PART 2- SOLVING AQUINO: 'KKK' TRUMPS 'TUWID NA DAAN
Unlike his legal foibles, President Aquino’s second failing is simpler for most Filipinos to see: his unflinching defense of allies and associates caught in anomalies, while constantly castigating perceived rivals and enemies. Besides swiftly insisting on their innocence, Aquino rarely subjects those in his camp to honest-to-goodness investigations, and only in the face of strong public pressure. Even if probes are ordered, many are forgotten, no grave fault is ever found, and no one is sanctioned. This has gravely undermined governance in his administration. Called “KKK” for “kaklase, kakampi at kabarilan” (schoolmates, allies, and shooting buddies), presidential favor toward close associates and official appointees was, like disrespect with law and institutions, evident early in Aquino’s rule. And this KKK cronyism trumps even his avowed campaign against corruption.

ALSO: LP candidates top barangay heads’ polls

The ruling Liberal Party (LP) drew first blood in the positioning for the 2016 national elections by consolidating control of the 42,026-strong Association of Barangay Captains (ABC). The LP’s Nueva Ecija Barangay (village) chair Edmund Abesamis, older brother of Environment Assistant Secretary Rommel Abesamis, cornered 68 votes, or 60 percent, of the 115 ABC presidents of provinces and highly urbanized cities, while Yasser Pangandaman of Taguig City, a relative of former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, garnered 44.

ALSO: Palace: Day of prayer, Edsa II on same day ‘mere coincidence’

The Palace dismissed claims that President Aquino had revived the observance of Edsa 2 through the National Day of Prayer as it insisted that both occasions falling on the same day today was a mere coincidence despite critics’ assertion that Aquino could have chosen a less controversial day for his nationwide call to prayer. Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the event has no relation with the anniversary of Edsa People Power II. “The choice of date on national day of prayer has nothing to do with (Edsa II anniversary),” Coloma said. Coloma added even the past administration of former President Gloria Arroyo had not celebrated the 2001 event. Critics have said that Aquino through the instigation of his supporters who launched Edsa II is embarking on an effort to revamp the image of the discredited power grab. “It was not marked in the history of our nation. It was not celebrated. It was only coincidental,” Coloma said.


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Solving Aquino: ‘KKK’ trumps ‘Tuwid Na Daan’ by RICARDO SALUDO
REPUBLIC SERVICE SECOND OF 3 PARTS


Ricardo Saludo

MANILA, JANUARY 20, 2013 (MANILA TIMES) Second of three parts) - Unlike his legal foibles, President Aquino’s second failing is simpler for most Filipinos to see: his unflinching defense of allies and associates caught in anomalies, while constantly castigating perceived rivals and enemies.

Besides swiftly insisting on their innocence, Aquino rarely subjects those in his camp to honest-to-goodness investigations, and only in the face of strong public pressure. Even if probes are ordered, many are forgotten, no grave fault is ever found, and no one is sanctioned. This has gravely undermined governance in his administration.

Called “KKK” for “kaklase, kakampi at kabarilan” (schoolmates, allies, and shooting buddies), presidential favor toward close associates and official appointees was, like disrespect with law and institutions, evident early in Aquino’s rule.

And this KKK cronyism trumps even his avowed campaign against corruption.

Among his first appointments, PNoy named shooting buddy Rico Puno Interior Undersecretary overseeing the Philippine National Police on his behalf, stripping that authority from the legally mandated official, then Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo.

Then Aquino staunchly defended Puno against accusations of jueteng payoffs and sanctions over the August 2010 Rizal Park hostage crisis.

In the latter incident, Malacañang trashed the official inquiry led by Robredo and DOJ Secretary de Lima. It also did not sanction then Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, a longtime Aquino family loyalist, whose arrest of the hostage taker’s brother triggered the carnage. And since PNoy spared his favored officials, others culpable could not be sanctioned.

