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Opinion

Human trafficking exposé

SENTINEL - Ramon T. Tulfo - The Philippine Star

Newly elected senator Alan Peter Cayetano has expressed a desire to chair the powerful Senate Blue Ribbon committee.

The Committee on Accountability of Public Officers and Investigation of the Senate of the Philippines is the official name of the Blue Ribbon committee.
The committee can summon anybody as a resource person to help craft laws to eliminate corruption in the government and the private sector and improve governance.

Any person who ignores the Senate “invitation” or lies before the committee could be declared in contempt and held indefinitely. Look what happened to Pharmally executives.

The head of the Blue Ribbon committee is expected to be as pure as Caesar’s wife, so to speak, or beyond reproach.

Cayetano has yet to account for the billions of pesos spent in the Southeast Asian Games that the country hosted in 2019.

Cayetano, who headed the Philippine SEA Games Organizing Committee (Phisgoc), was handed all the funds for the event.

The Balik-Senado Cayetano of Taguig should come clean and tell the public how he and his lieutenants in Phisgoc spent every centavo that was disbursed for the 2019 SEA Games.

His dillydallying or refusal to do so would invite suspicion from the public that the government funds were spent frivolously.

*      *      *

A total of 45 Bureau of Immigration employees were dismissed by the Office of the Ombudsman, among the largest number of government personnel given the boot in one swoop.

Those dismissed were mostly immigration officers assigned at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport for the easy entry of foreign nationals, mostly Chinese, in exchange for bribe money.

The decision to dismiss the immigration personnel was apparently made upon the recommendation of Sen. Risa Hontiveros, chair of the Senate committee on women, children, family relations and gender equality.

The Hontiveros committee, overreaching itself, investigated the human trafficking at the NAIA on the basis of reports that Chinese women who were allowed to enter the country ended up as prostitutes in high-end bars.

There were also reports that Filipino women left the country to work abroad without securing permits from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA).

Anyway, thanks to Senator Hontiveros, the human trafficking was exposed.

I am not trying to grab some credit here, but my column in another broadsheet exposed the human trafficking months before Hontiveros conducted the investigation.

Apparently, some bootlickers in Malacañang didn’t show President Rodrigo “Digong” Duterte my series of articles on the human trafficking in that column. Had Digong read it, heads would have rolled much earlier at the immigration bureau.

It showed that many of his close advisers are blindfolding Digong so he would not see what is happening in his administration.

The immigration officers who were dismissed by Ombudsman Samuel Martires on the basis of the Hontiveros committee recommendation were the same individuals I exposed in that column.

The human trafficking issue came to my attention when Alex Chiong, an immigration officer at the NAIA, bared the illegal activities of his colleagues.

Chiong said he came to me because he could no longer stomach the blatant bribery at the NAIA which, he admitted, he was a part of.

When my exposé series was not acted on by the powers that be, Chiong went to Senator Hontiveros.

*      *      *

I hate to admit it, but I failed as a “fiscalizer” of the excesses of some officials in the Duterte administration.

When I turned down Digong’s offer to head the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) before he was sworn in as president, we agreed that I would act as a guardian in his administration.

I said that I would be more effective as an outsider looking in or an objective observer of what would be happening in his watch.

He asked me to help him in his war on drugs where “many people will die” because he would be serious in ridding the country of the drug menace.

I would be invited to attend conferences involving peace and order on condition that I would withhold reports considered “confidential.”

“You’re a veteran journalist, you would not write stories that will forewarn enemies of the state,” Digong told me in the Cebuano.

I told him he could trust me to keep confidential matters from the public.

I remember that before the 1989 coup attempt that nearly toppled the government of president Cory Aquino, the elite Army Ranger Regiment kept me in their confidence.

I attended a meeting of Ranger officers in Fort Bonifacio that was presided over by Brig. Gen. Marcelo Blando. The meeting was attended by then Capt. Danny Lim who would later become chairman of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA).

I knew when the disgruntled elements in the Armed Forces would stage the coup d’état but never wrote about it in my column at the Inquirer.

President Digong apparently forgot about our agreement that I would act as a guardian in his watch.

Most reports of excesses in the Duterte administration apparently did not reach Digong, as the corrupt officials I exposed were not dismissed or investigated. One example is the human trafficking at the NAIA that I exposed months before Hontiveros conducted the much-publicized investigation.

*      *      *

Joke! Joke! Joke!

Mother: Where is Afghanistan?

Son: I don’t know, mom.

Mother: You should pay more attention to what our country is doing.

Son: Mom, who is Aunt Jennifer?

Mother: I don’t know her.

Son: You should pay more attention to what dad is doing.

ALAN PETER CAYETANO

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