IF you’re still wondering whether President Aquino’s straight path (Tuwid na Daan) is as principled as advertised, wonder no more. The evidence to the contrary that has piled up over the past five-and-a-half years is compelling and irrefutable.
This week, the public wakened to two new shocking disclosures that are devastating.
By the time the new inquiry into the Mamasapano massacre gets under way next week and examines the “new evidence” of Senate majority leader Juan Ponce Enrile, BS Aquino could emerge as the biggest culprit of all.
Two emblems of crooked governance
The latest additions to the saga of crooked governance are the following:
1. First, a Philippine Marines colonel, who was caught with a Chinese national in a drug
buy bust-operation on Wednesday in Manila, was found out as reporting directly to Malacañang. He is an aide of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa whom President Aquino has designated as the anti-crime czar of the administration.
2. Second, while President Aquino has righteously vetoed the P2,000 Social Security System (SSS) pension hike for 2.1 millions private sector retirees, and rejected the idea of using public funds, the administration is moving aggressively to subsidize with taxpayers’ money a higher pension rate for retired soldiers and policemen, which will cost P20 billion.
As has been typical of BSA since Day One of his presidency, there is righteousness and hypocrisy in these developments. The president hectors us on the straightness of his policies and his record; the facts tell an opposite story.
Government drug-buster goes rogue
The arrested Marines colonel, Ferdinand Marcelino, was caught in a shabu laboratory in Sta. Cruz, Manila. He has been active in anti-drug operations and is part of the Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission (PAOCC) office of executive Secretary Ochoa.
“Colonel Marcelino also reports directly to President Aquino himself,” a former head of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) has disclosed.
Marcelino is a former chief of PDEA’s Special Enforcement Service (SES) and a known anti-illegal drug crusader.
Arrested with Marcelino was Yan Yi Shou, 33, a Chinese national who introduced himself to the government operatives as a former PDEA interpreter.
The buy-bust operation resulted in the seizure of 60 kilograms of shabu with an estimated street value of P300 million and the discovery of a large- scale shabu laboratory.
PDEA director-general Undersecretary Arturo Cacdac ordered the investigation of Marcelino, who was instrumental in PDEA’s 2008 busting of the so-called “Alabang Boys” composed of members of rich and influential families tagged in trafficking of illegal drugs.
Navy spokesman Col. Edgardo Arevalo said that the Navy has one Lt. Col. Ferdinand Marcelino in its roster but could not confirm if he was the same person now being investigated as a result of the drug sting. The Philippine Marines is a command under the Philippine Navy.
A former PDEA officer said Colonel Marcelino played significant roles, though covert, in successful operations particularly in a big time raid in Tarlac which was credited to the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Marcelino was also behind the successful discovery of the biggest shabu laboratory in Camiling, Tarlac in 2012 where the bulk of illegal drugs amounting to P3 billion was caught along with six Chinese fugitives.
Marcelino was working as PDEA Director for Special Enforcement Service at the time.
With his arrest, PDEA now faces a problem.
“The problem here is,” says a media informant, ” if he discloses everything, it will blow the lid off other major operations that would place many at risk. It’s very unfortunate that all odds (are) against him, who will take care of him now? His life is endangered, if he keeps his mouth shut he’ll end up in jail, if he squeals for sure he’s dead.”
The bigger question perhaps is why this ranking military officer, with close connections to Malacañang and a fair record, went rogue. Was it because he lost confidence in the Aquino government. Was it all for money?
This also opens up lines of inquiry into the possibility that some top administration officials were also taking payoffs from the drug trade.
Executive Secretary Ochoa must clearly take questions on the issue. The double-talk and verbosity of Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma will not work in this controversy.
P20B for police and military retirees
The hypocrisy and two-faced character of the Aquino administration is unmasked in a big way by its unequal treatment of police-military retirees and private sector retirees. It will inflame even more the indignation of millions about the hard-heartedness of President Aquino.
Aquino loudly lectured SSS retirees that their proposed pension hike would bankrupt the Social Security System (SSS), by inflicting a shortfall of P26 billion in its finances. He would not entertain the idea of using taxpayer money to partly support the pension hike.
In stark contrast, the pension hike for police-military retirees will be totally footed by public money from the government budget.
This effectively classifies private sector retirees as a lower class of citizens, when compared to retired soldiers and policemen.
The House of Representatives and the Senate are determined to pass the salary standardization law before the Feb. 6 adjournment for the election campaign, according to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. The proposed law contains the planned four-year salary increases for the 1.5 million government personnel, and the proposed higher pension rates for military and police retirees.
Davao City Rep. Isidro Ungab, chairman of the House appropriations committee, has estimated that P20 billion is needed to increase the military and police pensions.
Purisima as spokesman
The biggest opponent of the SSS pension hike is Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who also sternly opposes any reduction of income tax rates.
He likes to boast about good governance by the administration, and how it is the single biggest factor for the credit upgrades by international rating agencies. He glosses over the fact that his department has proved helpless in stopping the multi-billion dollar smuggling industry, and in improving tax administration.
It may be time to assign Purisima to do more defense of the adminisrtration, instead of Coloma.
With his experience in international propaganda, Purisima could explain to us whether Aquino’s straight path is really straight, and how the administration will straighten its many crooked turns.