Amie Joy Antolin

Amie Joy Antolin

Thursday, 25 January 2024 19:59

Profiles in corruption: The Cory legacy

Second of a series

THE first part of this series on the riveting Philippine corruption tales portrayed the stark display of naked power by President Noynoy Aquino when their Cojuangco family heirloom, their crown jewel, the Hacienda Luisita, was threatened and sold for a pittance upon the decision of Chief Justice Corona's Supreme Court. But this egregious act was further exacerbated by corrupt senators blatantly selling their votes to impeach Corona. As to the participation of some lawmakers in the pork barrel scam, Art Aguilar, a Harvard colleague, had to remind me that "the Supreme Court ruled the DAP unconstitutional, yet no senator was sanctioned ... no CoA disallowance! Meantime CoA [is] running after govt employees who got peanuts as allowances and separation pay." How true! There is nothing the Filipino can do about this unless President BBM uses the remaining years of his watch to revisit and correct similar anomalies inflicted on the country by all administrations before him. As to Cory Aquino, Ferdinand's nemesis, perhaps BBM's greatest legacy he leaves behind in an attempt to restore his father's image is to put in proper perspective her own.


Upon her assumption to power, President Cory's first act was to promulgate Executive Order 1, creating the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under the slogan "Nakaw na yaman, ibalik sa bayan," tasked to recover the ill-gotten wealth that the Marcoses, relatives and their cronies in the oligarchy amassed over two decades.

The PCGG was the Cory government's leading-edge instrument, given a free hand to investigate and pursue cases in court, sequestrations, and compromise settlements with the Marcos family, their cronies, and the oligarchs whose assets appear in their names. They were entrusted with negotiating with foreign governments and banks to facilitate the recovery of Marcos assets abroad. And they took over the boards of these sequestered companies, many of which were milked with profligate travel allowances and unliquidated cash advances. These companies have gone bankrupt.

But the recovery process of the ill-gotten wealth was itself marred by anomalies and corruption. President Cory, who was a politician's wife but not one herself, was thoroughly unfamiliar with the arcana of governance and the pragmatism of political compromise, admitting that she was a "mere housewife" and solely concerned with restoring the democracy that was lost during the Marcos regime. Although President Cory was never personally corrupt, her naïveté allowed an environment where corrupt cronies and oligarchs proliferated, manipulated and soiled her saintly image.

She, therefore, relied on the advice of the members of the transitory disinherited elite, the class she was born into, and appointed many of them to sensitive positions in government. More tragically, she depended on the "Kamag-anak Inc." for guidance on how to govern and recover the Marcos loot. It is believed that much of this ill-gotten wealth was siphoned off to these people. She let loose the foxes on the chicken coop.

And there were questionable compromises and directives. Foremost of which is the return of assets of the pre-martial law elite families, resurrecting the old oligarchy. The Lopezes got back Meralco and ABS-CBN, the sale of Philippine Airlines to her nephews, and the return of the PLDT to the Cojuangco relatives. And a festering issue was a reported 38 sequestered companies of Kokoy Romualdez (Imelda's brother) worth billions allegedly sold to President Cory's brother-in-law Ricardo "Baby" Lopa for $250,000, days after Marcos fled the country (Seth Mydans, The New York Times, Oct. 17, 1988). In his defense, Lopa intimated that the Marcos family had seized the companies from him when Ferdinand came to power 20 years earlier. This could be true, but Cory, the paragon of morality, should have acted like Calpurnia, Cesar's wife — above reproach.

CARP, anti-feudal instrument

But the issue that impacted heavily on the populist image of President Cory was her flagship Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) that was meant to address our feudal land ownership. Cory was enamored with what South Korea, Taiwan and China did in the 1950s and 1960s to liberate the landless, particularly the farmers and the rural sector, from the shackles of poverty towards the path of economic development. The Philippine version of CARP was likewise fashioned to redistribute agricultural land to farmers and provide them with support services to ensure their productivity and welfare. This necessitated the breaking up of large estates, some of which dated back to the Spanish encomienda and were awarded to a multitude of small farmers, appropriately compensating the landowners.

