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Our issue for April 4, 2009

Philippines FREE PRESS

April 4, 2009 Issue

Main Features

On the Cover: Fighting Contraband (PASG chief Antonio Villar Jr.)

         With eight-page, full-color supplement

         By Pat Ruaya and Ricky S. Torre

1. Operation: Get Lacson

So, the administration has gotten to Cesar Mancao. Sen Panfilo Lacson has no doubt about that, and no matter what Palace officials say, Lacson sees Malacañang’s hand here. Mancao is pointing to Joseph Estrada as the mastermind and Lacson as responsible under the chain of command for the November 2000 murders of public relations agent Salvador Dacer and his driver Emmanuel Corbito. It’s been eight years, not really very long, but Mancao, at least as suggested by his statement now in the possession of the Justice Department, appears to have forgotten protocol. He could not have ridden in the same car with the chief of police, so that the conversation about a hit on Dacer that he claims he overheard aboard Lacson’s car could not have happened. Also, nobody in the Presidential Antiorganized Crime Task Force referred to Estrada by his mustache. From Lacson to the lowest-ranking agent, Estrada was simply “Erap.” At any rate, Lacson and Estrada are definitely in trouble—Lacson for keeping on trying to nail the Arroyos for corruption, and Estrada for trying to unite the opposition for next year’s presidential election.

         By Guiller de Guzman

2. Their Hands Are Dirty

The independent group of investigators headed by former Supreme Court justice Carolina Griño-Aquino has reinstated the charges against three wealthy drug dealers that the Justice Department dismissed in December. It seems that the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency has been right: Justice Department officials and prosecutors have been bribed to dismiss the charges. President Arroyo has ordered the Justice Department to bring charges against the three suspects and the Presidential Antigraft Commission to go after the Justice officials involved—Undersecretary Ricardo Blancaflor, Chief State Prosecutor Jovencito Zuño and Prosecutors Philip Kimpo and John Resado. Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez has already approved the prosecutors’ recommendation to dismiss the charges, but the Lady Boss, whose ratings are scraping the bottom, has hissed an order. Now he must reverse himself—or he might be suspected of being in on the corruption, too.

         By Guiller de Guzman

3. Still Lacking Power

Congress has approved amendments to the charter of the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp., among which would raise the insurance on bank deposits from P250,000 to P500,000. The new charter, however, still does not allow the PDIC to determine which deposits are legitimate and may be insured and which are illegitimate and therefore may not be insured. And the PDIC is still not allowed to function as a “bridge bank,” that is, an entity that can run closed banks until they are rehabilitated.

         By Dean de la Paz

4. Features

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