REP. GLORIA ARROYO CLEARED IN P728M FERTILIZER SCAM

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has cleared former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam. In a resolution signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on May 2, 2014, “there is no factual, or legal basis” to show Arroyo’s participation in the scheme. The resolution further stated that there is no evidence to establish that Arroyo has a hand in the disbursement of fund. “Criminal culpability cannot be imputed upon respondent [Arroyo] on the basis of the doctrine of qualified political agency…In this case, without proof that respondent actually authorized the acts complained of, she cannot be held liable for the illegal acts of her subordinates,” the resolution stated. “All in all, complainant’s allegations of respondent’s criminal liability for violation of Republic Act 3019 [Anti-Graft Law] lack any factual or legal basis. This office has no other recourse but to dismiss the case,” the resolution stated. The resolution recommending the dismissal of case against Arroyo was submitted to Morales on May 8, 2013 but Morales approved the recommendation only on May 2, 2014.READ MORE...

ALSO: The Fertilizer Fund scam

The Fertilizer Fund Scam is a Philippine political controversy involving accusations that Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante diverted P728 million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. In March 2004, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Senator Panfilo Lacson accused President Arroyo of vote-buying by authorizing the release of ₱728 million. The money was supposedly to be used for the purchase of fertilizers which would be distributed to the local officials. After a year, an episode of the Probe Team reported that some farmers claimed that they did not receive fertilizers from the funds released by the Department of Agriculture. A Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) special report was released later saying that billions of farm funds were used to fund the presidential campaign of Arroyo. Jocelyn Bolante Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante was the Agriculture Undersecretary when the fertilizer fund scam erupted. He is accused of diverting at least ₱728 million in fertilizer funds to President Arroyo's 2004 election campaign.READ MORE..

Fisherfolk group fears dismissal of plunder case vs GMA

The fisherfolk group that filed a plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the purchase of overpriced ice-making machines fears that the complaint could be junked by the Office of the Ombudsman. The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) suspects the Aquino government has brokered a deal with Arroyo’s camp, noting the Ombudsman’s recent dismissal of the graft case against Arroyo in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam. “The reversal of cases filed against Mrs. Arroyo seems to reflect exchange deals and political accommodation between the camp of President Aquino and the former president,” the group said. “This could yet deliver the ax on the P455-million plunder case on the procurement of overpriced ice-making machines,” it added. On Jan. 8, 2010, Pamalakaya filed the plunder case against Arroyo, then Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, officials of the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR), and members of the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in connection with the allegedly overpriced purchase of 98 ice-making machines costing P455 million. Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said that on July 19, 2011 the group received a letter from the office of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala informing the group about the status of the delivery of ice-making machines. READ MORE...

ALSO: Palace confident other cases vs. GMA will prosper

Malacañang remains confident that the charges filed by the Aquino administration against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not end up like the fertilizer fund scam case recently junked by the Office of the Ombudsman. Presidential Communication Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed out that the corruption case involving the alleged distribution of P728-million fertilizer funds to Arroyo allies for election purposes was filed during the previous administration. But the present government, Coloma said, has pursued comprehensive analysis of data and relevant information to bolster the cases that it has filed against Arroyo, who is now a Pampanga lawmaker. "Ang mga kasong inihaharap ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ay nababatay sa konkretong ebidensya at sa buong pagsisikap na mapatunayan ito sa ating mga hukuman alinsundod sa mga proseso ng katarungan ng ating bansa," Coloma said in a televised press briefing. "Walang ganyang pangangamba," added Coloma, on fears that the other cases against the former leader will fail. On May 2, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales signed an eight-page decision dismissing the fertilizer fund scam case filed against Arroyo. The anti-graft body said there is no evidence to show that Arroyo had a hand in the anomaly for which former agriculture secretary Luis "Cito" Lorenzo and former undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante were charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan in June 2011. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: Who lost GMA case? Not us, says Palace