In the 19th century, Japan's Meiji Restoration redistributed land from feudal lords to small farmers, which led to increased agricultural productivity, rural development, and the growth of a strong agricultural sector and eventual industrialization that even propelled Japan's economy to underpin a war and its "Greater East Asia Co-prosperity sphere."

These successes were in total contrast with the Philippine CARP implementation, which was disfigured by anomalies and corruption, hindering its effectiveness and leading to discontent among farmers. There were unreasonable delays in actual land distribution to the Agrarian Reform Beneficiaries (ARBs), bogged down by bureaucratic red tape and non-cooperation by the landowners themselves. The bureaucracy, government officials, the middlemen and the landowners colluded to manipulate land valuation.

CARP perversions

To hold on to their estates, owners sought exemptions from CARP rushing conversion of huge swaths of these productive agricultural lands to non-agricultural or commercial and residential purposes, precipitating an inordinate spike in real estate development, housing subdivisions and new town centers — displacing thousands of tenants and farmers, driving them to city slums looking for alternative work.

And those ARBs lucky enough to be new owners of plots suffer from a lack of government support services, unable to fully utilize the land they received due to a lack of necessary infrastructure, credit and technical assistance. This resulted in low productivity and limited economic benefits for the beneficiaries and their eventual destitution.

What is unconscionable was the introduction of the stock distribution option (SDO), an alternative to actual land distribution allowing landowners to incorporate their holdings and distribute shares of corporate stocks to agricultural workers instead of transferring actual land ownership to them. This scheme circumvented land redistribution and maintained landowner corporate control over agricultural resources. Farmers were coerced or deceived into accepting the SDO, leading to continued landlessness and exploitation.

In effect, this undermined the core principle of CARP of distributing land to the landless, emancipating them from the shackles of a feudal system that bred more poverty, deprivation and social injustice. SDO perpetuated the dominance of landowners over the agricultural sector.

The effect on the farmers and the body politic was instantaneous, sparking widespread protests and resistance from farmers' organizations and agrarian reform advocates, and the motley allies of Cory hammered out against the martial law regime that inspired the EDSA People Power Revolution of 1986.

This anomalous scheme, evasion of CARP on a grand scale exempting her family's Hacienda Luisita, had the full backing of President Cory. The erosion of the dreams and promises of EDSA and the betrayal of the Filipino perhaps started from this point on.

Looking back, Ferdinand and Cory were faces of the same coin, manipulated by the eventual beneficiary — the oligarchy.

Friday, 19 May 2017 07:58

CDPI Summer Youth Leaders Dialogue

The Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) will be holding its 1st CDPI Summer Youth Leaders Dialogue on the 23rd of May 2017 at Hotel Vicente, Davao City.

It will be a one-day event participated by student-leaders from various colleges and universities in Davao City. The goal of the youth leaders’ dialogue is to gather ideas and understand different perspectives in the topics of federalism, democracy and youth leadership in the midst of the present political structures.

Furthermore, it is the general aim of this activity to engage potential youth leaders in enhancing their knowledge in the field of governance and politics and to raise their awareness and commitment to take on leadership roles.

Miss Rochelle C. Sanaga and Jessalyn C. Jayag will present the CDPI as an organization, what they do and what the organization is all about. Mr. Ted Lorenzo A. Lago and Joshua Adrian S. Cericos will present the role of the youth in the process of federalism.

There will be presentations of outputs and round-table discussions every after each presentation to cater questions and to deepen the participants’ understanding of the topics.
The Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – with its new tagline of “Partido Para Pederalismo”, has successfully hosted the 8th National Congress on the 6th of May 2017 at Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City, Philippines.

Secretary Ernesto C. Abella, who was one of the invited keynote speakers along with Senate President Aquilino “Koko" Pimentel, talked about the programs of the Duterte administration. He was glad that the CDP share the same vision with the administration and that federalism will most likely take place in the Duterte government but only when the people is willing to take an active part in such change.

