OPINION: Is Malacanang Leaking?

Buddy Gomez — Cyberbuddy

Posted at Jan 26 2018 10:00 PM

Or is it the Department of National Defense? Comes another scenario rife with conspiracy theories?

I am thinking of a brushfire that is soon to conflagrate, what with the forthcoming Senate investigation. The Philippine Navy’s Frigate acquisition project, the Combat Management System of which has mired Malacanang in a surprise pesky controversy.

Here is a  walk-back briefer.  The Navy’s professional recommendation was Plan A. Malacanang instead presents a preferred Plan B in an unsigned memo (intentional?) to the National Defense Secretary who refers the matter to the Navy for response and rebuttal. The Navy’s response is submitted to the Office of the President, the source of the unsigned memo. Malacanang calls for a meeting with relevant Navy Officials. Result: Malacanang’s  favored Plan B wins argument. Philippine Navy’s principal proponent, the Flag Officer in Command himself is unceremoniously removed from his command for “insubordination!”  A year after that Malacanang meeting, revelations coursed through a Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Rappler reportage, with photocopies of relevant documents, dominated the news. The source of the documents remain undisclosed. It all began with a leak. Are other leaks now in the offing? 

Nota Bene: The fall of the Nixon Presidency began with the 1971 Pentagon Papers exposé by the NY Times, followed by the Washington Post. A leak! This was a prelude to Watergate from which gushed the crowning glory of investigative reporting bestowed upon the Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as icons of journalism. Nixon’s Attorney General went to the US Supreme Court and lost. Freedom of the press upheld as sacrosanct! The demise of Nixon became inevitable.

Duterte’s discombobulation

A video on YouTube, Facebook and perhaps  in all of cyber firmament featuring our President scowling angrily at a reporter--petite, pretty Pia Ranada--has been replayed thousands of times over and over again and again.  

Pia Ranada is of the Philippines’ internet news network, Rappler. She personified Rappler’s brand of  courageous, righteous and sagacious journalism. She asked a question of the President during  an impromptu  press conference after a Malacanang event. The encounter did not sit well with Mr. Duterte.

In his signature rant, the President seemed discombobulated! It was not a very good image of the President. But not to worry. The President does not care, anyway. He has said so, thumping his chest and thumbing his nose at polity, consistently contemptuous of society’s norms.

Discombobulate. There! You have a colorful addition to your arsenal of words. It is a playful alteration of a more commonly used word, meaning to disconcert or discomfort. Now, use it in a sentence!           

“The President of the Philippines is discombobulated when faced by anyone refusing to be intimidated!”  

See what you’ve done, Pia!

The Overseas Filipino Bank 

In our pre-Commonwealth colonial past, the justification for government venturing into certain commercial activities was anchored upon unfulfilled commercial and economic needs where private enterprise “feared to tread” either  because of being simply shy or just unwilling to risk capital. Nationalism was likewise invoked in wanting to own, control and operate certain commercial activities. Such is the historical backdrop for the beginnings and the continued existence of GOCCs (Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations).

Truth to tell, neither need nor nationalism justifies the existence of GOCCs today. Our level of economic development and the availability of capital, locally and worldwide, deem government still engaging in commercial business as unnecessarily duplicitous. And in fact, stupid! Only our predatory immature politics salivate for them because they are an easy source of corrupting largesse.

Today, when there is absolutely no unfulfilled need in commercial banking, with private enterprise in vibrant competition with each other, the government hails as a monumental achievement resurrecting a long deceased corporate corpus, as a sop to our Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs). Filipinos abroad, temporary sojourners as well as those in diaspora, never asked for its own bank. They have no need for one. I speak of the Overseas Filipino Bank, a savings bank, which the incumbent administration  fished out of the sunken debris of the Philippine Postal Savings Bank and gave it a new collar!

Pray tell me, what service can the Overseas Filipino Bank provide that is not now available through the competitive network of the existing worldwide stretch of banks represented by our top three: BDO, MetroBank and BPI?

