Key questions

A fight within the majority as to the rules, but ex-commissioner Garcillano has been found in contempt of the House, and a hold departure order issued against both Garcillano and Atty. Samuel Ong, will be requested by the lower house. Rep. Locsin also moved that the passport of Garcillano be cancelled by the Department of Foreign Affairs. Like so much else, too little, too late. At 11:14 a.m. Michaelangelo Zuce waddled into the Senate.

It seems to me that since the impeachment process has begun, both houses of Congress would be better off suspending hearings to concentrate on the job at hand. However, I also believe that televising House and Senate hearings is important, fundamentally so, as an educational activity. The public deserves to see the quality (or lack of it) of their representatives. We all benefit from seeing the ability, or lack of it, in parliamentary procedure, argumentation, etc.

I’ve long advocated gavel-to-gavel coverage of the sessions of both houses of Congress, in the manner of C-Span, which was created by the American networks as a public service. C-Span broadcasts the sessions of both chambers without commentary. We should do the same. Since broadcasting is done according to franchises, all the networks should be compelled to set up at least two cable channels dedicated to the workings of Congress.

Speaking of Zuce, Anonymous Sources (who it seems is not who I thought he might be) quotes a letter supposedly sent by Garcillano lobbying for his job. I’m curious about all these documents. Normally, sensitive political matters are either contained in unsigned memoranda or simply verbally discussed, because it’s never a good idea to leave a paper trail. It seems curious to me that Garcillano and friends would leave such an extensive paper trail, but then reality has turned out stranger than fiction… I do think it’s reasonable for Zuce to have been putting together a scrapbook of potentially useful documents, so maybe he simply thought ahead. Gari takes a layman’s view on the witness and his testimony; Edwin Lacierda thinks the President’s men need to attack harder; Newsstand remains skeptical of the jueteng link being peddled by Zuce.

Punzi, taking a cue from a recent entry by La Vida Lawyer, explains how government employees travel, which might help unravel the paper trail; today, La Vida Lawyer says another possibly fruitful line of inquiry involves the layout of the President’s La Vista home.

Jove demonstrates how reporters look up information and hunt for clues, in the mysterious case of Joey Rufino, who, while suffering from liver cancer, somehow sent a fax from the Kamameshi House on Tomas Morato Ave. His entry provides a glimpse into the methods journalists use to follow a story.

The Inquirer in its editorial, wonders if Zuce is “the key”:

Malacañang ought to be very careful about impugning the testimony of Zuce, simply on the basis of his having been a low-level operative or even a flunky. Our class-conscious society suffers from the delusion, common among the powerful, that their flunkies don’t think and thus don’t realize the full importance of what their employers do and say in front of them. Reporters routinely resort to interviewing waiters, janitors and household help to verify the movements and actions of people in the news. There is no reason a low-ranking fly (admittedly, a pretty big and not very inspiring one) wouldn’t have information damaging to his former superiors.

Dan Mariano think the sums involved in Zuce’s testimony are too small, which contrasts with the Inquirer’s take on the matter:

The amounts Zuce mentioned in his statement seem far too small to impress the Comelec officials whom the President had allegedly suborned.

In the run-up to the presidential election, Zuce said, his uncle Gar­cillano held several consultations with Comelec officials in Mindanao. During those meetings, Garcillano allegedly handed out P20,000 each for regional directors and provincial election supervisors, P15,000 for city election officers, P10,000 for municipal election officers and P5,000 for selected Comelec staff in Mindanao, said Zuce.

In late 2003 a second round of payoffs was made to Mindanao regional directors and provincial elections supervisors at a meeting organized by Rufino at a hotel in Manila. During that meeting, Zuce said he distributed to the Comelec officials P17,000 each in white envelopes.

A third meeting with Mindanao Comelec officials at the same hotel was held in January 2004 where three of Rufino’s staff purportedly distributed P25,000 each to the election officers.

Now, to many Filipinos P25,000, P17,000 or even P5,000 might be equivalent to a month’s wages, but they do not seem like amounts that could tempt crooked officials who, as Zuce implied, were already in the habit of taking bribes.

Zuce also alleged to have organized a junket for 27 Comelec Mindanao officials in Manila and that Bong Pineda gave P150,000 to cover all expenses—including three days at a hotel in Malate. That works out to just P5,555 a head, barely enough to cover air fare.

The figures that Zuce has so far mentioned do not inspire confidence in the veracity of his allegations. These are details that his handlers need to clarify, if this latest whistle blower is not to go the way of, say, Ador Mawanay.

