|Liberal Party President Manuel "Mar" Roxas II|
The issue started with a Philippine Star article that criticized Roxas’ use of campaign planes owned by illegal miner Eric Gutierrez. Then it got bigger. A lot, lot bigger.
A little googling shows shows Gutierrez’s family owns SR Metals Inc that operates nickel mines in Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Meanwhile, Liberal Party Spokesman Edgar Erice is one of the company’s incorporators and served as its president in late 2000’s.
Since 2006, SR Metals has been mired in various controversies, including Lumad killings, environmental destruction, militarization, circumvention of mining laws, among others, research shows.
In this period, SR Metals overextracted ores by almost 40 times the legal limit set by their “small-scale” mining permit. The firm earned Php 2.9 billion in the process. Tubay locals have constantly called for government action against SR Metals, but their calls fell on deaf ears.
LP and Friends
The government has been dominated by the Liberal Party, whose leadership includes:
- Party Chairman: President Benigno S. Aquino III (2011–Present)
- Vice Chair: Senator Franklin Drilon (Iloilo) (2011–present)
- Vice Chair: House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. (Quezon City) (2011–Present)
- President: DOTC Sec. Joseph Emilio A. Abaya (Cavite) (2012–present)
- President (On-Leave): Former DILG Sec. Manuel Roxas II (Capiz) (2012–Present)
- VP for Policy: Rep. Henedina R. Abad (Batanes) (2011–present)
In an ideal world, top honchos of the Liberal Party, along with SR Metals officers, should have been charged with plunder.
While some legal nitpickers will argue that SR Metals officers are private individuals and thus are not covered by the Plunder Law, the fact that the LP itself successfully charged Janet-Lim Napoles with plunder quickly debunks that claim.
But it is not the case.
Instead, these people are walking freely today, with some of them holding the highest government positions in the land, and one of them is even running for President.
With these said...
The Thinking Pinoy (TP) asks: How can one get away with plunder?
To answer that, let TP give you a timeline of events from the start of SR Metals’ Tubay operations up to the most recent developments.
Case Study: SR Metals Inc and the Liberal Party
- March: DENR issued SR Metals a small-scale mining permit in 20-hectare site in Tubay, Agusan del Norte. Annual extraction limit is 50,000 tonnes of ore [Supreme Court (SC)].
- April: SRMI started Tubay Operations. [Inquirer]
- August: Tubay’s Manobo and Mamanwa tribe leaders (Lumads) signed memorandum of agreement with Manila-based SR Metals owner Eric Gutierrez [NCIP.gov.ph]
- August: Tubay locals stage anti-mining demonstrations, leaders were the local Parish Priest, Tubay local Atty. Fortun Carlota, and town councilor Alejor Page. 8 were hurt in the ensuing government-initiated dispersal. [Philstar].
- September: EMB sent Notice of Violation to SR Metals Inc. [SC]
- November: Agusan Governor Amante questioned the amount of extracted ore, asked DOJ’s help. [SC ]
- November: DENR Sec. Angelo Reyes ordered closure of SR Metals‘ Tubay Site [Inquirer]
- November: SR Metals appealed closure in Court of Appeals (CA) [SC].
- SR Metals continued operations throughout this period.
- July: Reyes removed from DENR [Philstar].
- July: Former Manila Mayor Lito Atienza becomes DENR Secretary [Philstar].
- July: CA affirmed DENR decision, ordered SR Metals closure, case raised to SC [GMANews].
- September: SRMI stops Tubay operations [Mindanews]
- December: Plunder charges filed against SR Metals and company president Edgar Erice [Interaksyon].
- March - New DENR Sec. Atienza issues SR Metals large-scale mining permit, mining site increased from 20 hectares to 572 hectares [Government Catalogues].
- March: SR Metals resumes Tubay operations [Mindanews].
- October: Lumads claim S.R. Metals has yet to pay them any single centavo in royalty fees [Philstar].
- February: SR Metals owner Eric Guttierez becomes campaign financier for Liberal Party presidential bet Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III and vice-presidential bet Manuel “Mar” Roxas II [Manila Times].
- May: Aquino wins presidency, Roxas loses to former Makati Mayor Jejomar Binay.
- May: Lumads urge Aquino to investigate SR Metals for illegal closure of public roads, illegal dismissal of workers, failure to provide proper relocation site for displaced residentss, and non-payment of business taxes and other fees [People’s Journal].
- February: Tubay Mayor Tomaneng said mining firm’s settling pond overflow aggravates local floods, complained mining firm delinquent in over Php 200 million in local taxes and fees [MindaNews]
- April: Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez steps down amid looming impeachment [BBC News]
- July 6: Fr. Raul Cabonce, a vocal critic of SR Metals and the local government, was accused of rape [GMANews]
- July 11: Tubay locals staged another demonstration, crowd dispersed with water cannons from nearby Cabadbaran City, and with help from the Armed Forces. Atty. Carlota was allegedly murdered in the same event. Fr. Cabonce was among the demonstrators. [Youtube Video, Justice for Atty. Carlota Facebook Page]
- July 19: “Official reports” states Atty. Carlota was accidentally run over by his own vehicle [Bombo Radyo].
