MANILA, JUNE 18, 2011
 (TRIBUNE) By Gerry Baldo, Charlie V. Manalo and Aytch S. dela Cruz - Heeding President Aquino’s marching order to his allies in the House of Representatives to stop the probe of his KKKs (Kaibigan, Kaklase and Kabarilan), or presidential cronies, classmates and shooting range buddies, both Malacañang and the the presidential allies in the House are all set to junk the move of the House Minority bloc to hold an investigation on the issue, giving the same reason for blocking the move.

Aquino does not fear the House Minority’s congressional inquiry into his erring close allies but is merely questioning the “motives” of the opposition camp in pursuing such political undertaking, Malacañang clarified yesterday. This was echoed by a House ally.

Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said their concerns only spring from the huge probability that some lawmakers in the House, especially those who are not allied with the administration, may take advantage of the investigation to throw mud at their political foes.

“We have always been cognizant of the power of Congress to initiate an investigation in aid of legislation. However, our only appeal to the members of the House is not to let themselves be used as tools for mudslinging or political purposes,” explained Valte during a press briefing.

Valte also claimed that their position has never been inconsistent on the matter of the resolution filed by House Minority leader and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman to scrutinize some of Aquino’s controversial officials whom he apparently shielded from any accountability.

In the House, the move to investigate allies of Aquino will not prosper if the motive of the Minority bloc led by Lagman and former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo is to investigate the president.

House deputy speaker Lorenzo Tañada said that if it is proven that the target of the investigation is the president relative to alleged issues that have been committed by his Cabinet members, it is not going to prosper.

“I have not read the resolution yet but if they want to

investigate allies of Aquino will not prosper if the motive of the Minority bloc led by Lagman and former President and Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo is to investigate the president, an echo of what Malacañang stated.

House deputy speaker Lorenzo Tañada said that if proven that the target of the investigation is the president, relative to alleged issues that have been committed by his Cabinet members, it is not going to prosper.

“I have not read the resolution yet but if they want to investigate the president, that cannot be done. You cannot investigate the president,” Tañada said yesterday, despite the fact that the minority has made it clear that the KKKs will be the focus of the investigation.

The members of the minority have filed House Resolution 1419 seeking a probe on the alleged “failure to or desistance from imposing discipline on, suspension and/or dismissal of errant officials in the executive department who are close friend and/or allies of” Aquino.

Tañada said it was not mentioned in the resolution that the investigation would focus on those whom they alleged figured in wrongdoing but the failure of the president to police the ranks of his Cabinet members.

“You cannot question the right of the president to choose the officials who enjoy his trust and confidence. Also, what is there to complain about Secretary Purisima when he has already been confirmed by the Commission on Appointment (CA)?,” Tañada said.

The opposition lawmakers cited four errant Cabinet members who have been allegedly shielded and coddled by no less than President Aquino such as Undersecretary Ricardo Puno of the Department of the Interior and Local Government; Assistant Secretary and Land Transportation Office Chief Virginia Torres of the Department of Transportation and Communications; Secretary Purisima of the Department of Finance; and former Director Ernesto Diokno of the Bureau of Corrections.

The minority also cited the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) headed by Secretary Leila de Lima of the Department of Justice recommended the initiation of corresponding administrative proceedings against Undersecretary Puno for gross negligence under appropriate civil service laws, rules and regulations, while the Justice Department has recommended the filing of appropriate charges against and eventual dismissal of Assistant Secretary and LTO Chief Torres for her complicity and partiality in the failed Stradcom takeover.

The opposition said that the probe is in accordance with the Section 1 of Article 9 of the Constitution which states that “Public officers and employees must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty, and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives.”

The Minority bloc accused Aquino for letting the delinquent Cabinet members stay on despite adverse findings and recommendations of independent authorities.

Meanwhile, responding to the Palace’s charge that the probe will merely be a congressional venue for “character assassination” by the minority, the bloc yesterday said it is the Palace that is into “character resuscitation” of its errant officials and not the opposition that is resorting to such.

A ranking member of the opposition yesterday scored the Aquino administration for trying to stop the congressional inquiry on the President’s KKKs for the administration’s failure to impose sanctions on them as recommended by various agencies.