Says the Inquirer editorial, on the other hand,

What is interesting, in fact, about Zuce’s allegations is that it’s marked throughout by the pedestrian nature of the corruption he claims to have taken place, and in which he participated. In contrast to Cam’s exaggerated claims involving millions of pesos in bribe money, Zuce speaks of “gifts” in the range of tens of thousands of pesos: it is more believable that a person as piddling as the Palace says Zuce is would only have handled, and known of, relatively small sums. There is, after all, a hierarchy even among political crooks.

Columns of note, today: Rudy Romero examines exit scenarios for the President; JB Baylon wonders if the public is helpless; Greg Makabenta takes a jab at ABS-CBN overseas and praises GMA7; Florangel Braid looks at studies on parliamentary government; Marichu Villanueva says Butz Aquino should revive his bill setting out to define the responsibilities and budget of the office of the presidential spouse (an executive order on this subject was suggested but the President declined to act on it); Mike Tan tackles the legacy (or lack of it) of Ferdinand Marcos.

Sef asks why a survey on charter change makes the headlines only now (simple answer: SWS only released it’s findings now). Patricio Diaz has been writing a series of columns on charter change.

Interesting tidbits of news: the House Committee on Justice is confused (which is leading to speculation that it might throw out the amended impeachment complaint); and the President, talking to Korina Sanchez the other night, says she has never advocated a unicameral parliament (which opens up a charter change deal with the Senate: after all, the Abueva proposal does provide for a bicameral parliament).

This morning, Marites Vitug texted me about something that has led to their issuing a statement, which I’d like to quote in full:

3 August 2005

Newsbreak Bares Threat

We would like to make public an incident that, we believe, is meant to scare one of our staff members at Newsbreak. While we know that threats come with our job, we do not take this lightly.

By letting the public know of this incident, we hope to get the best protection for Ms. Gloria and Newsbreak.

Last night (August 2), at around 8:30 p.m., a wreath meant for the dead was delivered to the family residence of our managing editor, Glenda M. Gloria, in Quezon City. On the ribbon was written, “Condolence from your loving friends.” The delivery boy was instructed to give the flowers to Glenda Gloria and that she would know where the deceased is.

Ms. Gloria spoke to the delivery boy and he said that a man in a black car, around 30 years old, bought the wreath from their small flower shop on Araneta Avenue. The man said that he was an employee of the company where Ms. Gloria worked and he gave his address as “Metro Manila.” He instructed the delivery boy to go to two addresses: one is Ms. Gloria’s old address which is on her Smart cell phone bill and the other is her family address. The man told the delivery boy that it was a rush job and paid P1,000 for the wreath.

The man also gave specific instructions to the delivery boy that if Ms. Gloria were not in the first address, “where she rents,” he should proceed to the second address.

Ms. Gloria’s recent stories in Newsbreak have to do with the military. In our July 4, 2005 issue, she wrote on the Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces as the “number one suspect” in the wiretap scandal. In our latest issue (August 15, 2005), she wrote on the alleged participation of some officers in the 2004 election fraud in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

As managing editor, she also supervises and coordinates reporting of stories.

Marites Danguilan Vitug
Editor in Chief
Tel 687-5523/25
Fax 687-5528
E-mail [email protected]

Manuel L. Quezon III.

20 thoughts on “Key questions

  1. Manolo,
    Yes, I agree, we need something similar to c-span, the full coverage of the proceedings without any commentary. An internet site recording and displaying the transcript of the proceedings would be of use too. Would it be possible also to set guidelines for newscasts to indicate news reading from a commentary?

  2. juned, there is the congressional record, which has the transcripts of debates on the floor. i would assume committee hearings, too, have transcripts.

    one of my obsessions has been to fortify the official gazette, which hasn’t been properly maintained since marcos’s time. the public deserves to know all executive issuances, appointments, etc., and the internet provides a useful and convenient way to do this. there is a wealth of data on administrations prior to marcos, because almst everything was documented in the official gazette. but bureaucrats aren’t interested today, because it’s too much work and too many turf battles have to be sorted out.

    every government office is mandated by law to have a website, it’s up to the public to demand what content appears on those sites.

    guidelines for newscasts can’t be mandated by government, it would depend on demands from the audience or suggestions from media watchdog groups.

