ABS-CBN came out with not just one, but several reports raising what appears to be false and misleading allegations against officials of the Philippine Red Cross (PRC) based on the statements of one former board member and at least one PRC employee sacked for negligence.
The false and misleading allegations arises from anonymous emails which former PRC Board member John Ehlvest Bo circulated to members of the PRC Community here in the Philippines and in the wider Red Cross Community abroad. The allegations contained in those anonymous emails became the subject of an investigation by the PRC Board Governance Committee in 2012. This was studied and findings on the allegations were published on December 2012 in the “Board of Governors Governance Committee Findings In The Matter of the Preliminary Investigation of the Electronic Mail and Sworn Complaint of John Ehlvest Bo.”
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Many of the allegations by former Governor Bo were taken up in the December 2012 were found REPEATED in the allegations made by former PRC Chief Accountant Jeric Sian whom ABS-CBN’s have made as their source in a series of news reports.
While the allegations against PRC’s officials were repeated and made with specificity, ABS-CBN did not exert the same diligence in presenting the clarifications and rebuttals to the allegations made by Bo, Sian and others. This makes for a lopsided and obviously slanted REPORTAGE which can be construed as MALICIOUS.
Moreover, ABS-CBN reports DID NOT TEST or challenge the claims made by the sources of their reports! It did not make mention of the investigation and findings of the PRC Board Governance Committee which was issued in 2012, the matter of which would have proven DAMAGING TO THE CREDIBILITY OF THEIR NEWS SOURCE.
Former PRC Gov. Bo’s Allegations Based on Hearsay and Deception
The first batch of allegations were attributed to former PRC Board of Governors member John Ehlvest Bo. The former governor’s removal/expulsion/discharge was recommended by the PRC Board on the basis of “violating his fiduciary duties” and for “maliciously committing acts inimical to the PRC and the Red Cross Movement.”
In the Consolidated Findings of the PRC Board of Governors Governance Committee in December 2012 on the “Preliminary Investigation of the Electronic Mail and Sworn Complaint of Gov. John Ehlvest Bo”, it was discovered that Bo’s complaint affidavit and the allegations it contained were merely “hearsay”. Bo admitted that he “merely relied on the information given to him by alleged concerned PRC personnel and obtained the documents that were attached to his complaint affidavit from the anonymous emails.
In an excerpt of a transcript of the interview with Bo, PRC Govenor Lorna Kapunan unraveled Bo’s deception:
So the time that you filed a Complaint, despite being subscribed, you have no personal knowledge? And your admitted that you are relying on the representations of the people you were acting in concert with. Are you changing your mind?”
So you lied? Here?
(TSN, 26 September 2012, pp. 253 to 256)
The Consolidated Findings cites jurisprudence as basis for saying that Bo’s complaint is pure hearsay and has no probative weight.
Borlongan v. Pena (G.R. No. 143591, November 23, 2007), the Supreme Court stated:
“It must be emphasized that the affidavit of the complainant, or any of his witnesses, shall allege facts within their (affiants) personal knowledge x x x”
Further on, on page 28 of the Consolidated Findings, it was discovered that Bo had little knowledge of the pertinent rules which he claims that officials of the PRC violated:
When asked whether he studied the PRC’s Procurement Rules, which is material to the allegations in his Complaint against Sec. Gen. Pang, he answered in the affirmative. However, when asked to specify what particular provision of the Procurement Rules did Sec. Gen. Pang violate, he could not even give an answer. Thereafter, when he was asked if he lied about having studied the Procurement Rules, he did not answer.
The Facts About Former Gov. Bo’s Allegations
Missappropriation, waste, mishandling and/or misuse of PRC Funds.
The PRC Board Governance Committee Findings (page 11, 12, and 13):
“Under PRC’s existing Handbook and By-laws, there are no provisions thereat which expressly prohibit the giving of customary gifts, monetary or in kind, to the employees of PRC during special occasions, such as birthdays, weddings, retirements, emergencies, and even death and/or for other humanitarian considerations. Indeed, the grant of a wedding gift or other customary gifts is not different from a bereavement gift which PRC has always, by practice, given to its employees in case of death or death of an employees’ immediate family member.
The claim of Sec. Gen. Pang that PRC usually gives gifts on certain occassions was supported by the Affidavit of Ms. Tesorio dated September 13, 2012, to wit:
“2.a. Wedding gift for Ms. Janine Pichay-Dangpilen reimbursement of P9,000:
The transaction was paid and allowed because PRC usually give gifts/token of appreciation to staff, members of the BOG, and/or partners. PRC also provides humanitarian assistance during wake, health, and on disaster to affected employees.”
“Notably, the gift given to Mrs. Dangpilen was never passed upon as a personal gift/donation by Sec. Gen. Pang, contrary to Gov. Bo’s allegation. This is clear from the following uncontroverted statement of Sec. Gen. Pang:
“Ah, on the matter of the wedding gift to Janine Pichay-Dangpilen, when you have the gift, was it clear that it was a gift from the Philippine Red Cross?”