The Aquino administration cannot be faulted for the dismissal of the graft case against former President and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the P728-million fertilizer scam since it was during the previous administration that the case was filed, Malacañang said yesterday. “Let’s take note that the case on the so-called fertilizer scam was not filed during the Aquino administration. This was filed in the previous one by the late solicitor general Frank Chavez,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said. He said that the Palace nonetheless respects the decision made by the Office of the Ombudsman. “We respect the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, which has the authority to decide on such cases filed before it,” he said. At the same time, Coloma expressed belief that the two other cases the government filed against Arroyo would not end up the same way. These are the electoral sabotage and plunder cases being heard by the Pasay City regional trial court and the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, respectively. Both are non-bailable offenses but Arroyo was granted bail on the electoral sabotage case. “There is no such concern (over possible dismissal of the case),” Coloma said. He said the cases filed by the administration were based on “concrete evidence.” He said administration lawyers and concerned bodies have thoroughly examined every “relevant information and data” in the cases against Arroyo to ensure justice is achieved. One big case left? With Arroyo’s exoneration in the fertilizer fund scam, the only remaining big case against her is the plunder case for her alleged role in the embezzling of the Malampaya Fund filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last year. Four cases filed against the former leader have now been dismissed by the anti-graft agency in a span of only 19 months.READ MORE...

COLUMN: Amal’s reputation as a human rights lawyer

After reviewing documents and the cases filed against her, Amal has decided to take up the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. The key to Amal’s thinking, it seems to me, is how to distinguish between accusations and the right of the accused to defend himself/herself against those accusations. Long before her engagement to George Clooney was announced, she was famous in her own right as an international lawyer. She has tackled high profile cases that other lawyers would not touch because of the political difficulties involved. But the legal firm where she works, Doughty Chambers, is used to media attention and the work involved when they take up a case. As I wrote in last week’s column, there were similarities between the case of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yevgenia Tymoshenko and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Both were politically motivated. Tymoshenko finished second in a very closely contested run-off of the Ukrainian presidential election. The winner was Viktor Yanukovych who immediately filed a number of criminal cases against her once he was in power. “On October 11, 2011, she was convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, and sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay the state $188 million. The prosecution and conviction were viewed by many countries and international organizations – most prominently the European Union – as politically biased.” according to Wikipedia. Tymoshenko was eventually released on Feb. 22, 2014 after the Ukrainian criminal code was revised. The new law effectively decriminalized the accusations for which she was imprisoned. Moreover she was officially rehabilitated on Feb. 28, 2014. The Supreme Court of Ukraine closed the case and found that “no crime was committed.” Former President Arroyo has been imprisoned since 2010 even without any conviction. She is seeking bail so she could get special medical treatment abroad because of her deteriorating health but this has been turned down. Recently the cases brought against her, such as the fertilizer scam, the PCSO were dismissed for lack of witnesses or evidence. READ MORE...


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Rep. Gloria Arroyo cleared in P728M fertilizer fund scam


Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. AFP FILE PHOTO

Fourth case vs ex-President dismissed by the Ombudsman

MANILA, Philippines–Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales has cleared former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of involvement in the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.

In a resolution signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on May 2, 2014, “there is no factual, or legal basis” to show Arroyo’s participation in the scheme.

The resolution further stated that there is no evidence to establish that Arroyo has a hand in the disbursement of fund.

“Criminal culpability cannot be imputed upon respondent [Arroyo] on the basis of the doctrine of qualified political agency…In this case, without proof that respondent actually authorized the acts complained of, she cannot be held liable for the illegal acts of her subordinates,” the resolution stated.

“All in all, complainant’s allegations of respondent’s criminal liability for violation of Republic Act 3019 [Anti-Graft Law] lack any factual or legal basis. This office has no other recourse but to dismiss the case,” the resolution stated.

The resolution recommending the dismissal of case against Arroyo was submitted to Morales on May 8, 2013 but Morales approved the recommendation only on May 2, 2014.

In 2011, the Office of the Ombudsman already recommended the dismissal of case against Arroyo, but a reinvestigation was conducted after another plunder complaint was filed.

This is the fourth case dismissed by the Ombudsman against the former president.

Last month, Morales cleared Arroyo and her son Camarines Sur Representative Diosdado Ignacio “Dato” Arroyo over the P1-billion Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects.

The Ombudsman also cleared Arroyo in the plunder case in connection with the P72 million in capital gains tax allegedly due but not collected in the sale of the old Iloilo Airport to Megaworld Corporation in 2007.

The Ombudsman said complainant Danilo Lihaylihay failed to present proof that Arroyo, as well as former Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and several others benefitted from the sale.

On the other hand, Arroyo was also cleared in the alleged misuse of the P530 million Overseas Workers’ Welfare Administration.

Reports from the Commission on Audit showed that the funds were properly liquidated and used to help Filipino workers in Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain.

