Estates Authority (PEA), exposed the P600-million overprice of the construction of the GSIS-funded 5.1-kilometer President Diosdado Macapagal Boulevard in the Manila Bay reclamation area. The contracts were approved during the Estrada administration and were given to three companies: Shoemart Inc., DM Wenceslao, and Jesusito D. Legaspi Construction (JDLC).

A series of supplemental contracts with JDLC were later approved by the PEA board under the Arroyo administration that increased the original approved cost of their section of the highway. According to Tagud, while the SM group of companies constructed its part of the boulevard at P54,000 per lineal meter, JDLC built its section at P302,000 per lineal meter.

Arroyo asked PEA and the Government Service Insurance System officials to submit a full report on the project to Presidential Legal Counsel Avelino Cruz. After the the report was submitted, Arroyo asked the entire PEA board to go on leave until the Presidential Anti-graft Commission submitted the results of its investigation.

In February 2008, the Sandiganbayan said it will continue the probe on JDLC despite the firm’s motion to dismiss the alleged overpricing of the boulevard.

The garbage contract

The Jancom controversy involved a $360-million (P18 billion) incineration project in which the Jancom Environment Corp. (JEC) would burn 3,000 tons of Metro Manila garbage a day for a tipping fee of $10 per ton. During his term, President Ramos did not approve the contract and President Estrada likewise debunked it because JEC raised the tipping fee from $10 to $59 per ton.

Despite the passage of the Clean Air Act and the Ecological Solid Waste Management Act (both banned the use of incarcerators), the Supreme Court declared the contract valid in April 2002 in a decision penned by Justice Jose Melo.

Still, Arroyo said the deal had many flaws. Arroyo passed the decision to the Manila Metropolitan and Development Authority (MMDA) to decide whether the deal is disadvantageous to the government or not. Although negotiations had started between the MMDA and Jancom, Arroyo called off the deal in April 2002.

Mismanaged funds

Issues on mismanaged funds by the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR) and the GSIS caught the public eye in 2002. PAGCOR had been experiencing negative cash flows that bloated to P850 million in 2003. A Pagcor manager gave three reasons behind the financial difficulties: 'onerous' contracts, profligate spending, and massive, mindless donations.

GSIS president and general manager Winston Garcia ordered its units to stop the processing of claims and loan applications because of financial difficulty. The Kapisanan ng Manggagawa attributed the financial problems to the following: Garcia's cash advances amounting to P3.4 million, the establishment of district offices worth P4 million each, and the appointment of outside legal counsel for P200,000 a month.

Garcia allegedly used GSIS money to purchase Juan Luna's Parisian Life painting. Likewise, Garcia was said to earn P540,000 a month and appointed some 130 vice-presidents who earn P70,000 a month. There were allegations that GSIS contributed at least P100 million to the campaign funds of Pres. Arroyo. Garcia was retained in his post despite appeals from GSIS employees.

In 2004, before the Senate committee on government corporations and public enterprises, Garcia dismissed the charges and said GSIS is “the country’s top performing government-owned and controlled corporation.” He did not comment on the Juan Luna paintings.

FG as OFW envoy

In December, President Arroyo designated Mike Arroyo as an OFW envoy so he could represent her in the countries she could not visit. However, critics assailed Arroyo's announcement when they learned that his activities as OFW envoy would be funded by a proposed overseas workers legal assistance fund. They feared that the Arroyo couple would use the funds for her 2004 campaign. While the President did not recall her husband's designation, the First Gentleman voluntarily resigned.

Naia’s Terminal 3

In 2002, Transportation Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez obtained overpriced subcontracts for public works projects related to the terminal. Among these is Wintrack Builders Inc., owned by Alvarez, which bagged a site-development project.

Piatco was also accused of paying huge sums of money to Alfonso S. Liongson, PR consultant and said to be an associate of the First Gentleman, for permits or supplementary agreements to the contract. In 2003, Arroyo revoked Piatco's build-operate-transfer contract and the government took over the airport in 2004. After almost a decade, the airport was partially opened in 2008.


Rotten rice!

In February 2003, Nueva Vizcaya Rep. Carlos Padilla revealed that 600,000 metric tons of rice imported from India were found to be rotten and moldy. Kishore Hemlani, an Indian trader allegedly close to Arroyo, reportedly bagged the P9.5 billion contract for the rice importation.