- December: SC Chief Justice Renato Corona, an Arroyo appointee, was impeached in the Senate and consequently removed from office. [Inquirer].
- February: Erice files “Grave Abuse of Authority” case against Mayor Tomaneng at Ombudsman [People’s Journal]
- February: Through Mayor Tomaneng’s efforts, MGB sends investigation team to Tubay [Tempo]
- June: Gutierrez accompanied President Aquino in his US and UK trips, where he was included in the group of “Top 26 Filipino businessmen” that comprised official Philippine delegation. [Rappler].
- December: Another set of graft raps filed against Tomaneng, Assistant Ombudsman Elvira Chua issues hold departure order. [Inquirer]
- December: PCDSPO Secretary Ricky Carandang was reported to have plans of becoming the Head of Corporate Communications for a Gutierrez company after his resignation [Manila Times].
- January: Carandang reported to be working for Air Juan, a Gutierrez-owned company and the registered owner of the Roxas’ fleet of campaign planes [Manila Times].
- September: Gutierrez lends helicopter to Liberal Party for use in capturing aerial footage of Binay’s alleged Rosario Batangas Mansions [Philstar]
- March: Government execs still won’t touch mining case [Inquirer]
- May: TV5 reports the various abuses of SR Metals and complaints from Tubay locals. [See video below]
- June: SC affirms 2006 DENR closure order [Manila Standard]
- September: Increased militarization of Agusan triggers Lumad exodus, 68 people summarily killed since 2010, 13 since March. All the murdered IP leaders were opposed to Nickel Asia and SR Metals, both of which are owned by LP financiers.[Interaksyon]
- September: SC fines SR Metals a paltry Php 7 million, despite the latter earning Php 2.9 billion from illegal mining. [Senate]
- December: SC clears way for plunder charges vs LP spokesman Edgar Erice [Manila Standard].
- January: Gutierrez lends entire Air Juan fleet to Liberal Party for use in 2016 presidential elections [Philstar]
- January: SR Metals receives “environmental award” from Malacanang, handed by President Aquino [SunStar].
- February: Records show Gutierrez’s Air Juan planes are tax-exempt, a privilege accorded to no other airline company [Interaksyon].
- February: Presidential contender Mar Roxas (LP) said, “Eric Gutierrez is my friend... what is wrong with that?” [Inquirer]
How to get away with Plunder
From this timeline, this is how we do it:
Phase 1: Quell Dissent
- If a dissident is relatively insignificant, murder them (Carlota and the 68 Lumads).
- If they’re too influential to be murdered, fabricate court cases against them (Tomaneng, Cabonce).
- If they’re too influential to be sued, have them removed from office (Omb. Gutierrez, DENR Sec. Reyes, Chief Justice Corona). Most government officials are corrupt (e.g. Merceditas Gutierrez, Corona) so it’s easy to dig up issues against them and use them as legal ammunition.
Interesting Realization: If Thinking Pinoy's real identity had been out in the open, I guess this entire blog would have lasted for a full week at best. Why? Because I can't blog when I am dead, right?
Phase 2: Gain Power
- Be power itself:
- Be President (Aquino) so you become the head of government and chief of Armed Forces.
- Be the DILG Secretary. (Roxas) to gain control of the police and local governments.
- Be the Budget Secretary. (Abad political dynasty), so you can control all other agencies through your power of the purse.
- Be the Senate President (Drilon) and House Speaker (Belmonte).
- Bankroll your politician-friends (SR Metals finances LP slate).
- Enhance and maintain political connections (SR Metals hires Carandang).
- Maintain working relationship by regularly exchanging favors (everything else in the timeline).
Phase 3: Maintain Power
- Make sure that next president is also from your own political party (Roxas).
- Do everything to boost party’s and candidate’s image, no matter the cost (attempted Pacquiao bribery)
- Eliminate other major presidential contenders (disqualification cases vs Poe and Duterte, corruption charges against Binay)
- If the candidate seems unwinnable, resort to plan B, which is to make amends and manipulate another person who shall become your back-up candidate. (Grace Poe). She's politically inexperienced so it will be easy to manipulate her, in the same way Chiz Escudero manipulated her to run for president so he can be on top of the VP rankings.
So that, my readers, is how to get away with plunder.
And if you don't agree with whatever was stated, Roxas has something to say:
"Eric Gutierrez is my friend. what is wrong with that?" - LP President Mar Roxas
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