Roxas will lose votes with De Lima as running mate!

By Frank Wenceslao

IF THERE’S a Cabinet member most responsible for the Aquino administration to be criticized as a do-nothing, it’s Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

I wanted to develop good relations with De Lima and tried to work with her after we attended together the World Bank-sponsored First Conference of International Corruption Hunters in Washington, DC in early Dec. 2010 barely six months after President Aquino assumed office. Now that the administration is nearing its end I’ve concluded that except in defying the Supreme Court to prevent President Arroyo to go abroad and evade arrest for nonbailable violation of the anti-plunder law, De Lima can’t claim any achievement that has enhanced PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid” and prevent it from being called a joke by both supporters and critics.

As I objectively analyze De Lima’s record as the country’s highest law enforcer the more she proves herself a failure. Thus, I’ve wondered why PNoy didn’t let her go early on which goes to show that personal loyalty to him is more important than good public service, which history will consider his undoing.

De Lima has performed like any ordinary attorney-at-law which won’t put her at the level of the country’s great justice secretaries. Rather than broaden her grasp of international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) such as the UNCAC; OECD mandates; G-8 and G-20 agreements; and the U.S. National Strategy to Internationalize Efforts Against Kleptocracy that has been reinforced by President George W. Bush’s Presidential Proclamation No. 7750 barring entry into the United States and its territories of foreigners whether immigrant or nonimmigrant involved in corruption and their illicit gains, De Lima buried herself in purely bureaucratic role, dilly-dallied on the DOJ’s high-profile cases, e.g., the trial of the accused in the Maguindanao Massacre; arrest and prosecution of Janet Napoles and co-conspirators in the pork barrel scams; the alleged “rape” of Makati City’s treasury, and tax evasion cases that that reached 39 by December 2010 in my count.

De Lima had the tools, legal bases, and prosecutorial discretion to give teeth to PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid” by invoking the ICAACs and earned him the credit of the first President to make the biggest dent on graft and corruption for his successors to continue hammering on with new and more effective weapons so the rule of law doesn’t only deter but also attack the root causes of the twin evils. De Lima withdrew into her bureaucratic cocoon and like in basketball ran out the clock denying the President and herself the credit of successful anticorruption efforts.

She could’ve definitely deterred graft and corruption and minimized the losses of resources to this scourge estimated to be 20% or P560 billion of the annual budget for FY 2015. Instead of pinpointing causes such as corruption, bribery, money laundering, conspiracy, among other financial crimes; the losses of the nation’s resource to these criminalities and how the losses can be diverted for useful and productive purposes to hasten job creation for the unemployed and new entrants to the labor force not to go overseas to seek employment, De Lima did nothing towards these ends.

De Lima like other Cabinet members especially Paquito Ochoa in the last 5 years were unaware that coordination of inter-department actions was vital to boost economic growth. For instance, the impact of the DOJ’s implementing the ICAACs and keeping in step with anticorruption initiatives of the U.S. Department of Justice and the FBI with the PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) could’ve boosted DOLE’s job creation programs and perhaps assure the DOF that employment growth justifies cutting tax rates because any probable loss of revenue would be recouped by the increase of income tax payment by people getting employed due to the growing economy, which was firmly established by President Reagan in the 1980s.

Reagan’s tax cuts fueled the U.S. uninterrupted economic expansion halfway his first term in 1983 to the end of George Bush Sr.’s term in 1993 whose tail end continued through Bill Clinton’s two terms. During this period the U.S. created over 20 million private sector jobs that Bill Clinton claimed to be due to his economic policy which could’ve taken off only at the start of his second term in Jan. 1997 because his policies and programs during the first two years of his first term were repudiated by the American people that led to Clinton’s and Democratic Party’s candidates being thrown out by GOP candidates in the 1994 midterm elections who captured the majorities of both houses of Congress. These majorities lasted up to George W. Bush’s election in 2000 and reelection in 2004 and were lost in the 2006 mid-term elections when the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars began to cause disillusionment to the American people.

In fact, De Lima could’ve initiated inter-Cabinet department cooperation because had the DOJ expedited actions against Napoles and her pork barrel scams co-conspirators, much budgetary funds could’ve been saved with counterpart funds for foreign-assisted infrastructure projects and their completion won’t be delayed and the economic returns becoming more noticeable earlier. This will also show that judicial interference in infrastructure projects by unjust issuance of TROs is deleterious to the economy.

