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Happy days are coming. Five-star hospitals in Metro Manila should start sprucing up their VIP suites in preparation for the expected influx of new guests. Gloria Arroyo’s nine co-accused in the plunder and technical malversation charges filed by the Ombudsman in connection with the misuse of PCSO (Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office) intelligence funds will be requiring hospitalization very soon. Non-bailable offenses have a way of causing medical conditions that require hospitalization.
It may be happy days for hospitals and the Filipino people but it’s “another dark day for the rule of law” for Gloria Arroyo’s lawyer, Anacleto Diaz.
"In the past, cases were decided solely on the basis of evidence adduced on record. It appears that this era has long time passed,…It appears that the case was filed against the former President to time it with the President's forthcoming SONA (State of the Nation Address) in which he will be accorded another opportunity to pillory and demonize the former President, and worse, justify her further detention without bail even as a petition for her bail is precisely pending resolution in the court," Diaz said.
Owws? So if the case is filed after the SONA it will be okay? When is the right time to file charges?
Two separate complaints were filed by private citizens in July and November last year. In January this year, after conducting an intensive investigation in 2011, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee recommended the filing of plunder and technical malversation charges against Gloria and the PCSO officials . It's now July 2012, isn’t it about time the Ombudsman filed charges?
Lawyer Diaz added however that his client “will avail [herself] of all remedies under the law even as we stand ready to prove that the present charges against her are devoid of merit."
Well, that addresses the issue directly and that’s all the public needed to hear.
Now Gloria and her cohorts will have the chance to prove that the expenditure of P328 million in confidential intelligence funds went to the PSCO’s intelligence gathering activities, such as keeping tabs on “bomb threat, kidnapping, destabilization and terrorism.”
I bet you didn’t know that the PCSO was an intelligence agency and that its charity services for the poor was only a cover. Who would've thunk, right? At any rate, those PCSO spies will now be forced to reveal secret documents detailing their P328-million intelligence operation. Who were the assets they paid? How many field agents did they have? How much did they spend for logistics? Did they engage in the illegal surveillance of suspects? Did they coordinate with other intelligence agencies or did they go it alone? Did their spying lead to the apprehension of suspects or the prevention of terrorist activities, etc. etc?
I have no doubt that defense lawyers will gladly blow the PCSO's cover and produce documents that will prove the money was actually used for its intended purpose. They will show that the present charges are devoid of merit because the PCSO acted in the pursuit of national security as set forth in the top secret provisions of the PCSO’s charter.
Those provisions are so secret that not even the PCSO’s semi-permanent fixture, Manoling Morato, knew about them. “Why persecute me?” he asked. “The use and release of the intelligence funds are between the President and the PCSO president. I’m only a director from 2004 to 2010, (He was either chairman or manager or both during the incumbency of President Ramos) our job is only ministerial. How can we override something which has already been approved by the main parties concerned?”
You see? Not even Manoling knew. That proves Manoling is no Mata Hari.
“What can I do? What explanation do they want? We acted in good faith in using the funds for blood money,” he added. Manoling was not referring to blood money for hiring the perpetrators of the Maguindanao Massacre; he meant blood money for OFWs who were on death row in Saudi Arabia, I presume for crimes involving retail capital offenses.
Now paying out blood money is an altogether different issue because that is not found in either the PCSO charter’s public provisions or in its secret spy provisions. Manoling cannot claim “good faith” because, having been with the PCSO for so long, ignorance would be an absurd defense. But it proves he is not a Mata Hari. Although his attacks on Noynoy Aquino during the 2010 campaign, attacks made on a TV program funded by the PCSO in a government network, makes him the modern day equivalent of Tokyo Rose.
Anyway, next time a sweepstakes vendor tries to sell you a ticket, make sure to pat him down first. Next time you buy a lotto ticket, make sure to look around for hidden mics and cameras. Check your sweepstakes and lotto tickets for implanted listening and tracking devices. And, finally, don’t forget to thank the Ombudsman for blowing the lid off a clandestine government agency pretending to be a charity.
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).