Malacañang aides may have spoken too soon in accusing detained President Joseph Estrada and Sen. Panfilo Lacson of being co-conspirators in an espionage case while riding on the guilty plea of Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) analyst Leandro Aragoncillo.
As it turns out, even as she sat in Malacañang, President Arroyo was also the recipient of the so-called classified reports from the FBI files, as these were said to have been passed on to her by Representative No. 1, whom a Palace insider identified as Isabela Rep. Rodolfo Albano III, said to have been a close family friend of Aragoncillo, with Albano having been identified as the FBI spy’s alleged conduit in passing on the information to Mrs. Arroyo.
The deposed president earlier on, admitted not only to have read these reports which he said were hardly classified as these were on the local political developments already pointed out by the media. Estrada also said he had shown both National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales and presidential chief of staff Michael Defensor the copies he had received.
The two Palace aides have confirmed this.
But the inclusion of Albano explains the “turnaround” position of some Palace aides who had threatened to file charges of an attempted coup against Mrs. Arroyo’s political foes, and even have them extradited, with Solicitor General Eduardo Nachura advising Malacañang to proceed with caution in filing cases against the detained leader, saying the Arroyo government must tread carefully, or risk being embarrassed before filing any case against the alleged co-conspirators of Aragoncillo.
Another source confirmed that Mrs. Arroyo was regularly in receipt of this reports, as passed on by Albano in the early years of her presidency, with Aragoncillo not realizing that Albano was allegedly a mole of Mrs. Arroyo, and had in fact become one of her staunchest allies.
Plus This: Palace backs off from threats to charge FBI spy’s RP links
With reports out that President Arroyo’s ally, Rep. Rodolfo “Rodito” Albano lll was pointed to by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) analyst Leandro Aragoncillo as the Philippine House Representative #1 who had recruited the Filipino-American while “appeal(ing) to (Aragoncillo’s) sense of loyalty to the Philippines and its people,” Malacañang backtracked from its earlier threat to charge the alleged unindicted co-conspirators, among whom the Palace identified as detained President Joseph Estrada, his son JV Ejercito and Sen. Panfilo “Ping” Lacson with treason and rebellion and have them extradited to the United States.
Albano went on a media blitz yesterday and denied reports of his having been linked to the Aragoncillo espionage case, even as he had admitted that the US government informed him that his conversations with Aragoncillo had been legally tapped.
The Palace yesterday said it will not allow the deposed leader to be extradited to the US, even if the US court insists on it, save perhaps for what it said were the “low-level key opposition figures reportedly involved in the espionage case.
In a Palace press briefing, Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez said the US government may insist on inviting other opposition figures such as opposition Sen. Panfilo Lacson of former Rep. Arnulfo Fuentabella but not in the case of Estrada.
He added they are still in the evaluation process in the matter of charging opposition figures or co-conspirators of Aragoncillo of rebellion, espionage or other possible crimes.
“It still depends. As of the moment, we still have to evaluate because if we send documents to a certain opposition figure I don’t think that’s already a conspiracy. But if you ask for information, the sensitive pieces of classified information and had kept exchanging information... a linkage has been already established... so you could be considered conspirators... (but at) this time we will not speculate,” he said.
Noticeably, neither Gonzalez nor the Palace aides made mention of the alleged Aragoncillo conduit, Rodito Albano, who was reported by the Tribune, quoting reliable sources, that he had passed on the reports to President Arroyo, even when she was still the Vice President.
Of course, Albano denied it.
For his part, Albano yesterday denied allegations that he passed on to Mrs. Arroyo classified information from the FBI spy.
“In fairness to the President, I did not pass on anything to her because there was nothing to pass on. It’s all hearsay. It’s unfair to drag the President into the Aragoncillo case,” said Albano, who claimed that he never in his life passed on any document or information to the President although he is an ally of the administration.
He took exception to the Tribune report that he said “falsely” and “unfairly” tagged him as a mole who gave the President classified reports from Aragoncillo.
“Now I understand why law enforcers had raided the Tribune newspaper during the duration of the state of national emergency last February. “They are full of lies. I challenge them to present the classified information they claim I passed on the President, if not, they should apologize to me or to the President. Can they state what classified documents were passed on by Aragoncillo to me? They should not engage in character assassination.”
Tribune sources confirmed that Aragoncillo faxed these reports to Albano in 2000, believing that these would be given attention by the Estrada government when Estrada was still sitting as President.
Sources said Albano was still getting reports even after Estrada was deposed.
“Those reports were not even being furnished Malacañang then as he was instead giving them to Gloria (Arroyo), who was then in the thick of negotiating with coup plotters,” the sources, close to the Estrada camp, said.
The sources pointed out that if he was not in touch with Aragoncillo or was not his conduit, why was his phone tapped by the Americans?
Rudy Romero on JDV's Parliamentary "panacea":
The Speaker of the House of Representatives must be hopping mad with the demonstrators of Thailand, which has a parliamentary system of government, and the voters of Italy, another unicameral-legislature country. Just when Jose de Venecia Jr. (JdV) thought he was making some headway in his campaign to get the Filipino people to agree to discard the presidential form, Thailand’s demonstrators and Italy’s voters have shown him to be a liar. JdV has been claiming loudly and persistently that the parliamentary form of government is more conducive to political stability than its presidential counterpart.
The Thai demonstrators and the Italian voters have eloquently shown that this is not the case...
The swift removal of Thailand’s prime minister by a simple wave of the no-confidence wand has not happened. The elections that Mr. Thaksin called in an effort to obtain a fresh popular mandate did not provide the solution because the opposition, wanting nothing short of Mr. Thaksin’s resignation, staged a boycott. As a result of the boycott, the winners in over 30 parliamentary districts won by less than the legally mandated minimum percentage of registered voters, necessitating the holding of a second round of elections in those districts.
Sensing the prospect of continuing turmoil if the prime minister remained in office, King Bhumibol called in Mr. Thaksin for a discussion of the situation. After the audience with the monarch, the embattled Mr. Thaksin decided to throw in the towel and announced his resignation. Where was the smooth transfer of power that JdV has been touting all this time? What happened to all that all-it-takes-is-a-no-confidence-vote palaver? The transfer of power in Bangkok has been anything but smooth. Thus far the unscheduled elections, royal intervention and the prime minister’s forced resignation have been the lot of the Thai parliamentary system. And with numerous personalities contending for the prime ministership, the end of the transfer-of-power process is not yet in sight.
The assumption underlying a smooth and quick transfer of power under the parliamentary system is that the members of parliament vote with their consciences and along strict party lines. One can imagine how things are going to be in a unicameral Philippine legislature when — to use the vernacular — iiral ang pera.
Remember how, with a House of Representatives led by you, last year’s impeachment complaint against Mrs. Arroyo didn’t get very far, JdV? Assuming that a shift to the parliamentary system did take place — an increasingly untenable assumption — would you really just stand aside with your money or the House’s money, Speaker Joe, while a no-confidence move was being hatched against you?
UPDATE: More on the Aragoncillo-Arroyo connection here.