Monday, September 21, 2009

Probable Cause to be Suspicious of our Courts

Nothing has been heard about Celso de los Angeles. It would seem that he has died, not of throat cancer, which everyone is a doubting Thomas, but of newsworthiness. Media has inexplicably stopped reporting of his status, as a patient and as a respondent. One is tempted to draw two conclusions: that Celso is now old news and not worthy of media coverage, and, he has paid off any or all newshounds who have attempted to follow up what is happening to him and his cases.

Except for the DOJ's announcement of finding probable cause for the filing of estafa against Celso and two of his minions, there has been no further news. And to think that several cases were lodged against him, not only by Senator Mar Roxas but by groups of victims of his preneed scams. What about the multitude of cases filed by the BSP and PDIC? Sad to say, nothing to report about.

Earlier, we mentioned that there may be two possible conclusions re the virtual dearth of news, but there is another reason. It has always been believed that Celso was backed by powerful personalities, very high up in politics. One is Speaker Nograles, who has admitted to investing or depositing about P20 million pesos in Legacy accounts. He also acknowledged that Celso is a partymate. The other personality is not a politician, but is the most powerful civilian in the Philippines. He can easily whisper "back off" to any government agency, and one can be sure that it would. And that would explain why the DOJ downgraded the syndicated estafa originally filed by Senator Roxas, to the watered-down case of simple estafa. Expect DOJ to do these to all the cases filed under it, and that would explain why it ordered all cases to be consolidated for filing in one court: the Makati RTC.

Remember the reason why the Legacy banks were able to continue operations inspite of BSP investigations and closure orders? TROs issued by the lower courts which enabled Celso to collect and embezzle an additional P1.4 billion in bank deposits. Do you expect the courts to pull the rug under Celso, and treat him like the criminal that he is? Your guess is as good as ours.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Hallelujah! Or is it too Early to Celebrate?

Por fin, after waiting for months, or to be exact, 8 months after the first filing of cases against Celso and his cohorts, the DOJ issued a resolution last Friday finding "probable cause" of estafa against Celso de los Angeles and two of his officers. If you think this is a cause of celebration, first read on and then decide whether you should upraise your hands in praise or clench them into fists of rage.

In the original case filed by Sen. Mar Roxas, the respondents were Celso and 19 board members and directors of the defunct Legacy Consolidated Plans Inc. However, only De los Angeles and his employees, Christine Limpin & Edgardo Marasigan were included in the DOJ resolution announced last week. Limpin was Legacy's SVP for legal, while Marasigan was the corporate secretary.

For reducing the case respondents to 3 from the original 20, the DOJ resolution is a watered-down version of the syndicated estafa case filed by the senator. A syndicated estafa is committed by a syndicate or at least 5 people and is a non-bailable offense. Since the DOJ resolution covers only 3 respondents, the case is effectively downgraded into a simple estafa, which is a bailable offense.

Remember the pledge of DOJ Secretary Agnes Devanadera? who upon assuming the mantle of leadership, that she would revitalize the department and work for the speedy disposition of cases, specifically mentioning among other, Celso and the legacy cases. Well, she followed up on her promise but as expected, bending backwards to accommodate the powerful perpetuators. Now, she can say that she is true to her word, but she is also true to her profession as a government official who protects the powerful at the expense of the hapless victims. Devanadera is the mirror image of Ombudsman Gutierrez, who if not sitting on high-profile cases, files cases that are lame and full-of-holes.

And they are women. Isn't justice depicted as a woman who holds scales? These two could have risen above personal loyalties and monetary incentives(?) to become women of substance. But the same thing could have been said of their boss who is a woman. Perhaps, Cory Aquino was who she was because she had a hero of a husband. So does this mean that the three other women in power now, have zeros for husbands?

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day of Reckoning

If you read the pinoy money talk fora, it seems that PDIC payments have slowed down. A lot of member-depositors are complaining of delays inspite of the submission of requirements e.i. affidavits. Depositors had executed affidavits, paid the notarial fees, personally traveled to the PDIC Makati office, expecting to receive check/s through the mail in reasonable time. But if you read the complaints, some have been waiting futilely for six or seven weeks.

What else can you expect from a government agency that has practically tied up its funds on long-term investments in the commercial banks. PDIC has no money: in fact, its president has practically admitted to media when he said that his company does not project to earn any profit this fiscal year considering the number of banks that have closed since December, 2008. He did not say it, but PDIC will lose money this year. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of depositors of the closed banks are kept waiting and hoping, but only a few checks are mailed out by the PDIC. Those checks are intended to prop up the illusion that PDIC is fulfilling its obligations.