That bedeviled not just Tuwid na Daan, but also relations with Hong Kong and China.

If it’s KKK, it’s okay

Other Aquino friends benefited from double standard.

Without probes, such reported anomalies as Executive Secretary Paquino Ochoa’s P40-million White Plains mansion, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima’s missing tax filings, and Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation Chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr.’s Macau family junket and no-bidding bottled water deal, were dismissed as baseless.

Ignored altogether was Pagcor’s loss of P400 million in just two weeks in May 2011, and the escape of the casino scam’s foreign perpetrators despite charges against them. Yet the State of the Nation Address just two months later highlighted the agency’s P1 billion in coffee spending over an entire past decade.

Other anomalies for which no Aquino appointees were punished include the outside forays and special privileges of wealthy prisoners and other Bureau of Corrections irregularities; the overpriced P1-billion PNP assault rifle bidding, cited by Aquino himself after checking gun costs online; and the escape abroad of suspects in criminal cases.

Yes, some accountable officials resigned under mounting public disdain, but even they were left alone, escaping accountability and perhaps quietly enjoying illicit gains. Puno quit last year after stirring suspicions for reportedly seeking out confidential Robredo papers after his death.

The investigation ordered by Aquino into the billion-peso rifle bidding supervised by Puno has been forgotten.

Also gone, but only after being videoed gambling in a casino was LTO’s Torres. Her fellow Tarlac gun range aficionado Aquino kept on the job for years, partly prompting then Transportation Secretary Ping de Jesus to quit. This despite mounting agency debacles, including foul-ups in licensing and registration computer systems and vehicle license plates.

The mammoth cost of KKK cronyism

The refusal to even investigate KKK anomalies has allowed some to explode into multibillion-peso proportions. Forget firearms violations and pirate video shopping by Political Adviser Ronald Llamas. The big KKK money is in smuggling and jueteng.

Three years ago, the first Bureau of Customs internal report about many containers being lost in transit counted about 600 vanishing between Manila and Batangas ports. Nothing was done, and the Customs official who raised the alarm was himself sidelined.

Result: disappearances reached several thousand containers, and smuggling as estimated from International Monetary Fund data, hit an unprecedented $19 billion annually, six times the average in the Estrada and Arroyo years.

In last year’s SONA, Aquino himself admitted that contraband cost P200 billion in lost revenues, and included drugs and guns—the main drivers of escalating crime.

So it is with jueteng. Archbishop Cruz’s accusations against Puno and then PNP Chief Jesus Versoza as “ultimate recipients” of numbers payoffs, were dismissed sans inquiry. Though the President told Robredo to crack down, Aquino still kept Puno overseeing the police.

How big jueteng has grown and corrupted law enforcers can be gleaned from the 2012 Atimonan shootout between police and soldiers, reportedly over gambling turf. When the big fish swim in sleaze, many small fry jump in.


When PDAF and KKK mix

The PDAF controversy shows KKK at its most robust and wide-ranging, protecting the administration’s own while targeting rivals. As the Commission on Audit stated in its pork barrel report, the Department of Budget and Management under Secretary Florencio Abad provided spending records for 2007-09, avoiding the Aquino years.

And DBM withheld papers covering two-thirds of the P29 billion in total disbursements over the three years—mostly involving administration allies—despite repeated COA requests.

So while opposition stalwarts like Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Jinggoy Estrada face plunder charges, COA has yet to see the DBM documents for many top legislators of Aquino’s Liberal Party, including his own pork papers as senator.

Evidently, even his PDAF is not clean enough to show off as proof of his perceived incorruptibility.

What to do? Three things, for starters

First, mainstream media must stop letting Aquino get away with just baldly denying KKK anomalies, or ordering then forgetting investigations once controversy wanes. Keep raising, among other issues, the hidden PDAF papers for Aquino, his allies and years; the PNP rifle bidding probe; and the Inekon extortion inquiry (presidential sister Ballsy Cruz remembers it well).

