Had it involved AFP's CIC, it would be a different story

Palace won't use executive privilege to hinder Moscow cash scandal probe

The Office of the President vowed not to use its constitutional right to executive privilege to stop Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno and other officials of the executive branch from testifying in the Senate on Thursday on the P7 million cash scandal in Russia.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said it will not exercise its right to executive privilege on any public official who will be invited by the Senate when it investigates the P7 million cash scandal of the so-called "euro generals" of the PNP led by retired PNP comptroller Eliseo dela Paz.

Press Secretary Jesus Dureza said it is the PNP who should face the Senate. He said the Office of the President will help ferret out the truth on the undeclared cash advance for the 8-man PNP delegation's participation at the October 7 to 10 Interpol assembly in Russia.

Meanwhile, Senate Sgt.-at-Arms Jess Tabancura failed to serve the Senate's subpoena on dela Paz in Camp Crame Tuesday night.

The subpoena was not received by the PNP office of the director for comptrollership since dela Paz has just recently retired from the police service.

Tabangcura failed to get dela Paz's home address since his records have already been pulled out.

Subpoenas for other police officials were also not served since their offices were already closed.

Earlier on Tuesday, the subpoena for dela Paz to appear before the Senate on Thursday was faxed to his office.

Miriam's disbelief

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meanwhile, expressed disbelief over the statements of dela Paz insisting that the 105,000 euros (P6.9 million) of undeclared cash found by Russian customs authorities last October 11 was legitimate cash advance.

In response to dela Paz's press statements made Tuesday after he returned from Moscow, Santiago said dela Paz not only has to explain why he failed to declare the excessive cash advance but also why he failed to declare it when he left the Philippines for the Interpol assembly in Russia.

The government requires passengers carrying more than $10,000 to declare the money before leaving the country.

Santiago said dela Paz may have passed through the VIP room when he left Manila for Russia for the October 7 to 10 Interpol assembly, which is why his handcarried bag was most likely not checked at the international airport.

Santiago said it was not only "embarrassing" that a Filipino policeman would be caught with 105,000 euros but also "scandalous" considering that dela Paz represented a poor country.

No contingency fund

She said the Commission on Audit (COA) would surely say that a "contingency fund" for foreign travel of public officials is not allowed.

In all of her official travels, Santiago said she has never been granted "contingency fund."

On dela Paz's defense that the money was legitimate cash advance for foreign travel, Santiago said cash advance is usually given to pay for hotel and transportation expenses. In the case of the 8-man PNP delegation, their hotel and transportation expenses had already been paid.

She also noted that Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno had already said that he only authorized the release of P2.3 million for the 8-man delegation's trip to Russia.

On PNP officials' claim that it was contingency funds in case any of those in the delegation needed medical treatment, Santiago said the police officials didn't have to bring such a big amount since they could have asked for the help of the Philippine embassy in Moscow if they had gotten sick in Russia.

Saving their skin?

Santiago said higher-ranking officials of the PNP are washing their hands of the scandal "to save their skin."

She said PNP Chief Jesus Versoza cannot claim ignorance of the cash advance since he is the approving authority.

Santiago said a case of malversation of public funds can be filed against Versoza and dela Paz, including other violations of the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

Santiago said he once attended an Interpol assembly when he was immmigration commissioner during the Aquino administration, and she found it was a "waste of time" and just "a free junket."

"That's why I never went to an Interpol assembly again," she said.

Puno: I didn't clear P7M

Meanwhile, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno on Tuesday acknowledged that the P6.9 million alleged cash advance of dela Paz was "not covered by the authority" he issued for the travel expenses and allowances of the PNP delegation.

"It's large so I don't know what contingencies they were anticipating," he told ANC's Top Story Tuesday. "It was not covered by the authority I issued, which was for per diem and travel cost."

Puno said he only authorized the release of P2.3 million for the 8-man PNP delegation's participation in the October 7 to 10 Interpol assembly in Russia.

However, since dela Paz was the PNP comptroller, Puno said he was "entitled to a cash advance" within a certain limit, but this should have been authorized.

