Impeachment case: Morality, not just jueteng - GOTCHA by Jarius Bondoc

Shocked with Chavit Singson’s expose of payoffs to Joseph Estrada and because the President made the resulting public outrage look like it’s all about gambling, many are of the impression that the impeachment case in Congress revolves solely around jueteng. It doesn’t, Jueteng-gate is in fact just one of four grounds and ten counts for which 47 congressmen signed up to impeach. The case is a consolidation of various accusations – all pointing to (im)morality.

The Constitution provides six grounds for impeachment. The case cites four of the six: bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust, and culpable violation of the Constitution. (The two uncited grounds are treason and other high crimes.)

It’s only for Ground 1, bribery, that the complainants raise Singson’s jueteng expose. Invoking Presidential Decree 46 and 749, they state "that from November 1998 to August 2000, respondent received P10 million a month as bribe from jueteng lords as protection money channeled through Luis C. Singson, provincial governor of Ilocos Sur, as may be seen from his affidavit dated September 14, 2000." This affidavit, also submitted to the Senate Blue-Ribbon committee, narrates how Estrada, in a fit of pique with gambling buddy Atong Ang, supposedly assigned Singson to collect the protection money.

Ground 2, graft and corruption, cites Singson’s other affidavit, dated September 25 in which he alleges that Estrada took P130 million from the P200-million tobacco tax supposedly to cover 1998 election expenses. But there are two other counts for graft:

• that Estrada "participated directly in the real estate business thru a family-controlled corporation that constructed 36 townhouses in Vermont Park, Executive Village, Antipolo City, as shown in the PCIJ article on President Estrada’s Family and Financial Interest"; and

• that in his 1999 Statement of Assets and Liabilities, Estrada swore to have business interests with his wife and children in only three firms, although "records show that he and his wife and mistresses and their children" have interests in 59 other companies.

Ground 3, betrayal of public trust, has nothing to do with Singson’s exposes. The first count concerns Estrada’s attempts to clear his pal Dante Tan of anomalous haste in getting an on-line bingo franchise and of a later charge for stock market price manipulation. Former SEC chairman Perfecto Yasay Jr. swore that Estrada called him five times to intercede for Tan.

A second count of betrayal is for going against his own inaugural pledge of "walang kamaganak, kumpare, o kaibigan". It recounts instances when Estrada covered up supposed abuses by two sons: Jinggoy who picked a fight with doctors in a hospital emergency room, and Jude who flew the presidential jet to Cagayan de Oro then left behind unpaid hotel and restaurant bills. It also cites Estrada’s appointment of cousin Cecilia Ejercito de Castro as presidential assistant "although he disclaimed knowing her in the wake of the textbook scam in 1998."Also, for naming brother-in-law Rufino Pimentel as Pagcor director, another brother-in-law Raul de Guzman as UP regent, nephew Robert de Guzman as presidential consultant on environment, and "more than a hundred kumpares as presidential advisers, consultants, assistants."

A third count dwells on Estrada’s fast-growing assets in family firms. It says that while he often claims as his main program the uplift of the poor, "records show that during his tenure as President, he focused mainly on participation in business for himself, his family and friends."

Still another count if for Estrada’s release of P100 million in charity sweepstakes funds to a foundation with offices at his own home address, No. 1 Polk St., Greenhills, San Juan.

Ground 4, culpable violation of the Constitution, raises two counts:

• that Estrada broke his oath of office to uphold the law when he gave away smuggled luxury vans to Cabinet members, which contravened the Anti-Graft Law and the Customs Code; and

• that he went against a 1994 Supreme Court ruling by appointing Ramon Cardenas, Magdangal Elma, Robert Aventajado, Ric Tan Legada, Gaudencio Mendoza, and Raul de Guzman to multiple government posts.

With all these grounds and counts, congressmen like Bobby Tanada cannot say they’ll must wait for Estrada’s explanation on the jueteng expose before deciding whether or not to sign up to impeach. Just one count, just one ground in which they see a prima facie case – the probability that Estrada did commit crime – is enough for them to impeach him for trial in the Senate.
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INTERACTION. Joey Labrador, edsamail.com: Erap can donate millions of pesos in balato from personal funds. Does he use his own money when he donates land to the masa (Gotcha, 21 Oct. 2000)?

Renato de Leon, edsamail.com: I heard Erap’s speech to Commonwealth squatters. He maid it sound like the controversy is a fight between the rich and the poor. The poor will continue to be poor under him.

Narciso Ner, aol.com: All this rage against Erap is hurting our country. Why can’t we take the positive, constructing approach of harmony?

Vivian Milam, mindspring.com: What will happen to Jueteng-gate (Gotcha, 16 Oct. 2000)? It will be shelved and forgotten.

Rene Cruz, Jeddah, SA: Can you imagine what will happen if Erap steps down to give way to a dynamic leader (Gotcha, 14 Oct. 2000)? RP will regain dignity and prosperity.

Preioso Querubin, familyradio.com: Is it true that he said, "You can bet on it, I’ll stop all forms of gambling"?

Thank you, Henry Gonzales, Eduardo dela Cruz, Manny Prieto, Jun Rivera, Tina R. Sy-an, Antonio Cagalawan, Danilo Magalang, Roel Sigue, Joey Legarda, Manolo Montes, Jameson Mappala, Faithseeker, R. Santos, SHZ of Cebu, Fernando Soltero, Dr. Bobby Jimenez, Atty. Sonny Pulgar, Efren Dayauon, Hopper Wo, Ampil V.X., Dr. Matt Alino, Sonny Henson, Jim Compuesto, Noriel Javier, Thess Fernandez, Leonor Rivera, Zoilo C., Jacob Solano, Mar Gonzales, Boris Lopez, Jun Angeles, I. Bernal, Dr. Art Siloran, Vicki Eleazar, Juan Ventura, Arnel Doria, Dr. Mario Manso, Rudy Regalos, Fernando Soltero, Avito Teves Belangoy, Elmer Punahele, Lordenrod, Al Acosta.
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You can e-mail comments to jariusbondoc@workmail.com

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