Trapped

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Saturday, February 8, 2014


SURPRISE us,” we muttered on receiving an invitation for Saturday’s press conference with neophyte Sen. Joseph Victor Gomez Ejercito. It turned out to be our first look, close up, of the 45-year-old JV.

He scraped thru as No. 11 in a slate of 12 senators in 2013 elections. He’s the son of the only Philippine president convicted for corruption. And his half-brother Sen. Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, 51, is facing charges of plunder lodged with the Ombudsman.

Jinggoy and Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile received pork kickbacks, said Ruby Tuason, former aide of ex-president Joseph Estrada. Tuason returned from the US Friday and was provisionally admitted to the Witness Protection Program,

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For every project, lawmakers would receive a 40-percent kickback, less 5 percent for every transaction. She delivered Estrada’s shares, in cash, at Jinggoy”s Senate office. She creamed 1.5 percent for every successful referral. Now, she was willing to return the dough.

JV, meanwhile, surprised us. He was candid about his chilly relations with Jinggoy. Significantly, he isn't linked to the pork scam. He pledged to be objective when Senate hearings resume, with Ruby Tuason, probably in a bullet proof vest, on the witness stand..

Ejercito fielded–competently, we thought--questions ranging from the long-stalled Freedom of Information bill (“Why does President Aquino waffle on a bill he endorsed while campaiging?”) to policy on agriculture.

He was less sure-footed on issues affecting the "nine-dash line." That shoves China’s claims even into Exclusive Economic Zones. Vietnam and the Philippines have protested. Manila lodged with UN Law of the Sea tribunal a petition for arbitration as a "peaceful, non-coercive" solution. China denounced the move.

No one raised the April 2013 International Consortium of Investigative Journalists expose of secret bank accounts in British Virgin Islands. JV’s name appeared, alongside that of Ilocos Norte governor Imee Marcos and former sentor Manuel Villar, as account holders. Did JV also fail to report that in his Statements of Assets and Liabilities?.

Marcos and her sons were beneficiaries of a trust formed in June 2002 in the Caribbean The ousted dictator, Ferdinand Marcos, held secret offshore accounts found to contain ill-gotten wealth of up to $365 million. That’s peanuts

The Estrada conference unexpectedly U-turned to local issues. Explain the long-stalled expansion of the road from Capitol to Vicente Rama street?

The frontal question didn’t allow guest Mayor Mike Rama to trot his acronyms, like QQSTA.

What’s that? “Quick Quality Service, Transparency and Accountablity.” There was none of that when Rama hemmed about prodding the courts for faster decision on road legal roadblocks. “Who is the judge?” he hawed.

There--that’s amiable incompetence. That’s also perfect target for rival Tomas Osmeña, whose contrasting decisiveness is handcuffed to a lack of ethics. At the funeral of DILG secretary Jesse Roberdo in Naga City, Osmeña tooled around in a bogus Cebu City Police car.

“The current city council is...a rubber stamp of an ‘outsider’ (ex-Rep. Tomas) Osmeña, a Sun.Star editorial said. “It can’t claim anything altruistic, therefore, when it comes to its dealings with the mayor.” But how long will the ranks hold? Osmeña’s puppets can morph into Rama’s marionettes anytime.

And how long will we Cebuanos be trapped between Barrabas (capital B) and Barrabas (lower case B)?

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 09, 2014.

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