Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

To Secretary Alcala: dapat agawin mo ang responsibilidad, at hindi lamang alisin kay Asec Agawin ang capabilidad na mag-ukol ng disbursements sa Napoles group. Given his reputation for “undoing governments,” incoming Ambassador Goldberg’s appointment to Manila rousing lots of speculation about waning US support for P-Noy administration. Private printing press denies printing ballots for 2013 elections continuously, but insists its machines are still with National Printing Office.Is NPO into ‘re-cheating?’

The appointment of new American Ambassador Philip Goldberg to Manila is stirring enormous curiosity here.

The Left is disturbed over the fact that in 2008 Goldberg was expelled as US ambassador in Bolivia for allegedly having carried out “interventionism and acts of subversion against the government of President  Evo Morales who has been openly assertive of (that country’s) national sovereignty against the US.”

Among P-Noy observers, Goldberg is arousing curiosity owing to the timing of his appointment as well. Given the reputation of this 57-year old-US State Dept. senior official, who has held the position of Assistant Secretary for intelligence and research, for “undoing governments,” P-Noy watchers in coffee shops and media forums are naturally asking: does Goldberg’s appointment have to do with what appears to be the unraveling of the Aquino administration---and its drift into helplessness in containing the many problems of governance?


Political pundits note all the financial scams involving the legislative and executive branches---not just in the previous regime but very much also into the present, that's mocking P-Noy's 'daang matuwid,'----the security problems and political instability in Mindanao (where for the first time a car bomb was used) and its unabated power crisis, continuing election protests, the rift with China and quarrel with the Kirams, the unrelieved poverty and joblessness situation, the continuing lackluster foreign direct investments here, etc., etc.

Now the query is beginning to be asked: is there basis to speculate, given Goldberg’s background and reputation, that the US may be beginning to find supporting President Aquino a heavy burden?  Next query: whom will it support?


Last week the AES Watch, a militant group of IT professionals contesting the recent PCOS elections, and lawyer Melchor Magdamo, former Comelec Chair Jose Melo’s assistant and the whistle-blower in the multi-million peso ballot secrecy folder scam in the poll agency in the 2010 elections, among other scams, made a startling claim. They asserted that ballots for the May 2013 elections continued to be printed “24 hours non-stop” by the Holy Family Printing Corporation (HFPC), nearly three months after the elections were over. The incredible implication was that millions of ballots were being churned out for "re-cheating."

This issue was left unanswered by the HFPC for a whole week, but today it formally denied the AES Watch-Magdamo claim in a newspaper.  The firm insisted it had no access to the actual printing of official ballots as this was exclusively done by the National Printing Office (NPO).

HFPC claimed that it had no “contractual relationship” with Comelec directly; instead, its contract was with NPO, and limited to the lease, delivery, installations and commission on printing machines, and supply and delivery of ballot paper with security features. It further claimed that its HFPC machines, which are the only ones capable of printing official ballots with security features, continue to be in the possession, supervision and control of the NPO UNTIL NOW (emphasis this writer’s).


The HFPC’s admission that its machines, the only ones capable of printing official ballots, and the security-marked ballot paper, are all still with the NPO, a government office that works very closely with Comelec, does not help squelch talk about continuous printing of May 2013 ballots and another insidious plot the poll body may be up to. In fact, the next query is, why print May 2013 ballots continuously, 24 hours a day, at all?

It may be---just maybe---that Comelec is aware that there could be a recount of the May 2013 ballots cast (maybe the Supreme Court will order it, based on several petitions before it now), and that even now perhaps Comelec people are stuffing ballot boxes deposited in municipal treasurers’ offices all around the country with these fake ballots recently printed. What for? So that there wouldn’t be this huge discrepancy between PCOS-generated ballots and those manually counted by Namfrel and the Random Manual Audit Team? Or perhaps to cover the missing ballots from 18,000 precincts that failed to transmit results, roughly equivalent to 8 million votes?

There’s talk, in fact, that the deadline for finishing the ballot stuffing or switching is this Saturday, Aug. 10. 

But wouldn’t this involve too much work and is all that re-cheating worth it?
Maybe the second P30 million that Comelec got from the Palace went into this operation. In our country, is there anything impossible, really?


Portrait of a Crocodile
courtesy of FB Netizen Crisostomo Ibarra
The pork barrel scam is widening in its scope even without disclosure of formal investigations by the NBI. Both chambers of Congress appear to have no keen interest in investigating the issue even if a large number of legislators appear to be involved in the scam. Leaders of both chambers have said they prefer to let the NBI do its investigation, but since the NBI is directly under the Department of Justice whose chief is dog-loyal to President Aquino, the citizenry can expect little progress on this issue.

Thus, the call by the new CBCP President, Archbishop Socrates Villegas, for the abolition of the PDAF owing to its being a primary source of corruption for the crocodiles in Congress can be expected to go unheeded; citizens can expect a lot of papering over of this issue.


The President has shown inclination to quickly posted toabsolve or at least moderate the guilt of his allies in Congress and the Executive Branch, instead of recognizing the deep-seated and wide-spread scope of the pork barrel scam and being alarmed by it. When the involvement of Secretary Proceso Alcala’s Agriculture Department to the tune of nearly P90 million in Janet Napoles’ scheme first surfaced, P-Noy ordered Alcala and DBM Secretary Florencio Abad, whose office disburses ALL pork barrel requests from legislators, to explain their involvement. 

Now that the truth has come out about DA's direct participation in the Napoles scam (only P83M lang daw---not P90million!) Alcala removed from Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin this direct function of disbursement, but retained her as Assistant Secretary nonetheless. Alcala should resign, for after all he chose to retain Agawin despite her checkered record in the fertilizer scam of the past administration. Dapat AGAWIN ni Alcala ang command responsibility for DA's scams---after all, he’s the department chief.


But more significantly, the President stressed that peso for peso, the DA P83M scam is so much less than the P728 fertilizer scam of the Arroyo administration in 2004. So, said P-Noy,  his administration is still doing far better than the scandal-ridden GMA era.

But it should be remembered that the DA scams, which also involved Davao Rep. Isidro Ungab, a key Aquino LP ally who now chairs the powerful House Appropriations Committee (he should be removed from that post by Speaker Sonny Belmonte), were incurred between 2011 and 2012---just less than two years into the Aquino administration. Had the Napoles scam controversy not erupted three weeks ago, these DA disbursements doubtless would have gone on and on---perhaps to equal or even outstrip the Arroyo-era fertilizer scandal?


A commentary posted by regular FB netizen Kristine Kua of “Uphold the Rule of Law (Petition for Sobriety)” sums up well the citizens’ sentiment on P-Noy’spredilection to compare his administration’s corruption record with the GMA era. I'm not aware if the following paragraph is Kristine’s or she was quoting someone else, but here it is with some editing:

“What logic this current president has! Whatever the difference and magnitude of corruption, they are still in the billions. The important thing to do here is to bring these cases to court rather than in media. He should not deflect any sense of responsibility from himself.

“It is quite amusing how P-Noy works: when there’s a personality with a different political affiliation, justice seems to come downtoo fast, e.g., the Corona issue and other GMA-affiliated scandals; but when theyinvolve those in his ticket or allied with him, he always reduces the issue’s importance---too small for him to work on.”

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