RODEL RODIS: THE QUESTIONS ABOUT CZAR LACSON's ASSETS

Rehab Czar Lacson has asked for P200 billion pesos in rehabilitation funds. Don’t the Filipino people deserve to know if he can be trusted with these government funds? In response to my article “The calamitous appointment of Czar Lacson”, some readers commented “Lacson may be a killer but at least he’s honest.” Almost 11 years ago, on January 21, 2003, I appeared in a Manila TV talk show, “Strictly Politics”, hosted by Pia Hontiveros, together with Sen. Lacson and his Philippine lawyer, Sigfried Fortun. Just before the show went on, I personally served Lacson with an Order of Examination (OEX) requiring him to appear in an Oakland courtroom on March 15, 2003 to answer creditor questions about his assets in the United States. Pia Hontiveros asked Lacson if he intended to appear in court on the OEX. Lacson hesitated and then smiled and said that he would willingly do so as it would provide him the opportunity to clear his name. What was unexpected was when he turned to me and said “Atty. Rodis, if you find any bank account in my name in the US, you can have it.” I responded, “No, Senator. If I find your bank accounts, I won’t keep them; I’ll see that they’re returned to the Filipino people where they belong.” Lacson stared at me, visibly angered, and asked: “Are you insinuating that I stole that money?” I responded “You don’t expect me to believe that you earned all that money honestly, do you?” .....read more below

ALSO: Killing the 'virus of corruption'

Former senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson minced no words in hitting the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program in an October 24 speech before members of the Philippine Constitution Association.
The former senator opened his “Pork Barrel 101” remarks with an interesting quotation from Mahatma Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.” He compared national budgets in 2002 – P782.9 billion – to 2011 – P1.645 trillion. The national debt in 2003 was P3.256 trillion. As of this year, it stands at P5.864 trillion. Each Filipino, “both living and unborn,” he says, is “P61,733.28 in debt” to foreigners and fellow Filipinos. Lacson emphasized that “The country has enough funds to sustain government operations year after year, but always ends up short and resorts to borrowings. There are two reasons for it – greed and corruption.” Lacson gave the assurance that while he supports the Philconsa petition, he does so “not to put President [Benigno] Aquino in a bad light.” He said, “As a former colleague in the Senate who can personally attest to the honesty and incorruptibility of President Aquino, I want to help him succeed in his well-intentioned daang matuwid vision for this benighted land...” Read more below...


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The questions about Czar Lacson’s assets
By Rodel Rodis 7:23 pm | Thursday, December 19th, 2013

MANILA, DECEMBER 16, 2013 (INQUIRER) In response to my article “The calamitous appointment of Czar Lacson”, some readers commented “Lacson may be a killer but at least he’s honest.” A number even asserted that Lacson is “incorruptible”.

As proof, they cite former Sen. Panfilo Lacson’s refusal to seek pork barrel allotments during his 12 years in the Philippine Senate. But is that really the best way to assess the honesty and integrity of a government official?

Almost 11 years ago, on January 21, 2003, I appeared in a Manila TV talk show, “Strictly Politics”, hosted by Pia Hontiveros, together with Sen. Lacson and his Philippine lawyer, Sigfried Fortun. The topic that evening was the civil judgment I had obtained against Lacson in the Alameda County Superior Court.

Just before the show went on, I personally served Lacson with an Order of Examination (OEX) requiring him to appear in an Oakland courtroom on March 15, 2003 to answer creditor questions about his assets in the United States.

Pia Hontiveros asked Lacson if he intended to appear in court on the OEX. Lacson hesitated and then smiled and said that he would willingly do so as it would provide him the opportunity to clear his name. I did not believe him for a minute but that was the usual politician’s response I expected.

What was unexpected was when he turned to me and said “Atty. Rodis, if you find any bank account in my name in the US, you can have it.”

I responded, as the videotape of that TV show will confirm, “No, Senator. If I find your bank accounts, I won’t keep them; I’ll see that they’re returned to the Filipino people where they belong.”

Lacson stared at me, visibly angered, and asked: “Are you insinuating that I stole that money?”

I responded “You don’t expect me to believe that you earned all that money honestly, do you?”

At the conclusion of the TV show, Lacson refused to shake my hands as he quickly departed the studio.

Two days later, Lacson flew to San Francisco and retained famed attorney Michael Cardoza to set aside the default judgment I had obtained against him.

According to his website, Cardoza is “a former major crimes prosecutor and nationally-known trial advocate with over 35 years of litigation experience and over 400 cases tried to verdict.”

Lacson got his money’s worth as Cardoza succeeded in setting aside the punitive damages portion of the civil judgment.

But despite numerous court hearings and appeals all the way up to the California Court of Appeals, Cardoza failed to set aside the compensatory damages of approximately $38,000 against Lacson.

After my judgment was confirmed by the California appellate court, I obtained another Order of Examination against Lacson which required him to appear in court on August 17, 2005 to answer my questions about his assets.

