A Duel of Wits Between Unarmed Opponents

wtf-pics-rock-and-sock-themIt seems President Arroyo’s oldest son, Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel “Mikey” Arroyo opened his mouth and jumped into it with both feet in a recent – and decidedly very hostile – interview with Arnold Clavio and Winnie Monsod on the “Unang Hirit” morning news program (YouTube clips of the interview are available here). At issue was Congressman Arroyo’s SALN, or Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth, which showed him increasing his personal fortune from PhP 5 million in 2002 to over PhP 99 million in 2008. At issue were two particular points, the ownership of a house worth about $1.32 million in Foster City, California (actually, the house’s exact taxable value is $1.346 million, but we’ll get to that in a minute), and his ill-advised choice of words in describing the sources of much of his rapidly-expanding wealth as “gifts and campaign contributions” that he neglected to report earlier.

His explanation for the “gifts and contributions” was not really an explanation, but simply his pointing out that the SALN could be amended for prior years if the proper back taxes were paid. He didn’t actually say he was going to do that, but he did clarify the possible corrective action. His explanation for the house was that it was not actually owned by him or his wife personally, but by a limited-liability company called Beachwood Park LLC. Winnie Monsod, perhaps familiar with the usual nature of property-owning “corporations” here, came within a breath of accusing Rep. Arroyo of having a dummy company to hide his wealth.

So in this corner: Rep. Arroyo, admitting on TV that he personally profited from undeclared gifts and campaign contributions. No citizen of any democracy should need an explanation as to why that is inappropriate, and in many instances illegal, behaviour on the part of an elected official. Politicians in Congresses and Parliaments around the world are routinely hounded out of office in shame for that sort of thing, and sometimes end up in jail.

And in the other corner are Winnie Monsod and her staff, who are either too dull or too lazy to do a simple piece of homework. In the United States, property deeds – which contain the full ownership details and financial particulars of any piece of property – are filed with the Recorder of Deeds in the county where the property is located. The same information is also available to licensed real estate professionals through several databases. The Arroyo house is in San Mateo County, just south of San Francisco, where these records are available for public inspection and can be retrieved with minimal information, such as a street address. GMA-TV has correspondents in the US, based in California; if they are not in the San Francisco area, it’s only about an hour’s flight from Los Angeles. If news maven and former Senatorial candidate Monsod smelled a rat, why she didn’t make a phone call and have someone make what would be a very easy investigation is kind of boggling; at best it is sloppy, unimaginative journalism. The public interest is not served by her raspy, unsubstantiated sniping at the Congressman. It would have been, however, and it would have been a major scoop and total burn on Mikey Arroyo had she done her job properly, because she would have discovered this:

mikey-foster-detailsThis gem was posted by someone in the PinoyExchange forum, and originated from a real estate and property management firm in the US. The sole owner of the property is Mrs. Mikey Arroyo, who obtained it as a result of “interspousal deed transfer”, which, unless she happens to have been married before, would mean Mr. Mikey Arroyo.

Oh my.

When it takes a nameless individual forum-poster who lives on another continent to expose, with something that probably took less than five minutes to find and publish, some deep flaws in this country’s institutions, the only people who are really losing this battle are the spectators. As the country approaches an important election, those voters will have to demand much higher standards from their politicians and media outlets alike; right now, that’s looking like a very tall hill to climb.

THIS JUST IN (Sept. 3 @ 11:00 pm):

Upon further examination earlier today, it was discovered that the post in Pinoy Exchange linked above was actually copied from the Vera Files. There initially appeared to be some odd graphic irregularities on the posted document, and given that the Jolog Queen is a part of that operation, there was immediate suspicion that we may be dealing with a forgery. However, there was an even earlier post in Pinoy Exchange with the same information, and that was  verified as also having come from a U.S.-based real estate professional.

In addition, several documents were obtained that further confirm the information, including this one, in which Congressman Arroyo signed the property deed over to his wife:

 

Interspousal Transfer Deed

Interspousal Transfer Deed

Giving Congressman Arroyo the full benefit of the doubt, one other search was made, this time for the “Beachwood Park LLC” that he stated was the actual owner of the property. The office of the Secretary of State of California, however, does not have a listing for this company in its business listing database, nor under various alternative names such as “Beach Wood”, “Beech Wood”, “Beach Park”, etc. That’s not to say with certainty that it does not exist – even the State of California offers that disclaimer – but it casts grave doubts on Mr. Arroyo’s statements to say the least.

