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Our issue for July 29, 2006

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July 29, 2006 Issue

 

Main Features

 

1. Cover: President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the State of the Nation (with 11-page

supplement) c/o Malacañang. Cover story by Jing A. Mable

 

2. Man on the Run

Jocelyn Bolante was not arrested in the United States. He is detained in a federal facility near Los Angeles because he is either appealing the revocation of his US visa or applying for asylum in the United States. It is more likely the first, as Bolante is not persecuted in the Philippines and therefore has no reason to seek shelter in the United States. To be sure, the US government knows Bolante is wanted only by the Philippine Senate and no charges have been brought against him in Manila. The Senate has asked the US government only for process assistance and not for the cancellation of Bolante’s visa. What really happened is unclear because US privacy laws do not allow disclosure of information until cases like this have been decided. The revocation of a US visa is done in a consular office in the presence of the holder, who may challenge the consular decision in immigration court. But never is a US visa revoked at the border, so what happened to Bolante at LAX is puzzling. He needs $100,000 for bail and has reportedly refused Philippine government assistance. Whatever it is that happened, Malacañang has reason to be greatly worried. A Senate investigation into the so-called fertilizer fund scam has found Bolante, a former agriculture undersecretary, as the point man in the operation that channeled P728 million to Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s presidential campaign in 2004. The Senate has recommended to the Ombudsman the prosecution of Bolante and several past and current agriculture officials for plunder. Bolante has been on the run since last year when the Senate opened the investigation. That’s an indication of guilt. So long as no charges have been filed in the Philippines, he can keep snubbing the Senate investigation. But now that the investigation has been turned over to the Ombudsman, he and Malacañang have a problem. Mrs. Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, a friend and associate of Bolante’s in the Rotary Club and who is behind Bolante’s employment in the Agriculture Department, is now reportedly in the United States, fueling suspicions in Manila that the administration is either working on Bolante—to keep him quiet—or on his case, whatever it is.

By Guiller de Guzman and Wendell Vigilia

 

3. What a Shame

“Thou shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.” To be sure, the Catholic bishops will not be the first to break that commandment. They say that Fatima Valdes, President Arroyo’s “undersecretary for religious affairs”—a secular government has an office for religious affairs?—arranged the dinner and there envelopes containing varying amounts—P15,000 to P50,000, depending on the importance of the bishops, perhaps—were thrust into the bishops’ hands or into their pockets. Most of the bishops sent the envelopes back to Malacañang. They will not be bribed into supporting an official who is the cause of deep divisions in the nation and in the bishops conference itself. Malacañang denies the alleged bribery and Mrs. Arroyo’s allies blame the opposition for the allegations. But it’s the bishops who are talking. What has the opposition got to do with the disclosure of the bribery? The opposition cannot even muster 77 votes—it’s now down to 77 with Liberal Party Rep. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac moving to the Department of Education (see No. 6)—to send one of the five (seven by Monday) complaints to the Senate for trial. Certain that none of the complaints will fail to clear the hurdle, the House minority is now saying Mrs. Arroyo should help put an end to this crisis. Lakas Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano says the minority is willing to withdraw the complaints if Mrs. Arroyo will explain the 2004 election. Wow! Why should Mrs. Arroyo do that? Hasn’t she already said that she won that election? If the minority knows the impeachment effort is headed nowhere, why is it wasting its time, which is the public’s time, and money, which is the public’s money?

By Ricky S. Torre and Wendell Vigilia

 

4. The ‘Coup That Failed’

The Arroyo administration insists on linking the July 27, 2003 junior militaryofficers’ mutiny and the Scout Rangers’ plan to withdraw support from President Arroyo on February 24 to prove its claim of a coup d’état and justify her proclamation of a state of national emergency, and maybe to sway the Supreme Court into reversing its ruling that the martial law-style government actions that followed the declaration are unconstitutional. The intention is still to suppress opposition to Mrs. Arroyo’s rule and now, after putting away the military officers involved in the “failed coup,” the government is out to get the civilians who conspired with them, including the businessmen who financed the alleged coup. The Justice Department says it already knows the financiers, as well as where the videotape showing the Rangers’ commander. Brig. Gen. Danilo Lim, announcing his withdrawal of support for Mrs. Arroyo was taken—at the home of a “former diplomat.” That can only be Roy Señeres, a former Philippine ambassador to the United Arab Emirates and former head of the National Labor Relations Commission who had a falling out with Mrs. Arroyo and joined the opposition. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales says the church has given shelter to some of the plotters—a threat against Novaliches Bishop Antonio Tobias in whose diocese 1st Lt. Lawrence San Juan, a July 27 mutineer, allegedly had sought sanctuary. San Juan turned around last week, admitting talks between the mutineers and communist rebels. Was he telling the truth or was he co-opted? With the military officers involved held incommunicado, the public does not know what really happened on the night of February 23. The Court of Appeals has ordered the military to bring Lim to court on Tuesday morning, but even if he is allowed to go free it is unlikely that he will be allowed to talk publicly about what really happened. The July 27 mutineers have already let known the reason for their anger: corruption and favoritism in the military. The Rangers and the Marines want to know who the generals were that allowed the military to be used in rigging the 2004 presidential election. That’s not a crime. But the administration and the generals say there was a failed coup. Was there?

By Ricky S. Torre

 

5. Cheats

The Professional Regulation Commission has investigated and confirmed the leak in the 2006 board exam for nurses. The findings: two members of the Board of Nursing leaked the questions. But the commission is not disclosing the identities of the two rascals, saying only that the leakers will be prosecuted and dismissed. The candidates are appealing to the commission not to void the results of the June exam, although even many of them recognize the suspicion that will fall on all of the graduates as a result of this irregularity. As it is, the nursing profession is already in a mess, with thousands of unqualified candidates graduating from too many nursing schools that have been built only to cash in on the big demand for Filipino nurses in the United States, Canada and Europe.

By Guiller de Guzman

 

6. Another Politician

Employees of the Department of Education refuse to accept Liberal Party Rep. Jesli Lapus of Tarlac as the new secretary of education. They don’t want another politician heading what is supposed to be professional department. They prefer an educator, Acting Secretary Fe Hidalgo, to take the place of resigned secretary Florencio Abad, who has since joined the opposition. The last time a politician ran the department, the crooks there lost their rackets. Raul Roco forced reforms there, incurring the employees’ animosity. What does Lapus know about education?

By Guiller de Guzman

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