With optimism, Sec. Abella said that “it takes a nation, to build a nation” and the way forward is through federalism.

Senator Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel, the PDP-LABAN President, also spoke about their party’s version of roadmap to federalism.

CDP and PDP-LABAN have similar ideological underpinnings although the CDP’s position on some issues has a slight twist with that of the PDP-Laban stance: a unicameral versus a bicameral parliament; a ceremonial president versus a strong one; and the Prime Minister as Head of Government leading towards an eventual Federal system of government. The major divergence in both position is in the question of timing of the restructuring of political elements.

The CDP passed a resolution to thresh out differences of the two positions in a meeting to be represented by coordinating bodies of PDP-LABAN and CDP.
The Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) in partnership with the Konrad Adenaur Stiftung-Philippines will be gathering experts in political party building and federalism in establishing a working roadmap for a Federal-Parliamentary Philippines this coming 5 May 2017 in Hotel Vicente, Davao City, Philippines.

The dialogue will serve as a venue to discuss important topics such as successful political parties and the best practices of other countries that follows a Federal-Parliamentary form of government.

In essence, the objectives of the forum is to understand the experiences of other countries when it comes to political party management and federal-parliamentary government and appreciate its implications. Eventually, the end game is to come up with a working roadmap for a Federal and Parliamentary Philippines.

Mr. Roderico Y. Dumaug Jr. is currently teaching at Xavier University and the chairperson of the CDP Iligan City Chapter. He will be presenting case studies of successful political party management and strategies.

Mr. Ryan Maboloc, a professor from the Ateneo de Davao University, will be presenting successful federal and parliamentary governments with strong political parties.

Mr. Lito Monico C. Lorenzana, CDPI president and founder will be presenting the working roadmap for a Federal and Parliamentary Philippines.

An open forum will take place after the presentations.
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 06:52

CDP holds its 13th National Council Meeting

The Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) – Ang Partido ng Tunay na Demokrasya will be having its 13th National Council Meeting on May 5, 2017 at Hotel Vicente, Davao City, Philippines to discuss and further its local and national initiatives in pursuing a Federal-Parliamentary Philippines as one of its major advocacies.

More than a hundred of elected representatives from different CDP chapters around the country will be attending. Aside from the elected delegates coming from various cities, municipalities and provinces, CDP elective officials through its organized group Simula ng Bagong Umaga Landasin (SIBUL) headed by Cong. Maximo Rodriguez, Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP), and the Centrist Democracy Political Institute (CDPI) are also expected to participate.

There will be a reading, adoption, and approval of the Minutes of the 12th National Council (NC) Meeting and the present Agenda of the 13th National Council Meeting. Atty. Rufus B. Rodriguez, the Centrist Democratic Party President, will give the open remarks and the introduction before the council.

Reports regarding the update from the Office of the National Secretariat, Sector Associations (CDYAP and SIBUL) and updates from all chapters will be presented. Hon. Maximo B. Rodriguez, Second District of Cagayan de Oro City Representative and the CDP-SIBUL Chairperson, will present the legislative initiatives of CDP in the House of Representatives.

The council meeting will also hold discussions and approval on the CDP Operations Management and Oversight Board Workshop, Proposed Amendments of the Constitution and Bylaws, Proposed Working Documents of the Thematic Commissions.

The party chairperson will report on the strategic recruitment, nationwide Federalism campaign, and progress report of the CDPI Fellows’ initiatives. The concluding message will be given by the party president.
Wednesday, 26 April 2017 06:45

CDP holds 8th National Congress

The Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines will hold its 8th National Congress on May 6, 2017 at Marco Polo Hotel, Davao City, Philippines.

The program will commence with the welcome remarks of Atty. Rufus B. Rodriguez, the CDP President. Afterwards, there will be a presentation of formulated resolutions during the 13th National Council Meeting to be lead by Mr. Jordan Jay C. Antolin, the Secretary General of the Centrist Democratic Party and the Executive Director of the Centrist Democracy Political Institute.

One of the main highlight of this event is the keynote message to be delivered by the Senator President Aquilino "Koko" Pimentel.