In a statement, Lagman twitted Presidential spokesman Lacierda for labeling as character assassination the probe called for by the minority in an apparent signal to the Palace;s congressional allies to block any investigation on the so-called presidential buddies.

“The conduct of congressional inquiries in aid of legislation is among the constitutional duties of the legislature and has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” Lagman said. “Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda again got it all wrong when he labeled as character assassination the House Minority’s Resolution No. 1419 urging an investigation of errant buddies and cronies of President Aquino.”

“These sacred cows in the President’s arsenal of shooting mates, schoolmates friendmates had already committed “character suicide” by their culpable misdeeds and misadventures,” the Albay solon stressed. “It is Malacañang which is performing character resuscitation on these wayward officials by coddling and insulating them from sanctions.”

The other day, Lacierda was quoted through a text message, discouraging House members from using Congress “as a venue for character assassination,” after being informed that the House minority is seeking an investigation of the adminstration’s failure and desistance to impose sanction on erring officials closely identified with Aquino.

Lacierda’s pronouncement was a complete departure for his earlier statement saying the Palace would not stop anyone from the administration from appearing before any congressional inquiry that the House of Representatives may call in the event the House Minority makes good of its plan to probe Aquino’s close allies.

Lagman said that if Lacierda accuses the opposition of resorting to character assassination for calling for an investigation on the administration’s own failure and desistance to impose penalties on the errant officials, it is barking up the wrong tree as he (Lacierda), would have to accuse first the Palace-controlled agencies and the fact-finding committees they have created of resorting to character assassination as these bodies were the ones who recommended the sanctions against the presidential buddies.

“Did the Incident Investigation and Review Committee headed by Justice Secretary De Lima commit character assassination against Undersecretary Puno of the DILG in recommending the filing of administrative and criminal charges against him for mishandling the fatal rescue operations during the hostage crisis in August last year?” Lagman said.

“Did the fact-finding and investigation panel of the Department of Justice commit character assassination against Assistant Secretary and Land Transportation Office Chief Virginia Torres when it recommended the institution of charges against her due to her complicity and partiality in the failed Stradcom takeover?”

“What character assassination is committed against former Director Ernesto Diokno of the BuCor who resigned in the wake of scandals rocking BuCor and yet was promised another job by the President?” Lagman’s lengthy narrative.

The solon said further that if the prosecution of political foes for alleged tax evasion is deemed proper, then “why should the investigation of Secretary Purisima of the Department of Finance for reported tax irregularities and conflict of interest be considered character assassination?”

“The self-serving explanations of these presidential buddies to their patron are insufficient to liberate them from liability and discipline,” Lagman said.

In an earlier interview she gave radio dwIZ, Valte was quoted saying that a congressional inquiry into the controversial allies of the oresident is “no longer necessary”.

“You know, I guess it’s no longer necessary. I think this is the first time we heard of an investigation to President Aquino’s appointees just because they’re his friends,” Valte was quoted saying in the radio interview.

Valte underscored that Malacañang as well as the abovementioned government officials have time and again denied any truth to the various allegations that are being relentlessly thrown at them by the opposition camp.

The deputy spokesman also commented on the statement of Sen. Panfilo Lacson, a known ally of Aquino, that the President failed to control his government officials despite his effort to maintain his “honest” image as a leader.

“I think from the past few months, the time when President Aquino has assumed office, he was able to show that he is in control of the government and that the members of his Cabinet and all those who serve under him know that, ultimately, it is the President’s decision,” Valte said.

Despite this claim, however, Valte was not able to explain why Aquino was not able to respond on the reported request of outgoing DoTC chief Jose de Jesus for him to exercise his disciplinary power over Torres.

Torres’ name has always been attached to the many stories that cropped up following De Jesus’ surprising resignation last May 30. She has been accused of “gross neglect of duty and gross insubordination for her continued refusal to perform official duties and obey as well as implement lawful orders from her superiors”.

Valte merely told reporters that she cannot comment on the memo which reportedly contained De Jesus’ request for Aquino to sanction Torres because they are not aware whether that particular document actually exists.