Anthony Abad, head of the National Food Authority, had to dispose of some P2.2-million worth of moldy rice stocks and tried to dispose of the remaining sacks in order to recover at least P2.5 billion.

Undeclared wealth in San Francisco

Since she got elected in 1992 as senator, Arroyo had failed to declare in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth the properties her husband Mike Arroyo bought in San Francisco through his California-based LTA Realty Corporation. According to Newsbreak, Mike acquired, resold, and managed at least five properties with a total value of at least $7.1 million in the Bay City from 1992 to 2000. The First Couple said the properties were bought in trust for Ignacio or Iggy Arroyo, Mike's younger brother.

Mikey Arroyo's imported horses

In August, news broke out that presidential son Juan Miguel "Mikey" Arroyo planned to import 32 thoroughbred horses from Melbourne, Australia worth P384 million (at P12 million per horse). Mikey denied the allegation but admitted that he was in the horse-trade business.

He owns Franchino Farms along with cousin Franchino Pamintuan and friend Ralph Mondragon. (We requested for Mikey’s SALN but it has not been granted as of press time.)

Jose Pidal accounts

In August, opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of money laundering: he allegedly siphoned off at least P321 million in campaign funds and contributions and put these in a secret bank account under the name Jose Pidal. He also supposedly used the names of his aides in three other accounts. According to Lacson, among the donors was then Rep. Mark Jimenez who gave P8 million. Arroyo's younger brother, Iggy, came forward and admitted he is Jose Pidal.

Oakwood mutiny

Defense Secretary Angelo Reyes' alleged involvement in selling arms and ammunitions to guerilla and bandit groups moved 300 young officers and enlisted men of the AFP to rebel against the government in July. Reyes was forced to resign a few weeks later. The rebel soldiers were detained.

The 321 armed soldiers apologized for the failed rebellion. In 2004, 133 of the soldiers were freed. Capt. Nicanor Faeldon, one of the alleged leaders, escaped in December 2005. Four other leaders escaped after Faeldon did. Faeldon was captured in 2007 but escaped again a few months after.

Reyes, since then, has held other Cabinet posts: environment secretary and energy secretary.

Congress vs. Supreme Court

The clash of the two co-equal bodies was all about the billions of pesos in Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and how it was spent. The Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) and its allies in Congress, peeved that they were being ignored by the Supreme Court, went after Chief Justice Hilario Davide. They almost impeached him.

President Arroyo acted on the controversy only when it reached crisis proportions. She was balancing between competing interests: her political support from Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco’s NPC and Davide’s tenure on the Court.


The super-rich general

In December, Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia's son was apprehended by US Customs officials at the San Francisco airport for carrying $100,000 in undeclared cash. AFP Chief of Staff Narciso Abaya asked Garcia to explain and transferred him to another position.

Later in the year, US Customs and the Federal Bureau of Investigation transmitted to the office of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo a list of the amounts that General Garcia had brought into the US from 1993 to 2003, which was estimated at P71 million.

In October 2004, Garcia was charged with violating Articles of War 95 (conduct unbecoming of an officer and gentleman) and 96 (acts prejudicial to good order and military discipline) for failing to declare all his assets in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and for possessing a US green card. In April 2006, the military court sentenced Garcia to a two-year confinement without pay and allowance and dishonorable discharge. Garcia also faced graft charges in the same court.

In February 2009, Garcia’s sons, Juan Pablo and Ian Carl were indicted in the US with one count of conspiracy to commit bulk cash smuggling, failing to file a report of monetary instruments, and making false statements to a US government agency. The sons were placed in US custody until proven innocent. On the same month, Garcia was found guilty of misdeclaring his assets and liabilities in 2000. He was acquitted from two other perjury cases.

On June 2009, the Sandiganbayan acquitted Garcia of the last perjury case, saying there was no proof that the retired general lied in his 1997 SALN. However, the retired general is still facing plunder and forfeiture cases in the Sandiganbayan and is still being detained in Camp Crame.

No bidding for Northrail

The Northrail project started during Ramos's administration but it was only in February 2004 when Finance Secretary Juanita Amatong entered into a credit loan agreement with the Export-Import Bank of China. The agreement granted the Philippine government a $400-million loan facility to finance the construction of the project.