Second, the Sandiganbayan should accelerate the graft trials of LP stalwarts Election Commissioner and former Isabela governor Grace Padaca, Iloilo Representative Neil Tupas Jr. and his father, and Presidential Adviser Neric Acosta and his mother. And the Ombudsman should take to court at least 20 congressmen now in the Aquino camp who are implicated in the P700-million fertilizer scam.

Lastly, COA should petition the Supreme Court for a mandamus ordering DBM to release all PDAF records from 2007 to 2012, including those of then Senator Aquino.

Then hopefully the Philippines can turn away from more Marcos-style cronyism when presidential friends did as they pleased without fear of justice.

FROM THE INQUIRER

LP candidates top barangay heads’ polls By Gil C. Cabacungan Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:27 am | Monday, January 20th, 2014


http://goo.gl/ek4V8g

The ruling Liberal Party (LP) drew first blood in the positioning for the 2016 national elections by consolidating control of the 42,026-strong Association of Barangay Captains (ABC).

The LP’s Nueva Ecija Barangay (village) chair Edmund Abesamis, older brother of Environment Assistant Secretary Rommel Abesamis, cornered 68 votes, or 60 percent, of the 115 ABC presidents of provinces and highly urbanized cities, while Yasser Pangandaman of Taguig City, a relative of former Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, garnered 44.

Two members abstained while one vote was declared void in the highly charged affair at the Heritage Hotel on Jan. 16.
The ABC national president has a three-year term and political pundits expect Abesamis to play a pivotal role in the 2016 presidential elections much like the heads of the mayors’ and governors’ leagues.

The group of Abesamis swept the top positions: executive vice president Patrick Agustin (Tarlac), secretary general Lorenzo Zuñiga (Laguna) and auditor Jeremy Marquez (Parañaque).

“I am very happy for the support given by Liga ng mga Barangay. We will make sure we will be an effective partner in implementing the key programs of the government,” Abesamis said.

Abesamis and his winning slate paid a courtesy call on President Aquino in Malacañang shortly after the elections. They were accompanied by Transportation Secretary Joseph E.A. Abaya (acting LP president) and Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento (LP secretary general).

Abesamis said this year’s race was unusually tight because of the jostling among political bigwigs.

“The fight was hotly contested unlike before when the campaign was not that aggressive,” he said. He did not elaborate.

An LP source, who declined to be named for lack of authority to speak for the group, said Abesamis also drew support from the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) of Vice President Jejomar Binay and the Nationalist People’s Coalition (NPC) of businessman Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco.

A source from the NPC said its candidate from Tarlac gave way to Abesamis, while Binay’s UNA was apparently hedging its bets by siding with the sure winner rather than going with another candidate backstopped by a potential rival in the 2016 elections.

Binay’s camp did not reply to the Inquirer’s query.

Barangay elections are supposed to be nonpartisan, which is why political sources declined to go on the record.

The same LP source said Pangandaman put up a spirited fight. He had in his corner Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano of the Nacionalista Party, Minority Leader Ronaldo Zamora and his brother, businessman Salvador Zamora, and Presidential Adviser on Political Affairs Ronald Llamas of Akbayan.

Llamas said in a text message that his reported campaign for Pangandaman was “baseless and untrue.”

The LP source claimed that Cayetano’s provincial sorties in the past few months included meetings with barangay captains endorsing Pangandaman. Cayetano is widely believed to be looking at running for higher office in 2016.

FROM THE DAILY TRIBUNE

Palace: Day of prayer, Edsa II on same day ‘mere coincidence’ Written by Paul Atienza Monday, 20 January 2014 00:00


In the hopes of moving the Philippines towards a "more progressive future," Malacañang will hold a "national day of prayer and solidarity" on the 13th anniversary of the EDSA-2 revolt. Presidential Communications Operations Office head Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Benigno Aquino III will lead the activity to seek God's intervention. FROM GMA NEWS TV.