The program will be capped off with a solidarity message from the CDP Chairman, Mr. Lito Monico C. Lorenzana.
The Centrist Democracy Political Institute together with Konrad Adenaur Stiftung (KAS)-Philippines has conducted a Thematic Conference and Workshop on Political Party Management and Development in One Pacific Hotel, Makati City last 17- 18 March 2016.

Mr. Jordan Jay C. Antolin, executive director of CDPI started the workshop by presenting the rationale of the event. As he said, the framework of which the party functions and responds to the pressing national issues is essentially based on the official stand as approved with all the members of the national council, reflective of the party’s platform and principles.

Miss Cristita Marie L. Giangan, MPMD, Program Manager at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines, presented the Aspects of Political Party and Sector Management. According to Miss Giangan, the national leaders of the party are the also managers with responsibility and control of the party. Effectiveness and efficiency must be its guiding principles.

Mr. Benedikt Seemann, Country Director of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines discussed the creation of commissions in a political party and how to sustain them. He said that a political party essentially aggregates the interest of the people on the ground. The party consults and agrees in democratic process the general representation and priorities of members and chapters.

The next session was facilitated by Mr. Roderico Y. Dumaog, Chairperson of the CDP Iligan City Chapter. He facilitated a discussion and workshop on political party thematic commissions. He presented the function of the four principal commissions: home affairs commission, socio-economic affairs commission, and intervention and security affairs commission, political and constitutional reforms.

The event ended with each commission presenting their action plan and proposed party stand on the issues vis-à-vis the political platform of the party.

Mr. Lorenzana, the CDPI Chairman, reiterated that internal brainstorming and strategic planning is important in any organization, especially in a political party. And because of that, internal affairs and strategies must be settled and become harmonious with the political party’s agenda, else the party will lose its direction.
The Centrist Democracy Political Institute together with Konrad Adenaur Stiftung (KAS)-Philippines will be conducting a Thematic Conference and Workshop on Political Party Management and Development at One Pacific Hotel, Makati City on 17- 18 March 2016.

The rationale of the conference and workshop is to present the status of major parties in terms of daily operations and management and how CDPI will be able to address the demand for trainings, workshops, conferences and in terms of developing their thematic commissions.

Miss Cristita Marie L. Giangan, MPMD, Program Manager at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines, will be presenting the Aspects of Political Party and Sector Management. She will discuss the general aspects of party management and on how the mother party will relate its programs, advocacies, and efforts to its established sector associations (and vice versa).

Mr. Benedikt Seemann, Country Director of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Philippines will be discussing the Creation of Commissions in a Political Party and How to sustain them: The Case of the Christian Democratic Union, how it has established and the method of selection of members, among others.

The next session will be facilitated by Mr. Roderico Y. Dumaog, Chairperson of the CDP Iligan City Chapter. He will be facilitating a discussion and workshop on political party thematic commissions.

Mr. Renato G. Tibon, Fellow and Concilium Member, Centrist Democracy Political Institute, will be giving a discussion on Political Party Structural Framework vis-à-vis Work Relations & Dynamics of Thematic Commissions.

Prof. Maria Lourdes N. Tiquia, Founder and General Manager, Publicus Asia, Ltd. and also a member of the CDPI National Board of Advisers, will be giving a presentation of case studies on successful party management and strategies. She will be presenting a set of case studies of at least two political parties that are successful in terms of internal party management.

The thematic conference and workshop will hopefully help the participants understand the principles and mechanisms of political party work and development.
Thursday, 23 February 2017 13:23

"Thou Shall Not Die"

Davao- Yesterday, the Ateneo de Davao University hosted a forum on Death Penalty in the Philippines in collaboration with APILA, Law School, Amnesty International-Philippines, SAMAPULA, and SS-SEC at the Finster Auditorium of Ateneo de Davao University. The forum was participated by representatives from different organizations, sectors, and the university faculty and students.