  3. Manolo,
    Maybe we need a new department of information or give the task to the National Library and the National Archives office. I think the US Library of Congress does this. Thanks for the swift replies 🙂

  4. I’m a traditionalist. It was the job of the National Printing Office for generations, it should be again. Now it’s divided between NPO and the OPS. It should be consolidated. I’ts scandalous that I can easily look up virtually every presidential appointment for, say, 1952, but can’t do the same for say, 2002.

  5. Manolo, the Newsbreak release is pretty scary. IF the incident was related to the ISAPF story, then that confirms that. But have to ask: who is behind all this political mess we’re in? And to what ends? mmmm…I’m not big on conspiracy theories but…it’s late and I should be in bed.
    Hope you guys back home have a blessed day.

  6. That is terrible. Absence, mismanagement or lack of records in civil service will only encourage more corruption. I think that really is a serious matter. A gazette is really needed. I am not a lawyer but is this not covered by the right to information act or something akin to that?

  7. And meanwhile, what about NDC? Will he be impeached, too? Is he part of the allegations by Zuce? After all, he was on the ticked with GMA and won by close to the same margin. This is the guy that may well be the next president. Is he just off the radar screen as far as the Garci tapes, Zuce, and other poll cheating allegations are concerned?

  8. Congress should invest on its own AM radio station it’s cheaper and have larger coverage.

    It should broadcast live and raw coverage of the plenary.

    It must not have advertisement or anything just the sound from the plenary.

  9. I’m sure the opposition will move heaven and earth and present more witnesses of sorts.
    I watche Zuce and noticed the guy to be smiling often. He seems to show much confidence as if he is sure he can put one over the president. At the same time he is just a fixer. personaly, I think his dirty.the opposition or the evile characters in the shadows are giving the public a “multipule choice” of witnesses, they hopping to finaly get the right one.
    Sad to say but the level of policics is pathetic.
    The impeachment can’t even move on it’s merits, so the opposition is trying to keep the heat on.

  10. i wish a cspan were possible. but it takes a ton of money to mount a marathon coverage with multiple camera set ups, expensive live vans and all those news production people tied up for entire weeks. the only one providing this non-stop news service is ANC (abscbn news channel)and those guys are losing money (advertisers stay away from politics and calamaties) but keeping it up anyway. cheapest way is radio. but then we would have missed the look on lito lapid’s face after he made his faux pas yesterday.
    cost of live van: 2 million.
    look on lapid’s face: priceless.

  11. It gets even more bizarre every day. Now the jueteng whistleblower Richard Garcia backtracks and implicates Lacson, Zamora and the opposition of orchestrating all the charges. He even broke down and begged the President and her family’s forgiveness for mailigning them. Well, they were all dubious characters to start with. Especially that obnoxious publicity-seeker, Sandra Cam, who is so bedazzled and enamored of her new-found fame. As for Michaelangelo Zuce, even Sen. Enrile says his testimony was unconvincing. He may still get a role in showbiz, perhaps as Jinggoy Estrada’s long-lost twin brother. I also hope that the gossip-mongering Archbishop Cruz sticks to evangelizing.

  12. Why the double standard in the Lower House Garcigate probe? Why not issue an arrest warrant against Ong, as well? Both Garcillano and Ong are key witnesses, and they are the only two who could shed light in this mess.

  13. Imagine all the monies spent in pampering Erap, money that the country DOES NOT HAVE! I will fault the weak judicial system for all the crimes committed by politicians. Just look at the Marcoses, they are free, still. Corrupt politicians would not be around IF the judiciary does its job. By catering and pampering crook politicians like the Estradas and the Marcoses, the Philippines, sad to say, will never rid of political crises. It is the dirty politicking of some power hungry politicians that is the main cause of the economic chaos in the country!

  14. Carl, I like the Jinggoy Estrada-Zuce long-lost twin brother showbiz act. That’s really funny. Hahaha!
    Eve, I agree. People are only engrossed with bringing corruption charges to the sitting president. When he/she is ousted then people move on try to oust the next president. No closure is made on the corruption and criminal charges against the previous president, his/her family and cronies. It’s amazing, we have all these crooks running around and still holding high public office. Whatever GMA’s crimes might be, and those still have to be proven in legal proceedings not in this media-circus-of-a-trial we’ve been seeing, they appear to pale in comparison to what the Estradas and Marcoses have gotten away with.

  15. i must have read the wrong bit of news cause from what i know richard garcia did not recant though he was remorseful about implicating gma’s family in jueteng.