But Lacson did not appear in court as required. Instead, his lawyer, Tiffany Dunlap from the Cardoza Law Offices, appeared to inform the court that Lacson had “parliamentary immunity” and was not required to honor the court’s order. Judge Barbara Miller dismissed Dunlap’s argument and ordered the issuance of a bench warrant against Lacson if he did not appear at the next OEX hearing which was set for September 7.

If Lacson did not personally appear in court on that day, she said, then a warrant for his arrest would be issued.

The following week, on August 22, 2005, I wrote an article in my weekly column that recited the questions I would pose to Sen. Lacson if he appeared in court on Sept. 7.

These were among the questions:
1. Sen. Lacson, when you purchased your home at 1011 Laguna Seca Loop in Chula Vista, California on March 1, 1996, where did you get the money to buy it? When you sold it on July 20, 1999, where did you deposit the sale proceeds? Did you use it to buy your property at 2305 Sea Island Place in Chula Vista? What other real properties did you purchase in the United States?

2. Your April 22, 1996 Bank of America bank statement listed two bank accounts in your name at a BofA branch in Rancho Cordova, California . One was an interest-bearing checking account (17471-00188) and another was a regular savings account (17478-00046), together totaling $104,793.26. Your October 23, 1996 BofA bank statement showed that your two accounts had increased to $178,544.88. In 1996, you were chief of the Task Force Habagat of the Presidential Anti-Crime Commission. What was your salary then? After you closed your two BofA bank accounts, where did you transfer your funds to?

3. On November 13, 2000, the records show that you remitted $100,000 to your wife (Alice Lacson) at her Bank of America Woodman Sherman branch account in Van Nuys , California through the Bank of New York. Two days later, on November 15, the amount of $49,980 was sent by “Teresita Go” to the same Bank of America account through the HSBC Bank in New York . On November 27, another $149,980 was remitted to the same account also through the HSBC Bank in New York. On December 26, another $144,339.62 was remitted to the same account through the Bank of New York. Where did all this money come from and what happened to the money?

4. On January 8, 2001, your wife had two Bank of America accounts (24306-01369 and 24301-01390) in her name totaling $356,464.54. Where did all this money come from?

5. About 4 months later, on May 8, 2001, these same accounts had $251,174.25 left. On June 5, 2001, your wife withdrew $246,199.25 from these two accounts. Where was the money transferred to?

6. From that Bank of America account, your wife wrote two checks to purchase two Toyota Sequoia SUVs from Longo Toyota in Sacramento , one on December 3, 2000 for $50,000, and another on December 27,2000, also for $50,000. Where are these SUVs now?

7. On December 27, 2000, your wife formed a California limited liability company called “Orient Light, LLC” on January 8, 2001. On March 16, 2001, your wife made two checks to “Orient Light Freight Intl, Inc.”(Nos. 106 and 107), each in the amount of $50,000. On April 6, 2001, she filed a “statement of information” with the Secretary of State in Sacramento, California on “Orient Light, LLC” as “President/CEO” of the limited liability company. What is your interest in your wife’s companies?

8. On March 14, 2001, your wife withdrew $100,000 from her Bank of America account no. 24301 -01390. Where was this money transferred to?

9. On March 8, 2001, a Wells Fargo Bank account(Account no. 201-8575365) was opened in the name of “Orient Light, LLC” with the account signatories listed as Robert Co, president, and Alice Lacson, vice-president. On April 17, 2001, the monthly statement of this bank account showed an ending balance of $200,098. What happened to the assets of this LLC? Is this LLC still operating?

After my article appeared on August 22, 2005, I received a call from Michael Cardoza asking me for the precise amount Lacson owed on the judgment, down to the last penny. Two days before Lacson was required to appear in court on September 7, 2005, I received a cashier’s check from Cardoza in the amount owed by Lacson to my client.

I was unable to secure the answers to my questions but that was not the end of it.

A few months later, I received a phone call from Karl Buch, a deputy US attorney from New Jersey in the office of New Jersey US Attorney Christopher Christie. He said that his office was prosecuting the criminal case against Lacson’s military aide, Michael Ray Aquino, and that he would be leaving for Manila to depose Sen. Lacson, an “unindicted co-conspirator” in the criminal case.

Buch said that he had Googled Lacson’s name and came across my article about the questions I wanted to pose to Lacson at his OEX.

Buch requested me to send him the documents I had intended to present to Lacson. I promptly mailed the documents to the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey. Two weeks later, Buch called me to confirm that he had received all my documents and to inform me that he would not be leaving for Manila to depose Lacson after all.

Michael Ray Aquino had just agreed to plead guilty to the criminal charges against him with the understanding that the Manila deposition of Lacson would be called off. The US Attorney’s Office accepted the plea deal.

Michael Ray Aquino had agreed to “fall on the sword for his emperor”. He pled guilty and was sentenced to six years in a federal penitentiary. After serving four years, Aquino was released and extradited to the Philippines.

Sen. Lacson never did get to answer any of my questions despite his professed claim to Pia Hontiveros on national TV that he wanted to clear his name. He could clear his name if he truthfully answered the questions I posed and a few more like:

10. Sen. Lacson, where did you get the $38,000 to pay off the civil judgment against you? The legal bills charged by the Cardoza Law Offices for representing you over a two year period amounted to at least $100,000. Where did you get the funds to pay your attorneys fees?