And of course, none of this makes the ‘journalism professionals’ at GMA look any better either, not when a bunch of private individuals with ordinary Internet resources can gather this sort of information without even getting out of their chairs.

 

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About bkritz

I'm a writer, and I do things my own way. That might sound cool to you, unless you're one of the people who actually knows me, in which case you're probably shaking your head in exasperation at the depth of that understatement.
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30 Responses to A Duel of Wits Between Unarmed Opponents

  1. GabbyD says:

    ms monsod doesnt have the news resources you claim she has. she’s on-air talent. she also doesnt have internet savvy, and since she’s not american (and probably doesnt own US real estate) doesnt know this info is available.

  2. BenK says:

    No excuse. She has a staff, they have people in San Francisco, somebody should have thought of it. She gets the ding, because she’s the one in front of the camera. What terror she levels on the newsroom for making her look bad is up to her, and probably well-warranted. Nonetheless, viewers are not watching & listening to the newsroom, they’re watching her. Her responsibility to make sure the bases are thoroughly covered.

    If she & her staff really couldn’t check on their own, she should have called Mikey on it. If the property is owned by such & such LLC, does he have documentation to confirm that, hmmm? Cazart.

    I like Arnold Clavio, but I thought she did a lousy job. It’s news. It’s not about her and her demeanor, and I think her manner detracted a lot from information getting across to the viewer. I noticed over on FV someone was offended by her “disrespect” or something to that effect towards a congressman; I don’t know if I’d go that far, but I do think she overdid it. And it comes off worse now, because with a little background work she could have really had him by the balls.

    And as for Mr. Arroyo, well…pretty dumb. Mom is not going to be happy.

  3. Ray says:

    GMA must be coming up with a press release soon disowning that kid. Maybe she would have some papers that say he was adopted? GMA may be a thief but at least she is a smart thief. Mikey Arroyo is a dumb thief and that’s the most despicable kind of person in the world.

  4. Pinoy Buzz says:

    Great post. Seriously.

    • BenK says:

      Thank you.

      What I’m really hoping doesn’t get lost in this scandal du jour is that there are legitimate questions that need to be answered. Politicians get away with this stuff because the news media let them, and both parties continue to cloak themselves in the mantle of ‘public service’.

  5. benign0 says:

    I think this highlights a potentially important point that has so far escaped all our society’s teeth-gnashing about horrific instances of impropriety escaping justice in the Philippines — perhaps we also suck at prosecution.

    Even supposedly esteemed brainiacs like Monsod seem to go off on assaults without first assuring themselves an ample and sustainable supply line of ammunition.

    We’ve also seen it in the way “scandals” get mired in endless cash-burning (and media-exposure-building) congressional “inquiries” instead of the whole thing playing out properly in a real court of Law.

    So while there are horrible crimes committed, it still takes rigorous investigation followed by competent prosecution to bring these to justice.

    Where is all that?

    It’s all hopelessly muddled as people prefer to focus on the spectacle of parading mere suspects instead of doing the real work of laying the groundwork for a successful conviction.

    • BenK says:

      The Dacer-Corbito murder case is a very good example of what you’re describing. People were murdered, for crying out loud. Quit screwing around, do a proper investigation, and render justice.

  6. GabbyD says:

    interestingly enough, it seems that the investigative team that includes ellen tordesillas that found these documents in the US.

    • BenK says:

      That’s what I understand, it’s unfortunate they were not able to call widespread attention to it. The particular document I re-posted here from the PEx forum came from a different source altogether, which just proves my point as to how easy it is to get this kind of information with a modicum of effort. The VF gang could do it, an independent individual in the States could do it, GMA-TV couldn’t do it. And correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the info was available thanks to the VF investigation prior to the interview? Not sure of the timing of that.

      • Ray Rodriguez says:

        With thousands of Pinoy realtors in the US it is a mystery why GMA News was not able to get a hold of a single one who can easily pull this info out and send it.

  7. Allan Ramirez says:

    As an interviewer, you should not take a side. If they go beyond the SALN of ARROYO like studying who’s the real owner of that house or what are the businesses of MIKEY, there’s no point of conducting that interview.

    Mikey Arroyo tries to dudge a simple question thrown by Winnie. “How did you’re SALN went up?” in other words, where did he get his MILLIONS of income.

