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Commission on Audit bombshell
By mlq3 Posted in Daily Dose on October 18, 2007 282 Comments 8 min read
Target of opportunity (updated) Previous The ploy to keep the Speaker loyal Next

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.
[aloud]
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.

See De Venecia calls on Arroyo to set up new administration.

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.

Part 1 and Part 2 of my column for this week, were on Mabini’s independence blueprint.

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  1. Bencard: do we always have to change presidents through “people power”?

    No of course not. Impeachment will do nicely, thank you very much. Although I see the impeachment proceedings going to a detour via the Supreme Court on whether or not Pulido’s lame complaint can be withdrawn.

    The Christmas wish is for resignation of course, to save us from an impeachment trial. In a perfect Philippines, bribery occurring right under the very nose of the President, assuming — assuming — she had nothing to do with it, would cause her to resign as this is a sign not that she has lost control of her own house. Not in this Philippines, though.

  2. “RAMROD:”Not very trapo”.The understatement of the year!”

    Equalizer, I was talking to Bencard, sometimes we have to be sensitive to other people’s beliefs even if you disagree entirely.

  3. ramrod,
    the machismo culture works to her advantage than disadvantage so much so that she has generals willing to engage in extrajudicial encounters and even do illegal wiretapping just to keep her in power thinking she is damsel in distress. you may also want to look at all those men surrounding her. the thing is, she cannot order her general and men to follow the law because they know something about her that completely repudiates such dictum. on the other hand, if she has no skeletons in her closet and orders the arrest of a general for disobedience even before such a general’s men, her being a woman notwithstanding, the general will be arrested. it is as simple as that.

  4. …that this is a sign that she has lost control of her own house”, I meant.

    Jeg

    Precisely, what I’ve been saying. Even if she is innocent of all these wrongdoing, it happened under her watch.

  5. Bencard: do we always have to change presidents through “people power”?

    Well, that assumes a duly elected, not a cheating sitting one. of course, the rule of law makes (all the better for the cheater) people deaf, dumb and blind, isn’t it?

  6. Beancurd,

    The generals surrounding her have so much to lose if she falls, they have given up integrity, courage, and loyalty – things they used to regard as the reason for their existence. Its basically survival now, if push really comes to shove, its easy for them to turn around and say “we chose to support the people!” As you may have witnessed earlier…

  7. RAM: are these generals PMA graduates?

    “WE, THE CADETS DO NOT LIE, CHEAT, STEAL NOR TOLERATE THOSE WHO DO.”

    1. A cadet does not lie. In his dealing with others, a cadet tells the truth, regardless of the consequences. He does not quibble. He does not make evasive statements.

    2. A cadet does not cheat. A cadet does not defraud others nor does he take undue advantage of them.

    3. A cadet does not steal. A cadet does not take any personal property of another without the latter’s consent. He does not keep for himself anything that he finds which does not belong to him.

    4. A cadet does not tolerate any violation of the Code. A cadet is bound to report any breach of the Code that comes to his attention. He does not countenance by inaction honor violations; if he does, he becomes party to such a violation and he himself is as guilty as the violator.

    5. A cadet does not squeal on his mistahs, no matter what crime they do so long as they share the loot. only through this code will we remain above the law.

  8. “What could be in the food that so many congressmen, governors, and mayors were suddenly afflicted with extreme amnesia, failing to remember what happened that day?” – shaman

    Its called “selective amnesia.” It occurs mostly when exposed to traumatic experience that the brain inorder to protect itself pushes these traumatic experiences’ memory into the subconscious, burying it so to speak. But what could be this “trigger” this extremely traumatic experience – the sight of too much cash, cold cash, just for the taking! Mama mia!

  9. Equalizer,

    These generals are holding on to power or to GMA because they have lost everything else. They’ve lost the respect of their peers, their class, and if you go to the barracks right now you won’t hear the soldiers singing praises for them, you should hear the expletives they have for GMA.

  10. “No of course not. Impeachment will do nicely, thank you very much. ” Jeg

    My christmas wish exactly. No storming the palace gates, too messy, I have a business to run.