FROM WIKIPEDIA

The Fertilizer Fund scam  


JOC-JOC BOLANTE

The Fertilizer Fund Scam is a Philippine political controversy involving accusations that Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante diverted P728 million in fertilizer funds to the 2004 election campaign of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In March 2004, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported that Senator Panfilo Lacson accused President Arroyo of vote-buying by authorizing the release of ₱728 million. The money was supposedly to be used for the purchase of fertilizers which would be distributed to the local officials.

After a year, an episode of the Probe Team reported that some farmers claimed that they did not receive fertilizers from the funds released by the Department of Agriculture. A Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) special report was released later saying that billions of farm funds were used to fund the presidential campaign of Arroyo.

Jocelyn Bolante Jocelyn "Joc-Joc" Bolante was the Agriculture Undersecretary when the fertilizer fund scam erupted. He is accused of diverting at least ₱728 million in fertilizer funds to President Arroyo's 2004 election campaign.

When the controversy broke out in 2006, Bolante fled to the US and sought asylum, but his petition was denied by the US courts and he was eventually deported.

Bolante arrived in the Philippines on 28 October 2008. Upon his arrival, the Senate effected the warrant on Bolante, initially holding him under hospital arrest.

After a month, Bolante appeared on the Senate for the first time. He denies that the money was misused stating that there was no fertilizer scam despite the findings of the Commission on Audit that there was ‘excessive overpricing’ of the liquid fertilizer purchased by Bolante's proponents.

He cleared President Arroyo from any direct involvement. He also cleared the congressmen and other local officials implicated in the fertilizer fund scam.

Investigation

Task Force Abono is currently looking into the involvement of some 140 congressmen in the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) program of the Department of Agriculture.

FROM PHILSTAR

Fisherfolk group fears dismissal of plunder case vs GMA By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 11, 2014 - 12:00am 1 110 googleplus0 1

SAN FERNANDO, Philippines – The fisherfolk group that filed a plunder case against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the purchase of overpriced ice-making machines fears that the complaint could be junked by the Office of the Ombudsman.

The Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya) suspects the Aquino government has brokered a deal with Arroyo’s camp, noting the Ombudsman’s recent dismissal of the graft case against Arroyo in connection with the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

“The reversal of cases filed against Mrs. Arroyo seems to reflect exchange deals and political accommodation between the camp of President Aquino and the former president,” the group said.

“This could yet deliver the ax on the P455-million plunder case on the procurement of overpriced ice-making machines,” it added.

On Jan. 8, 2010, Pamalakaya filed the plunder case against Arroyo, then Agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, officials of the National Agribusiness Corp. (NABCOR), and members of the Bids and Awards Committee of the Department of Agriculture (DA) in connection with the allegedly overpriced purchase of 98 ice-making machines costing P455 million.

Pamalakaya vice chairperson Salvador France said that on July 19, 2011 the group received a letter from the office of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala informing the group about the status of the delivery of ice-making machines.

Alcala informed Fernando Hicap, chair of Pamalakaya and representative of Anakpawis party-list, that 56 of the 98 ice-making machines were already delivered on site while several units were en route.

He said one ice-making machine was delivered in Dagupan City; two in Sanchez Mira in Cagayan and Basco, Batanes; six in the provinces of Aurora, Tarlac, Pampanga and Nueva Ecija; four in Occidental and Oriental Mindoro; nine in Camarines Sur, Camarines Norte, Masbate and Albay; six in Negros Occidental, Antique and Iloilo; two in Cebu and Bohol; five in Leyte, Samar and Biliran; five in Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur and Zambo Sibugay; six in Misamis Occidental, Misamis Oriental, Camiguin and Lanao del Norte; two in Davao Oriental and Davao del Norte; three in Sarangani, South Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat; two in Agusan del Norte and Surigao del Norte; and one in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Alcala said the delivery of the remaining 35 units would be completed on or before October 2011, while eight more units were being re-evaluated.

He also said that NABCOR had already submitted its report on the status of the ice-making machine project.

Pamalakaya is now counterchecking developments following reports that not all were delivered. – With Michelle Zoleta

Palace confident other cases vs. GMA will prosper By Louis Bacani (philstar.com) | Updated May 9, 2014 - 2:15pm 4 147 googleplus0 0


Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo goes to the Sandiganbayan for a plunder case. FILE PHOTO

Malacañang remains confident that the charges filed by the Aquino administration against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will not end up like the fertilizer fund scam case recently junked by the Office of the Ombudsman.

Presidential Communication Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. pointed out that the corruption case involving the alleged distribution of P728-million fertilizer funds to Arroyo allies for election purposes was filed during the previous administration.