    It’s very clear that Mikey tries to fool the heads of the viewers. He keeps on going in circles but Winnie got balls to trap and force ARROYO to answer it.

    Eg. Mikey said that it’s an honest mistake of declartio of SALN but in the later part, it’s his lawyer who declared it and Winnie pointed out that lawyers are not dumb to commit mistakes like this.

    Winnie only did her part as a moderator/interviewer. She’s not trying to sue or accuse Mikey Arroyo. Her job is to extract the facts and not stories.

    • Ray Rodriguez says:

      But the house was crucial to the matter because it was supposed to be declared in the SALN but he did not. Furthermore, he said the house was owned by a Company but in fact, official US records show the house was under his wife’s name, and the rules are that in his SALN the spouse’s properties should also be included.

  8. Ray Rodriguez says:

    Even if Beachwood Park LLC did exist, it still won’t change the fact that the title of the house is not vested in it.

    • BenK says:

      That’s the basic problem here. He said neither he nor his wife owned the house, and that is apparently completely false. There’s no indication of any such company having anything to do with the property, but even if it did at some point, the current information is the opposite of what Mikey said.

  9. Hyden Toro says:

    The property was not purchased by the LLC corporation. It was acquired by interespousal Grant
    Deed. That means to say: Mke Arroyo and his wife bought it, in cash or in kind. It was not even
    purchased from a Bank Mortgage. You have a lot of COLD CASH to purchase such property. Where
    did they get the money ? Is a good question. No wonder the Philippine Treasury is now empty.

    • BenK says:

      Actually if you look at the property information sheet, it shows a sale price of $1.32 million, with a first mortgage of $858,000, which leaves $462,000 that was presumably made as a down payment (plus the numerous extra charges that always attend buying a property). That’s still a hefty chunk of change, however.

      The Arroyos’ credit must not be all that great in the US; a 35% downpayment is pretty stiff. Of course, there could be another reason for that, too. Most people would go with 10-15 percent, though, if they could, and put their extra money into paying against the back end of the amortization to make the mortgage go away sooner.

    • Ray Rodriguez says:

      It was mortgaged. Based on records the 1st Trust Deed is $858,000 and the 2nd Trust Deed is $198,000. Also an LLC is not a Corporation, it is a Company, that’s why it has Articles of Organization instead of Articles of Incorporation.

      The people involved in an LLC are called MEMBERS and not SHAREHOLDERS like what Mikey said. Another point of ignorance on his part. Anyway, even if it was mortgaged, the monthly payment has to come from somewhere.

      The inter-spousal transfer was meant to take Mikey off title in an apparent attempt to dissociate himself with the property. Little did he know though, that the rules governing SALN require people to declare even a property or properties of their spouse. The guy is a total knucklehead.

  10. Ray Rodriguez says:

    Mikey Arroyo reminds me of the story of Spartacus. When Spartacus and his army of rebel slaves camped on Mount Vesuvius, the Roman Senate decided to send half of the Garrison of Rome (6 cohorts) to obliterate them. This force was led by Marcus Glabrus who got the position not based on qualifications but by mere association with a prominent Roman named Marcus Licinius Crassus. He marched his 6 cohorts and camped near Vesuvius where they were later on massacred except for him and 14 other members. He was questioned by the Roman Senate if he built “moat and stockade” to prevent any attack from Spartacus. He said no so naturally the Senate was angry at the massacre of 6 Roman Cohorts on the account of the carelessness of Glabrus. When they asked him why he didn’t build the standard defenses of a Roman encampment, he said “But they are just slaves” after which they exiled him (he was lucky he wasn’t executed due to his criminal negligence).

    Mikey Arroyo is like him in a way. He thought he could tell lies and no one can verify because “they are only Filipinos”. His Parents must be as incensed as the Roman Senate was for his utter carelessness and under-estimation of the general public.

    • benign0 says:

      Mikey Arroyo is like him in a way. He thought he could tell lies and no one can verify because “they are only Filipinos”.

      Thing is, morons who deceive get caught because they have a moronic approach to deceit.

      I think though of the more marginally clever instances of deceit that go unnoticed in a society of people who (a) are too lazy to think, (b) are too lazy to investigate (as even the smarter of their lot have proven, in the case of Monsod), (c) are too beholden to or starstruck at their public figures as to balk at challenging their edicts, or (d) suck at actually prosecuting the offenders when said deceit is exposed.

