Today’s movie quote comes from the film, Casablanca:
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: Everybody out at once!
And so, shocked, shocked was she to find that bribery is going on in here! That an ‘Upset’ Arroyo orders probe of Palace ‘bribery’.
The problem is, that the Palace’s own allies are compounding the problem. If the There’s the Hamlet-like agonizing of Rep. Antonio Cuenco – Arroyo ally torn between telling truth, hurting her– isn’t bad enough, then there’s this: Arroyo present during cash distribution–Manila solon although in a major clarification to a major error, it turns out (CORRECTED) Arroyo wasn’t present, says Manila solon:
full statement of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, parent company and one of the content providers of INQUIRER.net, follows:
“The Philippine Daily Inquirer deeply regrets that it inadvertently reported in today’s issue that Rep. Bienvenido Abante said President Macapagal-Arroyo was present during the distribution of cash handouts to politicians last Thursday. Abante had actually said the President was not present.
“The Inquirer sincerely apologizes for the error.
“We are looking into the matter to ensure that no similar errors occur in the future.”
Even Ramos denies giving gifts to Atienza, solons and the Inquirer editorial says these recent revelations act as indirect confirmation of past testimony. The whole thing’s so squalid that poor Bong Austero has to point out,
I am not saying that what happened last week was justifiable. I am not saying we should condone it. All I am saying is that there is context around it. This culture of political patronage has been around for quite some time and will continue to be around for as long as voters continue to hound their elected leaders for all kinds of assistance.
What made what happened last week galling was the brazenness and shamelessness of it all. In short, bastusan at garapalan na talaga.
Which may be why up-to-now loyal allies of the President are beginning to publicly discuss whether to spill the beans or not (like Cuenco). This can only send the Speaker’s sensitive political antennae quivering. Newsstand is far more inclined to caution than I am, and yet he has begun to wonder,
Now, on dzMM’s TeleRadyo, I see Speaker de Venecia announcing that, as he had promised last night, he had written an appeal to President Arroyo, calling on her to start a “moral revolution.” She can start, he said, by firing some of her Cabinet members.
This, it seems to me, could very well be the signal to start (open) hostilities.
What does this mean? It means, just possibly, that JDV has seen the same thing as the opposition leader did, and has decided to go down fighting.
I can’t help but recall, as I recently recalled in Jose De Venecia’s Last Stand (essentially reprinting my August 29, 2005 Inquirer column, which, unfortunately, is no longer available on line), that the possibility, even probability, of a parting of ways between the Speaker and the President was something I saw coming even back then, and was of course trying to encourage. A paper published in 2006, Constitutional Reform in the Philippines: Out of Crisis, What? by Joel Rocamora very kindly quoted a portion of my column:
In the great division of our people that took place in recent months, it was the speaker who put foot soldiers, so to speak, at the command of former President Ramos when he decided to support the president. In truth, what Ramos possessed at the time was an impeccable sense of timing, and a residual prestige. It would depend on the speaker, however, to hold the line, and man the trenches in what has become a political battle of attrition, with loyal troops and efficient lieutenants.
But the I-told-you-so part I’d like to point out is this:
In fighting for her political life, the president nailed not hers, but Ramos’ and De Venecia’s colors to the mast, and proceeded to continue sailing the ship in the direction of enemy fire. Furthermore, she has tied both Ramos and the speaker to the mast, which means it is they who are getting shot at, while the president continues to command the show from the comfort of her cabin.
While Ramos has already done all he can do – you can only throw your support behind someone once — the speaker is still being called upon to marshal the troops in the House, and for what? Whatever their view about the president, the majority of the public wants the impeachment process to continue. The speaker might have been able to justify fighting “creeping impeachment” by “stealthily railroading” the throwing out of the impeachment, but the unpopularity both of himself and his parliamentary cause would only be worth it if the president did her part by gambling big on achieving constitutional change. She has done the opposite: She has gambled small, and it may be her real bet is on herself.
And at the end of the day, perhaps he’s taken heart from realizing (see De Venecia can only be replaced if he agrees–solon: Speakership only for Lakas, he says) that even at the age of 70, he could just possibly get a new lease on political life if he remains the party chief. At a time when his party has begun to publicly fret about its association with the President.
But this, I think, will be the story primed to hog the headlines over the next few days: Palace misused charity funds, gave loans sans records – COA. The report details the findings of a Commission on Audit annual audit of the Office of the President.
In particular, this section of this story:
In 2006, COA said the Office of the President received “from various sources” donations totaling P65,413,463.79 or P65 million, for the following purposes:
‘ Donation for the Southern Leyte landslide, P7.1 million
‘ Donation for Socio-Economic Projects of the President, P35.6 million
‘ Donation for Typhoon Milenyo victims, P2.7 million
‘ Donation for the relief and rehabilitation of affected areas in Albay province, P20 million.
COA’s adverse finding follows: “We noted, however, that out of the actual expenses incurred totaling P64,079,173.40 from the donations, expenses totaling P8,807.621.75 could not be identified with any of the purposes of the donations.”
According to COA, Malacanang had reported using the donations thus:
‘ Burial expenses, P795,000
‘ Hotel Expenses, P815,380.15
‘ Maintenance of the Malacanang Golf Course, P900,000
‘ Summit Conferences/General Assembly, P2,295,241.60
‘ Donation to Foundation, P4,000,000
These expenses “out of the purposes of the donations are contrary to Section 13 of the General Provisions of the General Appropriations Act of 2005,” which stipulates that “donations, whether in cash or kind, shall be deemed automatically appropriated for the purpose specified by the donor.”
The golf course and unnamed foundation donations in particular, are primed for heavy political play. The full report can be found online, supposedly, at the Commission on Audit website but when I tried going there, it was under construction. A source familiar with government accounting practices sent me a cautionary note, however:
Just a word of caution on interpreting the findings, it is common practice among government agencies that the findings are first discussed with management before they are actually published. These findings are therefore expected by government. Also, COA can only recommend and most of the time their recommendations are not followed.
Uniffors reports on the rumor mill.
Meanwhile, Senators revive call on Gloria to resign: a case of jumping the gun? What surprises me is that Senator Pangilinan has taken the lead in an issue. And Bypassed Cabinet members reappointed. Tick tock for the armed forces brass: High Court gives CA green light to require disclosure of Burgos report.
This article should be required reading for Filipinos in the IT sector: India’s IT Sector Needs to Reboot.