|DIE HARD III|
|Herman Tiu Laurel|
The very day that the Senate impeachment hearings were to conclude, the BS Aquino III government also tried to conclude its own P80 billion loan for the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management (Psalm) Corp.’s continued operations, thus ensuring that the agency will be able to privatize the remaining 10 percent or so of the National Power Corp. (Napocor)’s assets and the supply of coal and other fuel requirements of independent power producers (IPPs).
Simultaneous to that, an agreement between BS Aquino III and a foreign finance company, Macquarie Group Ltd. of Australia, was reached to create the Philippine Investment Alliance for Infrastructure (PInAI, like Pinay for Aussies) that will set up an infrastructure fund, whereby the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) will contribute $300 million and the Australian firm $50 million for so-called public-private partnership (PPP) projects.
Going by the foreign financial agent’s negligible contribution, the inexplicable thing is, why would anyone even go for such a tie-up, especially when the Philippines has its own Special Deposit Account (SDA) in the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) worth around P1.7 trillion, or 12 times the amount of the P130 billion needed to fund the projects this year?
On the afternoon of the impeachment trial’s convoluted conclusion — which this space has unwaveringly predicted would end in conviction — and with the senator-judges hamming it up before the cameras, I compiled and later read out on my radio program the more important issues, foremost of which is the country’s debt service. In April of this year alone, our country had already paid out P38.6 billion on principal and P16 billion in interest, or a total drain of around P55 billion.
But more than that, government even has a $2.5-billion borrowing program for the year despite the fact we have P1.7 trillion lying idle in the BSP and foreign reserves of up to $72 billion — as against a debt of $60 billion.
Sadly, the swindles don’t end there. The news that a certain bigwig invited foreign partners for financial investments into its MRT project — when it is an established fact that the MRT does not lose money on its operations but only on its financial guarantees to foreign investors — also makes our blood boil.
While it is true that the P5.7 million reportedly spent by the House for the impeachment trial is a measly amount, if we consider what other possible expenses it has meant owing to what the Palace has had to promise congressmen, senators, and other interested parties in exchange for a guilty verdict, we’ll also be counting in the tens of billions of pesos.
Aside from the usual pork barrel, what and how much more would it have cost, for example, for the last-minute trip of BS Aquino III to the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) in obtaining the latter’s acquiescence to a Corona conviction? Despite Malacañang’s pronouncements, the timing of the visit renders its denials laughable. BS Aquino III was certainly in a desperate situation. In order to avoid becoming a lame duck after the ill-conceived impeachment case, he was most probably forced to pay through his nose with the people’s resources.
I must admit that I didn’t listen to the coverage of the final day of the Corona impeachment as I just couldn’t stand the hypocrisy of the kettles and pots pointing fingers and judging others. I did have one hard laugh though from the day before, when the prosecution let out Speaker Sonny Belmonte to close its case. The hard laugh was, of course, triggered by the comedic irony of the chief culprit in what former party-list Rep. Rene Magtubo told of the bribery of congressmen for the passage of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) in 2001.
Moreover, columnist Rod Kapunan texted about Belmonte’s alleged role in one apparent Edsa I scam, which we Googled and found in veteran writer Larry Henares’ 80s column. It concerns “a real estate property at 212 Stockton Street, on the corner of Geary Street, at San Francisco’s famed Union Square, known as the Philippine Airlines Building since 1947… (which) had always been a Filipino corner in a square that a San Francisco newspaper once described as ‘an island of sunshine and greenery’… considered one of the very best locations in the whole United States.” When Edsa took place, the new dispensation “hurriedly and in near secrecy sold the property for $10 million, in other words, at the original purchase price, without recovering the substantial investments made further in the property…”
The column then recounted the Senate blue ribbon committee investigation that ensued, which told of “an intriguing tale… (where) everyone (was) passing the buck and pointing to someone else… (and where) Speedy Gonzalez (claimed that he)… turned the whole matter over to Sonny Belmonte when the latter was appointed GSIS president,” with the current Speaker being the one “who made the final decision in April 1986 on whom to sell and at what price.”
According to the records, the Philippine government only got $2,000 of what was valued by an “independent, third-party appraiser, Haley-Leslie Appraisal Co. of San Francisco… in a thorough study (of) the market value of the property at the time of purchase on August 1982 (as) $12 million.” The appraisal report was even more explicit in that “the property under consideration (was) clearly a prime property.” Now why don’t we ever encounter such reports in the Philippine Star?
Lastly, from one House Speaker to another, we have this final point: Those who thought Sen. Manny Villar and his group would vote for an acquittal were fooling themselves all along. With the string of cases possibly awaiting him, Villar was likely among the most ready to convict. Indeed, whether seasoned or neophyte, whether young or old, what clowns and scammers these members of the political ruling class are!
(Tune in to 1098AM, dwAD, Sulo ng Pilipino/Radyo OpinYon, Monday to Friday, 5 to 6 p.m.; watch Destiny Cable GNN’s HTL edition of Talk News TV, Saturdays, 8:15 to 9 p.m., with replay at 11:15 p.m., on “The Corona conviction: Politics or rule of law?” with Atty. Alan Paguia; visit http://newkatipunero.blogspot.com for our articles plus TV and radio archives)
(Reprinted with permission from Mr. Herman Tiu-Laurel)
Source: The Daily Tribune