Columns

OFFLINE: What De Lima’s acquittal means

It is unfortunate that Justice Secretary Crispin Remulla has put a damper on the court’s acquittal of former Senator Leila de Lima of the trumped up drug charges that the Duterte regime filed against her.

Herself a former Justice secretary, De Lima’s acquittal was met with general praise from most quarters. After all, she had spent six years in prison for a crime she did not commit.

But Remulla had to say that her being cleared “does not mean there’s absolutely no guilt.”

As for Duterte, the former president initially said that everyone should accept the verdict, adding that he had nothing to do with the cases filed against De Lima.

But while saying the court’s decision “must be accepted,” he added that he believed it was also “flawed.”

While she is still incarcerated pending her bid to be allowed to post bail in her third and final drug case – she will not only be granted bail but will be found innocent of the charges, which are little different from the first false cases – De Lima can and should run for her old Senate seat.

More than that, she should file the proper raps against her tormentors, led by former Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre. This is the same Cabinet secretary who was practically forced out of the Duterte government under still mysterious conditions.

Of course he would not have filed the raps against the then sitting senator without the approval of Duterte, but  also charging the former president is an iffy situation at best.

Charging a former president for acts committed during his or her presidency is not unheard of. Remember what happened to a certain Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? What about a guy named Joseph Ejercito Estrada?

But those two incompetent presidents eventually got off scot free. One is still in government service who always travels with the incumbent president in his frequent foreign forays, while the other is enjoying life as an old man with all the money in the world and who frequently gets invited to both government and private sector events.

De Lima may dispense with the filing of charges against Duterte for now, but she has been advised by the likes of former senate president Franklin Drilon – yet another former Justice secretry — as well as noted lawyer Chel Diokno to go after Aguirre.

It will be interesting what the man with the awful toupee will say once he is under oath.

Sadly, in the Philippine justice system, denial is a frequent and accepted defense. Then again, it’s no different from the US, where Donald Trump still denies his many crimes and misdemeanors and get away with it. Most of the time, at least.

 

A bigger criminal enterprise than we  thought

 

The recent revelations regarding human trafficking in the Philippines point to those accursed Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations, or POGOs, as being at the center of it all.

It has long been known that the mostly Chinese run POGOs had been importing workers from the mainland, with a smattering of Filipinos, to run the day to day operations.

The supposed “gaming” operations were actually online gambling sites at first, but somewhere along the way its operators found out that easier money was to be made by turning them into call center-like operations where workers call on prospects – almost always from the West’s English speaking countries – to sell them such scams as Bitcoin.

Having such operations is one thing, but turning the workers into slaves is another. And Philippine authorities are somehow complicit in the racket when they barely regulated the POGOs, most of which didn’t even bother to pay the right taxes from the start.

A few lawmakers are showing their proverbial slip when they came to the defense of what they call “good” POGOs. This is like saying there are good as well as bad prostitution houses.

They reasoned that the POGOs have boosted the real estate industry, specifically the office and home rental markets.

Indeed, the POGOs do need office space to operate from and their non –Filipino workers need a place to stay when they’re not trying to fool helpless people into purchasing useless bitcoins.

A friend actually earned a pretty penny by providing transport for the workers, picking them up and taking them back to their residences every day. She even asked me if I wanted to enter the downstream business because I have an all purpose vehicle, but which turned out to be too small for the purpose.

When the offer was made, I was still under the impression that POGOs were legit corporations. After a while, I decided that some of them were fine, while others were not. Now I have come to believe that all of them are illegal in some way or form.

See, the first POGOs were hosting gaming sites, which is a euphemism for gambling sites. Still, this is sort of legit in many countries.

The recent revelations have shown that so many companies which are self-identified as POGOs are no longer involved in gaming or even gambling, but in online selling of useless and even dangerous products and services.

Poor workers from all over Southeast Asia are the preferred employees, as they are so desperate for work that they may even willingly take part in illicit or illegal work. Those that do well are amply rewards, but  those who don’t are punished. Not exactly a fair exchange, no?

Incidentally, the family of a very powerful Cabinet secretary is reportedly making millions of pesos monthly on the POGO companies operating out of a former island-resort that they took over some time ago,

While there has been a growing call for the dismantling of the entire POGO industry, Mr. Secretary has been mostly non-committal. At least he hasn’t been vehement in defending the useless industry, perhaps because his family has already earned billions from the business.

The president has indicated that he is in favor of ridding the Philippines of POGOs, so if he has a sudden change of heart, we will all know why.

 

The pro-nuclear president

 

Finally, the current president continues to voice his support for the entry of a nuclear plant in the country.

Do you wonder why?

Well, his old man was the one who approved of US company Westinghouse building what’s known as the Bataan Nuclear Powere Plant. And it is no secret that millions of dollars in commissions were involved in the deal. Crony Herminio Disini was the “businessman” who brokered the deal, but there is little doubt that the strongman must have gotten a fair sized chunk of the, uh, gratuities that Westinghouse willingly offered.

So if papa made plenty of coin from that one deal, why not Junior?

Why not, indeed?