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January 26, 2012

Hypocrites In Sheep's Clothing

During the last few days the Philippine political landscape has once again been dragged into the limelight, thanks to the seemingly insatiable greed for grandstanding and public exposure of our 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice of Supreme Court, albeit unprepared as shown during the first 7 days of the impeachment trial. The ordinary citizenry need not listen to the legal luminaries invited by TV networks to explain their opinion on certain technicalities of the case to know that the prosecution is basically ill-prepared and at times even at a loss.

What perhaps shattered the high moral pedestal from which these congressmen accused the Chief Justice is the revelation that they too are actually guilty of at least one of the crimes they are accusing the Chief Justice of. One of the articles of impeachment signed by the 188 congressmen and women is the failure of the Chief Justice to disclose his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SAL-N). They are citing the Philippine constitution that all government employees are to file their SAL-N and disclose them to the public for transparency. According to the prosecution, the Chief Justice has failed to file and disclose his SAL-N.

While mainstream media and even the "less traditional media" such as blogs like were focusing their cross-hairs on the Chief Justice, trying to "validate" the "allegations" of the prosecution, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism was actually doing more, widening their perspective and field of vision. If Chief Justice Corona is being accused of failure to file and disclose his SAL-N, it is best to assume that those who accuse him of such a crime have probably filed and disclosed their SAL-N as well.

The PCIJ however found out that even the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint never disclosed their SAL-N in public and there was even no intention of disclosing them even after they have signed the impeachment complaint. What's more, even the present Ombudsman who is herself a former Justice also have not complied to the disclosure of SAL-N.

Thus, the debate on "Who should be casting the first stone?" has been on everyone's coffee breaks with their office mates and hair cut sessions with their barbers. When confronted by this issue, some of the members of the prosecution gave a lame excuse, saying, "We are not on trial here. The Chief Justice is the one on trial."

Those who side with the prosecution who describe themselves as with higher morals and integrity should find themselves, like the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court, in a quandary. Consistency dictates that these advocates of higher morality and integrity, enemies of corruption and graft, friends and defenders of transparency and accountability, should also demand the same standard of performance from the very congressmen that they support. In the war against the "dark side", you can never be less than "the light". It is basically a Black versus White scenario and in this case, as implied by the fierce loyalty of the supporters of P-Noy and his political allies, you cannot be Gray. It is reminiscent of the Bush Doctrine, "If you are not with us, you are against us." Such motto is not only naive and ignorant of realities but it is also very divisive and polarizing.

But the members of the prosecution team find themselves as black as the "Dark Lord" they are fighting in the Senate Hall. Among the 188 congressmen who signed the impeachment complaint is Congressman Miro Quimbo who was the former President and Chief Executive Officer of PAG-IBIG Fund. He was the President of PAG-IBIG during the Globe Asiatique Scandal which, according to Sen. Osmena III, "The evidence of fraud is overwhelming (against) Everybody who is on the board."

"While the normal limit of funding commitment is P500 million per developer, Pag-IBIG officials went overboard (for obvious reasons, meaning money, but this couldn’t be proven because no one is willing to talk) by allowing GA to borrow “10 times more.”

Pag-IBIG officials had disclosed that since 1997, some P12.6 billion in housing loans were released to GA making it the most successful developer in the history of the Fund, because no one else comes close to the amounts it was able to wangle from the government." -Pag-IBIG pampered Globe Asiatique, The Daily Tribune, 03/24/2011.

Of course, the Lead Prosecutor, Rep. Neil Tupas, Jr should not be looking far if he wants to combat corruption and graft. Neil Tupas, Sr, his father and former governor of Iloilo, is himself facing allegations of graft and corruption. According to the blogsite Balitang Ilonggo (Ilonggo News), "On November 9, the COA at the capitol submitted to the COA regional office a list of 14 transactions amounting to P220.2 million which are considered “irregular, unnecessary, excessive and extravagant or unconscionable.” The provincial government headed by Governor Arthur Defensor Sr. said the series of communications from the Truth commission and COA prove that they are not behind efforts to nail down Tupas for graft and corruption." (Balitang Ilonggo)

President Noynoy himself has yet to explain his own SAL-N. When the SAL-N of the Chief Justice was presented to the Senate hesitantly by the Clerk of Court, invoking the Supreme Court en banc resolution of 1989 (way past the time of the current Chief Justice and during the time of Pres. Corazon Aquino, the mother of the present President), media was quick to notice how the Chief Justice's net worth increased three-fold over the span of 9 years.

What they failed to remember was President Noynoy Aquino's net worth increased by three fold as well but only within a span of 1 year! According to PCIJ (again), "withih a year after the May 2010 elections, President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III reported that his wealth had grown nearly three times, or from only P15,440,268 as of December 2009 to P54,999,370 as of December 2010."

In an article investigating the wealth of P-Noy, PCIJ revealed that President Noynoy's net increase in his wealth was 256% in a span of only 12 months.

"The rate of increase in Aquino’s wealth in the last year is unequalled by even his own record from 1998, when he first filed his SALN as a member of the House of Representatives, representing his home province of Tarlac. On his first term in the House, Aquino declared a net worth of only P8,707,247, which rose to P13,941,627 in 2007. This translates to a net increase in his wealth of only P5,234,380, or a growth rate of only 60 percent in nine years."

Comparing it therefore to the Chief Justice's alleged increase in wealth, Corona's increase in wealth appears pale to that of P-Noy's.

"To be sure, the P36.9-million excess campaign donations that he had reported to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) does not account for Aquino’s recent big net worth increase. Indeed, in his December 2010 SALN, he reported only P228,961 as his only “liability,” which he said represented his “Tax Payables” to the “Bureau of Internal Revenue” or BIR. 

The liability, imputing an applicable 30-percent tax levy, indicates that Aquino had earned compensation income of only P707,989, or roughly P58,999 in gross monthly pay, for the whole of 2010.

If he had enrolled his P36.9-million excess campaign donations as part of his income in 2010, according to the BIR’s Revenue Regulation 7-2011 dated Feb. 16, 2011, Aquino should have paid millions more in taxes.

BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares tells the PCIJ that the excess campaign funds were not recorded in the Income Tax Return (ITR) for 2010 that the president filed within the deadline last Apr. 15."

And while The Chief Justice was criticized for allegedly buying an 11-million worth of condominium, have we heard the same amount of criticism when P-noy bought his supposedly "third-hand" Porsche? Well, the criticism may have come from others but not from the usual mainstream media and with the same intensity.

"Critics also reminded P-Noy that only last month, he issued a memorandum “prohibiting all agencies from acquiring and using luxury vehicles for their operations, and to be more prudent in spending government funds, especially in the acquisition of motor vehicles to maximize the utilization of scarce government resources.”

However, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda was quick to defend P-Noy saying that he did not violate the memorandum because he used his own funds to purchase the Porsche. Huh? Mr. Lacierda, you don’t get it, do you?" - Filipino Journal

I do agree that it is high time to clean up our government and that we should start somewhere and for some perhaps the impeachment of the Chief Justice is a good start. I just wished it was somebody else who started it, somebody far better than the person being accused of corruption and graft.

Type rest of the post here

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