The Palace dismissed claims that President Aquino had revived the observance of Edsa 2 through the National Day of Prayer as it insisted that both occasions falling on the same day today was a mere coincidence despite critics’ assertion that Aquino could have chosen a less controversial day for his nationwide call to prayer.

Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the event has no relation with the anniversary of Edsa People Power II.

“The choice of date on national day of prayer has nothing to do with (Edsa II anniversary),” Coloma said.

Coloma added even the past administration of former President Gloria Arroyo had not celebrated the 2001 event.

Critics have said that Aquino through the instigation of his supporters who launched Edsa II is embarking on an effort to revamp the image of the discredited power grab.

“It was not marked in the history of our nation. It was not celebrated. It was only coincidental,” Coloma said.

Coloma said that former President and now Manila City mayor Joseph Estrada and Vice President Jejomar Binay were also invited to the event to be held at Malacañang.

Edsa II is considered by many as a consummated military takeover disguised as a popular revolt that ousted Estrada and catapulted then Vice President Gloria Arroyo to the presidency in 2001.

Clearly, there is no connection between the day of prayer and Edsa II. The date of the prayer was purely coincidental,” Coloma said.

Coloma said President Aquino will lead the nation in offering prayers today for the victims of last year’s tragedies.
These include the failed Zamboanga City siege in September, the magnitude-7.2 quake in Central Visayas in October, and super typhoon Yolanda in November.

Coloma said different religious groups as well as victims of the three tragedies will be represented in Monday’s prayer at the Palace.

National and local government officials as well as victims and survivors of the recent calamities are also invited to the event, he added.

Also, Coloma said Monday’s event will seek divine intervention for the problems facing the country.

“The event will be both a solemn commemoration of the tragedies of 2013 as well as a time of thanksgiving,” Malacanang said in a statement.

Aquino’s message would be aired from Malacañan Palace as well as the messages of other representatives of different faiths.

Aquino would also be accompanied by top government leaders, stakeholders from civil society in the prayer, “to draw strength and determination in order to press on with our collective hope for our country as one united people.”

“The tragic events of 2013 have been trying times for the Filipino people, testing resolve and determination for a stable, peaceful, and prosperous future,” according to a Palace statement.

“In the preambles of past Constitutions and the present-day 1987 Constitution, the following were implored in order to establish a government promoting general welfare, to conserve and develop the patrimony of the nation: the Sovereign Lawgiver of the Universe (the 1899 Malolos Constitution), Divine Providence (the 1935 to 1973 Constitutions), and Almighty God (the 1987 Constitution),” the Palace briefer said.

Malacañang said that:”It is in light of this that the Presidents of the Philippines have, in the past, declared national days of thanksgiving, prayer, and remembrance.”

Malacanang said former President Sergio Osmeña issued the first proclamation of a national day of prayer on August 21, 1945, to commemorate the unconditional surrender of Japan.

Malacanang said during the American period, the Philippines, being an American colony and part of the territory of the United States, celebrated the holiday annually in November.

American Governors-General would issue proclamations for this holiday, which encompassed the whole country and celebrated by Filipinos.

When the Philippine Commonwealth was established in 1935, President Manuel Quezon continued the practice by issuing proclamations making American Thanksgiving Day a National Holiday.

After the Second World War, the Thanksgiving Day tradition was continued by means of a special public holiday through 1951 to 1965 from Presidents Magsaysay to Marcos.

Upon the declaration of martial law by President Ferdinand Marcos on Sept. 23, 1972, Thanksgiving Day was moved to Sept. 21, the date indicated by Proclamation 1081, 1972, although martial law was declared on September 23, 1972. The yearly event was terminated after the 1986 Edsa Revolution, Malacañang said.

In recent history, President Gloria Arroyo issued four proclamations of national days of prayer from 2005 to 2008, all on Sept. 12 of each year.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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