      At the end of the day, and true to my personal form, I will always defer my harshest indictment to the character of the people who make up a society in which such instances of deceit and improper behaviour have become more the rule than the exception.

      • Ray Rodriguez says:

        Correct. The Filipino people depended on the news organization for verification/exposure of facts/lies being presented on their program and such was not done.

  11. JamesT says:

    The property records show potential crimes in the US. There was a standard down payment of 20% of the $1.32 million purchase price. ($264,000) There was a first and second mortgage that equal $1,056,000.00 to qualify for this loan, would require a state annual income of $300,000 US. I believe Mikey’s Salary is about $9,100 US. (not even enough to pay the $14K property taxes every year) This is evidence of mortgage fraud in the US and of BIR fraud in the Philippines.

    http://www.ellentordesillas.com reports an entry on April 15, 2008 of a Deed of Reconveyance from IndyMac bank to Angela A. Montenegro. (recorded in the MERS: Mortgage Electronic Registration System) This means they paid off the $1MM mortgage in only two years!! Note, IndyMac specialized in so-called “liar loans” and “no docs” loans. They were the first big US bank to fail, in July 2008, two months after they released the deed to Angela. I’m sure they the mortgage broker, ResCap selected them for this reason. The broker was complicit in the mortgage fraud because they wanted to earn $10-20,000 in commissions for originating the first and second mortgages.

    This was an attempt to circumvent Section 312 of the USA Patriot Act which deals with “Senior Foreign Political Figures” and to prevent corrupt politicians from storing their loot in the US like Marcos did. If $1mm was wired in over the course of a year to an account flagged as being owned by a SFPP, the authorities would have picked up on it. Paying the money to a mortgage company is a clever way to launder money, since mortgage companies aren’t yet required to file SARs (Suspicious Activity Reports) for suspicious activities and wire transfers. Recall that a SAR was filed by an alert bank employee, when they noticed curious wires going through the account of Elliot Spitzer, the former governor of New York. The FBI investigated and discovered he was wiring money out to an escort service in DC. The property is sold, and a title company check is issued for $1.3 million to “Angela Montenegro”. She can go to any US bank, and say she is a real estate investor and it’s obvious the proceeds are from a property sale, because the check is issued by a title company. The banker won’t know that Angela Montenegro is the daughter-in-law of the President of the Philippines and won’t get the normal “Enhanced Due Diligence” procedures to get that account approved to be opened.

    Surely, the US Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) are looking through all of the related accounts and property records. Mikey and Angela should think twice before ever coming back to their beautiful home in Foster City. They may be arrested at the airport for violating US laws regarding money laundering, foreign corruption, wire and mail fraud, and mortgage fraud.

  12. Tuason Racing School says:

    Where did the millions used to purchase the California house come from? They don’t have to come from the Phil. Treasury… Mikey Arroyo is a Tuason, and the Tuasons are… *drumroll* …filthy rich.

    It was on their Diliman Estate that a huge chunk of Quezon City was built, and MLQ’s administration bought that land from the family for a huge amount of money. While it was a huge thing to see the Marcoses (who historically aren’t a rich family and their mother was a poor Romualdez, not from the rich branch) flaunting their wealth, wondering why Mikey Arroyo is awash with cash is like scratching your head wondering how Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala can fly first class, have many nice homes, buy designer suits, and pay for expensive vacations in Spain to find suitable spouses for his kids.

    The Tuasons (First Gentleman Mike Arroyo’s mom’s family) are extremely rich and landed, probably even more so than Cory Aquino’s Cojuangco family are, so if anyone’s wondering where the money comes from, you can look at what it was that the late Cory subsisted on even if she supposedly never drew her salary as President nor had to work a single day to put food on the table.

    • Jing Lee says:

      Then why did he have to like that the house was owned by an LLC when title shows that his cousin/wife Angela owned it? Why was it not declared in the SALN?

  13. Ray says:

    GMA must be coming up with a press release soon disowning that kid. Maybe she would have some papers that say he was adopted? GMA may be a thief but at least she is a smart thief. Mikey Arroyo is a dumb thief and that's the most despicable kind of person in the world.

  14. Great article. Thanks for the info, it’s easy to understand. BTW, if anyone needs to fill out a Interspousal Transfer blank, I found a blank form here.

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