Critics said the interest rate on the loan per annum (3%) is much higher than the rate on other loan packages that the Philippines could have availed itself of. China National Machinery and Equipment Corporation was designated as the prime contractor for the project without public bidding. The Senate probed the issue but the hearings were stalled in 2005 after Malacañang issued EO 464, requiring Cabinet members to seek presidential clearance before they could testify in congressional hearings.

Fertilizer fund scam

The controversy started when President Arroyo was accused of using fertilizer funds for the 2004 election. The fund, worth P728 million, fell under the Ginintuang Masagana Ani Program. Jocelyn Bolante, agriculture undersecretary and regarded as the architect of the fund, left the country and sought asylum in America. He came back to the country in 2008 and faced the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.

Bolante told the Senate that (1) he does not know who nominated or recommended him to be an agriculture undersecretary, (2) it was former Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo who requested the release of the funds, (3) the fertilizer fund was valid and legal and was approved by the DA, and that (4) when he left the department in August 2004, 91% of the fertilizer funds had been liquidated already.

The committee recommended the filing of plunder and other criminal case against him and nine other persons but no case was filed. In January 2009, the panel who investigated the fertilizer fund scam submitted the proposed resolution to Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.

No reports on the investigation have been released from both the Ombudsman and the justice department. In March 2009, Bolante disclosed a plan to run either as governor or congressman in Capiz, Roxas.

Philhealth cards for campaign

Six weeks before the May 2004 elections, two lawyers filed a disqualification case against President Arroyo, saying she was behind the enhanced Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office's Greater Medicare Access or GMA program. Public funds were allegedly spent to enroll families in PhilHealth for one year. The premium cost of P1,200 for each family member was chargeable to PhilHealth and the PCSO. The IDs, bearing Arroyo's picture and name, were coincidentally distributed during the start of the election campaign.


Hello, Garci

More than a year after the election, a recording of a telephone conversation between President Arroyo and election commissioner Virgilio “Garci” Garcillano was released to the public. In this conversation, Arroyo directed him to make sure she wins by one million votes. After weeks of ducking the issue, Arroyo apologized for "a lapse in judgment" in talking with an election commissioner but explained that she merely wanted to protect her votes.

Hyatt 10

Eight cabinet members and two bureau heads, called the Hyatt 10, filed their irrevocable resignations in the aftermath of the “Hello, Garci” scandal and requested Arroyo to resign. The Hyatt 10 is composed of Secretaries Florencio Abad (education), Juan Santos (trade and industry), Emilia Boncodin (budget and management), Cesar Purisima (finance), Dinky Soliman (social welfare and development), Rene Villa (land reform), Alberto Lina (customs), Guillermo Parayno (internal revenues), Teresita Quintos Deles (adviser on the peace process), and Imelda Nicolas of the national anti-poverty commission.


In Senate hearings on jueteng that began in May 2005, jueteng operators and bagmen said the President's husband, Mike, her son Mikey, and her brother-in-law Ignacio or Iggy were among those who received monthly payoffs from gambling lords. The payoffs ranged from P500,000 to P1 million.

One of the key witnesses, businesswoman Sandra Cam, testified that in December 2004, she personally delivered the cash to Mikey and Iggy at the House of Representatives; the money came from retired Chief Supt. Restituto Mosqueda, former police director for Bicol and alleged protector of jueteng operations in Luzon.

Richard Garcia and Demosthenes Abraham Riva also told a Senate hearing that the three Arroyos had been receiving payola from jueteng operations in Bicol. Michaelangelo Zuce, an aide of former commissioner Virgilio Garcillano and a former staff member of presidential adviser on political affairs Joey Rufino, directly linked the President to jueteng by saying that before the 2004 elections, the President distributed money to several election officials in her house in La Vista, Quezon City, in the presence of Bong Pineda's wife, Lilia Pineda.

Garcia and Riva retracted their statements a few months later and said they were merely "coached" by Sen. Panfilo Lacson. Zuce's testimony failed to take off after one witness did not corroborate Zuce's claim. Former Isabela Gov. Faustino Dy Jr. who was also said to have been present at the La Vista meeting, flew to the US and refused to come to Manila to testify.

Aragoncillo, the spy

Leandro Aragoncillo, a Filipino American in the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, was arrested for allegedly taking classified documents from computers in Vice President Dick Cheney's office and the FBI and sending them to opposition leaders in the Philippines. The documents were primarily analyses of the Philippines' political situation by US Embassy officials.

