Tuesday, August 02, 2005

How to Test Zuce's Story

Two words: "Travel Reports."

Every government official who is sent to "out-of-town" meetings is required to make a travel report soon after arriving from the trip. In this travel report, she states the itinerary for the trip, the time spent on a particular place, the purpose of the meeting, and a liquidation of advances for the trip. She is also required to attach the plane ticket, the boarding pass, the airport terminal stub, and the official receipts for food expenses. This type of paper work is a serious matter attended to normally by government officials, because a mistake in the travel report here and there can spawn a few administrative and criminal cases. A supervisor level official in the government has made enough travel reports in her career to get to that level.

Michaelangelo “Louie” Zuce, the presidential staff officer, who presented an affidavit, stating that 27 COMELEC provincial election supervisors from Mindanao were treated to a dinner in the La Vista residence of the President sometime in January 2004. See PCIJ background article here. Zuce claims that GMA arrived at 9:00 pm after dinner. Baby Pineda, wife of Bong Pineda, introduced the COMELEC officials one by one to the President. The President then asked the COMELEC supervisors to support her in the 2004 presidential elections. Other things happened that night, but at the end of the night, Zuce writes that "While we were living, Mrs. Pineda gave RD Johnny Icaro of Region 4 white envelopes for all of us. When we opened them in the vehicles, we found that each envelope contained P30,000."

Did this happen? Is Zuce a fake? Check the travel reports. They should be in the Finance and Administration office of the COMELEC regions.

4 comments:

mlq3 said...

you're assuming they traveled on official business, at government expense, and not as part of a privately-funded junket.

marvin said...

My strong hunch is they did. You expect the Pinedas to pay for travel expenses too?

Punzi said...

Pards, even before the travel reports, we approved "travel authorities" where the itineraries were already pre-approved before the government employee actually traveled (got the money budgeted for travel on official business). COA has these for audit purposes. Easily accessible (or destroyable?).

Of course you don't remember this because I signed these for the department we ran...

marvin said...

Punzi,

Those documents should be there then. There is a strong chance they got sloppy here. If COA has copies of those reports and authorities, they should be secured immediately. In today's newspaper, Abalos claims that the 27 Comelec officials actually went to Lanao for a sportsfest in December. Could that be .the cover-up? For how could Zuce know of a sportsfest in Lanao held in Decemebr by these comelec officials? Abalos must have asked his people whether the 27 Coemelec officials were ever out of the office on official travel at the same time in the past. And the answered that the records show that they were all out in December for a "sportsfest" in Lanao. Why dd they all have to go to Lanao for a sportsfest? December? Zuce claims it was January.

There is another detail that intrigues me.The affidavit states that "Upon arrival at PGMAs residence, they were brought to a lower level where the dinner tables had already been arranged but wewauted for 2 hours before GMA arrived at around 9:00 P.M." The term "lower level", does this mean the basement of PGMA's house in La Vista? Why then didn't he say it was the basement? Of does this mean that PGMA's house in La Vista has lower level, which is not necessarily the basement of the house, and 27 people or so would be fit to have dinner there with dinner tables arranged. This is easily verifiable. And if the Administration's attacks against Zuce is true (that he was a minor functionary and therefore could not have been involved in sensitive matters), how come he is familiar with PGMA's house in La Vista? Are minor functionaries of the government allowed at PGMA's private La Vista house? Or Zuce, a minor functionary, who is "major enough", as ti were, to be allowed to go to the President's private abode? Or Zuce just imagining that PGMA's house has a lower level where 27 people could have dinner? Well. only people who have been there could tell.