Sec. Gen. Pang:
“Yes, Governor Coscolluela because we were actually three (3) then. We arrived very late in the evening for that wedding. Me, Ms. Beltran, and Ms. Tesorio, we did not bring with us our gifts. Paul (Pagaran) wnet ahead with his gift so, we did not bring ours. So, we agreed to give gift and at that time instead of gift Janine requested if it be cash, “cash na lang para mas practical.” And I don’t have cash that time I have my checkbook with me and we agreed to give Three Thousand Pesos each per office. So, that is Php 9,000.00 eh pangit naman ang Php 9,000, and I said let’s give Ten Thousand na lang and I will shoulder the One Thousand Pesos. That is why it became Php 10,000 in my check book but the Php 9,000.00 we have to charge it to the Red Cross. That is very clear when I put it in the reimbursement form. So we did not hide that it is there received by Janine which is Php 9,000.00 from the Red Cross and Php 1,000.o0 from me.”
(TSN, 20 September 2012 p. 34)
“The Governance Committee also believes that a Php 9,000 wedding gift, by today’s standards, is not excessive or wasteful. Especially so in this case where the recipient of the gift is a PRC Officer and the amount of the Php 9,000.00 actually came from three (3) offices of the PRC. the Governance Committee notes that gifts to the non-Red Cross personnel and/or celebrities have been given in amount up to four (4) times the amount of the Php 9,000.00 wedding gift given to Mrs. Dangpilen. Some of these gifts were initiated by members of the PRC Board of Governors, such as PRC icon, Gov. Rosa Rosal. The Governance Committee finds nothing wrong and irregular in the giving of gifts by Gov. Rosal and Sec. Gen. Pang, especially (i) the latter gave it for a special occasion to a PRC employee in the person of Mrs. Dangpilen, and (ii) there is no policy against such gift giving. Perhaps the PRC Board can now consider enacting a policy to govern gift giving to PRC employees for special occasions like their weddings.
On the Matter of Reimburements by Sec. Gen. Pang for Parking Slot Rental
The PRC Board Governance Committee Findings (page 14, paragraph 1):
“The reimbursement by Sec. Gen. Pang of the amount of Php 5,000.00 and Php 2,500 are not sufficient to warrant a finding that she misappropriated, wasted, misused, or mishandled PRC Funds. Sec. Gen. Pang presented documentary proof that the parking fees she reimbursed from the PRC were payments for a parking slot reserved for the PRC vehicle issed to her. It was clearly not used to pay for a parking space for her personal vehicle or for her personal use.”
On the Matter of Globe Telecommunication Bills Reimbursed
The PRC Board Governance Committee Findings (page 15):
“Notably, no controverting evidence, documentary or testimonial, was presented to show that Sec. Gen. Pang personally benefited by charging her Globe Bill to PRC. Good faith is presumed and bad faith is a matter of fact which should be proved.”
“Absent any evidence, therefore, which would show that the bill in the amount of Php18,585.59 was not connected to Sec. Gen. Pang’s official functions as head of the Fund Raising Department of the PRC, the Governance Committee considers her explanation justifiable and credible
“Besides, this Committee takes notice that there are several PRC officers/employees who also charge their official calls from their personal lines to the PRC. There is nothing irregular or wrong in such a practice so long as the phone consumption are connected to the official function of the PRC officer/employees concerned and until after the PRC lays down a strick policy contrary thereto.”
On the Reimbursed Expenses for Sec. Gen. Pang’s Birthday Party Celebration
The PRC Board Governance Committee Findings (page 15, paragraph 7 to page 17):
“Gov. Bo’s allegation that Sec. Gen. Pang charged the amount of Php26,750.15 from the general fund of the PRC to pay the meals during her birthday celebration on 28 October 2011 at Sky Lounge in Diamond Hotel was controverted by documents and testimonies of witnesses. As proof that she paid for the food and beverages consumed by her guests who attended her birthday, Sec. Gen. Pang presented two (2) separate receipts of her credit card bill, which showed the amounts of Php 26,750.15 and Php 20,108.52, respectively.
“The amount of Php 26,750.15 represents the expenses for the food and beverages consumed by the AVID Volunteers of the Australian Red Cross. The amount of Php 20,108.52, on the other hand, represents the expenses for the food and beverages of Sec. Gen. Pang’s birthday guests. Based on available records, Sec. Gen. Pang only reimbursed the amounts of Php26,750.15 (which was used to pay for the food and beverage consumption of the AVID Volunteers), but not the amount of Php20,108.52 (which was used to pay for the food and beverage consumption of Sec. Gen. Pang’s birthday celebration) — and for valid reasons.
“Sec. Gen. Pang explained that her celebration at Sky Lounge just happned to coincide with the Welcome Party hosted by PRC for the AVID Volunteers of the Australian Red Cross that was organized by Mr. Villena. She originally had no intention of celebrating her borthday in the same venue but due to the prodding of other PRC personnel present, she eventually agreed to celebrate her birthday party in the same venue.
“During the joint celebration, Sec. Gen Pang emphasized that there were two (2) identifiable groups — her guests on one side and the AVID Volunteers of the Australian Red Cross on the other side. The guests were seated in two (2) separate long tables at the Sky Lounge, thus, there could not have been any co-mingling of the food and beverage orders. This was confirmed through colored photographs shown by Sec. Gen. Pang to the Governance Committee during the September 20, 2012, hearing where it was clear that the AVID Volunteers and Sec. Gen. Pang’s birthday celebration guests were occupying 2 separate long tables. Mr. Villena likewise corroborated this wehn he stated in his Affidavit that Sec. Gen. Pang “paid the amount of Php20,108.52 out of the Php46,858.67 to cover the bill of her celebration”.
The reimbursements of the said amounts were allowed by the concerned departments of the PRC> Absent any evidence to the contrary, these departments should be accorded the presumption that they have performed their functions and duties regularly.
(To be continued!)