Former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accused of Plunder, Again

A complaint filed by lawyer Frank Chavez last Tuesday against former Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accusing she plundered an overseas workers’ fund to boost her 2004 election campaign. The complaint claims Arroyo ordered about 530 million pesos ($12.3 million) diverted from the fund to pay for health cards with her image on them distributed during the campaign. About 9 million Filipinos work overseas due to a lack of employment at home, and their contributions to the trust fund pay for repatriation during emergencies, medical care and other needs unique to overseas workers. The complaint alleges their money was misused when part of the trust fund was allegedly diverted to pay for health cards, which are available to all Filipinos to pay for hospital care. He also claimed she diverted 21.5 million pesos ($494,000) to pay for diplomatic vehicles in the Middle East in support of the US-led war in Iraq and “humanitarian assistance” to Filipinos in Iraq in 2003. The Justice Department is still reviewing a previous plunder complaint that Arroyo ordered the sale of prime government property to a private developer but did not remit 72 million ($1.7 million) incapital gains tax.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - Frank Chavez

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo - Frank Chavez

Under the law, currently serving or former state employees who amass at least 50 million pesos ($1.15 million) in ill-gotten wealth through criminal acts could be charged with plunder.

Cha-cha no longer possible

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Jose Melo believes that a plebiscite to ratify amendments or a change in the Constitution is no longer possible before next year’s presidential elections.

“We don’t have time to call for Cha-cha before the 2010 elections,” he said.

The lack of time restricts efforts to amend or change the Constitution, he added.

However, Melo said policy makers can seek public approval for Charter change by holding the plebiscite with the 2010 elections.

Public consultation through a plebiscite is essential before the Constitution can be amended or changed, he added.

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Poor, blameless Celso

The founder of the Legacy group of companies thinks he knows who is to blame for the virtual collapse of his business empire: virtually everyone but himself. Evidence is mounting, however, that his business was built on a fatally flawed business model. His attempts to explain exactly why his companies should have remained viable have backfired; in fact, they tend to show why his business was not sustainable at all.

“I have a story to tell. I have the records to show,” Celso de los Angeles told the Inquirer early this week. Later, at the Senate, he blamed the financial woes of his rural banks (13 of which closed down last December) and his pre-need firms (now inadequately capitalized) on “regulatory harassment, adverse and irresponsible media reports, extortion, and the general economic situation.”

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GMA still dreaming of Obama

President Arroyo is still dreaming of meeting US President Barack Obama, and this Thursday, her wish may finally come true when she attends the 57th National Prayer Breakfast in Washington.

Malacañang has confirmed that President Arroyo will attend the National Prayer Breakfast, an annual event organized by congressional leaders in Washington every first Thursday of February.

The White House has confirmed that Obama will attend the prayer breakfast as one of the guest speakers.

Even before the US elections, Mrs. Arroyo had wanted to meet Obama when she visited the US on three occasions but never got the chance to do so.

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The President’s men

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile pooh-poohs concerns over President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s continuing appointment of retired military and police officials to significant positions, saying in effect that these people posed no danger to the supremacy of the civilian government. That’s par for the course coming from a man with an interesting past — a defense minister and martial law enforcer who is now a senator of the realm, who was a key figure of EDSA People Power I uprising but eventually became a considered thorn in the side of the Corazon Aquino administration, and who was and is looked up to by known coup plotters and others who at one time or another swore by the swift, sharp wonders of a putsch.
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House steers clear of First Gentleman

The House of Representatives on Wednesday looked once again into the World Bank blacklisting of three Philippine contractors, and tiptoed around Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo’s purported ties with one of them.

Only Davao del Sur Rep. Marc Cagas brought up the purported connection of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s husband with Eduardo de Luna and E.C. de Luna Construction Corp. And Cagas said the investigation of the House committee on public works was limited to determining if there was collusion in the bidding for road projects, as had been alleged.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson disclosed on Tuesday at the Senate inquiry into the blacklisting scandal that De Luna and Mike Arroyo had met at least 20 times in 2002, as indicated in the supposed appointments book of the latter.

According to Cagas, it puzzled him why Mike Arroyo’s name always cropped up during congressional probes. Addressing De Luna, he asked whether the President’s husband had helped the witness secure government contracts.

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