Guerilla Blogger was grilled in a Philippine senate inquiry for implementing subversive and contrarian methods in blogging including the illegal use of guerilla blogging strategy and tactics.
Hahahah not really ! 🙂 Last February 10, 2009 my friend Atty. Andrew “Andy” Dadula and I had the opportunity to be invited to the Philippine Senate inquiry on the pre-need fiasco, in particular the Legacy Consolidated plans mess. Special thanks of course to my co-blogger in Cebu Blogging Society, Kevin Ray Chua of www.marroxas2010.blogpspot.com who referred me to the office of Atty. Blas Viterbo, Chief of staff of Senator Roxas for making all of this possible.
Just having 3 hours sleep Monday night due to preparation of the documents that I have to bring to Manila, I forced myself to wake up at around 2:30 a.m. Our flight leaves at 5 a.m. So I have to leave the house at around 3 a.m, because I still have to pick up Andy. I arrived at our agreed rendezvous point on time, Andy arrived a little later. I was donning my barong already, while he was just wearing casual attire. Anyway he told me he is planning to stay overnight, so he brought some clothes along. We proceeded to the airport and parked our car at the Waterfront airport hotel. We were the last ones to board the plane. It almost left without us.
We arrived in Manila 6 a.m. plus and grabbed a bus to proceed to Pasay Rotonda’s Kabayan Hotel. Andy wanted to stay overnight in Manila so we decided to secure his accommodations first. Besides the Philippine Senate inquiry is still at 11:30 a.m., so we still had time to relax, grab a bite and perhaps a shutter eye. Unfortunately, Kabayan Hotel was fully booked, so we grabbed a jeepney to the Gil Puyat-Taft Avenue area. Andy said we will check out some place where he could stay for the night.
We walked around the area, and I was sweating profusely. I felt funny lugging around my briefcase, walking around in long sleeve barong. I felt like a traveling salesman. Anyway, we tried several transient lodgings houses and hotels until finally we found one with a very reasonable price. We then proceeded to have breakfast at a nearby carenderia.
After breakfast, we went back to the lodging house. Andy had to change to his barong. I received a text message from Atty. Blas, informing me that the Philippine Senate inquiry will start at 10:30 a.m. With that information, we then grabbed a cab to the Philippine Senate compound located at the GSIS Bldg., Financial Center, Roxas Blvd., Pasay City.
It was our first time to step into the “hallowed halls” of the main legislative branch of our government. Security was tight. Guards and bomb sniffing dogs were everywhere. Your bags have to pass through an x-ray machine and you have to go through a metal detector just like in the airport before you were allowed inside.
We were told by Atty. Blas Viterbo to meet us at the conference room where the Philippine Senate inquiry on pre-need plans will be taking place. There were several conference rooms at that floor, each of them used be senators who chaired different committees. There was several Philippine Senate inquiries on several issues taking place. Some of them have already started while some of them has yet to start. I even erroneously entered one of those rooms on the later part of the day. There were also lots of media people around.
When we entered the conference room, people were busy getting preparing the area. Chairs that looked like home theater chairs were re-arranged, the media crew was setting up their cameras, and microphones among other things were being prepared. I counted more than 25 cameras set up at different angles.
Atty. Blas Viterbo met with us and we submitted our join affidavit to the secretariat. At 10:30 plus Senator Mar Roxas entered the room and announced that the Philippine Senate inquiry will start in about 15 minutes.
It was almost 11 a.m. when Senator Mar Roxas, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Senator Rodulfo Biazon entered the room. Everybody was seated on their respective seats. Each of us knew where we were supposed to be seated because each had a name plate on the desk. Senator Mar Roxas called this particular Philippine Senate inquiry to order and the proceedings began. This particular Philippine Senate inquiry is conducted by the Senate Committee on Trade and Commerce joint with the Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies chaired by Senator Mar Roxas and Senator Francis Escudero respectively.
Seated across me were the representatives of the different pre-need companies. To my left were the commission and department heads and representatives of the various government agencies that were the regulators of the pre-need companies and banks. This includes the Securities and Exchange Commission (S.E.C), the Philippine Depositors Insurance Corporation (P.D.I.C) and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (B.S.P). Seated along their line was also was the infamous Mr. Celso Delos Angeles of Legacy Consolidated plans, Philip Piccio, president of the P.E.P coalition. (Parent’s enabling Parents it is a coalition of pre-need plan victims, mainly Pacific plan holders.)along with two Legacy victims from Davao with their lawyers.
Seated along my line were another two lawyers from Davao and a representative from the department of justice. To my right were the Senators.
