-Lucio Tan could suffer Khodorkovsky’s fate if P-noy thinks and acts like Putin.
BY ALEX P. VIDAL
NEWPORT BEACH, California — Let us admit that there are two kinds of justice in the Philippines: one for the rich and one for the poor.
Because they are –or were — affluent and influential, the brains behind the assassination of President Benigno “P-noy” Aquino III’s father, Senator Benigno Sr., were not even rapped in the knuckles.
So were the murderers of Visconde mother and daughter, of Dacer and Corbito, to name only a few celebrated cases.
Because he was rich, thrill killer Claudio Teehankee Jr. managed to wiggle himself out from a life sentence via presidential pardon. Rolito Go nearly completed the travesty of justice but was quickly exposed and neutralized.
Illegal loggers in Mindanao, irresponsible miners that wrought havoc on our environment for profits. Millionaire child rapist Romeo Jalosjos, living out inmate Tony Leviste, and so on and so forth.
Because he was poor, Leo Echegaray became the poster boy of Erap’s much-abhorred and atrocious lethal injection. Interestingly, since Marcos fell in 1986, no big fish or rapacious public officials have been locked behind bars. Show must go on?
Lucio Tan would have been the first baracuda to root in jail for alleged tax evasion. But, again, because he is super rich (in fact, the richest and most influential man in the Philippines), he was able to whale himself away from fish nets — thanks to the negligence or collusion of his political acolytes, the three former presidents — FVR, Erap, and Gloria. Et tu, P-noy?
It was common knowledge that Tan supported the presidential bid of Erap in the most recent elections (the reason why he nearly bundled out P-noy) — probably as act of gratitude for allowing him to strut away from his alleged billions of tax laibilities when Erap was still calling the shots in Malacanang.
Tan is the replica of Moscow’s Mikhail B. Khodorkovsky, hitherto the richest man in Russia before Vladimir V. Putin stopped him in his tracks and caged him for tax fraud.
Like Tan who frolicked with Erap amid P-noy’s skyrocketting pre-election popularity, Khodorkovsky, a billionaire who owned Yukos Oil, Russia’s largest energy company, flirted with disaster when he used his wealth and influence to oppose then president and now prime minister Putin.
After Khodorkovsky’s arrest in 2003, Yukos (we can’t imagine if this will happen to Tan’s companies) was bankrupted and its assets absorbed by government-owned companies whose executives were cronies and allies of Putin.
By the way, Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, lost in their appeal on May 24 to overturn their second conviction this time for large-scale embezzlement which many Russians and world leaders, including President Obama, viewed as harassment. Both business partners have come to symbolize as “prisoners of conscience” and are racking up support from all over the world, including the Amnesty International.
Instead of being released this year after spending time in jail since 2003 for tax fraud, Khodorkovsky and Lebedev will remain in prison until 2016 and will have spent 13 years in jail if released as scheduled currently.
Khodorkovsky’s supporters have accused Putin and his allies — including probably the frosty President Dmitri A. Medvedev — of orchestrating the second trial to keep a potential political rival out of the way. His continued persecution has been seen as a sign that Putin continues to operate as Russia’s paramount leader ahead of presidential elections in March next year.
Khodorkovsky’s fate also underscored the abuse of justice system in Russia for political arm-twisting and maneuvering, something that would raise a furor in the Philippines.
Tan could suffer Khodorkovsky’s predicament if P-noy thinks and acts like merciless Putin. All Tan has to do is shift political alliance and discard the umbilical cord that binds him with P-noy’s political rivals.
It is still President Benigno “P-noy” Aquino III’s call, however, if he will run after Tan for alleged tax evasion and prove to all and sundry that he is not FVR, Erap and Gloria.