Among others, the documents said that: "Arroyo has always exhibited paranoia and the need to control every aspect of the Philippine economy and politics. As time ticked out for her administration, it was clear the biggest problem was Arroyo herself."

Aragoncillo was charged with acting as an agent of a foreign government or official and faces up to 25 years in prison.

Mega-anomaly in Comelec

According to Solicitor General Alfredo Benipayo, the botched P1.3 billion poll modernization project of Comelec was overpriced by P500 million. Comelec ignored its own bidding rules and changed these to suit one favored bidder: MegaPacific Corp.

The SC deemed the process flawed and declared the contract null and void. The Office of the Ombudsman committee created by Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez initially indicted Commissioner Resurreccion Borra but cleared him a few months later. Abalos and company were ruled to be not liable for the voided contract.

Lozano's complaints

Oliver Lozano filled an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo during the height of the “Hello, Garci” scandal. Congress declared the complaint to be technically deficient. Oliver Lozano filed another impeachment complaint against President Arroyo on 2006. Like the first one, his second complaint was defeated due to insufficiency in substance.

For the third time, Lozano filed his impeachment complaint against the President on 2007. Like the second version, this impeachment rap was dismissed for insufficiency in substance. Critics say Lozano's impeachment complaints were moves to hinder the submission of a solid complaint against the President.

Weeks after former Arroyo ally Jose De Venecia filed his impeachment complaint in 2008, Lozano took his fourth try with a four-page impeachment complaint penned with his daughter, Atty Evangeline Lozano, and another lawyer, Elly Pamatong.

Imelda’s jewelries

Former First Lady Imelda Marcos asked a Manila court to stop a Philippine Commission on Good Government auction of her P15-billion jewelries. Marcos claimed the jewelries belonged solely to her. No restraining order was issued by the court.

The PCGG has two of the three jewelry collections in the vaults of the Bangko Sentral ng Philipinas and planned to auction off majority of the jewelries in May 2009, with strong resistance from Mrs. Marcos.


FG in $20,000 hotel suite!

During Manny Pacquiao's match with Erick Morales in Las Vegas, the First Gentleman allegedly stayed in a $20,000-a-night suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada. Mike said that there was nothing corrupt about accepting the free luxury suite offered to him by the hotel. He argued that as the husband of a head of state, he was entitled to such perks.

No German bank account

Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano claimed that a member of the Arroyo family maintained a bank account in Germany amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars. First Gentleman Arroyo flew to Germany and secured a certification from the bank to disprove Cayetano's claims. Upon his return, he sought Cayetano's expulsion from Congress but without success.

Toxic JPEPA?

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) was signed between Arroyo and former Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. The treaty aimed to promote investments and trade between the two countries. Various civil society groups contested the agreement because the government did not consult them. According to these groups, although the agreement secures employment in Japan, the treaty includes an “environmentally unjust bilateral trade.”

In 2008, the Senate finally ratified the agreement by a vote of 16-4 as the agreement was favorable since 95% of exports from the Philippines to Japan will have zero duties.

Meanwhile, numerous representatives from the House questioned the Senate decision as the agreement “will bring a tsunami of unfair trade and toxic wastes.”


Estrada pardon

After spending six years in detention for plunder and graft and corruption charges, former President Estrada was sentenced to life imprisonment by the Sandiganbayan in October 2007. Three days after, President Arroyo granted him pardon citing a policy to release prisoners aged 70.

Fallout from ZTE

The scandal was exposed in August 2007, a few months after Transport Secretary Leandro Mendoza and ZTE Corp Vice President Yu Yong signed a $329.5 million contact for a national broadband network deal in April. President Arroyo and the First Gentlemen were said to have visited China for the contract-signing.

Rep. Carlos Padilla (Nueva Vizcaya) said that Comelec chairperson Benjamin Abalos also joined the President in China to broker the deal. Abalos denied brokering the deal but admitted going to China four times. In September 2007, the son of Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr testified that he was with Abalos in China and that Abalos demanded money from ZTE officials.

The following day, the Supreme Court promulgated a TRO stopping the deal between the Philippines and China and gave ZTE 15 days to comment.

NEDA chair Romulo Neri testified in the Senate hearings and said Abalos tried to bribe him with P200 million but he refused to answer some senators' questions, citing executive privilege. Abalos resigned as Comelec chair in October 2007 as President Arroyo cancelled the deal in a trip to China.

