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Here is what's news in the Philippines...
JANUARY 9, 2002



Jailed former President Joseph Estrada demanded a P200-million commission from the proceeds of a sale of Belle Corp. shares to two state pension funds in 1999, a former Belle official said yesterday.

Testifying in Estrada’s plunder trial before the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan, former Belle president Willie Ocier said Estrada demanded the commission so that the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and the Social Security System (SSS) would purchase the shares.

The shares were the 447,650,000 shares that its owner, former Belle chairman Roberto Ongpin, had been planning to sell to estranged Estrada buddy Mark Jimenez, now a Manila congressman.

The sale would supposedly help settle the debt load of Belle, a leisure and gaming firm that was then listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Ocier said the sale to Jimenez was canceled after he and his father Benito Tan Guat ousted Ongpin from the Belle board and initiated moves to sell the shares to a foreign buyer.

Ocier said that his uncle, former Belle director Jaime Dichaves, a co-accused in Estrada’s plunder charge, was the one who brought up the idea of getting the pension fund agencies to purchase the shares in a meeting of Belle’s board of directors on July 20, 1999.

Dichaves supposedly suggested the shares be sold to the GSIS and SSS, Ocier claimed.

"When I told him that I cannot do it because the shares will be sold, we agreed to divide the work. I agreed to contact the foreign buyers while he will handle the local brokers," Ocier testified.

After a few weeks, Ocier said Dichaves told him that there was a strong chance the GSIS and SSS would purchase the shares and that Estrada had already spoken with former GSIS president and general manager Federico Pascual and former SSS chairman and president Carlos Arellano.

"Dichaves later called me up and told me that the GSIS and SSS transactions may push through. Dichaves told me that there is a certain condition pertaining to a profit commission on the transactions," Ocier told the court.

"According to Dichaves, the commission was being imposed by President Estrada," Ocier added.
Ocier claimed he told Dichaves that the commission allegedly being demanded by Estrada "was quite a big amount" because the normal commission was around three to five percent.

"But Dichaves told me that it was the condition set by Estrada. So I was compelled to agree because that was the condition imposed by the former president," Ocier said.

Ocier said the sale was consummated on Oct. 21, 1999 when the block of shares was sold to the GSIS and SSS for P3.10 per share, or a total of almost P2 billion.

The sale, he testified, was facilitated by SSI Management, one of the owners of Belle Corp., and Eastern Securities and Development Corp., both companies allegedly linked to Ocier’s family.

"The owners of the SSI Management called me up. I was told that there should be a check prepared in the amount of P189.7 million. The amount was drawn from the account of SSI Management in the First Exchange Bank," he said, adding the check were signed by his sister Nancy and his father Tan Guat.

"The check was prepared to be delivered to Dichaves. He was supposed to be the recipient of the check. According to Dichaves, President Estrada will get the commission," Ocier testified.

Meanwhile, the trial was cut short because Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, who chairs the Sandiganbayan’s third division vice Justice (on leave) Anacleto Badoy, had to attend a meeting at the Supreme Court.

The SC had summoned the chairmen of the anti-graft court’s five divisions to a meeting that would supposedly tackle the charges against Estrada.

Fourth division chairman Justice Narciso Nario, who is sitting in as temporary member of the third division, said the SC may create a special division to handle the Estrada cases because at least four Sandiganbayan justices are set to retire this year.

MalacaÑAng has ordered all government officials and employees to turn down travels funded either fully or partially by private contractors and suppliers of goods, equipment and services.

The directive was contained in a memorandum signed by Executive Secretary Alberto Romulo, which covers all heads of departments, bureaus, national and local government units, government-owned and -controlled corporations, financial institutions, and state colleges and universities.

It is a normal practice by local and foreign contractors to invite agency heads and officials for supposed inspections where they are wined and dined.

Romulo's memorandum was a reiteration of a memorandum issued by then President Joseph Estrada on Oct. 20, 1999, which aimed to "ensure utmost impartiality and objectivity in the award of contracts for the purchase and delivery of goods, equipment and services."

The same Estrada memorandum said this prohibition is "in line with the state policy to promote a high standard of ethics in the public service."

In his own memorandum, Romulo said the reiteration of this directive is also in line with efforts to "promote and secure strict and faithful compliance... with various policy pronouncements on austerity measures including expenditure of public funds for foreign travels."

Police on Tuesday afternoon rescued three women abducted by suspected members of the "Pentagon" kidnap group in Davao last Thursday, a radio report said.

The rescued kidnap victims – Maria Cecilia Bonifacio, a daughter of a prominent Davao businessman, her househelp Fe Jayno and Jayno's aunt Norma – are currently in the custody of the Davao police after a rescue team raided the kidnappers' safe house in Hagonoy, Davao del Sur.

Five kidnappers were arrested in the raid, the report further said.

The same kidnap gang is still holding captive Italian Catholic priest Giuseppe Pierantoni, who was abducted on Oct. 17 in Zamboanga del Sur. It also kidnapped four Chinese nationals and their Filipino guide last year. Two of the Chinese were killed in a rescue attempt while another escaped. The other was released allegedly after ransom payments.

