The single underlying cause of PHL’s biggest problems

By Frank Wenceslao

THE response to my letter asking contributions of a U.S. foundation for Pamusa’s Corruption Eradication Program jolted me to realize my mistake of emphasizing the world is now on the threshold of eradicating corruption and its debilitating effects, or at least effectively addressing this single underlying cause of the PHL’s biggest problems, without explaining how we can better address criminal justice problems, the main concern of the foundation.

Our enthusiasm is heightened at this point in time, though, because eradicating corruption is no longer a “pie in the sky.” There are now effective legal bases, tools, and prosecutorial discretions adopted in international cooperation agreements against corruption (ICAACs) enforced under U.S. laws, such as the UN Convention Against Corruption (UNCAC); OECD mandates on the exchange of tax information between nations; G8 and G20 agreements lifting secrecy of foreign bank accounts if suspected of being used to evade payment of U.S. taxes, for instance, which the Swiss Banking Authority has agreed with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service’s request for a list of American citizens evading payment of U.S. taxes by opening secret Swiss bank accounts; and several other bilateral treaties between UNCAC signatories.

Filipinos who say that Vice President Jojo Binay can’t be charged of corruption and brought to court based on the evidence gathered by the Anti-Money Laundering Council apparently being verified by the Ombudsman if sufficient to convict him beyond reasonable doubt should better change horse for the May elections. They should realize the world’s collective indignation against corruption has brought about the ICAACs that to the Group of 8 (G8) members, namely: Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, United Kingdom, and USA are of special concern and some agreements have been adopted by them as part of the law of the land.

They won’t allow the Philippines and/or Binay trample on international agreements especially the UN Convention Against Corruption. The UNCAC, according to Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, is part of the law of the land of the PHL as though passed by Congress and approved by President Gloria M. Arroyo when it’s ratified by the Senate in Nov. 2006.

Surely, Binay hasn’t attained importance for the PHL to risk becoming a pariah in the community of nations. Hence, if he has a little sense of patriotism, integrity as a member of the Bar and officer of the Court, and decency knowing the embarrassment he’s already caused the country before the world when he’s now considered to have followed Marcos’ footsteps we thought never again to be repeated.

He can’t just continue denying allegations of corruption and asking the Filipino people to trust and vote for him for President. As the late Louie Beltran would tell him, “Ano akala mo, sinuswerte?” Another person said that Binay is acting like a woman entering a motel not with her husband, yet swearing to friends who saw her that she’s not having an affair.

Binay’s best option is to withdraw his candidacy, turn over to the government the assets he, his family and close associates couldn’t have legitimately acquired with their combined income since assuming Makati’s mayoralty including Mrs. Binay’s and Binay Jr.’s tenures, and negotiate for a lighter sentence for the vice president.

Risking the social stigma to be tagged on him and Mrs. Binay’s, their name and the future of his children, grandchildren and their children isn’t worth running for the presidency with the increasing odds against his winning. Rulers lost their minds such as Rome’s Emperor Nero and Adolf Hitler holding on untenable leadership positions.

In fact, U.S. and multinational corporations such as, among others, Hewlett-Packard, Avon, and Smith & Wesson of the U.S.; Siemens and Daimler AG (maker of Mercedes Benz) of Germany; Alstom of France; Marubeni of Japan, etc. have agreed to pay billions of dollars of fines to settle U.S. prosecution of probable foreign corrupt practices rather than their responsible officers be brought to court and risk bigger penalties including jail time.

Another probable model of retribution is what will happen after Lynch charged 14 top FIFA officials of widespread corruption, money laundering, bribery, and racketeering in deciding on venues, TV rights and other privileges of holding preliminary games and final World Cup championships based on FBI investigation that led to their arrest by an ad hoc USDOJ-IRS-FBI team with cooperating Swiss police last May in Zurich.

The charges and arrest in Zurich by an ad hoc USDOJ-IRS-FBI team clearly demonstrated U.S. cross-border legal actions mandated by the ICAACs especially the UNCAC which is what Binay’s supporters should be concerned of and be telling him. The truth is my connections in Washington DC believe negotiation is going on between the Obama and Aquino administrations that based on the evidence the Ombudsman would hand over to Lynch, she will charge Binay of widespread corruption pervading the Makati City government for him to be arrested by a similar ad hoc USDOJ-IRS-FBI team for extradition to and trial in the States pursuant to the PHL-USA Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty.

It seems that President Obama’s advisers predict that unless Binay withdraws his candidacy, the violent street demonstrations in Ferguson, MO and Baltimore, MD could happen in Manila and other Philippine cities whether Binay wins or loses. The Obama administration naturally wants to prevent similar eruptions which will be surely be added to the problems they have in the Middle East and to the disillusionment of the American people in the Democratic Party when they started losing state governorships and legislatures in 2010 mid-term elections and Nancy Pelosi was dislodged as House Speaker followed by the loss of the U.S. Senate in the 2012 elections although President Obama won reelection.

There’s a growing doubt that if the PHL were lost to China or the Islamic State, Obama’s record won’t help the Democrats to hold on the White House in the coming November’s presidential election.