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‘Cuckoo’ Miriam triggers criminal probes vs Enrile

Timid colleagues wish to strike off the record the biting speeches against each other of Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Juan Ponce Enrile. That would be to whitewash the issues raised. Both accused the other of lying. The right thing to do now is for them to prove their charges true – even if they forge a Christmas truce.

Enrile made two points against Santiago. His bitter critic, he said, barely passed the bar exam with a grade of 76 percent. That’s on record. On record too are Santiago’s many awards and citations as public lawyer, among these the prestigious Magsaysay Prize, Asia’s equivalent of the Nobel.

He also said she’s a cuckoo, which was why he opposed in vain her Cabinet posting in the 1980s. He would have to supply a psycho-report to prove that. Since eccentricity is not a crime, he’d need to show, beside her awards, citations, and recent appointment to the International Criminal Court, that she’s unfit for office.

In turn, Santiago accused Enrile of seven deadly sins:

(1) Killings of 4,000 civil libertarians, student and Church activists, and political dissenters during martial law. Enrile was defense minister when dictator Ferdinand Marcos abolished Congress, muzzled the press, and forbade assemblies in 1972. One of Marcos’s justifications for it was the ambush of Enrile’s limo, which Enrile during the 1986 People Power Revolt claimed was stage-managed, then reclaimed to be true in his bio last year. Santiago is on record as having ruled against arbitrary arrests during those dark days. Enrile was administrator of what was billed as “smiling martial law.” If it was smiling, then the torturers and murderers must have found glee in routinely pulling out the nails of detainees, forcing broken soda bottles into manacled women’s genitals, and electrocuting men. To this day, tens of thousands of victimized families feel aggrieved that Marcos’s scions and Enrile remain mighty politicos. Then again, a Chinese adage goes: “He who rides a tiger is afraid to dismount.”

(2) Masterminding the pork-barrel scam.

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Santiago cited official figures. In 2008-2013 Enrile received the most congressional “pork”: P1.189 billion, according to the budget department. For 22 times in 2007-2009 he, as now accused of plunder, coursed P641.65 million of that “pork” through fake NGOs and projects of fixer Janet Lim Napoles. In 2009-2010 Enrile was, according to the audit commission, one of four lawmakers who rerouted P206-million “pork” to bogus NGOs via the agriculture office. A Napoles employee-turned-whistleblower testified that Enrile in 2012 gave her fake NGO P5 million.

(3) Smuggling through the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority.

Comprising 441,000 hectares, thrice giant Quezon City’s, the CEZA was Enrile’s 1995 brainchild through R.A. 7922. Its head is his kin Jose Mari Ponce, and his rep is American used-car seller and son-in-law James Kocher. The American Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines long has been decrying the CEZA, also called Port Irene, as front for vehicle smuggling. U.S. envoy Kristie Kenney had reported Enrile’s berating of the grumbling joint foreign chambers, Santiago recounted WikiLeaks as exposing. The Senate in 2008 held an inquiry, during which Enrile refused to inhibit. Simultaneously, Customs forbade any more vehicle importation, which the CEZA violated within days. Can Santiago access Customs records to link Enrile to the scam?

(4) Illegal online gambling through the CEZA.

Weeks ago cops raided the Makati call center of Canadian fugitive Calvin Edward Ayre, one of America’s ten most wanted. The operation, one of billionaire Ayre’s three huge offices in Makati and Quezon City, allegedly offered illegal online gambling to Filipinos and foreigners. Everything’s done via Internet, which recognizes no national boundaries. Ayre – a notorious media corruptor – has been fleeing U.S. feds and hiding in the Philippines for the past 12 years. He functions domestically by virtue of a franchise from the CEZA-based Cagayan Entertainment & Leisure Corp. Santiago quoted columnist Ramon Tulfo as exposing the CEZA connection. Years back the CEZA also caused a stir when its jai-alai franchisee began accepting off-fronton bets nationwide. Only state-owned Pagcor owns a gaming franchise in the land. By what authority does the CEZA issue gaming licenses, and is Enrile linked to it? Interior Sec. Jesse Robredo was investigating just that when he died in a 2012 plane crash, says Justice Sec. Leila de Lima.

(5) Denudation of Samar.

During martial law Enrile wangled the largest logging concession, 95,770 hectares in Samar, Santiago said. Guarded by the “lost command” of constabulary colonel Carlos Ledesma, Enrile’s San Jose Lumber allegedly deforested the island-province. (Up till last May’s senatorial election, the issue was being raised against the Enriles.) Ledesma’s unit had murdered 45 persons in Las Navas town in 1981, said Santiago.

 (6) Concubinage.

Santiago accused Enrile of cohabiting with his chief of staff Gigi Reyes. The married woman was fresh out of law school when she joined Enrile’s law firm in 1988. King David-like, Santiago implied, Enrile caused the husband’s posting to the CEZA, 620 kilometers away from their Manila home. The couple eventually separated. Reyes is co-accused with Enrile of “pork” plunder.

(7) Falsification of Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.

Santiago alleged that Enrile under-declared his net worth to only P118 million in 2012. This, she said, despite owning a mansion in plush Dasmariñas Village, Makati; a manor in Valle Verde, Pasig; and a beachfront villa in Nasugbu, Batangas, among others.

Santiago has asked the NBI, through de Lima, to investigate Enrile. From the results, the Ombudsman, Commission on Human Rights, Bureau of Internal Revenue, and other state agencies would initiate charges.

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