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Ancient curse.

Byline: Juan L. Mercado

"History repeats itself, first as tragedy, second as farce," Karl Marx said. Isn't farce what happened while we fixated on reports about those who turned themselves in over the pork scam scandal?

Their jail is a class different from the filthy cells for run-of-the-mill prisoners. "All animals are equal, but some ... are more equal than others," George Orwell wrote.

Many glossed over Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 22 Judge Marino dela Cruz Jr.'s orders. One barred former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile's chief of staff Jessica "Gigi" Reyes and nine others from dipping into bank assets until June 26, the day when the court may lift-or make permanent-the ban.

Reyes' Security Bank account had earlier been whittled down from P21.2 million to P6,700. That was after whistle-blower Merlina Sunas claimed that "the commission of Atty. Gigi Reyes (was) given by Madame Jenny (Napoles) to Fernando Ramirez or John Raymund de Asis to be delivered to the house of Attorney Reyes herself."

The court edict is known as "provisional asset preservation order." Papo covers the Bank of the Philippine Islands accounts of Pauline Labayen, chief of staff of Sen. Jose "Jinggoy" Estrada. The accounts slumped to P1,334 and P94,060.

The court ordered United Coconut Planters Bank to submit records of the P40 million that went pfffft from the First Integrated Bonding and Insurance Co., Ina Reformina of ABS-CBN reported. Originally, the account held almost P47 million. UCPB claims the Anti-Money Laundering Council authorized the withdrawal, which happened after the freeze order lapsed. "Where your money is, there is your heart also."

So, who hit the replay button?

President Joseph Estrada "was the real and beneficial owner" of Jose Velarde's accounts, the Sandiganbayan found. Equitable PCI Bank accounts C/A No. 0110-25495-4 and S/A No. 0160-62501-5 started with a P1 deposit, by crony Jaime Dichaves who scrammed.

The Velarde account balances swelled to over P3,233,104,173, court records show. Panicked withdrawals during the impeachment trial drained the account. The court ordered the "loose change" left (P189.7 million) forfeited to government.

The January 2008 report by the Sandiganbayan sheriff says recovered were: P500 million in "promissory note and chattel mortgage"; 450 million shares of Waterfront Philippines, P427.5 million; 300 million Wellex Industries shares, P84 million; cash in an investment account, P95.7 million.

Son Senator Jinggoy "was careless," Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada said in an interview. "He did not intend to take advantage of his pork." Erap scoffed at a Commission on Audit report showing the senator repeatedly endorsed bogus foundations. Jinggoy did only what Erap did when the latter was serving in the Senate from 1987 to 1992. Tragedy repeating itself as farce?

Reyes earlier asked the court to defer charges against her. That's essential if the Supreme Court's pending decision on motions for a temporary restraining order is not to be preempted. The Ombudsman's special prosecutor opposed the move, asserting: Reyes' allegations of violations of her rights "remain mere allegations."

With a salary of over a million pesos a year, how did Reyes acquire new properties worth over P16 million between 2008 and 2010, investigative reporter Chay Hofilena asked earlier. When serving as Enrile's chief of staff, Reyes declared a net worth of P12.8 million and two properties: a P22.5-million house and lot in La Vista bought in 2002, plus a lot in South Ridge Subdivision in Tagaytay worth P1.4 million.

In 2011, she had a net worth of P29.36 million, more than double her net worth in 2004. That is Reyes' earliest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) on record with the Civil Service Commission. By: 2012, Reyes' real estate property acquisitions, according to her SALN then, topped P50.86 million.

Her 2012 SALN covered 10 residential properties, including two houses in Matuod, Lian, Batangas and the house and lot in La Vista. Of the 10 listed items under "real properties," four are located in Batangas.

Besides the P1.5-million house constructed in 2010, she had a second one built in the same year. It was more expensive-P6 million. It was in her 2011 SALN that Reyes first declared her P285,000 property in Sta. Ana, Cagayan. This she acquired way back in 1999. Personal jewelry added another P3 million.

Early May, whistle-blower Ruby Tuason returned P40 million derived from irregular transactions involving, she said, Senators Enrile and Estrada from 2007 to 2009. She is the only one to pay back-so far.

In her Feb. 7 affidavit, sworn to before the Ombudsman, Tuason admitted to having personally delivered cash to Estrada in Greenhills, San Juan, and at his Senate office. Reyes, picked up cash from Tuason's house in Dasmarinas Village in Makati City. On some occasions, Reyes would meet with Tuason in restaurants in Taguig and Makati. Enrile sometimes came by to pick up Reyes and would have coffee.

Tuason was social secretary to former president Joseph Estrada, She also chipped in for the younger Estrada's 2010 senatorial candidacy. The Ombudsman has granted her immunity.

Government is cross-checking whether 10 of the 54 charged with pork barrel theft have managed to slip out of the country, Immigration Commissioner Siegfred Mison says. Would that be tragedy repeating itself as farce? The 2000 impeachment trial heard testimony on P6-million batches of jueteng collections handed to "Jingle Bells." Erap's accountant-auditor, Yolanda Ricaforte, promptly fled abroad.

The ancient curse puts it well for the shell-shocked citizen: "May you live in interesting times."
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Publication:Philippines Daily Inquirer (Makati City, Philippines)
Date:Jun 21, 2014
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