By: Gregorio M. Batiller, Jr.

Happy New Year to all. It is certainly hoped that 2002 will be a much kinder year than that which fleeted past. But things do not look too bright for the present administration.

They have not solved Nida Blanca’s murder. The Burnham couple have not yet been rescued and the Abus continue to run circles around the military that is supposed to be pursuing them and which has since repeatedly extended the announced dates of the Abus capture. Coup plots continue to persist and have even afflicted the present set-up in the Senate.

Traditionally coup plots in the Senate are usually carried out during the Christmas break. But in the past, rarely was an impending coup announced until it was practically a fait accompli. But the recent coup was announced even before it was carried out. Surely, the minority could not have been that confident.

Then there is the mystery of the lost ship. The M/V Great Faith was seized by the Customs authorities last September 2001 for having engaged in the rice smuggling activities involving about 20,000 sacks valued at some P20 million.

Pres. Arroyo then came out with an announcement that the smuggled rice would be given to charity or sold at low prices and the ship donated to the military. Said announcement must have made the ship-owner panic. Rather than lose both shipment and ship, he literally “kidnapped” his own ship. It simply sailed out of the Cebu port in the early hours of December 24, 2001.

Conveniently, all customs officials who were responsible to secure the seized ship had their excuses prepared. Either they were out of town or elsewhere. Even the Coastguard purportedly attempted to give chase but was deterred by large waves.

Word is however that the ship was left to anchor in the open seas instead of being berthed at port. Two (2) days earlier than its mysterious departure, it was allowed to bunker (to replenish and load fuel, water and food supplies). The customs authorities never bothered to confiscate the shipping documents of the crew. Those that were left behind claimed that they were attending Misa de Gallo.

Rather than lose both ship and shipment, my suspicions are the ship-owner decided to bribe his way out. Consider the timing, the circumstances that there were no guards around and the ready made excuses. It just raised anchor and sailed away – with the shipment of smuggled rice at that.

If public personalities can be killed with impunity and seized ships just sail off to wherever, then we really are in trouble. If we expect to have a better financial outlook than 2001, then it is imperative that Pres. Arroyo really work hard to solve the peace and order problem first. She must impress upon our customs officials, among others, that she means business and that she will not tolerate their “moro-moro”. Then and only then will the much vaunted foreign investments return.


There is also the matter of the Anti-Money Laundering Law which was rejected by the Paris-based Financial Action Task Force. Newspaper quoted some of our finance officials comment that no new legislation or amendment need be introduced by Congress. The deficiencies noted by the FATF could be addressed by the implementing rules and regulations (IRR). Time and again, the Supreme Court has voided IRRs for being in excess of what the law (which they seek to implement) actually provides. The river cannot rise higher than its source. And the FATF people are not naïve as to be misled by the IRR. I suggest Congress buckle down to work and this time come up with a good law.