Senator Roxas started the inquiry with a question to the representatives of the pre-need companies. The question and answer almost ran for about an hour when Senator Roxas decided to settle and administrative matter. He wanted those who have not yet taken the oath to tell the truth to do so. This does not apply to those who have already attended the previous Senate inquiry since this is only the continuation of the previous Philippine Senate inquiry on the matter. Senator Francis Escudero arrived and joined us.
The inquiry proceeded. The government officials were grilled. A little later, Senator Richard Gordon arrived and joined the party. The Senators berated and insulted the government regulators for failing to take the necessary action to prevent the fiasco from happening. Deeply in hot water were Secretary Fe Barin of the S.E.C and the rest of the S.E.C. The infamous Celso Delos Angeles was also placed in the hot seat.
Finally Legacy plan holders and their lawyers were allowed to speak. First up were the lawyers. We introduced ourselves and talked a little bit about the number of clients that we represent and the claims that we were bringing against Legacy. Later, the two legacy victims from Davao were allowed to pour their hearts out concerning their bitter experience.
Throughout the senate inquiry, I raised points whenever I could. I raised the point on how the case is similair to the Madoff case the only difference is that Madoff is already in jail while Celso Delos Angeles is still scott-free. I bemoaned the fact that the government regulators have been very inefficient in doing something about the case and it seems that no prosecution is in progress. Aside from that no freezing of assets has even been initiated.
The proceedings dragged on till lunch. I was surprised that the Senators did not declare a lunch break. We were served burgers, coffee and water to sustain us throughout the proceedings. I occasionally went out to go to the comfort room. At 3 p.m. plus, Senator Roxas announced the adjournment of this particular Philippine Senate inquiry because they have to attend the plenary sessions. He told us, the Legacy lawyers and victims together with Mr. Philip Piccio that we will still have a meeting at the Senate Cafeteria. He will just excuse himself after checking in at the plenary.
We trooped to the Cafeteria and waited for Senator Roxas. A little while later, he joined us together with his staff. We brain stormed on how were going to proceed with our action against Celso Delos Angeles and the rest of the Legacy group. The good senator intimated that he is willing to help us and to let the issue stay alive.
After the meeting we went inside the plenary hall to see the Senate live in action. A proceeding was ongoing. We initially wanted to stay and Atty. Blas Viterbo offered us a seat at the plenary. Unfortunately our flight leaves at 7 p.m. and I still have to go to SM Mall of Asia to buy paslubong for my wife and son so Andy and I left.
We grabbed a cab to the S.M mall of Asia. Andy said he wanted to find a Philippine airline office to reschedule his ticket. He said he is having second thoughts in staying overnight. We parted ways. I first went to the bookstores to checkout some books. I bought the Buffetology books on audio CD. I also bought some Lord Stokes and some Crispy Kreams doughnuts for Pasalubong. I stayed in a coffee shop for a while to wait for Ate Cynthia, Jurists Bar Review center coordinator. She wanted me to bring something to Cebu for the Jurists Bar Review Center – Cebu.
Afterwards I grabbed a cab to the airport and waited for my flight. The flight left on time. We could have departed several minutes earlier, but the cabin crew waited for an announcement that they were still waiting for a passenger. I told myself that without a doubt we were waiting for Andy. 🙂
The less than an hour flight to Cebu seemed to take longer. Tired and exhausted due to lack of sleep and adrenaline rush all throughout the day, I couldn’t wait to lie down in bed and sleep the whole day next day. We finally touched down and Cebu and when we did, I rang up Andy. My suspicions were correct, it was him who was the last passenger to board the flight.
We went to the waterfront, paid the parking charge for the day and proceeded to the Cebu City. I dropped Andy near his house then I went straight home.
I would like to use this post to express my thanks to the staff of Senator Mar Roxas and to Senator Mar Roxas himself who has been very accommodating to us. The office of the good Senator under the leadership of the dynamic Atty. Blas Viterbo has been very professional in taking care of us while we were there. In fact I highly salute their office for responding promptly to our emails and any concern we forward to them. Their office is one of the most efficient and undoubtedly one of the best in the Philippine Senate.
Experiencing a Philippine Senate inquiry is an experience of a lifetime. Some lawyers never even had a chance to get that experience in their entire legal career. I was given the rare privilege and opportunity to experience such. Because of my experience in the Philippine Senate inquiry I learned to appreciate the work of our legislature and above all I was deeply humbled and blessed in knowing I had been given this rare opportunity to experience a Philippine Senate inquiry. 🙂