ELLEN TORDESILLAS: CENSORED

MANILA, September 20, 2003 (MALAYA) SOMETHING disturbing happened with "The Probe Team" last Tuesday night.

"The Probe Team", a magazine TV show hosted by respected journalist Cheche Lazaro, showed a replay of a mountain climbing special. Strange because Bernadette Sembrano, who anchored the late evening news, invited viewers not to miss "The Probe Team" which was to come next as it was going to be a lifestyle check on Efraim Genuino, chairman of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation.

Genuino is known as one of the closest friends of President Arroyo and husband, Mike. Genuino belongs to Makati Central Rotary Club, the favored source of the Arroyo administration for appointments to lucrative government agencies.

But the Genuino episode never came. What I saw were members of the Probe Team mountain climbing.

I inquired and I learned it was censored. Oh well, the reason given by the GMA-7 top bosses was that the show had several "loopholes". Yesterday I learned that Genuino got busy calling people explaining that "The Probe Team" script contained libelous allegations.

Intrigued, I made some calls and was able to get a copy of the script. "The Probe Team" used an innovative approach. Using the lifestyle check methods of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission, they did one on Genuino.

They realized it was not easy. For one, despite Malacaņang's high-profile lifestyle check on government officials as part of its supposedly anti-corruption campaign, government agencies are not very cooperative.

Also, despite President Arroyo's repeated declaration of her government's transparency, it's a major struggle getting public documents. This, the team experienced when they tried getting the statement of assets and liabilities of Genuino.

Pagcor stonewalled. So did Malacaņang in the beginning. The Ombudsman, the anti-graft body also refused to release Genuino's SAL.

PAGC was a little bit more cooperative but it turned out that Genuino had not submitted his SAL to the anti-graft investigating body despite the President's order to do so. When PAGC called up Genuino's office last Friday, he promised to send one that day, not later than 2 p.m. The Probe Team waited for it. There was no Genuino SAL past 2 p.m.

The Probe team was informed by PAGC a little before 5 p.m. that Genuino's SAL had arrived but they could not release it without the permission of Chairman Dario Rama, who was out of town.

Monday came, Rama was in town but he refused permission to have Genuino's SAL released saying that only SAL of officials facing charges can be made public. Since no charges had been filed against Genuino, he could not release it.

The Probe Team was able to get Genuino's SAL from the Office of the President. In fact, they didn't get only one but two. One was dated December 31, 2001 and December 31, 2002.

Aside from the abrupt increase in assets of Genuino, his SALs revealed other interesting items. Like, a number of directors in his companies are employed with Pagcor.

It also revealed that G. Barbin of Malacaņang's Record section, in-charge of the SALs, is Genuino's co-incorporator of Kaibigan ni GMA, a foundation set up with Mike Arroyo.

Cheche Lazaro and her team are not happy about the censorship and they are determined to have the Genuino episode shown next week. Will Genuino be able to block it again? Abangan. "The Probe Team" airs at 11 p.m. Tuesday.

And for what it's worth, the GMA official who ordered the show stopped is a government nominee to the San Miguel Corporation board.


Reported by: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2003  by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE