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A tale of two detentions

(Article published in the Feb 10, 2010 issue of Manila Standard Today)  

The Ampatuans are in detention. Former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan Sr. and suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan are reportedly in detention facilities in Davao City and General Santos City, respectively. Shariff Aguak town Mayor Anwar Ampatuan, suspended Maguindanao Governor Sajid Ampatuan, and suspended Maguindanao vice-governor Akmad Tato Ampatuan are purportedly at Camp Siongco in Maguindanao province.  Andal Ampatuan Jr. is currently jailed at the National Bureau of Investigation's (NBI) lockup cell in Manila. 

They are accused for involvement in what is now referred to as the Maguindanao massacre which is said to have occurred on the morning of November 23, 2009, in the town of Ampatuan in Maguindanao province, on the island of Mindanao. The lives of 57 people were taken, including the Ampatuans’ political rival's wife, his two sisters, journalists, lawyers, aides, and motorists who were witnesses or were mistakenly identified as part of the convoy passing through the town.

Their jail is certainly not as “jail” as the ordinary criminals’; after all, what are they friends of the President for.  But still, the Ampatuans, for their alleged crime, are in detention in a government facility.  They are not as lucky as Celso de los Angeles.

Celso de los Angeles, too, was alleged to be involved in a crime that did not kill 57 lives but nevertheless wrecked the present and future of a lot more persons, most of them poor.  He is the owner of 13 rural banks with 29 branches nationwide under Legacy Group; all 13 banks closed voluntarily last year due to insolvency and have since been taken over by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.  He, like the Ampatuans, is also under several criminal indictments.


His modus operandi did not involve rocket science nor courtly sophistication.  He would get his rural banks to go into high gear, enticing the gullible to deposit money on the promise of double your money in periods of time that are patently too short for any legitimate business to profit in. Part of the business plan was to limit the size of the deposits per account to the maximum insurance coverage by the PDIC.  The bait therefore was irresistible: guaranteed capital side by side with high interest. 

In his banks, he would open his own checking account.  He would issue checks against that account even if his own deposits are not sufficient to cover his checks.  Where would Celso de los Angeles’ banks get the money to encash his checks? Why, from the money deposited by the gullible crowd!

In other words, whereas your checks and mine will be made to bounce by our drawee banks if we by noon do not deposit to our own accounts the needed funds, the banks of Celso de los Angeles would make good his checks.  The Celso de los Angeles checks would be funded not by his own funds, but from money generated by the funds gathered from other depositors who were enticed by his false promise of high returns.

And where does the money encashed by Celso de los Angeles go? It would go to the “agents” who were the ground troops that were used to talk to the gullible depositors, to fictitious borrowers, such as so-called applicants for motorcycle loans that never were never bought, to other payees who then would eventually funnel the funds to Celso de los Angeles and his businesses.  From thence, the money goes, “out into that formless deep, where not a man can find anchor ship, for all is world enfolding sea.”

Only the Holy Spirit knows how many lives were ruined, how many hopes were dashed, how many dreams have been shattered, how many futures were destroyed by the well-calculated, brazenly executed, and callously executed business plan of Celso de los Angeles.

So, where is Celso de los Angeles? Is he like the Ampatuans in detention in a government facility?  Nay, not so.

The propaganda is that he is at St. Luke’s Hospital in Quezon City, quietly on his hospital bed, struggling with an unspeakable ailment.  The truth on where he is otherwise.

Before the year ended, the Regional Trial Court of Misamis Oriental, Branch 17 at Cagayan de Oro City, on 14th day of December, in the case brought against Celso de los Angeles by the depositors of the Philippine Countryside Rural Bank, issued a memorable order.  Said the good presiding judge Florencia Sealana-Abbu said:

“For medical and humanitarian reason and upon recommendation of the attending physician, the Court hereby Grants the motion of the accused Celso Delos Angeles to be transferred from his present room confinement at St. Luke’s Medical Center to Cathedral Heights Complex in order to isolate him from other patients and where his doctors can closely monitor his physical condition but still under the custody of the law pending resolution of the motion to lift warrant of arrest issued against him.”

Three days later, the Regional Trial Court, Branch 35, at the City of General Santos, in the case brought against Celso de los Angeles by the depositors of the RB DARBCI, was not to be outdone.  Judge Oscar P. Noel, Jr., considering a similar motion to transfer filed by Celso de los Angeles to lodge him at Cathedral Heights Complex within the compound of St. Luke’s Medical Center, ordered:

“Finding the same motion to be impressed with merit and for humanitarian considerations, the same is hereby GRANTED subject to the condition that the prosecution and/or authorities holding him under detention at the hospital do not file any valid objection thereto.”

So, what is the Cathedral Heights Complex?