It would be most interesting to see how PDIC could make its statutory obligation to pay all valid claims within six months from the date of filing. We know of several claimants who filed on March 23, 2009, and September 23 would be the day of reckoning.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Banality of Evil

While reading last month's Newsweek, we chanced upon an article that mentioned "the banality of evil," a phrase coined by Hannah Arendt who watched the trial in Israel of the infamous Nazi, Adolf Eichmann. In her book, she theorized that the great evils in history generally, and the Holocaust in particular, were not executed by fanatics or sociopaths but rather by ordinary people who accepted the premises of their state and therefore participated with the view that their actions were normal.

That is how one may explain the actions and deeds (misdeeds) of our leaders and officials in government who wantonly and brazenly cheat, lie, and steal. In a nation that prides itself as the only Catholic country in Southeast Asia, we are certainly one of the most corrupt, if not the most corrupt. The Political and Economic Risk Consultancy (PERC) survey in 2008 placed our country as the most corrupt, only to be displaced by Indonesia as no.1 in its 2009 survey. And the PERC surveys cover 14 Asian countries plus Australia.

No wonder then that individuals like Baladjay, Tibayan, Mateo, Hao and the most recent monster, Celso de los Angeles, thrive in a country like ours. The two million peso question: Would this scam artists have prospered without the blessings of powerful politicians and government officials? We would have to say that there was no way for Celso and his ilk to have flourished for years without the connivance of the powers-that-be. In Celso's case, SEC and BSP have been implicated. The conduct of evil is now so normal in our society that men have come to accept evil as not unusual; in fact, it seems that doing good is getting to be the exception to the rule of evil.

But if these shenanigans and criminal acts are done by Catholics, does this mean that they do not believe that what they are doing (have done) is against God? We are of the opinion that they know that it is a crime to lie, cheat, steal and scam, but simply find ways to justify it. And this miscreants believe that all they have to do is repent before they die, and they will be forgiven by God.

But what about the thousands and thousands of lives and families ruined by their acts and now have to live in poverty and misery? Eichmann was kidnapped by the Israelites so as to be tried for his crimes while he was alive: he was convicted and hanged in 1962. Sometimes, we wish that the NPAs and Abu Sayyafs would kidnap corrupt governments officials, politicians and criminals like Celso and Hao, and let pay them for their crimes as Eichmann did.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Victims are victimized not once, but twice!

It's been almost a month since anything has been written about Celso and his hospitalization in St. Luke's hospital. Is he still in the hospital and sick? is he in the hospital and not sick? or is he not even inside the hospital? What do you think?

We remember a report that exposed Rosario Baladjay's celebration of her birthday outside her Makati City jail in 2004, wherein people saw her wearing the finest jewelry in her party attended by outsiders, and possibly the jail warden. As mentioned in my previous post, Baladjay is now in the correctional institute, but we are sure that she still continues to be able to go in and out of the prison walls. Where else would she put to good (?) use her ill-gotten wealth estimated at no less than P20 billion. While we were researching on the status of Multitel and the futile efforts of investors to get back even a portion of their investments, we came across fora that chronicled the unkept promises of Baladjay to return their money. Do you know that these investors chipped in money to send a doctor to New York based on Baladjay authorizing this doctor to withdraw $300 million from her supposed account in Citibank. Of course, when the doctor and his Filipino hosts met the citibankers, they were told that no such account existed. We cannot fathom why Baladjay to the end continued to dupe her investors, holding up hope to these desperate people who would be willing to listen to anything if it promised the recovery of even a portion of their hardearned money.

We know what Celso has been saying to his preneed investors: in September, 2008, he told investors holding bounced checks that there would be a 3-month delay before he could make good those check with an addition 3% for their troubles, and then when he closed his companies, he told them that all the assets would be liquidated and the proceeds would be enough to settle all the pending claims. We all know what came of all that talk- zilch, nada, nothing! And just like the case of Baladjay, makes you wonder why scammers and estafadors seem to enjoy shafting and duping their victims, not only once but as many times as possible.

This kind of behavior can only point to one fact: that de los Angeles and Baladjay are not only criminals but also sociopaths.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Land of the Rising Scam

Celso de los Angeles is just the latest in a Who's Who gallery of Filipino rogues and scoundrels that have fleeced Filipinos of their money and savings. He is not the first but he seems to be the one who has practically perfected the art.

The pyramid scam hogged the headlines in 2002 when investment firms, most of them not even registered with the SEC, swindled more than a million investors of an estimated P100 billion. Companies such as Multitel, MMG Holdings, Tibayan Group of Companies, Glasgow and Maria Theresa Santos Trading duped people into investing P10,000-P300,000 with promised 10-15 percent annual returns.

