Monday, June 13, 2005

Scandals in the (First) Family

This is an excerpt from the Weblog of the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (http://pcij.org/blog) related to the recent series of scandals that rocked the Presidency, and more...

June 13, 2005 @ 5:55 pm
Posted by Yvonne Chua Filed under General, In the News

IN his comment on the post "The missing pieces," cy_nick asked about the scandals that have rocked the Arroyo administration. Besides the two current controversies, now being called the "Juetenggate" and "Gloriagate," we’ve come up with this initial list. Feel free to add to it.

IMPSA: Four days after it assumed office, the Arroyo administration approved the awarding of a controversial $470-million contract to the Argentine firm IMPSA (Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anonima) to rehabilitate a hydroelectric plant in Laguna. Justice Secretary Hernando Perez was later accused of demanding and receiving $2 million dollars from ex-Rep. Mark Jimenez, who brokered the deal. Jimenez said he wired the amount to the account of Ernest Escaler in Hong Kong on Feb. 23, 2001 from his bank in Uruguay. The former congressman has been extradited to the United States and has pleaded guilty to charges of mail fraud and making illegal campaign contributions.

SAN FRANCISCO: From the time she was first elected senator in 1992, President Arroyo had failed to declare in her sworn Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth the properties her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, bought in San Francisco through his California-based LTA Realty Corp. Newsbreak reported that Mr. Arroyo acquired, re-sold, and managed at least five properties with a total value of at least $7.1 million in the Bay City from 1992 to 2000. The First Couple said they bought the properties in trust for Mr. Arroyo’s younger brother, Ignacio, now a congressman.

BONG PINEDA: President Arroyo got loudly questioned about her personal connection with alleged jueteng boss Bong Pineda: She is godmother to one of Pineda’s sons. She denied any impropriety, saying she doesn’t associate with Pineda or his crowd. In an interview with Time Magazine in 2001, she said that when she was asked to be godmother, she got counsel from then archbishop of Manila Jaime Cardinal Sin. "Cardinal Sin said, as a Christian, if I am asked to be a godmother, it is my Christian duty," she relates, "because the sins of the father are not the sins of the son."

MIKEY’S HORSES: Newsbreak broke the news on a plan of first presidential son Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo to import the 32 thoroughbred horses from Melbourne, Australia. The then Pampanga vice governor, now a congressman, denied the allegation. He admitted, though, he was in the horse trade business; he owns Franchino Farms along with cousin Franchino Pamintuan and friend Ralph Mondragon.JOSE PIDAL: On Aug. 18, 2003, opposition senator Panfilo Lacson accused First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo of money laundering for supposedly siphoning off at least P321 million in campaign funds and contributions to a secret bank account under the fictitious name Jose Pidal and three other accounts using the names of his aides. Among the “donors,” Lacson said, was then Rep. Mark Jimenez who contributed a total of P8 million. Lacson also accused Mr. Arroyo of having an affair with his accountant, Victoria Toh. Following Lacson’s allegations, Mr. Arroyo’s younger brother, Ignacio, came forward to say he is Jose Pidal.

AGRI FUND: First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was linked in May 2004 to the alleged diversion of P728 million from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program to President Arroyo’s campaign war chest in the form of development assistance funds to local government units. Then Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn I. Bolante, Mr. Arroyo’s classmate at the Ateneo de Manila University and a colleague at the Rotary Club District 3830, cleared the First Gentleman of involvement. Bolante was tasked to oversee the implementation of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani program at the time.

PHILHEALTH CARDS: Six weeks before the May 2004 elections, two lawyers from PRO-CON(stitution) filed a disqualification case against President Arroyo before the Comelec, saying she was behind the enhanced Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office’s Greater Medicare Access or GMA program which they claimed was meant to prop up her candidacy. Earlier, another PRO-CON lawyer filed a criminal suit, also before the Comelec, against then PCSO chief Maria Livia “Honeygirl” de Leon and PhilHealth president (now Health Secretary) Francisco T. Duque for vote buying, intervention of a public officer, using public funds for election purposes and using banned election propaganda. Public funds were allegedly spent to enroll families in PhilHealth for one year to induce the enrollees to vote for President Arroyo. The premium cost of P1,200 for each family member was chargeable to PhilHealth and the PCSO. The PhilHealth identification cards bore the President’s picture and the name. Their distribution coincided with the start of the election campaign.

LAS VEGAS SUITE: First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo was the subject of another controversy over his alleged use of a $20,000-a-night suite at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas, Nevada during the boxing match between Manny Pacquiao and Mexico’s Erick Morales last March 19. The story first appeared as a blind item in the March 23 column of Inquirer sports columnist Recah Trinidad which said a "heavyweight backer" of Pacquiao had stayed in the $20,000 suite at the MGM Grand. The column did not mention Mr. Arroyo. Mr. Arroyo said he did not see anything corrupt about accepting a generous offer of a suite from the hotel as he thought that his stature as the husband of a head of state entitled him to such perks.



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