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Rescuing Leni

I thought I’d heard the last of Edwin “Dawende” Lacierda after his principal left Malacañang Palace to return home to Times Street at the end of June to spend the rest of his days doing whatever he was doing before he stumbled into the presidency in 2010. And true to form, Lacierda is still talking about things he completely fails to understand.

Lacierda, you see, has called on all those who voted for Leni Robredo to donate “a minimum of one peso” to pay for the Vice-President-Under-Protest’s legal fees. If all of them do that, he explained, Robredo would be out of the “tight spot” she’s in of not having money to defend herself before the Supreme Court, which is hearing the electoral protest against her filed by former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr.

“There were 14,418,817 who played a role to ensure her victory in the VP race,” Lacierda wrote on Facebook. “If each one of us will donate a minimum of one peso to her legal defense fund, she would not have to worry about her case and she can focus on her job as vice president.”

But Lacierda’s Piso Para Kay Leni Legal Defense Fund, like many of the bright ideas of the administration he once worked for, suffers from not being thoroughly thought out first. At least one Robredo critic, Dela Salle University Professor Antonio Contreras, thinks the initiative is solicitation, which is illegal under the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, or Republic Act 6713.

Contreras said that if Robredo accepts any amount raised by Lacierda and his “Piso” volunteers for her legal defense, she would be in even deeper trouble with the law, which prohibits state officials from soliciting or accepting gifts. “Actually, Robredo could already have committed solicitation when she accepted a free private jet ride to Naga City to speak recently before a local Rotary Club,” Contreras said.

Like Robredo, Lacierda is also a lawyer. Like her, as well, Lacierda is not known for being particularly well-versed in matters of law—which made him perfect for a high post in the previous administration.

Personally, I think Lacierda erred in thinking that Robredo was seriously calling for donations for her legal defense. I am convinced that if Robredo was able to raise the most money among all candidates last May (all P418.6 million of it) when she still not VP, she will have no problem doing so now that she is just a proverbial heartbeat away from the presidency.

Robredo doesn’t have problems with money; she is just trying to win sympathy in the eyes of the public. Lacierda, as usual, just doesn’t get it.

* * *

A high-level delegation from Bangladesh, a Reuters report said, is in town to seek the recovery of $63 million out of a total of $81 million stolen by hackers from that nation’s central bank early this year. Debaprosad Debnath and Abdul Rab from Bangladesh Bank’s financial intelligence unit, their lawyer Ajmalul Hossain will join Bangladesh Ambassador to the Philippines John Gomes in meeting officials from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, the Department of Justice, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., the report added.

The Bangladesh Bank is obviously pressuring various government entities to help it get back its money, even asking the new Senate to reopen its inquiry into the sensational hacking scam. But Senate President Koko Pimentel has, quite understandably, publicly wondered what this would accomplish, since the chamber cannot really act as the collection agent of the Bangladeshis.

What the Bangladesh central bank should really do is to file a case in the courts instead of trying to find shortcuts to get back its money. But if the central bank goes that route, it will have to make sure that it has a strong case.

The biggest problem confronting the Bangladeshis is their own apparent culpability in the scandal. After all, their own finance minister once accused the central bank’s officials of participating in what was really an “inside job.”

The Philippine government has already done everything for the Bangladeshis, who have not been transparent with us about the whole caper. Why, for instance, have Bangladeshi authorities never disclosed to local authorities the results of their own investigation of the heist?

Is it also true that the Bangladeshis prematurely ended their contract with Mandiant, a company of cyber-security giant FireEye, whose third-party investigators pointed to the central bank’s weaknesses as the reason why the hackers succeeded in stealing the $81 million that ended up in the Philippines? It seems that the Bangladeshi central bankers are hell bent on blaming everybody but themselves.

Let’s not forget that the reason why the central bank’s money got stolen from its accounts in the Federal Reserve Bank of New York was because the latter received authenticated instructions through the SWIFT system from the Bangladesh central bank to release the funds. At the end of the day, the Bangladeshis cannot expect anyone, least of all Philippine authorities, to help them fix their own vulnerabilities.

The bulk of the money isn’t even here anymore, having already been spirited overseas. And we’re sure as hell not going to be responsible for that.

Topics: Jojo Robles , Rescuing Leni , Edwin Lacierda , Leni Robredo , Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. , electoral protest , Bangladesh Bank
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