There have been reports that presidential sister Ballsy and brother-in-law Eldon Cruz, former Transportation secretary Pete Prado, and Engr. Steve Psinakis, husband of Precy Lopez, the daughter of the late Eugenio “Geny” Lopez, had attempted to extort $30 million from a Czech company in exchange for a supply contract with the Metro Rail Transit (MRT).
What amazes me no end is that a leading network and a radio station aired the allegations twice last week and yet again on Monday with the announcer urging the couple to clear their names without bothering to check the accuracy of the facts. Never mind if the story was devoid of substance.
For one, the story merely quoted “a source.” The writer didn’t even bother to describe the source, much less countercheck her source (yes the writer is a she).
For another, if the author had checked her facts, she would have discovered that Psinakis is aging and ailing. Indeed, there is another Psinakis, but he is not the Psinakis of the Lopez clan. He is a Greek who has deep ties with a minister of the Czech Republic. It was this Psinakis who brought the Czech Foreign Minister and the Philippine government to the table for the MRT project.
One quick glance at the story and anybody with a modicum of intelligence would see that it is a demolition job, part of a sinister campaign to obfuscate the real issue and draw attention away from the real culprits. (For the record, I do not blame the radio announcer for airing the alleged $30 million imposition by the presidential sister and brother-in-law. The news reader is just a talking head and reads the news given to him after it has been edited).
The story alleges that Ballsy and Eldon travelled to Prague and personally met with a representative of Inekon, a Czech company, and demanded $2 million to $30 million. The Czech representative however rejected the couple’s offer. Imagine, Ballsy and Eldon face-to-face with the company representative asking for grease money!
Ballsy and Eldon Cruz did travel to Prague sometime in 2011 upon the invitation of Czech Ambassador to the Philippines Josef Rychtar. While in Prague, the three were invited to a social event attended by representatives from the Czech government and business sector. No business matters were discussed in the event. Even assuming that Ballsy and Eldon had attempted to extort $30 million from Inekon, as some speculators would put it, there was simply no window of opportunity to privately discuss business deals in the middle of a public gathering.
Again, assuming that Ballsy and company did try to extort money from Inekon, how could that be possible? The Czech company’s proposal is a government-to-government project, leaving no provision for broker’s commissions or worse, “tongpats” or “kotong.”
I do not know Ballsy personally; I never even met her. But I have some friends who worked closely with her during her mother’s incumbency as President and they are one in saying that Ballsy is very reserved, soft-spoken and upright. She is, my friends would say, like her mother, the late President Cory Aquino, honest to a fault.
The plotters must have calculated that the “scandal” involving the presidential sister and brother-in-law would whet the appetite of the public given the Filipinos’ gluttony for “tsismis.” Wrong. The public did not fall for it. The black propaganda did not go viral, for good reason.
Before President Benigno Aquino 3rd starts blaming the opposition, particularly those closely associated with former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the demolition job, he should first meet with his sisters, particularly Ballsy, to get some sense of what is happening with the MRT project.
What he should NOT do is consult with the people Secretary Mar Roxas brought in when he was appointed DOTC chief. Save for one who went with Mar to the Department of Interior and Local Government, I am told that these people have remained in their strategic posts at the DOTC and are running the show.
What’s at the DOTC that some people would rather breach established protocol of leaving the post along with their boss when he leaves office? What is it that makes them hold on to their old positions and bear the ugly brand of “kapalmuks?” Does it have to do with the multi-billion peso-projects like the contracts for drivers license, car plates, the Land Transportation Office (LTO) computerization and integration system, among other big time deals at the DOTC and its attached agencies?
Why Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya keeps and tolerates them at the Transportation department is a puzzle to me. Is there a quid pro quo between Mar and Abaya?
P-Noy should not worry much about his detractors from the ranks of the opposition, the New People’s Army, Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Moro National Liberation Front or some other groups out to overthrow the government. Rather, he should guard against some of his so-called “friends” and some of the people his “friends” brought into the government, many of whom are holding powerful positions, so powerful that they can bring the government literally to a standstill. Some examples of projects that can greatly affect the country if bungled are the LTO drivers license, car stickers, MRT expansion project, irrigation projects, upgrading of the NAIA 1, resolution of the NAIA2, and a host of other much delayed programs.
PNoy should keep his ears to the ground. He should rely less on his so-called “friends” and more on his sisters for personal advice, because they have a reputation for honesty, integrity and probity. Besides being family, they wouldn’t lie to him. They will serve his best interests in much the same way that they had served their mother well.
The President should watch out for some of his so-called “friends”. The alleged extortion attempt by Ballsy is a case in point.
I have received information that the family of the President has traced the source of the story to a Malacanang insider.
The latest news is that Secretary Abaya was hastily summoned on Tuesday night (around 9:30 p.m.) to the Palace by no less than the President. I suspect that the meeting may have something to do with the letter of the Czech Ambassador (yes, there is a recent letter) to PNoy complaining of how Inekon’s government-to-government proposal for the MRT3 modernization had been gathering dust at the DOTC for almost three years now.
Unless the President steps in, Inekon’s proposal will be permanently shelved (if it has not been buried yet) in favor of a Chinese supplier (more on this in subsequent reports).
Next Tuesday: The story behind the $30 million extort try