Witch-Hunt at Whose Behest


Good Morning Philippines
ON SECOND THOUGHT

However you look at it, there persists something amiss about the case being investigated in the Senate involving a supposed “behest loan” obtained from the Development Bank of the Philippines by investment banker Roberto Ongpin, erstwhile Minister of Trade of President Ferdinand Marcos. At the onset, one would imagine it to be a loan unpaid and delinquent. But in this case, not only has it been fully paid, it was never delinquent and quite the contrary, settled before its maturity date. Furthermore, it earned the bank P4M in interest alone and a hefty P1.3B in trading profits. Ongpin has also repeatedly stated that the loans were adequately collateralized and was less than a fifth that formed part of a  loan package. Charges and counter charges are being disseminated through PR firms and direct interviews of the protagonists by media. After the Senate investigation is done, they should be able to determine where this loan fits in. This column believes the loan will eventually pass as a legitimate undertaking but there is a parallel issue that is now unfolding in the course of the investigation: the presence of “insider trading” of the stocks purchased using the loan funds wherein the borrower, Mr. Ongpin, doubled his money after selling them a month later. These stocks were bought from DBP, which also gave it (DBP) a windfall of more than a billion pesos in profit at the time of sale.  The crime of “insider trading” is as difficult to prove as the crime of “prostitution.” Both practices are done in utmost privacy and secrecy and never written on paper, issued a receipt, or announced to the public.  Since the Senate investigation has no prosecutorial powers whatsoever, it will eventually be the courts that will decide the fate of all the accused in this case. The Senators can make all the insinuations, conjectures, and implications they want but this is the type of case that will be decided primarily on documentary evidence. The senate investigation is merely for the benefit of revisiting laws or “in aid of legislation,” which to a lot of people has come to mean, “grandstanding by politicians.” Others are convinced it’s part of a witch-hunt orchestrated by the Palace.

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The Lower House of Congress has about 119 neophyte members, the highest number since the late nineties. The colleague a good number of them look up to is also a first term Congressman (but no neophyte) in the person of Rudy Farinas, Deputy Majority Floor leader and Vice-Chairman of three of the most powerful Committees in Congress, namely: Justice; Ways and Means; and Rules. It is easy to see why they would choose him to guide them in what could be a maze for a greenhorn. He is essentially a maverick by nature, approachable, helpful, and among the brightest legal minds in this Congress. His “independence” does not preclude his abilities as a team player; but with Congressman Farinas, one usually finds him in a leadership role in whatever group he belongs. The neophytes are correct in their choice of a mentor. We believe there are bigger responsibilities waiting for Mr. Farinas in this “come-back” stage of his political career that began as the youngest Mayor of Laoag City, at the age of twenty-eight. He is the man to watch in the Lower House but that should come as no surprise to those that have worked with this energetic, (1978) bar-topnotcher, straight shooter, competent, tough, and reliable friend and ally. In the context of his checkered past that included serious controversial issues, his own words could not be more apt: “They’ve seen the worst of me; now is the time to see the best of me.”

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