But the present government, Coloma said, has pursued comprehensive analysis of data and relevant information to bolster the cases that it has filed against Arroyo, who is now a Pampanga lawmaker.

"Ang mga kasong inihaharap ng kasalukuyang administrasyon ay nababatay sa konkretong ebidensya at sa buong pagsisikap na mapatunayan ito sa ating mga hukuman alinsundod sa mga proseso ng katarungan ng ating bansa," Coloma said in a televised press briefing.

"Walang ganyang pangangamba," added Coloma, on fears that the other cases against the former leader will fail.

On May 2, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales signed an eight-page decision dismissing the fertilizer fund scam case filed against Arroyo.

The anti-graft body said there is no evidence to show that Arroyo had a hand in the anomaly for which former agriculture secretary Luis "Cito" Lorenzo and former undersecretary Jocelyn "Jocjoc" Bolante were charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan in June 2011.

Coloma reiterated that the Palace respects the decision of the Ombudsman.

Arroyo remains under hospital detention at the Veterans' Memorial Medical Center for a plunder case in connection with the alleged misuse of about P360 million in Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) funds.

She was first held in the same hospital for separate charges of electoral sabotage, but was released on bail in 2012.

In October 2013, the National Bureau of Investigation filed plunder charges at the Office of the Ombudsman against Arroyo and 23 others, including businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, for their alleged involvement in the P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

Who lost GMA case? Not us, says Palace By Delon Porcalla (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 10, 2014 - 12:00am 0 23 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration cannot be faulted for the dismissal of the graft case against former President and now Pampanga congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in connection with the P728-million fertilizer scam since it was during the previous administration that the case was filed, Malacañang said yesterday.

“Let’s take note that the case on the so-called fertilizer scam was not filed during the Aquino administration. This was filed in the previous one by the late solicitor general Frank Chavez,” Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. of the Presidential Communications Operations Office said.

He said that the Palace nonetheless respects the decision made by the Office of the Ombudsman.

“We respect the findings of the Office of the Ombudsman, an independent constitutional body, which has the authority to decide on such cases filed before it,” he said.

At the same time, Coloma expressed belief that the two other cases the government filed against Arroyo would not end up the same way. These are the electoral sabotage and plunder cases being heard by the Pasay City regional trial court and the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court, respectively. Both are non-bailable offenses but Arroyo was granted bail on the electoral sabotage case.

“There is no such concern (over possible dismissal of the case),” Coloma said.

He said the cases filed by the administration were based on “concrete evidence.”

He said administration lawyers and concerned bodies have thoroughly examined every “relevant information and data” in the cases against Arroyo to ensure justice is achieved.

One big case left?

With Arroyo’s exoneration in the fertilizer fund scam, the only remaining big case against her is the plunder case for her alleged role in the embezzling of the Malampaya Fund filed by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) last year.

Four cases filed against the former leader have now been dismissed by the anti-graft agency in a span of only 19 months.

In October 2012, the ombudsman junked a plunder and graft complaint against the former leader in connection with her alleged involvement in the misuse of some P530 million in Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) Medicare funds.

Citing “utter lack of merit” and noting that money actually reached its intended beneficiaries abroad, the anti-graft agency reversed a Department of Justice (DOJ) recommendation dated Jan. 4, 2012 recommending the filing of a lesser charge of technical malversation against Arroyo.

In March 2013, the Office of the Ombudsman dismissed another plunder case filed against the former president in connection with the allegedly anomalous sale of the Iloilo airport.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said complainant Danilo Lihaylihay failed to present proof of acquisition of ill-gotten wealth on the part of Arroyo.

Last month, the ombudsman junked plunder and graft charges against the former president and her son, Camarines Sur Rep. Diosdado “Dato” Arroyo, in relation to the Libmanan-Cabusao Dam and Skybridge 1 and 2 projects in Camarines Sur.

Ombudsman Morales said there is no evidence to show that Arroyo and her son directly and actively participated in the planning or implementation of the projects.

Hastily prepared case

Former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo said the dismissal of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam case was proof that the administration was on a campaign to persecute her using “hastily prepared, totally weird cases.”

Lawyer Ferdinand Topacio said his client Mr. Arroyo was “gladdened and gratified” with the dismissal of the case against the former president “for lack of any legal or factual bases.”

Topacio said the dismissal came immediately after the ombudsman also dismissed the plunder charges filed against the lawmaker and her son Dato.

