Saturday, August 31, 2013

Court okays Napoles transfer to Laguna fort

ESTRADA WAS HERE This bungalow inside the Fort Sto. Domingo training camp for police special forces in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, awaits its latest occupant, Janet Lim-Napoles, after playing host to previous detainees like former President Joseph Estrada, former Moro National Liberation Front chair Nur Misuari and Sen. Gringo Honasan, Fort Sto. Domingo. Photo by CERES DOYO

Phiilppine Daily Inquirer/by Jaymee Gamil
Janet Lim-Napoles will be on the move again, this time to Laguna province. The Makati Regional Trial Court granted Friday the transfer of Napoles from the Makati City Jail to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, saying the “high-profile detainee” needs a safer jail facility. Judge Elmo Alameda issued the four-page order granting the petition of Napoles with her lawyer, Lorna Kapunan, citing a “clear danger to her life.” Napoles was brought to the Makati jail Thursday night from the national police headquarters in Camp Crame where she was held in custody after she surrendered to President Benigno Aquino Wednesday night. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima on Friday justified the special security arrangements for Napoles, saying various groups or people were after the businesswoman and that security concerns with regard to her were “legitimate.” De Lima said it was not only powerful and wealthy personalities involved in the alleged P10-billion pork scam who want to “silence” Napoles. She said other groups that want to put the Aquino administration in a bad light might also be after her. The Makati City Jail admitted it couldn’t guarantee the safety of the high-profile suspect. A Makati court late Friday granted the petition from Napoles to be transferred to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. But the Inquirer has learned that the wife of the head of the Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) is an incorporator of Ventures Investigative and Security Services Inc., the security agency of Napoles’ husband, Jimmy, the documents of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed. The SEC information sheets showed that Annalou P. Constantino is an incorporator of Ventures Investigative and Security Services Inc. Constantino is the wife of Chief Supt. Noel Gicano Constantino, PNPA director. The PNPA compound is located along Gen. Mariano Castañeda road in Silang town, Cavite province, not far from Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, where Napoles would be detained, as ordered by the Makati Regional Trial Court on Friday. As of press time Friday night, however, Napoles was still at the Makati jail. Makati Judge Elmo Alameda granted the motion to transfer Napoles from Makati City Jail, where she was taken late Thursday, to Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, which is a training camp for police special forces. Kapunan’s arguments To support her argument for Napoles’ transfer, lawyer Lorna Kapunan presented before the court the Makati jail warden, Chief Insp. Fermin Enriquez, who admitted that the facility “could not guarantee the safety, 24/7” of Napoles. Enriquez said the jail did not have enough personnel to secure such a “high-profile” suspect. The warden noted that during Napoles’ transfer to the Makati jail on Thursday night, the facility’s 65 organic personnel had to be augmented by more than 50 personnel from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) headquarters and the PNP. The ideal ratio of one jail guard to seven inmates could not be met, with 545 detainees at the jail, 104 at the female dormitory alone, Enriquez said. Alternative facilities Alameda agreed that based on Enriquez’s testimony, “without [the] additional personnel … which entails additional expenses for their maintenance,” the regular security personnel of the jail could not secure Napoles “given the number of visitors who are expected to visit her in the coming days,” including the media and high-ranking government officials. Asked to recommend an alternate detention center by Alameda, Enriquez suggested the BJMP-run district jail at Camp Bagong Diwa, Taguig City, or the PNP detention facility in Camp Crame. Kapunan also called to the witness stand Senior Supt. Roberto Fajardo of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group-National Capital Region who was the lead escort when Napoles was transferred from Camp Crame to Makati City Jail on Thursday night. Security risks Asked what security risks he thought Napoles was facing in jail, Fajardo said: “From what I know, since [Napoles] will be implicating a lot of higher officials, the threat is very real.” It was Fajardo who recommended Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa City, Laguna province, prompted by Kapunan who asked what he would suggest as an alternate detention facility. “I will recommend the former detention centers for [Moro National Liberation Front founder] Nur Misuari and [coup plotter] Sen. Gringo Honasan,” Fajardo said. Laguna camp secure He guaranteed the camp was very secure as it was also the site of a training school for the PNP Special Action Force. Deposed President Joseph Estrada (now mayor of Manila) was also briefly detained at Fort Sto. Domingo in 2001 while awaiting trial for plunder. Following Fajardo’s suggestion, Kapunan told the court to allow Napoles’ lawyers to “verbally modify” their request for transfer to add the Laguna facility to the jail options, which originally only listed Camp Bagong Diwa and Camp Crame. Enriquez also gave his recommendation for the Laguna facility. The prosecution, which initially expressed apprehension about travel time and security en route during hearings, eventually gave up protesting “as long as [Napoles] could be brought [to the Makati court] safely” for the hearings. The court sheriff has served copies of the court order for the transfer to PNP Director General Alan Purisima, Fajardo and Enriquez, and was, as of press time, on his way to serve the order to the Fort Sto. Domingo camp commander. Napoles and her brother, Reynald Lim, are facing serious illegal detention charges in Alameda’s sala, based on accusations made by Napoles’ cousin and former employee, Benhur Luy. Napoles is also alleged to be the mastermind of the P10-billion pork barrel scam, of which Luy is the primary whistle-blower. Napoles went into hiding after Alameda ordered her arrested on Aug. 14. She surrendered to President Aquino on Wednesday night, was turned over to the PNP at Camp Crame in Quezon City, and detained in an office at Makati City Jail late Thursday. Death threats “Even if these (threats) have not been validated, I think we can give these allegations the benefit of the doubt. We can give these some preliminary merit because it is possible that other people would be [linked to the scam], they would think of something bad,” De Lima said in an interview. “Common sense and logic tell us that given her very status now as the hottest figure in the country. It’s not farfetched that various groups would become interested for their own selfish partisan agenda and we would have chaos,” she said. De Lima said she had instructed the National Bureau of Investigation to work with the police in verifying the security threats against Napoles. She noted that Napoles’ petition asking to be transferred from Makati City Jail claimed that “she’s in grave, imminent and real danger.” “She has been receiving death threats. There’s credible information indicating that there are people who want to silence her,” Napoles said, reading from Napoles’ petition. Explaining to the media the security risks that Napoles was facing inside the Makati jail, Kapunan said: “It’s really possible for anyone with any intention to silence Mrs. Napoles to just pose as family. The warden also said there had been riots two weeks ago, and public rallies outside. It’s not far it can also happen inside. “We also told the court: Why would you waste government resources just to watch over her when she can be transferred to a safer facility?” Kapunan told reporters after yesterday’s hearing. “We hope [Napoles] is not still detained [at Makati City Jail] by Saturday and Sunday. We are confident that judge is very reasonable and that he has the safety and security of Mrs. Napoles at heart,” Kapunan said. Two motions for inhibition filed against Alameda—separately filed by Napoles and Lim’s counsels—were also discussed during yesterday’s hearing, but have only been submitted for resolution by the court. With reports from Nancy C. Carvajal and Philip C. Tubeza, Philippine Daily Inquirer, Kristine Angeli Sabillo, INQUIRER.ne Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/478255/court-okays-napoles-transfer-to-laguna-fort#ixzz2dVZQlbdY Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Endless could haves, should haves, would haves

