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Columns - JGL Eye
Friday, 10 December 2010 20:38

 

JGL Eye

By JOSEPH G. LARIOSA

Journal Group Link International)

  

C HICAGO (jGLi) – When I broke the story in my outlets that the United States seized $100,000 from the two sons of Filipino Major General Carlos Garcia last Nov. 10, 2010, as ordered by the court, I also mentioned that the “court also ordered the publication of the forfeiture notice on its government website for at least 30 days to give ‘any person other than the defendants, having or claiming a legal interest’ in the forfeited property (money).’”

 

Those 30 days started on Nov. 5 and expired on Dec. 4, 2010.

 

The representative of the Philippine Department of Justice, coordinating with the United States Attorney in the handling the extradition case of Ian Carl and Juan Paulo D. Garcia, might have taken things for granted by not informing DOJ Secretary Leila de Lima that they should inquire from the United States government if they still need to access the court-ordered forfeiture website to lay a claim on the $100,000.

 

On Nov. 26, four days before the sentencing of the Garcia sons, I called up the press office of the United States Attorney for the Northern District Court in San Francisco to inquire if the US Attorney headed by Melinda Haag had any comment on news reports from Manila that the Philippine DOJ is claiming the $100,000 seized from the Garcias.

 

I did not get a response.

 

Mutual Assistance Treaty Not at Work?

 

W hen the Garcias were sentenced on Nov. 30, I emailed again afterwards the press office copy furnished Assistant U.S. Attorney Hartley M. K. West prosecuting the Garcias, asking if the U.S. Attorney (Haag) had already inquired from the U.S. Attorney General (Sec. Eric Holder) and U.S. State Department (Sec. Hillary Clinton) in Washington, D.C. if they have a policy on how to handle the claim of the $100,000 from the Philippine government, which is invoking its Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty with the U.S. government.

 

Still, I never got a response.

 

Meanwhile, instead of ordering her subordinate to access the court-ordered “forfeiture website” to lay claim to the $100,000, Secretary De Lima merely made an announcement on Nov. 26 of her claim.

Secretary De Lima did not realize that she still had eight more days on that day within which to comply with the claim.

 

When nobody, including the Philippine government, came forward to file a claim to the $100,000, Attorney Haag filed a notice before the court last Tuesday, Dec. 7, although the case, according to the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (Pacer), has been “terminated on Nov. 29, 2010.”

 

Nobody Filed a Claim for the $100,000

 

S aying “I declare under penalty of perjury that the foregoing is true and correct. Executed on Dec. 7, 2010,” Attorney Haag attached an “Advertisement Certification Report” that showed that the “Notice of publication is available on the www.forfeiture.gov web site for at least 18 hours per day between Nov. 5, 2010, and Dec. 4, 2010. Below is a summary report that identifies the uptime for each day within the 30-day period and reports the results of the web monitoring system’s daily check that the advertisement was available each day.”

 

A cursory look on the reports showed that nobody attempted to claim the $100,000 from the forfeiture website.

 

But in her notice, Attorney Haag seemed to have extended the deadline for anybody to claim the $100,000 when she declared that, “The U.S. hereby gives notice of its intent to dispose of the forfeited property in such manner as the United States Attorney General may direct. Any person, other than the defendants in this case, claiming interest in the forfeited property must file a Petition within 60 days of the first date of publication (Nov. 5, 2010) of this Notice of this official government Internet website pursuant to Rule 32.2 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure and 21 U.S.C. section 853(n)(1).

 

“The petition must be filed with the Clerk of the Court, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 16th Floor, San Francisco, California 94102, and a copy served upon Assistant United States Attorney Hinds, 450 Golden Gate Avenue, 11th Floor, San Francisco, California 94102.

 
“The petition shall be signed by the petitioner under penalty of perjury and shall set forth the nature and extent of the petitioner’s right, title or interest in the forfeited property, the time and circumstances of the petitioner’s acquisition of the right, title and interest in the forfeited property and any additional facts supporting the petitioner’s claim and the relief sought, pursuant to 21 U.S.C sec. 853(n).

 

PHL Has a Second Chance!

 

“Following the Court’s disposition of all petitions filed, or if no such petitions are filed, following the expiration of the period specified above for the filing of such petitions, the US shall have clear title to the property and may warrant good title to any subsequent purchaser or transferee.”

 

No doubt the United States government cooperated with the Philippine government in filing its extradition against the Garcia sons. But it is also very clear that the U.S. government is working for its own interest when it did not inform the Philippine government that it may access the “forfeiture website” if it is claiming the $100,000.

 

Shall we say, the U.S. government was placed in an unpleasant bind or conflict of interest in this situation when it waited for the Philippine government to file a claim thru the “forfeiture website” instead of the usual diplomatic channel of verbally or formally informing the Philippines to do so within the deadline?

 

And if the Philippine government wants to work for its own interest, it should not just take things for granted na para bang ang palay pa ang lalapit sa manok (as if it is the rice [feed] that will approach the chicken) instead of the other way around.

 

The Philippines should also be assertive and proactive in dealing with friends while observing the diplomatic niceties.

 

And what are you, Secretary De Lima, still waiting for? File now a petition to claim the $100,000 or until Jan. 4 of the New Year or forever hold your peace! # # #

 

Editor’s Note: To contact the author, please e-mail him at:  (lariosa_jos@sbcglobal.net)

 

 


 

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