  11. RAM:I agree with you!the brave marines are not even getting the “promised” combat pay increases!And yet it is so easy to give P500K in brown money bags to begging congressmen and governors.

  12. “5. A cadet does not squeal on his mistahs, no matter what crime they do so long as they share the loot. only through this code will we remain above the law.”

    Equalizer, this violates the “toleration” clause earlier.
    Squeeling is a word best used in military secrets, you don’t squeel even under torture. But any breach to the code is not tolerated.

  13. “Precisely, what I’ve been saying. Even if she is innocent of all these wrongdoing, it happened under her watch.” – ramrod

    For the sake of argument:
    Malfeasance – we don’t have the proof/evidence/facts as somebody pointed out.

    Misfeasance – the same as the above.

    Nonfeasance – herein lies the problem, our eyes cannot lie to us

  14. Equalizer,

    Esperon has lost it. Its like a powder keg, if some junior officers will care to light it, it will explode. Fortunately (unfortunately) for us, most of them have learned their lesson (Honasan, Oakwood, etc.) and the old guards are teling everybody to stand down, stick to the chain of command, which is only sensible. We the people can handle this, and whether successful or not, its still “we the people” whos going to clean up the mess. What else is new? Its not like we’re all migrating somewhere else…

  15. Just out in Abante today,

    Combat pay ng sundalo inilabas na

    P73million combat incentive pay for soldiers who fought the Abu Sayaf and MILF in Basilan (August).
    P240/month per soldier during combat assignment
    P150/day incentive during actual combat operations

  16. Do the soldiers have to grumble before they get what is due them? These scoundrels of generals won’t move unless they are threatened

  17. Shaman,

    Yes, I noticed. If these were different times, the combat incentive pay would have been buried. I believe its part of the “firefighting” they are frantically doing right now.

  18. I saw on the news last night re the palace’s expenses, there was a liquidation but it looked funny, I couldn’t copy it, it went too fast, some money went to paying the golf course, some donations (no mention to where), I’ll check if its in the papers.

  19. “I saw on the news last night re the palace’s expenses, there was a liquidation but it looked funny, I couldn’t copy it, it went too fast, some money went to paying the golf course, some donations (no mention to where), I’ll check if its in the papers.” – ram

    Ram,
    It’s in the article of MLQ3 above this thread.

  20. Oh, I see.

    Qwert, MBW, if you need to learn a European language in preparation for european posting what language would that be? My boss says French, is this okay?

  21. Ram,
    I think MBW can better help you on this matter, she’s based in France (I’m not so sure), she probably knows the business environment in Europe.

  22. I’m withdrawing my call for an investigation of the breakfast food served in Malacanang last October 11.

    Turned out, they have, in fact, investigated the kitchen staff. The report I received said that a neophyte chef poured the entire contents of the box of conscience on Among Ed’s omelette. Realizing his mistake, he grabbed a bag of greed and sprinkled the contents liberally on the rest of the omelettes.

  23. Shaman,
    Very funny!I also recieved a report that the chef apologized to GMA for cooking so many omelettes that there are many left overs, but GMA never reprimanded the chef and told him to make sure that the omelettes be freezed inside the ref, the chef asked: Why Ma’am? GMA answered: ” You moron,you’ll be serving it again on November 5, there will be another breakfast.

  24. By the way, qwert, just to be sure, they ordered a container van full of greed. They were quite happy with the culinary discovery of the neophyte chef.

  25. Is that so? Shaman. That’s quite a large number of visitors. I hope the bishops are not included. I heard their courting them again.

  26. “Hinamon ni Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno si Speaker Jose de Venecia na magpakatotoo.

    Kailangan na raw sagutin ni de Venecia ang mga balitang siya ang nasa likod sa alegasyong “suhulan” para sirain ang imahe ni Pangulong Arroyo.DZMM”

    Beleive it or not from spin doctor Ronnie puno

  27. Got a tip – Grabe traffic, avoid area…roads leading there..lpg tank explosion..1:20pm, Luk Yuen resto area of Glorietta2/Landmark

  28. Hey guys,
    Manolo has posted a new thread and posted links to blogsites with pictures and eyewitness account of what happened.

  29. am getting conflicting reports about the damage. people are saying that almost an entire block is gone.

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