“A clear pattern of persecution emerges on the part of the present administration by way of filing Camoteng Cahoy Cases, hoping that one of them would hold water,” Topacio said.

“Unfortunately for them, even the most rabid administration puppets find it impossible to find merit in these hastily prepared, totally weird cases,” he said.

He said Mr. Arroyo was grateful to those who continue to stand by his family.

“(They are) the decent people of society, who can see beyond the sanctimonious veneer of the Aquino government, and we are hopeful that after this benighted regime, real justice will triumph and all lies shall vanish,” Topacio said.

In an eight-page decision signed on May 2 by Morales, the anti-graft agency junked the corruption case filed against the former president.

Also yesterday, former Commission on Audit (COA) chief Reynaldo Villar was released from detention at Camp Crame after posting bail for the plunder case he is facing before the Sandiganbayan.

Villar was arrested last month for his alleged involvement in fund anomalies at the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) during the Arroyo administration.

After being detained for 16 days at the PNP Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region (CIDG-NCR), Villar walked out of his cell at about 5:58 p.m. His lawyer posted bail for his temporary freedom.

“I felt vindicated even if there is still a pending case against me,” Villar was quoted as telling his CIDG guards.

Protests

The militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP), in a statement issued yesterday, condemned the Office of the Ombudsman for exonerating the former president.

The group accused Morales of failure to investigate Arroyo when the ombudsman ruled that “there is no factual, or legal basis” to show Arroyo’s participation in the scheme.

“Task Force Abono, with the blessings of the Aquino administration, consciously maneuvered to absolve Arroyo and her minions from the plunder of the fertilizer funds scam,” KMP said.

“Task Force Abono did not conduct a genuine investigation nor summon the victims of plunder scheme, merely relied on the complaints, and rejected outright the report and recommendations of two Senate committees that truly probed the scam,” KMP secretary-general Antonio Flores said.

In October last year, the NBI filed plunder charges against the former president and 23 other individuals, including former officials of her administration, for alleged involvement in the P900-million anomaly.

Only two cases against the former president have actually reached the Sandiganbayan – the national broadband network (NBN) graft case and the PCSO plunder case for which she is being held without bail.

The dismissal of the case, according to the Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamamalakaya ng Pilipinas (Pamalakaya), is “the biggest reversal in recent history, a blockbuster case of political accommodation involving the highest office in the land.”

“The dropping of the case against former President Arroyo is a national foul play committed against millions of farmers, fisherfolk and rural people. This was done to accommodate the Arroyo camp in exchange for political benefits and negotiated political settlements between the camp of Aquino and the camp of Arroyo,” Pamalakaya said in a statement.

Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), for its part, lambasted the Aquino administration for lack of concrete action on the 10-year-old “Hello, Garci” scandal.

In a statement marking the 10th anniversary of the fraud-tainted election on May 10, 2004, Bayan secretary-general Renato Reyes said “there has not been any real effort on the part of the current government to ascertain the actual results of the polls and determine the real extent of the cheating.

“The 10th anniversary of the 2004 poll fraud reminds us that justice remains elusive. Our electoral system will remain vulnerable to fraud,” he said.

Garci was believed to be former Commission on Elections (Comelec) commissioner Virgilio Garcillano who was allegedly wiretapped while discussing cheating in the elections in Mindanao in 2004.

Bayan lamented that until now, none of those implicated in the scandal have been penalized.

Reyes added that many of those who helped exposed the fraud and campaign for Arroyo’s removal from office have already passed away but nothing has happened to the case.

“Even under the so-called ‘daang matuwid’ of the Aquino regime, no criminal case has been brought against Arroyo and other officials complicit in the rigging of the 2004 elections. The case filed against Arroyo was for election sabotage in relation to the 2007 polls,” he said.

He said that “some of the fraud operators of the 2004 elections allegedly remain in Comelec and still operate for various politicians.” – Paolo Romero, Michael Punongbayan, Sheila Crisostomo, Jaime Laude, Michelle Zoleta

Amal’s reputation as a human rights lawyer FROM A DISTANCE By Carmen N. Pedrosa (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 10, 2014 - 12:00am 3 29 googleplus0 0


By Carmen N. Pedrosa

After reviewing documents and the cases filed against her, Amal has decided to take up the case of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. (Amal Alamuddin photo at right)

The key to Amal’s thinking, it seems to me, is how to distinguish between accusations and the right of the accused to defend himself/herself against those accusations. Long before her engagement to George Clooney was announced, she was famous in her own right as an international lawyer. She has tackled high profile cases that other lawyers would not touch because of the political difficulties involved.