BAGUIO – Police authorities have launched a manhunt for an Italian man who is a suspect in the rape of a Filipina girl, an officer said Tuesday.

Police in this northern mountain resort named the suspect as Mauro Diamante, 58.

The suspect allegedly raped the 12-year-old stepdaughter of a Filipino friend in Baguio last year when he was staying at the friend's house.

The Baguio police criminal investigation chief, Supt. Generoso Bonifacio, said they were checking whether Diamante had fled the country.

The Philippines and Italy do not have an extradition treaty.

Diamante arrived in Baguio in October, but the alleged rape was discovered only last month when the victim told her mother about the assault, police said.

By that time the suspect had left the house of his hosts, telling them he was going abroad, Bonifacio said.

The Land Transportation Office (LTO) is considering phasing out public and private vehicles in Metro Manila that are more than five years old, LTO spokesman Superintendent Generoso Tocino said.

Tocino told radio dzBB on Tuesday that Outgoing LTO chief Ret. Gen. Edgardo Abenina made the proposal to reduce pollution in the metropolis as well as ease the traffic situation.

"Abenina had been wanting the gradual phasing out of all vehicles that are more than five years old and (which are) contributing to the pollution," he said.

Tocino added that the plan to phase out the vehicles as well as other programs of Abenina would be continued by incoming LTO and former police chief Roberto Lastimoso.

Abenina resigned from the LTO amid accusations of corruption by his former colleagues at the rebel group Reform the Armed Forces Movement. He denied the allegation, insisting that his projects were all directed to rid the transport office of corrupt practices.

The turnover ceremonies for the new transport chief is scheduled Tuesday.

Tocino said there are "no hard feelings" between Abenina and Lastimoso.

Manila Mayor Lito Atienza ordered the Western Police District to beef up security personnel as devotees are expected to flock to Quiapo  to participate in the celebration of the Feast of Black Nazarene, Quiapo’s patron saint.

In his order to WPD director Chief Superintendent Nicolas Pasinos and WPD-Traffic Enforcement Group (TEG) chief Superintendent Elmer Jamias, Atienza said the police should guard against criminal elements that would take advantage of the celebration.

Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims will flock to Quiapo to celebrate the Feast of the Black Nazarene which is traditionally brought out of the Basilica in a religious procession of barefooted devotees.

Authorities expect traffic jams along the route of the procession which starts at 2 p.m. and lasts until sundown.

The revered image of the cross-bearing black Jesus Christ is brought out of the church for a procession only twice a year: on the 9th day of January and on Black Friday.

Fiesta organizers said the procession for this year, which starts at the entrance of the Basilica in Plaza Miranda, will pass through the streets of Villalobos, Carlos Palanca, P. Gomez, P. Paterno, Quezon Boulevard, Globo de Oro, Gunao, Arlegui, Fraternal, Vergara, Duque de Alba, Castillejos, Farnecio, Concepcion Aguila, Carcer, R. Hidalgo, Bilibid Viejo, G. Puyat, Mendoza and Barbosa in Quiapo district.

It will soon be goodbye to all out partying for Muntinlupa’s teenagers who fill up the watering holes of Makati, Ortigas and Malate.

This after the Muntinlupa City council is set to approve a controversial ordinance imposing a curfew on teenagers 17 years old and below next week.

In a statement, the Muntinlupa City government said it expects the ordinance to be fully implemented by the barangay council to be formed soon.

The body will be known as the Barangay Curfew Hour Enforcement Council (BCHEC) which would oversee the enforcement of the ordinance in the city’s nine barangays.

The proposed law, an amended version of the city’s 1988 curfew ordinance, took about a year to be passed. The 1988 law was not implemented.

The BCHEC is among the innovations of the new curfew ordinance authored by Councilor Ike dela Rea.

Under the ordinance, those aged 17 an below are barred from the streets of Muntinlupa between 11 a.m. to 4 a.m. except in "extreme emergency cases and abnormal conditions." Violators would be detained in barangay holding centers.

As punishment, violators would be required to render two-hour community service and orientation on the importance of the curfew. Second and third offenders would do community work for four and eight hours, respectively, aside from the orientation. Third time offenders would be detained at youth reformatory institutions.

After the tragic car accident of Vandolph Quizon, another young actor has been involved in a car mishap. Oyo Boy Sotto, son of Vic Sotto and Dina Bonnevie, acquired minor scratches when he got into a car accident while trotting his way home inside the UP campus in Diliman, QC. The young actor's car supposedly crashed into a lamppost while avoiding hitting an owner type jeep driven by a certain Vicente Sareno.

The two are okay but they are both to be charged with reckless imprudence resulting to property damage by the PNP. Meanwhile, rumors also has it that Vic and Dina are planning to sue the driver Vicente for the incident and for supposedly giving negative statement against the actor's family, which was what the driver has been greatly avoiding.


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