Jun Lozada, former chief executive officer of Philippine Forest Corporation and NEDA consultant, testified in February 2008 that Abalos and the First Gentlemen were to receive kickbacks once the deal was signed. Speaker Jose de Venecia was unseated and got dragged into the deal when his son said he was also in China.

On July 2008, the SC dismissed three petitions that question the constitutionality of the deal and declared it moot and academic.

Impeachment: Pulido's version

Lawyer Roel Pulido filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo. Endorsed by an administration ally, Laguna Rep. Edgar San Luis, it was seen as a move to foil another complaint against the President.

Congress thrashed the complaint.

Money from Malacañang

Pampanga Gov. Eddie Panlilio revealed that he was given a paper bag containing P500,000 in a Malacañang meeting in October 2007. The money was allegedly for community projects. The bags were handed out by a female Malacañang staff. Panlilio said he accepted the money because because no conditions were attached; he did not consider it a bribe. Various versions of the source of the money came out as other local officials present in the meeting admitted receiving either P500,000 or P200,000.

Other officials who confirmed receiving money were Governors Joselito Mendoza, Leo Campos, and Representatives Rachel Arenas, Antonio Cuenco, Bienvenido Abante, Mauricio Domogan, Tomas Dumpit Jr, and some others who refused to be named. The named 9 officials were charged by the Office of the Ombudsman for allegedly receiving bribes. Due to numerous versions on the source of the money, Sen. Miguel Zubiri said during the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee hearing that the money has no direct link to the Palace.

Glorietta 2 and Batasan bombings

After the string of controversies hounding the Arroyo administration, bombing incidents happened in Glorietta 2 and the House of Representatives. The police, in a speedy investigation, found that the bombing of Batasan was initially intended for Basilan Rep. Wahab Akbar.

The Glorietta 2 bombing, on the other hand, resulted from gas leakage. Rumors spread that the bombings were perpetrated by the government to divert the public’s attention away from the Arroyo scandals.

The Batasan bombing happened the day before Pampanga Gov. Ed Panlilio was set to testify on the bribery of local officials in the Senate and a day before the House justice committee was to hear the impeachment case.

The Glorietta 2 bombing happened during the height of the bribery case which took place in Malacañang.

Manila Pen siege

Antonio Trillanes IV, together with Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim and 25 other Magdalo officers walked out of their trial and marched on the streets of Makati City. Former Vice-President Teofisto Guingona and some soldiers from the AFP joined the march that ended in Peninsula Manila Hotel. After several hours, the group surrendered to the government forces after a military assault. They were arrested and several journalists were detained.

Missing: Jonas Burgos

Of the numerous human rights violations, political killings, and abductions during Arroyo's administration, the case of activist Jonas Burgos has become the most prominent. Burgos was missing since late April and eyewitnesses said he was dragged from a mall in Commonwealth to a Toyota Revo by five men. The license plate of the Revo was traced to the 56th Infantry Battalion camp in Bulacan.


Teehankee pardon

In 1991, Claudio Teehankee Jr was sentenced to life imprisonment after being found guilty of killing Maureen Hultman, John Roland Chapman, and wounding Jussi Leino. Last November 2008, President Arroyo granted Teehankee pardon. It was reported that the Hultmans "approved" the pardon and received a settlement of P6 million. The Hultmans were enraged that the pardon was "kept secret" and denied receiving the money.

Euro generals

In an Interpol conference in Moscow, police comptroller director Eliseo De la Paz and his group were detained because of carrying undeclared cash worth 105,000 euros (P6.9 million). At the time of the conference, De la Paz had already retired from service.

When the group returned, the Senate called for hearings on the issue. De la Paz said the money was "cash advance" for "emergency cases." His statement was questioned as PNP Chief Jesus Versoza said the money was for purchasing intelligence equipment.

The Senate recommended that the justice department and the Ombudsman conduct a preliminary investigation on the PNP delegates to the Interpol assembly as the group violated the travel ban under Administrative Order No. 103, the law on allowable travel expenses, and the rule on retired officials or those about to retire. The report also proposed a preliminary investigation on interior and local government chief Reynato Puno and Versoza for allowing the group to travel and for ignoring the travel ban.

As of March 2009, De la Paz settled the remaining 65,000 euros, fully paying for the cash advance and avoiding a civil law suit.