Puno said an internal investigation will be conducted by the National Police Commission (Napolcom) to determine if the "cash advances have any basis, who authorized the cash advance, what contingencies were anticipated."

Puno also defended the presence of dela Paz at the Interpol assembly even if he would already have retired from service during his scheduled return to the Philippines on October 11.

"The Interpol meeting was on financial and program plans. Since he was comptroller, there was reason for him to go," he said. [...]

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Thanks to the Russian authorities for being instrumental in the discovery of this alleged anomaly.


Plant Camote If We Must

Recession Risks to Filipinos
By Mon Casiple

In the light of the failure to rekindle market confidence of the passage of the US law authorizing up to US$700 billion bail-out and the deepening global financial crisis, the recession scenario cannot anymore be brushed aside and it may arrive sooner than later. The Iceland bankruptcy, the EU bank bail-outs, plunging world stock markets, US job lay-offs, and continuing tight credit regimes all point to the increasingly precarious global financial system. It is a matter of time that the real economy–the daily economy of societies and peoples–will be affected. We are looking at the opening maw of the abyss called global recession.

The Philippine authorities desperately tries to draw attention from this grim scenario with endless assurances that we are not affected. It would have been better if they started telling the people the truth and prepare them for the hardships ahead. It is not fair nor prudent to mask the reality–when it hits with no preparations, psychological or otherwise, it will simply swamp those unprepared to survive the economic blows.

The real economy and the “virtual” economy of the financial system, the economies and financial systems of almost all countries, and the global villages that we have become under globalization all cannot be separated nor isolated from each other–we are all connected and intertwined. It is simply not true that the Philippine economy or financial system can be protected or distanced from the recession.

How may Filipinos be affected by recession? Let me count the ways: 1) you may lose your job in the global job market, whether it be in the call center here or your overseas job; 2) you may lose the foreign market for your goods; 3) you may lose your credit card, your insurance plan, and/or your bank account; 4) you may not be able to get loans or credit for your business or other needs; and 5) your foreign investor partner may leave and saddle you with the remaining liabilities.

A second round where the local economy contracts in sympathy will do the following to you: 1) your business may fold up with the shrinkage or disappearing foreign market, lack of capital, or bad debts; 2) you may not have the necessary reserves to weather the slowing or stopping of the business cycle and consequent loss of earnings and profits ; 3) you may lose your job; 4) your peso may not be worth much as exchange rates deteriorates; and 5) you may not have the money at all to buy basic necessities.

Time to plant camote–the old saying goes. Prepare for days of survival ahead. GMA and rosy drumbeaters be damned!

Whatever preparations there are to be made, governments can only do so much. This crisis is just about to exit its preliminary stage that is why many of the developing economies are not yet experiencing real significant impact as what the major developed economies are already beginning to experience.

Developing economies (like our Philippine economy) are somewhere near the lower portion of the world economic structure. The scenario can be likened to an iceberg. The upper portion of the iceberg are the world's major economies, the lower portion that is submerged comprises the minor economies. When the globe warms up some degrees higher than normal, the top portion of the iceberg melts first because they are most exposed to the warming surface of the ocean. At preliminary stage, the melting process starts slow and almost undetected. It continues for some length of time until the process is recognizable. As the melting process progresses to the secondary stage, there is a point where it suddenly accelerates. The iceberg divides into multiple smaller sizes then later on, at the final stage, breaks down into even smaller chunks and dissolves within a short period of time.

Will this current "meltdown" continue all the way to the final stage, or will it stop at some point ahead? It will only stop when its purposes are completed. Plant camote if we must because it is not for everyone to know all the reasons for the season.

Necessary difficulties are not just simply allowed to happen by the All-knowing Power for no unnecessary reason. Operating in the principle of "hitting many birds with just one stone", there are deeper objectives that this particular "difficulty" is meant to accomplish which are not obvious. Just as the draining of a pond exposes submerged objects, also in like manner, this crises will "quietly reveal" things but only to those who are called and prepaired to do their tasks so that they will know what to do when their time comes.