But the legal firm where she works, Doughty Chambers, is used to media attention and the work involved when they take up a case.

As I wrote in last week’s column, there were similarities between the case of Ukraine’s former Prime Minister Yevgenia Tymoshenko and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Both were politically motivated.

Tymoshenko finished second in a very closely contested run-off of the Ukrainian presidential election. The winner was Viktor Yanukovych who immediately filed a number of criminal cases against her once he was in power. “On October 11, 2011, she was convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power, and sentenced to seven years in prison and ordered to pay the state $188 million. The prosecution and conviction were viewed by many countries and international organizations – most prominently the European Union – as politically biased.” according to Wikipedia.

Tymoshenko was eventually released on Feb. 22, 2014 after the Ukrainian criminal code was revised. The new law effectively decriminalized the accusations for which she was imprisoned. Moreover she was officially rehabilitated on Feb. 28, 2014. The Supreme Court of Ukraine closed the case and found that “no crime was committed.”

Former President Arroyo has been imprisoned since 2010 even without any conviction. She is seeking bail so she could get special medical treatment abroad because of her deteriorating health but this has been turned down. Recently the cases brought against her, such as the fertilizer scam, the PCSO were dismissed for lack of witnesses or evidence.

There are pictures of Amal during the Tymoshenko trial. She sat in court with star QC Geoffrey Robertson and Tymoshenko’s daughter. We do not see such news in our local media so it came as a surprise that she would have anything to do with Arroyo’s imprisonment and Philippine politics. But the case of the former Philippine president comes within the purview of Amal’s expertise – “even political enemies have rights.” She has a right to seek medical attention wherever she thinks is best for her.

In a few days we will hear what Amal’s next move will be but in the meantime we should refrain from referring to her simply as George Clooney’s fiancée. She is much more than that.

Certainly what the engagement has done is make the concern for human rights more glamorous. That to me is the good news. Human rights can be terribly boring to ordinary readers but if you add the fillip that George Clooney’s girl friend is into human rights, it changes the paradigm. We will pay more attention to it from hereon.

* * *

The defense of human rights comes under the 1993 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action of which the Philippines is a signatory. Hence its laws and government actions must be consistent with its provisions. Unfortunately, most countries and that includes the Philippines take the view that due to particular conditions ie culture and governance, the Vienna Declaration is not relevant to them.

Among other things, VDPA provides that “All human rights are universal, indivisible and interdependent and interrelated. The international community must treat human rights globally in a fair and equal manner, on the same footing, and with the same emphasis. While the significance of national and regional particularities and various historical, cultural and religious backgrounds must be borne in mind, it is the duty of States, regardless of their political, economic and cultural systems, to promote and protect all human rights and fundamental freedoms. That is Article 5 of the declaration.

It will be interesting how it will be applied in the case of a former head of state being punished because she was a political enemy.

I would think that when the case of former President Gloria Arroyo comes under close scrutiny the decision could be expanded to other Filipino human rights victims. It isn’t just because she was former president but whether her continuous incarceration without any conviction can stand the test of what we agreed to when the country signed the 1993 Vienna Declaration.

“The Philippines has ratified numerous human rights instruments. Its Supreme Court has ruled in favor of domestic application of international human rights standards. The 1987 Philippine Constitution has provisions recognizing human rights, including the right to health,” adds the report.

Perhaps with the publicity gained by the Arroyo case because of Amal, justices and lawyers in the Philippines will be more careful in making decisions that do not conform to the universal declaration of human rights.

* * *

Wars happen when there is incessant talk about war. If President Obama says his country’s goal is not to “contain or counter China” then we should contribute to acts that foster goodwill rather than provocative action in the guise of protecting our territory.

Last Wednesday a group of us, Chinese and Filipinos did just that. In the group was Ambassador Alberto Encomienda, frustrated but still batting for the protection and management of the sea by the joint efforts of the peoples of countries that border it.

Also there was Art Valdez, the intrepid adventurer-hero who climbed Mount Everest and built a balanghay, the boat used by our ancestors as they traveled and traded across the region. “The sea was the unifying factor in the region,” he said.

In the group too were community leaders of Paete who have invited the Chinese embassy officials to come to their town and see the handicrafts which made it famous – woodcarving and paper mache.

It fit the conversation about balanghays and the management of the sea.

Paete was first populated by Malays, who came with their own version of the balanghay and settled there.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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