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Philippines: Bribery scandal

Philippine president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo surprised everybody when she pardoned her predecessor Joseph Estrada who was sentenced to life imprisonment for plunder charges. Senator Antonio Trillanes insists the deadly explosion in a shopping mall last week was meant to create a diversionary tactic in favor of the administration.

Why the haste in granting pardon for Estrada? If government is really behind the explosion in a mall, why create such widespread panic or terror? Political analysts believe the government is desperately trying to cover-up an alleged bribery incident which happened inside the Malacañang presidential palace last October 11.

Some local politicians confessed that they received a bagful of cash after attending a meeting at the palace where they also met the president. More than 200 lawmakers and provincial governors were present in the meeting.

After this revelation, allies of the president said the money was cash gifts from the government to finance community projects. Some said it was part of the regular allowance received by members of Congress. But many believed the “cash gifts” were in fact bribe money to retain the loyalty of local politicians to President Arroyo who is facing another impeachment case.

Other local officials denied that money was distributed in the palace. Blog @ AWBHoldings.com uploaded the paid advertisement of governors published in major newspapers:

“We reiterate what our officers have said when news about this Malacañang incident first broke out last week: we did not, as a whole, receive cash gifts from any Palace functionary during or after that Oct. 11 meeting, let alone get any instruction from anybody to oppose a third attempt in the House of Representatives to impeach President Arroyo.”

A day after this advertisement was published, the League of Provinces admitted that they indeed gave out money to neophyte governors as part of the capacity building program of the group. Some of the governors reacted negatively to this confession and wondered why they did not receive money.

Blog @ AWBHoldings.com is asking why it took the group two weeks to admit that they were behind the distribution of money in the Palace.

The Palawan Report believes the governor who heads the League of Provinces is “taking a calculated risk that could land him in the list of the most ignominious local leaders under the present administration.”

Carlos Conde reports that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered an investigation of the incident. Tinig uploads the signed manifesto of multisectoral groups noting “that corruption is endemic in the transactional politics being practiced by many of the country’s public officials.” They also have an advice to the president:

“If President Arroyo wants public perception to turn positive, she should appoint an Independent Commission composed of people whose reputation for integrity and independence are unquestioned, to ascertain where the money actually came from, and why such a thing can occur.”

On my way home is supporting the priest-turned governor who first disclosed that he received money inside the palace. Tongue in, anew writes that if he was the governor, he would not return the money since the government can use it to buy another “willing official.”

Bikoy is incensed over the bribe incident:

“The controversy over the millions of pesos Malacanang apparently doled out to hundreds of local executives and congressmen is sickening. How brazen can they get? While our government’s social services sector is suffering from insufficient budget allocations, here are the powers-that-be doling out millions of pesos as Christmas gifts. And they dare admit it to be a normal course of habit?”

Ka-Blog shares the same sentiments:

“The people in government must think we are a nation of fools. For one, we have our governors telling us the money-giving event in Malacañang wasn’t a massive bribery event. It does not matter that they put the monies in paper bags, led the ‘beneficiaries’ in empty rooms to hand over the ‘gifts’, did not ask for vouchers, and initially denied the monies came from the League of Governors only to swallow their spit 10 days later.”

Manila Bay Watch reacts to the issue:

“I don't want to categorically accuse Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of trying to bribe some neophyte or non-neophyte governors in an attempt to get their support in the looming crisis facing her both in the Lower House and in the Upper Chamber involving herself, her cabinet officials, her husband, her dog and her cat or whatever. However, I do find it odd that Mrs Arroyo should continue to deny that she knew what was going on under her very own roof when bags of cash were being distributed like bags of candies.”

Out of my mind blames the prevailing political patronage in the country:

“It appears now that the cash bonanza that happened last week was not unusual after all. At least not when our legislators and local executives are concerned. A number of our congressmen and even some Cabinet secretaries practically admitted that the practice of distributing cash gifts has been going on for quite sometime now.”

Nightshift has similar thoughts:

“But you cannot blame these officials for taking money. They may defend that since its the people’s money, then they should be used for public projects. The question of course is, will they really be used for projects. Or will the money just stay in the politician’s pockets? Will they give the money to the birthday celebrator who happens to be one of their village leaders? If their constituents keep on asking money from the politicians, we cannot blame these crocs if they accept grace coming from the heaven.”

Bodega ni Adarna writes that “this government is clearly being run by an administration of bribes, betrayal and blatant corruption.” Gifts from heaven points to the “sorry state of Philippine politics.”

The Chair Wrecker compares corruption then and now:

“Forty years ago, corruption was largely regarded as evil, ugly and disgraceful. But today, bribes are openly given out. Bribe givers do not show any sign of remorse or shame when they are exposed. Those who receive the bribes are of course happy and grateful enough to want to repay the favor in any which way. Meantime, Philippine society thrives as though these shenanigans were a fact of everyday life.”

Cenpeg on how the money could have been used for other productive purposes:

“Yet the money that is lost to graft and corruption would have sent millions of poor children to school or increased the wages of government employees, including rank-and-file military and police forces. The funds squandered because an allegedly plunderous president must stay in office could have saved the lives of millions of sick people who have never seen any doctor in their entire lives.”

Lonely dreamboy’s space 2k7 explains why the president should resign now:

“This administration’s wrongdoings just continue to pile up and have reached a tipping point. People can no longer tolerate it. To insist on ruling the people is futile since the mistrust is irreparable. People are now convinced the present administration is beyond reform and have nothing much to offer except more scandals and controversies. Resignation. The best thing to do it is now.”

Tony Abaya wants the Intelligence Fund of the President to be abolished:

“The office of the Philippine president is probably the most corrupting and corruptible political position in this part of the world. When an utterly immoral and manipulative person occupies that position, even the angels in Heaven and the demons in Hell can be bought. The Intelligence Fund of the President should be abolished from the National Budget. Now!”

Only in the Philippines expects that within a couple of weeks, public attention will again be diverted by other scandals. Virtual Insanity notes that “issues like this become the talk of the town today and it spreads through tongues like wildfire, but the next thing you know, it has long died out naturally, without even a single firefighter’s effort.”

Bunsuran Caravan writes that “a crime of monumental proportion has been committed inside the very bowels of what is supposed to be a bastion of the fight against crime.”

Related articles: Philippine president convicted of plunder, Corruption scandal involving the president, Interesting Philippine election results.

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