Political Striptease

by Juan L. Mercado

“It’s a media strip-tease,” fumes the  United (?) Opposition.  The Arroyo regime seeks to necklace ex-president Joseph  Estrada with the  Best World Resources scandal. That scam almost shoved the local stock exchange over the cliff in 1999.

This “burlesque” would politically castrate Erap, protest presidential aspirant Francisco “Chiz” Escudero and Senator Panfilo Lacson. This “vaudeville” could also scuttle his father’s chances of retaking Malacanang, adds San  Juan  mayor “JV” Ejercito 

But is this really just smoke and mirrors?

Philippine Star published a  BW chair Dante Tan letter that directed AT De Castro Securities Corp, in July 1999:  transfer 300,000 BW shares to — guess who?  Then National Police chief Panfilo Lacson, That’s who.

A BW share fetched P30 when Tan funneled shares to Erap’s police chief – up from only P2.04 in January. By October,  BWR stocks bolted to P107 per share. The July packet then would have fetched Senator Lacson P3.21  million.   

This sharp spike in BW share prices, in fact, triggered charges that the stock was being manipulated. Who was the manipulator?

That question anchors the Court of Appeals reversal of a Pasig court decision that cleared Tan and eight others. It ordered criminal prosecution instead.

“The decision. was “like  manna”, cheered Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales There’s a link between the BW scam and the murder of  PR man Salvador Dacer and driver Emmanel Corbito. Both were kidnapped, then murdered, by a  Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Task Force team.

Did documents seized from Dacer, then burned, by his killers, deal with the BW scam? Extradition of ex-PAOCTF  fugitives Cezar Mancao II and Glenn Dumlao could mesh these two cases into an “atomic bomb,” Gonzales adds.

This “strip-tease” drives the opposition bonkers. The justice secretary should deliver hard proof on scenarios he has dangled.

“Tan was just a friend,” Erap meanwhile insists. “Nothing more.”  Like many of Erap’s friends Tan skipped town when People Power Two erupted. He left no forwarding address.

He proved also quite a friend.  The President co-owned  BW Resources with Dante Tan,  ex-Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu said, at Estrada’s impeachment.

“One shocking document that surfaced  is a letter by Estrada’s own lawyer, brazenly written on Malacanang letterhead,”  wrote then- Inquirer columnist Antonio Carpio. “Addressed to Tan, (it) demands the turnover to Estrada of  BW stocks worth over P500 million. This inextricably links Estrada to the BW stock scam” said Carpio, now a Supreme Court justice.

Dante Tan and  Lucio Tan were among “New Money Chinese entreprenuers” that Estrada tapped in his presidential campaign, writes ex-Malacanang chief of staff Aprodicio Laquian in his book: “The Erap Tragedy”.

“The strategy worked well.” Senator Jovito Salonga quotes Erap as boasting: Hindi ko nagastos ang lahat. Nagtubo pa ako (I didn’t spend it all. I even had a profit.”)

Dante Tan quickly settled into Group Two.of the five clustered around  Estrada in the Palace.  As Erap’s ‘midnight cabinet’, they parlayed high stakes gambling sometimes into business deals. ”They were called “New Yorkers because they operated on New York time making 12 noon in New York midnight in Manila.”

Laquian identifies the other four groups in Chapter 6, titled “The Company He Keeps”: These were: (i) family members, personal friends like Fernando Poe and Ateneo high school classmates (ii) political allies led by the  Ronaldo and Manuel Zamora (iii) technocrats (iv) family members who shared administrative burdens, e.g.  Raul de Guzman of UP.

Group 2, businessmen sported  monosyllabic surnames: Lucio Tan, Dante Tan, Lucio Cao Co, Atong Ang, Jacinto “Jack” Ng, Jaime Dichavez — and William Gatchalian” Laquian wrote.  “Early in 2000, we expressed our concern about the Chinoys and other cronies. The cocky retort of Erap’s self-enriching cronies was walang sabit ito (no problem).

Family members like the late Dr Emilio Ejercito worried unsavory characters could damage Erap. ”Watch out for were: Charlie ‘Atong’Ang, William Gatchalian, Jaime Dichavez, Lucio Cao Co and Dante Tan,” Laquian was told.

BW was only one of many scams. But its consequences continue to unravel. That’s patent in the reopening and linking of BW stock fiddling and the Dacer murders.

Laquian memoirs, for example, note that Dante Tan deposited P300 million into the notorious “Jose Velarde” account. Jose Velarde and Joseph Estrada were one and the same persons, the Anti-Graft court declared in convicting Estrada for plunder.

Taxes not collected from BW Resources “because of special links to the Palace”:  included capital tax deficiency of P973,921,684 and documentary tax deficiency: P10,871,487, it adds.

Dante Tan may be more than a friend of Estrada gone AWOL.  He could be a political millstone.  From close-up observation, Laquian notes: “Erap’s barkada (gang) have always been a source of grief to him”. That’s regardless of  political strip-teases.

(E-mail: juanlmercado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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