C-5 insertion

Senators Panfilo Lacson and Jamby Madrigal spilled the beans on Senate president Manny Villar when they exposed his double insertion of a P200 million C-5 project in the 2008 budget. After a few months, Villar resigned as Senate president when he learned about the planned "ouster" led by Lacson. Enrile became Senate president.

In May 2009, although Villar was out of the country, the Senate ethics committee deliberated on the alleged C-5 insertion and declared the ethics complaint filed by Madrigal as sufficient in substance.

Meralco and the tainted court

What started out as a tug-of-war between the Lopezes and GSIS over control of Meralco ended up tainting the reputation of the Court of Appeals. The scandal started when Justice Jose Sabio Jr told the media that he was offered a P10 million bribe by an alleged Meralco emissary, businessman Francis Borja.

The Supreme Court conducted a public investigation on the CA justices. Lapses in the justices' decisions and CA procedures were unearthed. The verdict: Justice Vicente Roxas was dismissed, Sabio and Justice Bienvenido Reyes were suspended, and Justice Myrna Vidal was reprimanded.

Impeachment: Joey’s complaint

Joey de Venecia, son of former House Speaker Jose De Venecia, filed an impeachment complaint against President Arroyo, particularly because of the overpriced NBN-ZTE broadband deal. The complaint was found sufficient in form but was dismissed after House representatives voted 42-8, ruling the complaint as insufficient in substance.

Resurrecting nuke power plant

Tarlac Rep. Mark Cojuangco and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo filed HB 4631 or the Bataan nuclear power plant commissioning act, a bill aimed at rehabilitating the mothballed power plant for $1.4 billion. Various groups were strongly against the re-opening of the plant, stating that more viable and cheaper options are available like renewable energy. A feasibility study was requested from Cojuangco to prove that BNPP’s structures are still in good condition. A consolidated HB 6300 was submitted to the House and will be deliberated after the legislative break in July.

The failed ancestral domain agreement

In June 2001, President Arroyo signed the GRP-MILF Tripoli agreement in Libya, paving the way for peace talks between the government of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. By May 2003, due to numerous bombings in Mindanao, Arroyo canceled the peace talks. Talks resumed two months later in Kuala Lumpur.

In January 2004, peace monitors from Malaysia, Brunei, and Libya went to Mindanao to monitor the five-year truce between the two parties. The discussion on ancestral domain progressed and was divided into four strands: concept, territory, resources, and governance.

By November 2007, government panel chair Rodolfo Garcia and MILF peace panel chair Mohagher Iqbal said that the agreement can finally be concluded. But by December of the same year, the ancestral domain negotiations reached a deadlock due to constitutional issues.

The text of the Memorandum of Agreement on the Ancestral Domain (MOA-AD) caused a big stir when it leaked to the press. On August 2008, the Supreme Court issued a Temporary Restraining Order on the peace agreement and suggested renegotiating the homeland deal.

In September 2008, the government dissolved the panel conducting the peace negotiations with the MILF, formed a new one, and announced that negotiations will depend on whether the MILF will turn over two rogue field commanders and other members who attacked North Cotabato, Lanao del Norte, and other provinces in Mindanao. The peace talks were set to resume in 2009.


Red Cross kidnapping

On January, gunmen on motorcycles intercepted an International Committee of the Red Cross vehicle and kidnapped three workers: Italian Eugenio Vagni, Swiss Andreas Notter, and Filipina Mary Jean Lacaba. The group behind it, identified as the Abu Sayyaf, asked for ransom. The Philippine Red Cross, under Sen. Richard Gordon, refused to pay the ransom. The group threatened to behead the workers.

Three months after the kidnapping, after numerous negotiations, Lacaba was released. A few days after, Notter was released as well. Vagni, after six months of being held captive, was eventually released July 12.

Con Ass

In 2005, Arroyo initiated a move to change the Constitution and transform the present presidential-bicameral republic into a parliamentary-unicameral form of government but failed.

By late 2006, the House shelved a plan to revise the Constitution through a constituent assembly. In June 2009, two days before the House adjourned, they passed HR Bill 1109. The bill calls for a Constituent Assembly to amend the 1986 Constitution.

Dacer-Corbito double murder case

After spending years in America, Cesar Mancao returned and was willing to speak out on the murder of publicist Bubby Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito in 2000. Mancao became a state witness in July 2009.

Aside from Mancao, 21 others were accused of the same charges. According to Mancao, he is no longer afraid of anyone, particularly of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, who consequently denied having a hand in the crime.