  16. No need to quibble, Masha. “Recant” never was mentioned. Anyhow, by saying that he was coerced by the opposition to give false testimony against the first family, that basically negates the most sensational portion of what he said. Not that it’s a big deal. I really don’t care about the first family. But neither do I care about the opposition or the tunnel-vision crusade of Archbishop Cruz. They all have narrow-minded agendas.

    Alex, I totally agree. Genuine reforms are the farthest thing from any opposition’s mind when they come into power. It happened with Edsa I. Power and wealth became goals unto themselves, never mind letting the Kleptocracy go scot-free. So Kamag-anak, Inc., Mitra, Binay, the mercenary warlords like the Singsons, Dy’s, Josons and Dimaporos (who opportunistically switched allegiance) went on their merry ways, enriching themselves. Honor among thieves? Maybe not, maybe they just didn’t want to rock the boat while they helped themselves to the national patrimony. It was no different with Edsa II. The irony is that you now have crooks sitting on their high-horses, accusing others of crimes they themselves committed. A pox on all of them, I say! And I am not sparing GMA either.

  17. i must say there is a need to “quibble”, Carl Cid S.M. Inting. people have the notion that he lied under oath after his recent statement. did he? can we still make use of his testimony or do we throw it out? which statement was done under oath? if his backtracking (the word that was used by somebody above) effectively negates his testimony then the notion is correct but if it doesnt, and from what i read, he says that nothing in his testimony was untrue, then we can see this episode as a palace-inspired udong mahusay reprise.

    i dont care for the opposition either but i admire bishop cruz for pursuing this to the end. really, which filipino nowadays distinguishes himself as being moved by the truth and/or correcting what is ill in our society? miriam? gma? jdv? fvr?

  18. Masha, there is no one truth. Bishop Cruz may mean well, but he confuses the trees for the forest. His obsession with jueteng, and trying to make it seem like a grandeous crusade, is quixotic. There are bigger windmills to joust with.

    As for the backtracking witness, the fact is he that denies the most important part of his testimony, the links to the first family. He even begged them for forgiveness. If the opposition wants to sourgrape and split hairs, that is their privelege. But the most important message from Garcia is that the opposition is not above resorting to bribery and intimidation. After all, Ping Lacson, Erap, Binay and Co. have lots of loot and hired goons. Let’s not muddle the issue anymore.

  19. Masha. I, too, am confused. My understanding is that Garcia did not recant. But his testimony, anyway, implicates local cops and local officials but not the Arroyos. Who knows, at the time he was talking to Lacson, et. al, Garcia may have mentioned the Arroyos’ jueteng involvement, but he could’ve been just blowing up his story because Lacson dangled money at his face. Satisfied, Lacson could’ve turned over Garcia to the jueteng attack dog, Bishop Cruz, who might have felt blessed that this whistleblower just fell on his lap.

    Then everything unraveled. Again, who knows? Maybe Garcia didn’t see money from Lacson, maybe he chickened out and couldn’t lie through his teeth in front of Congress and with all the media hanging on every word he says. All we know now is that he’s been dropped by Lacson from the impeachment trial. But what’s strange is why Bishop Cruz also gave up on Garcia. If we are to believe that Bishop Cruz’s mission is to rid the world of jueteng, and he has no personal agenda against the Arroyos, then why jettison Garcia? He may no longer be useful against the Arroyos, but he did testify about the local cops and officials who are taking money from jueteng. So, then, is Bishop Cruz an impartial moral crusader against jueteng, or does he also have a political agenda?

    One can only speculate, and that’s really the problem. The whole investigation is being conducted through the media. Hard to know what is fact and legally binding and what’s not. The opposition, Bishop Cruz, all the witnesses, etc. aren’t shy about making detailed public accusations and revelations. You’d think that something serious like an impeachment trial and jueteng corruption charges against the president and her family would be handled very discretely and information only revealed in legal proceedings. There is something seriously wrong in the whole process.

    Another observation is how the investigation is being conducted by Congress and who are the people directly responsible? Is Lacson, et. al. just serving up witnesses and evidence as they please? Does Congress have its own impartial investigative team to uncover and filter through evidence and identify witnesses? For example, in the U.S., as in Clinton’s investigation for his possible impeachment and in the current investigation going on now regarding leaking of a CIA operative’s identity, an independent counsel was appointed to conduct the investigation. This is efficient and the U.S. congress didn’t have to be disrupted from tackling their normal agenda.

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