Aren't media reports good enough to start a probe?
AS I WRECK THIS CHAIR By William M. Esposo
The Philippine Star 2011-10-20
During the October 7 Senate joint committee hearing to tackle the alleged behest loan of P660 million to former Marcos cabinet member and businessman Roberto Ongpin, several Senators almost diverted the discussions by questioning why the DBP (Development Bank of the Philippines) probe of the loan was triggered ‘only’ by a media report.

Senator Bonget Marcos started inquiring about media as the source of the probe. Senator Chiz Escudero, whose father was also a Marcos cabinet member, also explored the topic. My friend Loren Legarda also raised the point - surprising because Loren came from media. From the live TV coverage of the October 7 and 14 hearings, Senators Marcos and Escudero appear ‘soft’ on Ongpin.

The government had claimed that they decided to probe the P660 million Ongpin loan after reading a column of our STAR colleague, Jarius Bondoc. Why would some Senators express surprise that a probe was conducted by the DBP on the basis of a media report?

What should surprise us is why some Senators would find it irregular — or perhaps wants to make it appear irregular — for government to initiate a probe on the basis of a media report. Hello? Aren’t we inviting every citizen to actively participate in the anti corruption campaign? If anonymous Juan dela Cruz can be a source of information for initiating an investigation, why can’t a STAR columnist with solid credentials like Jarius Bondoc provide the trigger for an investigation? 

We must consider that Jarius had exposed: 

1. The ZTE scam

2. The PNP Chopper scam

3. The Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia 2004 plunder case
4. The Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia 2010 plea bargain

While our legal processes have not yet convicted the culprits behind these scams, we all saw how much stink there was to the ZTE deal, the Chopper sale and the Maj. Gen. Garcia plunder case and its subsequent highly questionable plea bargain. Thank God that some Senators have taken the initiative to file charges against Mike Arroyo et al over the Chopper scam.

Our Senators are saying that they’re questioning the use of a media report as the source for initiating an investigation just to determine if there’s a pattern of persecution in the probe. The insinuation insulted all media practitioners. It suggests that all media persons are mercenaries and can be used to persecute certain individuals.

We do have our fair share of problems in media but the insinuation practically tagged all journalists as mercenaries. One Senator though was alarmed at how Bobby Ongpin is being treated with kid gloves by some media despite the big questions surrounding his DBP loan.

Questioning media as credible sources of information for initiating a probe had totally overlooked certain realities. Media have been excellent sources of information. It was the collaboration of two American journalists that exploded the Watergate Scandal.

The network of media professionals can tap both the above ground and underground information sources. A journalist keeps accumulating contacts in order to update and upgrade information sources. The government agencies may have the vital documents but in many cases, they’ll only reveal these after a Senate subpoena has been issued.

Thanks to Senator Panfilo Lacson for having noticed the diversion of the real issue of the October 7 Senate joint committee hearing investigating the Ongpin DBP P660 million loan and for having redirected the discussions to the core issue. Thanks to Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile and the October 14 subsequent hearing wasn’t derailed too.

Per Memorandum Order no. 61, November 9, 1992, “The following criteria may be utilized as a frame of reference in determining a behest loan:

1. It is under-collateralized;

2. The borrower corporation is undercapitalized;

3. Direct or indirect endorsement by high government officials like presence of marginal notes;

4. Stockholders, officers or agents of the borrower corporation are identified as cronies;

5. Deviation of use of loan proceeds from the purpose intended;

6. Use of corporate layering;

7. Non-feasibility of the project for which financing is being sought; and

8. Extraordinary speed in which the loan release was made.”

The Ongpin DBP P660 million loan would appear to have been in violation of the first, second, fourth, sixth and eighth criteria. Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile was quoted after the first hearing that there could have been insider trading. The SEC (Securities and Exchange Commission) would have to be involved in the probe. It was Senator Enrile’s masterful questioning that brought out last October 14 the details of possible insider trading.

Senator Serge Osmena had asserted that a ‘Mr. Big’ must be behind the Ongpin P660 million DBP loan. The speed with which this loan was processed was simply amazing. If you’re familiar with the way government works, this loan’s processing time must have been a record setter.

Bobby Ongpin keeps saying that he is neither a partner nor a front man of former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo. However, Ongpin’s actions keep reminding us of Mike Arroyo. Like Mike, Ongpin did not show up at the October 7 and 14 Senate hearings. Like Mike, he sued a person who was hot on his trail.

Let’s hope that Mike doesn’t liken himself to Jesus Christ after being denied by Bobby Ongpin.

* * *

  Previous Columns:

It had to happen on The Ides of March and Holy Week

Suggested guidelines for liability- free Internet posts

Election lawyer: PCOS critics should put up or shut up

All Excited by Pope Francis

A great disservice to P-Noy

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