Dacer was asked by former President Estrada to boost his image during the height of the BW scam and the latter’s impeachment trial. The publicist was said to have knowledge of BW Resources Corp, a gaming firm in which Estrada owned shares. The scam started when it was found out that BW won an exclusive contract to operate on-line bingo and introduce Quick Pick-2 in 1999, a game similar to jueteng. On that same year, PAGCOR granted BW a nationwide online bingo franchise. Further investigation revealed that Dante Tan, Estrada’s alleged financier during the latter’s presidential bid, had been heavily buying shares in BW.

In late 2000, the charred bodies of Dacer and his driver were found in a creek in Cavite and eyewitnesses said they were abducted and killed by policemen. Some of the witnesses pointed to Estrada as the mastermind of the killing through Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force chief Lacson.

CARP extension

A few days before the House’s legislative break, the body passed House Bill 4077 to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law for another five years. The House appropriated P100 billion for land acquisition and distribution, support services, and other funding requirements. The Senate has also approved its own version of the bill.

In 2007, Arroyo certified an urgent bill to extend the law. The program has yet to distribute a million hectares to another two million beneficiaries.

RH bill

In June, the controversial House Bill 5043 or reproductive health bill was trashed in the House of Representatives, as it failed to gather enough votes from the lawmakers. The bill was penned by Cong. Edcel Lagman and it advocates, among others, the use of government funds to provide free contraceptives to the poor. The bill reached the plenary on 2008 and has since been under fire from various groups, particularly those with the Catholic Church.

Right of reply bill

The controversial Right of Reply bill (RORB) failed to gather enough signatures and was not passed in the House. Since it was filed last year, numerous groups, especially from media organizations, have contested the passing of the bill.

In February, seven senators reiterated their support for the bill. Arroyo, on the other hand, assured journalists while the bill was being deliberated in the House that she will not hesitate to trash it should it contain provisions that will curtail press freedom.

Baselines bill

In March, Arroyo signed Republic Act 9522 or the Philippine Archipelagic Baselines law, a controversial law that defines the country’s baselines and claims in the South China Sea. The bill includes the Kalayaan Group of Islands and Scarborough Shoal as parts of “regime of islands.” The other countries who have been claiming the islands are China, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei.

Misuse of Balikatan funds

Navy Lt. Nancy Gadian revealed an alleged malversation of funds in the 2007 Balikatan joint military exercises with the United States. According to Gadian, Gen. Eugenio Cedo, former Mindanao Command head, pocketed P2.3 million of the money and the rest were pocketed by other higher Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) officials. The Balikatan exercises were given a P4.6 million fund.

Arroyo ordered the defense department to investigate Gadian’s allegations. Lt. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr, AFP public information officer chief, said the alleged malversed funds were properly accounted for in the Commission on Audit reports. He also challenged Gadian to come out and file a proper complaint.

GMA in Congress?

Due to rumors that Arroyo is planning to run for Congress, election lawyers clarified that there are no provisions that prohibit Arroyo from resigning as president if she runs for a lower post. They cite Sec. 67 of the Omnibus Election Code which was repealed in the Fair Elections Act passed in 2001, Arroyo’s first year as president after Edsa 2.

The Code states that “any elective official, whether national or local, running for any office other than the one which he is holding in a permanent capacity, except for President and Vice-President, shall be considered ipso facto resigned from his office upon the filing of his certificate of candidacy.”

Helicopter crash

In April 2009, a helicopter carrying eight passengers, two of whom were Cabinet undersecretaries and a senior military aide, crashed in the Ifugao region. The Philippine Air Force (PAF) blamed bad weather for the accident.

Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, chair of the senate committee on national defense and security, questioned why the helicopter was allowed to fly from Loakan Airport in Baguio in the afternoon when visibility was low and why there was no back-up helicopter provided at the time. There were allegations that the helicopter was delayed for three hours because it was used to ferry Congressman Mikey Arroyo, the president’s eldest son, from Manila to Baguio.

According to press Secretary Cerge Remonde, the helicopter indeed carried Mikey and the others from Manila and arrived in Baguio at past two in the afternoon, ahead of the other helicopter which carried Arroyo and her party. The same helicopter Mikey used was the same helicopter used by the eight passengers who were supposed to conduct an ocular inspection of the Halsema Highway; Arroyo was scheduled to visit this highway the next day.

Sources: Various news reports

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