Multitel, owned and operated by the pyramid queen Rosario Baladjay,used counselors who recruited investors. Successful recruitments meant a 1 to 20 percent commission for the counselors, who also brought in subcounselors. Celso used marketing agents who inveigled preneed planholders to convert their plans into DYM certificates and convinced savers to deposit in the Legacy rural banks. While Baladjay's scheme ran for three years (1999 to 2002), Celso's flourished for a record 11 years (1997 to 2008). But in three years, Baladjay amassed a whopping P20 billion while Celso "only" siphoned off a conservative P14 billion.

In 2008, a racket which spun off from Multitel also stole P2 billion-worth of investments from its victims. Cyrus Yap Hao, who worked with Baladjay in Multitel, introduced his own pyramid scheme through a company called Royal Manchester Five. FrancsSwiss also solicited investments ranging from $1,000-$10,000 with payment done online through the different websites of FrancSwiss, duping investors of another $150 million.

Baladjay was convicted in 2003 based on numerous estafa cases, and so was Maria Theresa Santos. Both are believed to be incarcerated in the Correction Institute for Women. Eric Mateo of Mateo Trading was arrested in early 2008 while Hao left the country in March 2008 but he was eventually nabbed by the NBI, but Jesus Tibayan is still at-large. Nobody knows any recents news about Mateo, Hao and Tibayan, but a recent news reports has given us a clue:

MANILA, July 2 — Acting Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary and concurrent Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera ordered on Thursday DOJ prosecutors to fast-track the investigation of all financial and business scam cases awaiting resolution.
Correlating the unresolved cases in the DOJ and other prosecution offices to the recent conviction of former NASDAQ chairman Bernard Madoff, "this will generate the feeling of impatience to the general public and the complainants of the business and financial cases," Devanadera pointed out.

The Acting DOJ chief ordered Acting Chief State Prosecutor Severino Gana, Jr. to direct Asst. Chief State Prosecutors Miguel Gudio and Leah Armamento and City Prosecutor Emilie delos Santos to speed up the investigation of such cases similar to a Ponzi scheme committed by Madoff.

"Let us show immediate results," Devanadera stressed as she urged DOJ prosecutors for the successful prosecution of the accused. (PNA)

Two million-peso questions: Does Devanedera's memo indicate that the former Secretary of Justice sat on these cases? Any bets that this new directive will cover Celso?

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Schemes to Keep Celso Away from the Courts

Have you read the news report about a DOJ hearing that was moved to August 4 because of the belated swearing-in of a PDIC lawyer? The case was filed by PDIC against Celso in behalf of 10 investors who lost P56 million to Celso's scheme. Although it is not clear to us how and why PDIC is involved in a case which does not concern legitimate bank deposits, it seems that PDIC is doing the right thing since we presume that PDIC will pay the huge court docket fees which have been a deterrent to victims who would like to seek justice against Celso. With this move, PDIC is signalling that it is serious in prosecuting Celso and his cohorts.

Cagayan de Oro (CDO) preneed victims, who have some money left, have filed two cases (with one more on the way as of this writing) of syndicated estafa against Celso, and was the reason why Celso was served two warrants of arrest while in the hospital. Last month, we heard that Cebu victims had planned to file a similar case but could not come up with the costly filing fees. If you remember, there was talk that Senator Mar Roxas would ask the DOJ and the courts to waive filing fees for Legacy victims, but obviously, this did not prosper. Then the DOJ inexplicably came out with a ruling that all Legacy cases, except for CDO, should all be consolidated for filing in Makati courts, even though most victims were located in the Visayas and Mindanao. This deterred a lot of victims who would have to undergo the time-consuming, expensive and long-distance court cases that would be heard in the Makati courts. Thank God that the CDO cases were filed before the DOJ ruling came out; otherwise, up to this date, not a single warrant of arrest would have been served to Celso.

But what happened to all those ballyhooed cases that BSP and PDIC filed much earlier? Nothing, so far. It is ironic that cases filed by private individuals shelling out the last of their private funds, resulted in immediate action by the courts, while cases filed in Makati courts by government agencies (the sames ones who as regulators allowed and tolerated Celso's fraudulent schemes) have not even gone beyond a first hearing at the DOJ. Do you know that the Aug. 4 would be closed-door, with the media kept out of the proceedings? Seems to prove the theory that there are powerful individuals behind Celso: who would do anything to keep Celso's mouth shut until death (if he really has cancer) causes him to bring those names with him to the grave. There a lot of people who would like to see Celso buried together with those nameless ones, who have for too long plundered the government coffers, and now the savings of the poor.