11. Did you pay for the legal fees of the lawyers defending Michael Ray Aquino in the criminal case filed against him by the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey? The legal costs must have amounted to more than $100,000. Where did you get the funds to pay for it?

These are questions that no one has been able to ask Lacson and so he has never had to answer them. If he was not receiving pork barrel kick backs, at least while he was a senator, where did he get all his personal funds?

Rehab Czar Lacson has asked for P200 billion pesos in rehabilitation funds.

Don’t the Filipino people deserve to know if he can be trusted with these government funds and with the decision to pick the private contractors to receive these funds?

(Send comments to Rodel50@aol.com or mail them to the Law Offices of Rodel Rodis at 2429 Ocean Avenue, San Francisco, CA 94127 or call 415.334.7800).

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Killing the 'virus of corruption' By Jenny Ortuoste | Oct. 31, 2013 at 12:00am

Former senator Panfilo “Ping” M. Lacson minced no words in hitting the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Disbursement Acceleration Program in an October 24 speech before members of the Philippine Constitution Association.

The former senator opened his “Pork Barrel 101” remarks with an interesting quotation from Mahatma Gandhi: “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed.”

He compared national budgets in 2002 – P782.9 billion – to 2011 – P1.645 trillion. The national debt in 2003 was P3.256 trillion. As of this year, it stands at P5.864 trillion. Each Filipino, “both living and unborn,” he says, is “P61,733.28 in debt” to foreigners and fellow Filipinos.

Lacson emphasized that “The country has enough funds to sustain government operations year after year, but always ends up short and resorts to borrowings. There are two reasons for it – greed and corruption.”

Recorded savings in the national budget, he said, are “mainly due to underspending.” In 2002, total savings were P3.5 billion, in 2005, P111.6 billion and in 2009, P263.8 billion. If we have savings, why do we borrow? So that, he said, “para may mapaglaruang pondo ang mga nasa gobyerno” (so that people in government have money to play with).

He said that according to the Department of Budget and Management, some additional funding for senators’ pork barrels came from the DAP, which was sourced from savings in 2011, “or what is termed in the GAA [General Appropriations Act] as ‘unused appropriations’” consisting of unreleased appropriations and unobligated allotments.

“An undisclosed number of congressmen,” he added, “received at least P10 million in additional PDAF from the same program.”

Lacson made other revelations on the workings of the PDAF and DAP systems as used by lawmakers. These are detailed and complex and cite various laws.

This is not the first time he has given such exposes. He has spoken in the Senate various times against pork, recalling an instance in 2006 and notably in 2003 when he delivered “a scathing privilege speech on the Senate floor unequivocally calling for the abolition of the pork barrel system” no matter what name it was called.

“I referred to the system,” he said, “as a virus of corruption that must die.”

Lacson (like Senator Joker Arroyo), did not use his Senate pork of around P200 million a year, for the reason that “The pork barrel system is ugly, more often than not, cruel, sometimes merciless toward the people we all swore to serve and protect when we took our oath of office.”

What he advocates now is a fix of the system. “I personally believe,” he said, “… that the DAP per se is neither bad nor illegal,” but warns that “too much fiscal discretion by any branch of government will not only be unsupportive of the principle of check and balance, but will affect the fiscal management efficiency of the national government.”

With light shining on the dark corners of PDAF and DAP, the Filipino people are taking note and kicking a*s.

The movement contra pork began with the Luneta people’s march, and has spun off in various efforts, such as that of Philconsa.

On October 8, the group, represented by Dean Froilan Bacungan, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, and former National Treasurer Leonor Briones, filed a petition before the Supreme Court asking that the DAP be declared unconstitutional, and for recipients of the fund to cease using it and to return the money.

Lacson gave the assurance that while he supports the Philconsa petition, he does so “not to put President [Benigno] Aquino in a bad light.”

He said, “As a former colleague in the Senate who can personally attest to the honesty and incorruptibility of President Aquino, I want to help him succeed in his well-intentioned daang matuwid vision for this benighted land...”

Lacson did ask the President to correct the “flawed program and possible render the pending petitions moot and academic.”

In response to my question, “how can the funds that used to be in the PDAF and DAP be used for the good of the people?” Lacson suggests an alternative mechanism is to “incorporate the priority items during the budget call when all departments and line agencies submit to Malacañang their respective budgets.

“The same procedure may be followed by legislators who can also submit through their respective heads and appropriation and finance chairs their priority projects, including lists of hospitals and schools where they would want to send their poor constituents.

“In this way, we eliminate discretion on their part since the projects would have been pre-identified or pre-determined. Corruption would be minimized if not eliminated.”

Shall former senator Ping Lacson always be the voice crying in the wilderness, decrying the systematic corruption in government, or shall people finally take heed of the warnings he has been giving all these years?

It’s time to kill the virus of corruption.

*** Email: jennyo@live.com, Blog: http://jennyo.net, Facebook: Jenny Ortuoste, Twitter: @jennyortuoste


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