With its theme, “Thou Shall Not Die”, the forum was opened by Atty. Romeo T. Cabarde, Jr. through reiterating the values of the university as a Jesuit and Catholic school. He said that there may be conflicting ideas between the values held by the university and that of the present administration but this essentially opens up for constructive discussions and informed presentation of ideas.

The forum was headed by the first speaker and followed up by three reactors coming from different organizations and sectors.

The main presenter, Atty. Ray Paolo D. Santiago of the Ateneo Human Rights Center of Ateneo de Manila University, presented the following propositions against the re-imposition of Death Penalty in the Philippines: first,the move to re-impose the bill is unconstitutional; second, it violates the international law; third, Death Penalty does not deter criminality; fourth, Death Penalty is subject to judicial power, and lastly, it targets those who live below the poverty line. Atty. Santigao showed compelling recent statistics to substantiate the following propositions.

Atty. Arnold C. Abejaron from the legal sector was the first reactor. He said that the re-imposition of the Death Penalty will eventually carry economic repercussions not just legal once because of the binding agreement we had with other countries through signed international treaties. Basically, the congress cannot pass the law without violating the international commitment.

“Can you restore the life of the victim by killing the criminal?” said Fr. Orlando A. Angela, a Theologian, presented the church’s take on the re-imposition of the Death Penalty which according to him is morally wrong in virtue of the sanctity of life and will only inspire vengeance among the victims’ families.

The last reactor was Mister Rey Andrew Villafuerte from the Amnesty International-Philippines. According to Mister Villafuerte, the greatest danger posited by the re-imposition of the bill is that it can be subject to erroneous interpretations and vulnerable to discrimination. Ultimately, the Death Penalty is a denial of the criminal’s right to rehabilitation and restorative justice.
SENATOR Alan Peter Cayetano, a key administration ally, on Thursday said he will seek an explanation from the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) on why it had recommended the acquittal of pork barrel scam brains Janet Napoles in a case for illegal detention.

“On the Napoles case, like you, I’m also asking for an explanation… Like you, I also want the [Solicitor General] to answer. But I guarantee you that the President will not allow any corruption to happen during the administration. And he will not absolve those who were corrupt in past administrations,” Cayetano said at the sidelines of a Senate inquiry into the bribery scandal at the Bureau of Immigration.

Cayetano was reacting to a Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism report that the new lawyers at the OSG had filed with the Court of Appeals a manifestation recommending the acquittal of Napoles for the crime of serious illegal detention filed by her second cousin, pork barrel scam whistleblower Benhur Luy.

The manifestation cited evidence that Luy, a former aide of Napoles, was free to move even if he was staying in a retreat house.

Napoles is the alleged mastermind of the scheme in which lawmakers got kickbacks from the Priority Development Assistance Fund, also known as pork barrel, by funneling the money through bogus non-governmental organizations.

Cayetano blamed the previous administration for building a weak case against Napoles and letting some personalities go scot-free.

“Why is it that the cases filed during the Aquino administration were weak? We foresaw that at that time because the big cases like ‘Hello Garci’ (2004 election fraud) were neglected. Here with Napoles, many were excluded from the cases filed by the previous administration,” he said in a mix of Filipino and English.

President Rodrigo Duterte’s chief legal counsel however believes there is “very strong evidence” against Napoles in her pork barrel-related cases.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said this as he defended the OSG’s move, which he said would not affect the strength of pork barrel scam cases filed against Napoles.

“It will never be affected because these are two different cases,” Panelo told reporters.

He reiterated that it was Solicitor General Jose Calida’s duty as the top government lawyer to review cases.

“If upon review of the case, the OSG feels that it has no evidence to get a conviction [and]that there is [no]proof beyond reasonable doubt, then it is his duty under the Constitution and the law to state his position that there is no such case against the accused,” he said.

“Otherwise you will be creating injustice putting an innocent person behind bars,” Panelo added.

Malacañang on Thursday belied claims that Calida was lawyering for Napoles.

“He’s just simply trying to correct want he thinks, what he sees, what he perceives is something that needs to be rectified,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said in a news conference.
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