When judges whose knowledge of economics is close to an idiot habitually issue TROs a chain reaction of delays is started in the implementation and completion of public works projects, higher cost results and additional funds needed for the procurement of needed materials and the lack of funds though only temporary forces laying off workers. With nothing to do during construction stoppage and laid off workers earning no income leads to multiplication of family problems, e.g., children whose parents lost their jobs during work stoppage also lost their allowance and can’t go to school forcing them to standby with gang members and be vulnerable to drug pushers who may be targeting them. All of these can happen within a short period when PW construction stops a stupid judge was offered a bribe by a losing bidder to issue a TRO and start a chain reaction of delays in local and national governments’ infrastructure development.

The Supreme Court should perhaps look deeper into this problem and have provisional solution for judges not to get involved in public bidding controversies until a constitutional amendment corrects this right of judicial interference in infrastructure development that causes more damage than good to the national economy and the justice system.

Although De Lima inflicted a serious blow to Pamusa’s usefulness to PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid.” Her real fault is her inability to delegate responsibility. This causes almost a fatal wound when the De Lima refused to name Pamusa or me her representative (basically a messenger) at no cost to the DOJ “to make and receive requests” of the U.S. Attorney General and vice-versa pursuant to the said MLAT. The result surely will expedite actions of either side by Pamusa following the needed actions which De Lima couldn’t see at all. She wanted a DOJ lawyer to represent her like a DTI commercial attache which the U.S. side sees will not result in expeditious resolution of issues one side needs from the other. I followed up that De Lima reconsider her objection and appealed my position with the Office of the President only to receive the usual stupid bureaucratic response from one of Paquito Ochoa’s assistants, more or less, “After reconsidering your proposal we believe assigning Pamusa or you as the DOJ’s representative to make and receive requests of the U.S. Attorney General, and vice-versa, may not conform to government SOP that we therefore regret not able to approve your proposal.”

This makes me wonder even more if PNoy ever reads my letter which I believe should’ve been considered important for the President to make the final decision on it. It’s so disgusting that an assistant of Ochoa was assigned to officially inform me of the rejection of my proposal which up to now I’m sure would’ve enhanced PNoy’s “Daang Matuwid” if only the information exchange between the DOJ and the USDOJ were expedited, for instance, under the latter’s “Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative” to hasten recovery of the Napoles family’s ill-gotten wealth and VP Binay’s alleged similar assets.

It’s thus a continuing wonderment PNoy didn’t let De Lima go when I didn’t mince my words of her being example how good anticorruption efforts can be derailed by what eventually became known as “Daang Matuwid” and a joke to many Filipinos especially those who ran laughing all the way to the bank to deposit ill-gotten wealth.

The “Daang Matuwid” would’ve earned the people’s acclaim and instill fear by the recovery of ex-DILG undersecretary Rico Puno’s jueteng pay-offs after taking off on a solo flight almost immediately after assuming office to assure jueteng operators of his help not realizing he’s stepping on other people’s toes especially of Archbishop Cruz who drew Malacañang’s attention and made Puno too hot to handle leaving PNoy no choice but let him go.

PNoy had also no choice but to let PCSO chair Margie Juico go after learning of her allegedly pocketing millions of pesos from PCSO’s procurement of ambulances and goods to aid LGUs and her launching a new project she hid from Malacañang which would’ve been another “milking cow” for Juico. PNoy reportedly got so angry he refused to see Juico submit her resignation.

More importantly, because of De Lima’s oversight function over the PCGG as a DOJ attached agency, she could have stopped the lifting of sequestration off Benjamin “Kokoy” Romualdez’s $200-million estate according to Forbes Magazine. It should’ve been fully forfeitable to the state in accordance with RA 1379. PNoy should’ve been angrier when the release of the estate to Kokoy’s widow and children was approved by a Malacañang “big shot” without the government recovering a centavo allegedly due to the intervention of daughter-in-law Philippines Daily Inquirer’s President Alexandra Prieto-Romualdez, wife of Philip Romualdez, Kokoy’s son and chairman of Benguet Corporation.

According to a forensic accounting expert, Benguet couldn’t have been acquired legitimately and fully controlled by the Romualdezes because Kokoy hadn’t shown publicly for many years of owning or controlling corporations from which he could’ve earned the money to legitimately acquire and grow his $200-million estate including Benguet.

Coordinated inter-Cabinet department actions will help Finance Sec. Purisima to cut tax rates to widen the country’s tax base and increase revenue collection earlier in PNoy’s presidency had the DOJ strictly enforced the ICAACs which would’ve prevented cooking of accounting books by big corporate taxpayers in decades-long conspiracy between BIR and other revenue collectors, on one hand, and the smart accounting firms of big taxpayers.