The Rappler cybercrime case

Is the Rappler cybercrime ‘case build-up’ another script from DOJ Sec. Aguirre’s playbook or is it produced, written and directed under Presidential auspices?  

It is a matter of record--President Duterte has bragged that in his past, as a city prosecutor, he has engaged in planting manufactured evidence and in sowing intrigues. He has further claimed that intimidation and threats of violence were effective tools in his Davao City governance. It is now a fact that the President has established a notoriety for violence. 

More than any other lawyer who served as Secretary of Justice, Vitaliano Aguirre II holds the uncontested crown for concocting the most tales, in his official capacity, that do not match reality. Over the past 18 months, the Department of Justice under Aguirre’s watch has produced the most number of canards, and each time, exposed and laughed at. He does have an active imagination. And it looks as though he is at it again!

Aguirre’s order to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) for a cybercrime “case build up” against Rappler and Maria Ressa is based on a May 2012 news story reporting that businessman Wilfredo Keng lent a motor vehicle to then Chief Justice Renato Corona. 

I find this not only hilarious but utterly inane. But then, if the objective is to intimidate and harass Maria, and prolong what Aguirre mistakenly believes is agony that he is inflicting… Well?   

Now, the NBI claims to have found “probable cause to file a criminal complaint.’’ They will retroactively apply a law that was not yet in existing at the time that the alleged offense happened. (The supposed offending news story Rappler published in May 2012 while cybercrime law being invoked had not yet been enacted. It was signed in September. Our Constitution specifically prohibits retroactivity in the application of laws. Lawyers refer to it as a Bill of Attainder or “ex post facto.” ( Article III, Section 22—1987 Philippine Constitution)  

But Aguirre’s script posits a theory they call “continuous publication" because it is claimed that the complainant (Wilfredo Keng) may have only found out that he was allegedly libeled after the passage of the law they are invoking. This is sheer impossibility! Why? Because Mr. Keng was, in fact, interviewed by Rappler (while still abroad) for the very news story which is the basis of Aguirre’s ‘criminal complaint,’  which to repeat, is based on a non-existent law! Obviously, Aguirre did not even read the basis for his case! 

My suspicion is that Mr. Keng, considering his past notoriety, may have been cajoled and “inspired “ to file the case, after a lapse of almost five years, in exchange for leniency in some pending cases Mr. Keng may possibly be still facing!  (The trumped-up charges against Sen. De Lima utilizing convicts in Muntinglupa as witnesses seems to have established an Aguirre pattern.)

Would it not be fun if Rappler (or my host and boss, ABS-CBN) unearthed and published such an exposé?

A political trivia flashback

When accused of financial indiscretion, the Magsaysay-era Social Welfare Administrator (present-day Secretary of the Department of Social Welfare) Pacita Madrigal, thereafter elected Senator, was quoted to have defensively said: “Millionaires do not steal!”  

A popular pundit regaled the public, making fun of “Manang” Pacita’s  response. The coffee shops were abuzz: “Millionaires, do not steal!”

This memory is revived because during his Ranada/Rappler episode, the President blurted out, evidently out of pique, that his right-hand man (and left hand, too, with both feet shuffling in!) the now ‘celebrated’ Christopher “Bong” Go is a ‘billionaire.” The President’s wont, of course, is that--therefore, Bong Go is beyond bribery!

Is there wise guy around who will yell “ Billionaire, do not steal”?

Along this thread of harmless trivia, I think it may have been the irrepressible political humor pundit Joe Guevara who wrote that Senator Manang Pacita is the only person whose full name is a newspaper headline: “Pacita Madrigal Warns Gonzalez.” (She was the widow of Herman Warns before becoming Mrs. Gonzalez, and also the aunt of one-time Senator Jamby Madrigal.)

Disclaimer: The views in this blog are those of the blogger and do not necessarily reflect the views of ABS-CBN Corp.