Thursday, September 14, 2006

Ali Baba and the Forty Thousand Thieves

ven though a member of the Armed Forces' K-9 Corps particularly beloved of Cory Aquino is said to be interred with the heroes, soldiers, Presidents and National Artists in the Libingan ng mga Bayani at Fort Bonifacio in Makati, I am glad that Ferdinand Marcos has not gained entry to that cemetery of heroes -- with his fake medals, his bloodstained hands, his megalomaniac mind, his avaricious heart and the rest of what used to be his mortal coil. Meaning no disrespect for the dead dictator, I hope he never will, just as a matter of poetic justice. Let him stay in his beloved Ilocos province, there to float on a bed of greenish light in the dark, stentorian ambiance of piped-in Wagnerian music in some old family house of theirs, and where his true believers and loyalists are said to still lovingly administer a much-needed weekly shave on Da Apo! (Madame Tussaud would faint.) Now, even Imelda is said to have given up on the idea of a burial for the mouldering dictator to be among the national heroes. (Of course, the way Imelda Marcos and fugitive PCGG Commissioner Rick Abcede are so beso-beso nowadays gives pause; don't be surprised if this actually means a deal for the dastardly deed to put Da Apo in the Libingan ng mga Bayani has already been struck with Imelda's Male Version in the present-day Palace.)

THE LOOT RE-PLUNDERED But the evils done by Marcos live on after him. Not least, in the continuing plunders, larcenies, leaching-off-ofs and other miraculous gimmicks by the forty thousand thieves that have busied themselves over the years like scarab dung beetles, assiduously collecting their share of fallen crumbs from Marcos "hidden wealth." This includes not only the remnant of Marcos' unpunished relations and cronies, but also members of the various official Posses that have been formed to go after them over the years! "Bantay-salakay", as Senator Dick Gordon called them in the vernacular yesterday. For ironically, a lucrative sort of bureaucratic industry has grown up around the very instruments originally assembled to regain the plundered billions of the Marcoses in cash, jewelry, stocks, bonds, deeds, options, and properties of every imaginable and valuable sort. Take for example the Philippine Commission on Good Government led by Chairman Camilo Sabio, who was recently arrested on orders of the Philippine Senate for ignoring multiple summons to testify before it. "After twenty years, the PCGG has not even a written a report on its work!" Dick Gordon fulminated at yesterday's hearing, after they were lectured to by Sabio on Executive Order No. 1 and why he, Camilo Sabio, and the various commissioners of that august body called the PCGG, are too busy going after Marcos' wealth to be attending silly Senate hearings. Dick Gordon was clearly exasperated by Camilo Sabio, but I'm glad that he for one is standing up for the rights of that endangered species called the Philippine Senate. After all, the worms are already done with Marcos' carcass, but it seems the Forty Thousand Thieves are still feasting in Ali Baba's cave.

A substantial matter propounded yesterday by Camilo Sabio is the following provision in Executive Order No. 1
(b) No member or staff of the commission shall be required to testify or produce evidence in any judicial, legislative or administrative proceeding concerning matters within its official cognizance.
Senator Juan Ponce Enrile in contradicting Sabio's claim of special immunity observed that if the 1987 Constitution and subsequent jurisprudence are not considered to have repealed or amended the same as Sabio claims, why then the PCGG appears to be above all the departments of the government and the Law itself as it is answerable to no one.

Another chicken of the Supreme Court is coming home to roost. Oral arguments have already been set for September 21 during Sabio's habeas corpus hearing.

An interesting tableau is beginning to form this afternoon at the Philippine Senate as Gordon's committee re-convenes. Overnight, Senate security forces apparently raided the Makati offices of the PhilComSat looking for the fugitive Abcede. Perhaps this action has impressed the seriousness of the Senate in this matter upon certain people because it seems those invited from Philcomsat have decided to attend today's session.

IN AID OF LEGISLATION Senator Dick Gordon shrewdly emphasized the Senate's motivation in conducting the present hearings: they are in aid of legislation aimed at determining what the government really ought to do about the 20 year old PCGG, which has become part of the "system of spoils" in which a new set of appointees comes into the agency with every new administration. As Gordon poignantly observes, the public has not ever received a comprehensive report from the PCGG on how many people have been prosecuted or jailed and that negligence and corrupt practices have dissipated the value of these corporations.

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