Ochoa named new anti-crime commission chief 06/18/2011 MALAYA

An all-out campaign against organized crimes and corrupt practices has been launched by President Aquino as he reorganized and strengthened the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) by virtue of Executive Order (EO) 46 yesterday.

Aquino tasked Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to act as PAOCC chairman while Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo, Justice Secretary Leila de

Lima, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin, and National Security Adviser Cesar Garcia will sit as members.

Also serving as members of the PAOCC are Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Eduardo Oban, Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Raul Bacalzo, National Bureau of Investigation Director Magtanggol Gatdula, National Intelligence Coordinating Agency Director General Trifonio Salazar, as well as the Executive Director of the Philippine Center for Transnational Crimes.

Aquino signed the latest EO on June 13 with some amendments from the previous presidential orders during the past two administrations that developed PAOCC as the central anti-organized crime wing of the Executive branch.

PAOCC, under EO 46, has widened its scope and now covers various criminal offenses “including but not limited to drug trafficking, human trafficking, carnapping, gunrunning, robbery/hold-up, kidnapping for ransom, smuggling, and transnational crimes.”

It is also expected to go after crimes that are considered “heinous” under Republic Act 7659 as well as wrongdoings committed by the members of the AFP, the PNP and all employees/officials serving the government.

“A steadfast, strong-minded, and unwavering campaign to eradicate organized crimes along with graft and corruption it breeds are among the priorities of this administration,” Aquino cited in EO 46’s first whereas clause.

Aquino further noted in his latest EO that “the reorganization and strengthening of PAOCC is imperative to substantiate and generate results in the fight to eliminate corrupt practices.”

He said the Revised Administrative Code of 1987 empowers him with continuing authority to furnish this directive.

Under the new EO, PAOCC is authorized to “prepare and implement a fast track anti-crime, anti-graft and corruption action plan and program, and adopt appropriate measures to ensure an effective and efficient anti-crime drive.”

It is also tasked to “conduct intelligence and counter-intelligence operations to identify government officials and employees, crime syndicates and their cohorts who are involved in criminal activities” as well as “cause or direct the immediate arrest, investigation, and speedy prosecution of the organized crime groups/syndicates, government officials and employees and any co-principals, accomplices and accessories with due regard to legal and constitutional processes.”

PAOCC may also refer these particular cases at hand as it deems proper and necessary to the Department of Justice (DoJ) and/or other appropriate law enforcement agencies for investigation or prosecution.

It is also expected to “follow up the progress of ongoing investigation and prosecution of cases” it has taken cognizance of and “recommend the passage of appropriate anti-crime issuances and legislation” as well as “select and recruit personnel from the PNP, the DoJ, and other government agencies for assignment to PAOCC, subject to the conformity of the agency concerned.”

PAOCC also has the responsibility to “enlist the assistance of any department, bureau, office, agency or instrumentality of the government including government-owned and -controlled corporations in the anti-crime and anti-graft and corruption drive which may include the use of their respective personnel, facilities, and resources for a more resolute prevention, defection, and investigation of crimes and prosecution of their perpetrators”.

Subject to the existing laws, PAOCC is also authorized to “grant monetary rewards or incentives to informants giving information leading to the successful prosecution of criminal offenders and corrupt government officials”.

Other responsibilities of the PAOCC include: referring cases involving alleged proceeds and gains of a crime to other agencies for purposes of initiation forfeiture and seizure proceedings in accordance with law; engage or contract the services of resource persons, professionals and other personnel deemed necessary to carry out PAOCC’s mandate; establish mechanisms for cooperation and join operations with international law enforcement agencies as well as other States and international organizations in accordance with law; and perform such other functions as may be directed by the President.

Aquino said the PAOCC’s budget shall be drawn from the remaining budget of the said agency under the Office of the President for the current year, subject to existing and applicable laws, rules and regulations.

EO 46, moreover, abolished the Presidential Task Force on the Security of Energy Facilities and Enforcement of Energy Laws and Standards that was previously established under PAOCC by virtue of EO 655 series of 2007 under former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration.

PAOCC was first established during former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada’s administration through his EO 8 as Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force in 1998 but was later on developed by his Arroyo. Aytch S. de la Cruz

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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