MARICHU VILLANUEVA: PNoy WON'T TINKER WITH CORY LEGACY
Marichu A. Villanueva
MANILA, FEBRUARY 24, 2014 (PHILSTAR) COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva - On February 28, the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) marks its 28th founding anniversary. The PCGG came into being three days after the February 25,1986 EDSA People Power Revolution ousted the late dictator President Ferdinand Marcos. It was on that historic day when the late President Corazon Aquino was swept into office at Malacañang.
Mrs. Aquino created the PCGG by virtue of Executive Order No.1, the first official act of her revolutionary government. Among other things, EO 1 empowered the PCGG to recover the ill-gotten wealth of the Marcos family and their cronies; to investigate graft and corruption and sequester these assets pending determination of their true ownership.
Dubbed as the “icon of democracy,” Mrs. Aquino made sure the loot of the Marcoses and their cronies must be plowed back to the Filipino people. Thus, EO 1 mandated all recovered ill-gotten wealth must go back to state coffers and be used to fund the government’s comprehensive agrarian reform program.
In the run-up to the EDSA anniversary this year, the PCGG recovered yet another substantial amount of ill-gotten wealth of the Marcoses.
This comes even as the Marcoses are back in government office while the country’s leadership is now headed by Mrs. Aquino’s son, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III.
The PCGG presently headed by Atty. Andres Bautista turned over last week to the National Treasury $29 million (or some P1.3 billion) in cash that form part of the Swiss bank accounts of ex-President Marcos and his family.
The amount had been held in litigation for almost ten years in Singapore courts due to claims filed by Marcos human rights victims.
Ironically, it was then associate justice Renato Corona who penned the Supreme Court (SC) ruling in 2003 that was used as basis in the latest recovery of the Marcos Swiss bank deposits. P-Noy worked for the impeachment of Corona who was ousted in 2012 as chief justice of the high court.
The latest amount is the remaining balance from the $684 million in “secret” bank accounts in Switzerland that have been recovered by the PCGG for the Philippine government through the years. The Marcos monies will now be released after P-Noy signed into law last year the compensation for Marcos human rights victims.
Without much fanfare, the PCGG reported this major accomplishment. Also quietly, three Swiss nationals were conferred last week with Presidential Merit for their “significant contributions” in the recovery of these bank accounts in Switzerland. The three were, namely, Guy Fontanet and Dr. Sergio Salvioni, former members of the Swiss Federal Parliament; and Moritz Leuenberger, former federal councilor and president of the Swiss Confederation.
The three Swiss nationals received the awards in simple rites held at the Philippine Embassy in Berne headed by Ambassador Leslie Baja. His counterpart here in Manila, Swiss Ambassador Ivo Sieber similarly welcomed the latest development as a “successful restitution” of the Marcos’ loot once stashed in bank accounts in Switzerland returned to the Philippines where it belongs.
Twenty-eight years since its creation, Bautista cited the PCGG has so far recovered around P167 billion total worth of ill-gotten wealth, the bulk of which came from the Marcos assets here and abroad. Of this total recovered ill-gotten wealth, Bautista takes pride in the fact that P72 billion were recovered and delivered in the last three and a half years of the Noy administration.
It is not clear though how much the Philippine government has spent so far in these efforts to recover ill-gotten wealth. But we have seen through the years the many foreign travels previous PCGG commissioners had. Some of them even got charged for graft because of unliquidated travel expenses for junkets abroad instead of searching for the Marcos loot.
Currently the 13th chairman since the creation of the PCGG, Bautista conceded much of the ill-gotten wealth criminal cases though remain pending for the past 28 years. Bautista laments that of those charged in 200 pending criminal cases on ill-gotten wealth filed before the Sandiganbayan, no one has yet been convicted.
The PCGG’s facing tough legal battles is, of course, expected. While those charged with ill-gotten wealth are able to afford the best lawyers, the PCGG has to make do with lawyers here and abroad that the Philippine government can hire within its approved budget.
Bautista himself is a Harvard law graduate and topnotcher of the 1990 bar examinations after his graduation from Ateneo Law. At the PCGG, Bautista is assisted by equally brilliant lawyers among his commissioners, two of whom are his handpicked deputies.
Aside from very expensive legal battles, the PCGG is also still running after people who have since returned to power and remain holding influential positions in and out of government.
Operating with a little more than P100 million budget a year, Bautista said the PCGG also continues to supervise and preserve companies still under sequestration. Bautista counted less than ten companies still under PCGG sequestration. Many of previously sequestered companies have gone bankrupt and some have since been returned to their owners, he disclosed.
In the meantime, the PCGG chief is pressing the criminal prosecution in a New York court of Vilma Bautista, who he swears is no relation. She is the former secretary of Mrs. Marcos who was recently convicted for the illegal sale of some of the more than 150 paintings of “prominent masters and artists” collected by the Marcos family but which reportedly went missing.
“There is still a lot of work that can be done in respect to pursuing ill-gotten wealth. We should not allow the taking of ill-gotten wealth to go unpunished,” the PCGG chief vowed.
While determined to do this, Bautista maintains the PCGG is ripe for abolition. Bautista is of the belief the government lawyers from the Department of Justice – where the PCGG has been transferred since 2007 – can continue with the job to prosecute ill-gotten wealth cases.
But with $29 million remittance last week to state coffers, P-Noy will continue to ignore any recommendation to abolish the PCGG. Like his adamant refusal to tinker with the 1987 Constitution, P-Noy frowns on anything that touches on his late mother’s legacy to the Filipino nation.
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) is a quasi-judicial agency created by Pres. Corazon Aquino to recover ill-gotten wealth accumulated during the Marcos regime.
After the People Power Revolution of 1986, Pres. Corazon Aquino issued Executive Order No. 1 on February 28, 1986, thereby making the creation of the PCGG, the first official act of the revolutionary government. (It is significant to note that, at the time of its creation, then Pres. Aquino was in full possession of both executive and legislative powers.)
While the PCGG was, for 21 years, traditionally under the supervision and control of the Office of the President, this institutional setup was changed when President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued Executive Order No. 643 on July 27, 2007, placing the PCGG under the administrative supervision of the Department of Justice.
(The case of Pimentel, Jr. v. Pagdanganan distinguishes between supervision and control: In administrative law, supervision means overseeing or the power or authority of an officer to see that subordinate officers perform their duties.
If the latter fail or neglect to fulfill them, the former may take such action or step as prescribed by law to make them perform their duties.
Control, on the other hand, means the power of an officer to alter or modify or nullify or set aside what a subordinate officer ha[s] done in the performance of his duties and to substitute the judgment of the former for that of the latter.")
Notwithstanding the clear direction under Sec. 2 of EO 643, no implementing guidelines have ever been issued by the DOJ.
Proposal for abolition
In January 2013, the commission is proposing to wind down operations and transfer its operations respectively to the Department of Justice and the Office of the Solicitor General and the Department of Finance for the pending civil litigation and the disposal of assets sequestered in the past years.
Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi
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