3 tales of corruption
Three tales of corruption under three successive Philippine presidents—Rodrigo Duterte, Benigno Aquino III, and Gloria Macapagal Arroyo—were reported by the media and came under public scrutiny in the span of a mere six days early this month.
The corruption tale under the Duterte presidency involves two Bureau of Immigration commissioners, Al Argosino and Michael Robles, who are Mr. Duterte’s fraternity brothers and his campaign lawyers during the May election.
Argosino and Robles received on Nov. 27 a huge bribe of P50 million to facilitate the release of 1,300 Chinese nationals found to be working illegally at an online casino in Pampanga operated by one Jack Lam. Shortly thereafter, 592 of the 1,300 Chinese workers were ordered released.
On Dec. 10, Inquirer columnist Ramon Tulfo exposed the existence of CCTV and audio recordings showing Argosino and Robles receiving the money in a Pasay city casino.
On Dec. 13, after the Tulfo exposé and 16 days after they received the bribe, the two immigration officials came out and claimed that they accepted the P50 million as part of their corruption investigation in the Bureau of Immigration, and that they retained the money “as evidence of corruption” and as the “only living evidence” of the illegal activities of Jack Lam. They then turned over P30 million of the money to the Department of Justice, and explained that they had given the balance to two of their coconspirators.
The gall of these two officials to proclaim themselves anticorruption heroes by concocting an unbelievably convoluted story is astounding. They have been dismissed, but will they be charged criminally? All eyes are on President Duterte to make good on his promise that he “will not forgive anyone, not even [his] friends,” involved in corruption.
The corruption tale under the Aquino presidency involves the P3.8-billion Motor Vehicle License Plate Standardization Program that was disallowed by the Commission on Audit and stopped by a Supreme Court temporary restraining order. Last Dec. 6, the DOJ filed multiple criminal charges of estafa, falsification, perjury, and violation of the procurement law against former transportation secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, among others.
Also charged was lawyer Ron Salo, the corporate secretary of the company that won the contract despite its submission of alleged falsified documents. Salo is now an incumbent congressman representing the Kabayan partylist. He has a history of employment under the Abaya family whose members have taken turns representing the first congressional district of Cavite continuously from 1995 to the present.
Investigators should look into the suspicious coincidence of Salo being a corporate officer of a company awarded a multibillion-peso contract by then Transportation Secretary Abaya. They should determine whether this is evidence of what has been whispered about as a long-established practice of past and present Cabinet members appointing their representatives in major companies that are regulated or awarded major contracts by their departments.
The corruption tale under the Arroyo presidency is the diversion in 2004 of P728 million in fertilizer funds to the election campaign of then presidential candidate Arroyo. Jocelyn “Jocjoc” Bolante, who was then agriculture undersecretary, was tagged as the mastermind of the fund diversion.
Bolante and then Agriculture Secretary Luis Lorenzo were acquitted by the Sandiganbayan on Dec. 12. The acquittal shocked many people because of clear evidence showing that some congressional districts on the list of recipients of farm inputs and implements do not even have farmlands. In fact, the Senate came out with the finding that the mismanagement of the P728-million fertilizer fund amounted to “premeditated, systematic and agricultural theft.”
President Duterte has repeatedly declared that he would fight corruption and addiction to drugs with equal zeal. He must demonstrate that he is not all sound and bluster in fighting addiction to money.
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