Money issues hound Cayetanos in the Senate

Aries C. Rufo

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The father, Renato, was probed by the Senate ethics committee for allegedly profiting from stocks manipulation. Son and daughter were called 'ungrateful' for criticizing campaign funder Mike Arroyo.

Fate is playing a cruel joke on the Senate—Alan Cayetano in particular.

The gentleman from Taguig, as chair of the Senate ethics committee, wants the Senate President scrutinized for cash gifts that he and his senator sister were denied. Years ago, the same committee investigated their father, now deceased Sen Renato Cayetano, for something involving financial gifts as well.

The word war between Alan Cayetano and Juan Ponce Enrile stemmed from money: Why, in distributing Senate savings among members of the chamber, did the Senate President become selective in his generosity?

While other senators got P1.6 million each as Christmas gift from Enrile, 4 received only P250,000, and they included siblings Alan and Pia Cayetano.

This is not the first time that a Cayetano has been dragged into a controversy involving funds. Money issues have hounded the Cayetanos who have sat in the Senate, from the late father Renato to the brother-and-sister tandem.

Renato Cayetano, was the subject of an ethics probe arising from the rigging of the Best World (BW) shares in 1999. The Cayetano patriarch supposedly gained millions of pesos from the manipulation of the gaming firm’s stocks, the allegations went.

The ethics probe was prompted by the complaint filed by former President Joseph Estrada’s allies Jesus Crispin Remulla (now a Cavite congressman) and urban poor sector leader Ronald Lumbao.

Interestingly, this also involved a supposed “gift” to Cayetano.

Stock manipulation

The Philippine Stock Exchange had established that BW president Dante Tan and other brokers were part of a conspiracy to rig the BW stocks through “wash sales,” where the sellers and the buyers are one and the same persons.

The BW scandal, which almost led to the collapse of the local stock market, also contributed to Estrada’s downfall after former Finance Secretary Edgardo Espiritu accused Estrada of also profiting from the stock manipulation.

At the height of the scam, it was alleged that the elder Cayetano gained P7.9 million from the sale of one million BW stocks and earned some P50 million more for the succeeding sale of two million stocks. This was confirmed by Tan’s stock broker Raul de Castro, vice president of A.T. de Castro Securities, during the ethics probe.

The ethics committee, chaired by Sen Francis Pangilinan, wrapped up its probe after 4 closed-door hearings and exonerated Cayetano.

The majority of the ethics committee dismissed Remulla’s and Lumbao’s complaint as hearsay and ruled there was no sufficient evidence to punish Cayetano. The majority report was signed by Senators Juan Flavier, Noli de Castro, Joker Arroyo, Manuel Villar Jr, and Loren Legarda.

Four senators — Blas Ople, Robert Jaworski, Vicente Sotto III, and Aquilino Pimentel Jr — did not sign the report. They issued a minority report, seeking sanction for Cayetano.

The minority argued that Cayetano “demeaned” the image of the Senate by engaging in the manipulation of the BW stocks and should therefore be “expelled.” They also pointed out that Cayetano could have profited from the scheme without shelling out a single centavo, broadly saying that the BW stocks which Cayetano traded were actually given as a gift by Tan.

“The senator is liable for violating the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards Act, which, among other things, prohibits public officials and employees from receiving gifts that affect the performance of their duties or are embodied in simulated sales or receiving gifts whose value is neither insignificant nor nominal and which are given in anticipation of or in exchange for a favor,” the minority report said.

In a twist of fate, Cayetano’s son, Alan, now chairs the Senate ethics committee.

‘Ungrateful’ for FG’s help

When Renato’s children, Alan and Pia, became senators — their terms overlapping — they were chided by First Gentleman Mike Arroyo for being “ungrateful.”

The husband of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had been the subject of Alan’s criticisms and exposés, said the siblings, in fact, got financial help from him during the 2004 elections. Pia was then seeking a Senate seat and Alan was aiming for the congressional seat of Taguig-Pateros.

“During the 2004 campaign, he and his sister came to me, saying, ‘Tito, we have no money anymore, not even money for watchers,’” Mike Arroyo said. “When I gave him the money, he said, ‘That’s not enough,’ so I even added more — personal funds, ha?” It was during an interview sometime in September 2006 that Arroyo shared this anecdote.

This was at the height of an exposé that involved the former First Gentleman who was accused of maintaining a secret bank account in Munich, Germany. It was a lead that fellow senator and then ally Panfilo Lacson was pursuing, but which Alan allegedly exposed prematurely. Arroyo then filed 13 libel cases against Alan.

Alan denied that he and his sister had begged for personal funds from Arroyo’s husband when they were still allies. Pia, however, admitted they got financial support from the former First Gentleman.

But then, thankful

“I’m forever grateful to all the people who supported me during the campaign…and, of course, the First Gentleman is part of it,” Pia said, acknowledging Arroyo’s statement.

Pia, however, did not declare Mr Arroyo as one of her campaign contributors in her statement of contributions and expenses for the 2004 elections.

In the present storm swirling in the Senate, Enrile revealed it was Pia’s office that kept following up on the additional operating budget for the month of December. Senators Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Antonio Trillanes IV, and Alan later branded the release of those extra funds as immoral and illegal.

The Senate chief questioned Pia’s silence on the issue. When she finally broke her silence, she took a different tack from her brother’s, asking only why she was excluded from the additional P1.6-million additional budget.

She surmised Enrile still bore a grudge against her for their bitter arguments on the reproductive health and sin tax reform bills. – Rappler

Aries Rufo was a Senate reporter and is an investigative journalist. He has written extensively on the Church, judiciary, elections, and politics. He has received numerous citations and awards, among them the first prize for the Asia Pacific Region – Lorenzo Natali Journalism for Development award and the Jaime V Ongpin awards for investigative journalism.

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