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

The stolen billions could have been spent for this … and that. Millions of poor people could have benefited … countless lives would have been improved, etc. Instead, the money went to the pockets of a few greedy individuals.

The should haves, could haves and would haves are endless.

And now we are not surprised that the waylaid P10 billion is just the tip of the iceberg. More pork barrel-“ghost NGOs” tie-ups are being uncovered.

The pork barrel scam has emboldened many to publicly air their grievances through statements, letters and songs. And rallies, too, such as the ones last Aug. 26. People condemn, question, protest, challenge and offer suggestions. The common refrain is: THIS MUST STOP. The guilty must be punished, severely punished.

Through e-mail come statements and letters that stress the countless benefits the billions of pesos could have produced if only these were not “creatively” stolen. But they also come with suggestions and questions on why this blockbuster scam went on for so long.

The EcoWaste Coalition is quite specific: The P10-billion squandered public funds could have funded:

1. One million whole-day training activities on ecological solid waste management involving 50 million people at P10,000/50-person activity covering meals, hand-outs, speakers’ honoraria and other basic incidental expenses.

2. One million to 2 million materials recovery facilities (MRFs) at P5,000-P10,000/facility for rural barangay; and 20,000 to 200,000 MRFs at P50,000-P500,000/facility for urban barangays; MRFs serve as depositories for segregated discards that can be reused, recycled or composted to minimize the volume of trash sent to residual waste landfill.

3. Twenty-two thousand two hundred twenty-two biodegradables shredder (7 hp, 1.5 tons/hour) costing P450,000/machine to cut up garden or farm waste and other organics into small pieces to speed up the composting process.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Ground swell in August

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Something about August. Many of us who are August-born have not failed to notice that the many fateful and earthshaking events in this country’s historical timeline happened in this month. It is a month when we remember guns, bombs, blood, fire and water tearing through our nation’s life—the Plaza Miranda bombing, the assassination of Ninoy Aquino, etc. So life-changing were these August events that when we look back through the veil of mist we can’t help but be overcome by the memories.
Yesterday was Ninoy Aquino’s 30th death anniversary and I couldn’t help but remember where I was, what I was, and how I was at that time. I do remember being among the first few to go to his home on Times Street in Quezon City when there was yet no jostling throng and before Cory and the Aquino children arrived from the United States and his body was transferred to Santo Domingo Church where People Power would have its beginnings.
There he was, without a see-through glass over him. And there I was just staring down at him, at his bruised face and bloody shirt. I could have touched him. I had no inkling then that a ground swell of protest would soon be shaking the seat of power and roaring through the streets for three years until the evil regime crashed to the ground.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Tagle: 'You can be better than this'

Phiippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Fighting back tears, Luis Antonio Cardinal Tagle answered ABS-CBN reporter Nina Corpus’ question on the alleged channeling of a staggering P10 billion in lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to fake nongovernment organizations. What, she asked, would the cardinal want to say to those who engineered the scam?
While the cardinal was clearing a lump in his throat a hush fell on the room full of journalists invited to the press briefing on the Philippine Conference on New Evangelization (PCNE) in October.
It had been a lively press briefing and open forum until Corpus popped the last question.
I paraphrase here some of Tagle’s words that stuck to my mind. How he wished, he said, that those who were involved in the scam—an intricate web, he called it—would walk the city streets at night and behold the hungry poor while they spread out on the sidewalks pieces of cardboard that would serve as their bedding for the night.
Choking on his words, Tagle said that if only they (the plunderers) would touch the poor and look into their eyes… But no, he said sadly, slowly, emphatically, “the poor are absent in their minds.” What burst the dam inside me were his direct words to THEM: “You can be better than this.”
No fire and brimstone from him, only simple words that carried a big message, a plea almost.  I am again writing those words now. “You can be better than this.”  My heart quickens, my spirit harkens to the sound of it. Only now do my eyes moisten.
I remember the controversial movie “Priest” and the words unleashed by the angry bishop to one of his priests caught in flagrante delicto committing an indiscretion: “You are a boil on the Body of Christ, a disgusting boil about to erupt and spill out its pus.” I couldn’t help quoting that in my movie review.
But it is not always the fiery words that get to me or that I aim to catch. If I may digress, during the martial law years, I joined a fact-finding mission that investigated human rights violations in the hinterlands. We interviewed victims of military atrocities. We listened and wrote down their stories about how the soldiers raided their village and wrecked their homes. But there was this little woman who said nothing to the lawyers. She was squatting and a bit shaky when I spoke to her alone. Then in a soft and trembling voice she began: “All the chickens flew away.”
For me, that sentence was louder than the sound of machine guns.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Legit but fake--an oxymoron?

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

I have not yet heard anyone utter “legit but fake” in one breath to describe the nongovernment organizations that allegedly siphoned off some P10 billion in lawmakers’ pork barrel funds and have none or little to show in terms of beneficiaries and accomplishments.

But I have heard the words “legitimate/accredited” from those allegedly involved and their defenders. And the words “fake/bogus/fly-by-night/dummy” used interchangeably by the accusers, investigators, whistle-blowers and shocked citizens of this republic.

So what do we have here, NGOs (foundations, people’s organizations, civil society groups) that are “legit but fake”? Sounds like an oxymoron, which is defined as “a rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined.”

Or maybe “legit but fake” is not an oxymoron, after all. Something can still be legit as far as registration and accreditation are concerned, as one accrediting official of the Department of Agriculture tearfully said while describing her official role in the blockbuster scam. Her and her family’s reputation has been tarnished, she rued, when all she did was to approve NGO applicants (for funding) whose papers were in order—that is, they have been duly registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

In other words, how could she deny accreditation for applicants whose SEC papers were in order? What reasons had she to doubt? She even could have added that what happens after accreditation is something else or beyond her duties. Fair enough. But didn’t she see some red flags to forewarn her? Again, maybe it was not in her job description. Sigh.

Applicants for funding with selfish motives can hire the best lawyers to help them set up nonprofit organizations—NGOs, so-called—and put together required papers for SEC registration. Once the papers are in order, these lawyers’ efficient messengers can do the following up. And voila, new NGOs are born. No sweat.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

NGOs eager for NGO transparency (2)

Philippine Daily Inquirer/OPINION/by Ma. Ceres P. Doyo

Last week I wrote about nongovernment organizations coming together to address alleged corruption in their sector. In attendance were 50 NGO/civil society representatives concerned about the recent exposés of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds being channeled into bogus NGOs. The exposés have badly smeared the NGO/CS sector.
The founders of bogus and fly-by-night NGOs who pocketed the people’s money should be lined up against the wall, but there are also legitimate NGOs that are problematic in the financial accountability and transparency department. The former are really the devil’s to start with, but the latter that are legit and were founded for noble reasons can also fall into a pit because they are run by human beings with frailties and inordinate wants, or because not enough preventive mechanisms have been put in place.

One reader wrote: “NGOs, for some time now, have been perceived as money machines. You don’t even have to put anything in. Just accredit an NGO and voila… They invented NGOs for their funds to have a semblance of legitimacy when disbursed. The [pork barrel] is the root of all these. Funds have to go somewhere and it does not matter where. One source of corruption among funding and implementing organizations is the specter of underspending. Funding agencies, you see, have a specific amount to [disburse] to qualified implementing organizations for a given year. For example, USAid has to distribute the money or else it will be reprimanded by the financial bigwigs of the US State Department.
“The implementing NGOs, in turn, have to spend the money within a limited time, say, one year, or else they will be blacklisted by the funder. But there is a delay in the NGOs’ recruitment of additional staff, [procurement of] vehicles, supplies, medicines… Delay here, delay there. In the end, the directors and managers will spend the money on something else and produce bogus receipts. The devil is called underspending and money is burned in the process.”