Everyone knows that Labor secretary Silvestre Bello III is a close friend of Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) founder Jose Maria Sison. Aside from being a Kababayan, since Bello hails from Cagayan and Joma’s Pangasinan, their families are closely associated with each other.
When Bello finished his law studies at the Ateneo and became a member of the bar in 1970, he associated himself with labor unions and volunteered to become a member of the Free Legal Assistance Group (FLAG) founded by Jose Diokno, Lorenzo Tañada, and Joker Arroyo. He struggled for many years as an ordinary lawyer until his political luck improved when Cory Aquino and the Liberals ousted Marcos from power.
When he became Secretary of Justice, Bello’s name cropped up in the 11 Indians scandals which resulted in the Sandiganbayan case against BI Commissioner Respicio. Respicio wants to appeal the case and Bello reportedly wants to help him see link.
Last 2017, Duterte decided to end negotiations with the CPP-NPA-NDF. He did so by signing Proclamation 360 and eventually an Executive Order no. 70, ordering all government peace negotiators to stop talks with the group of Joma in the Netherlands.
When peace advocate Ado Paglinawan checked on the travel records of Bello, he found several trips which the secretary made at a time when Duterte already ended all talks. In his recent interview with Arnold Clavio and Joel Reyes-Zobel, Bello says all those side trips had the “blessing” of Mr. Duterte, conveniently leaving the fact that most of those trips had him with his so-called “flavor of the month”—a young staffer by the name of Jessica Abad. Abad, based on Paglinawan’s complaint before the Ombudsman, is the second labor employee who got Bello’s eye, the first one, a certain Claire Recio, silently disappeared from the department and eventually turned up in a foreign POLO office.
Did Bello lied? If he indeed went there to talk with Joma upon the blessing of the President, does this mean that there are secret talks happening right now between the government and the Communists that Malacanan is not telling us? And Mr. Duterte himself is violating his own order?
So, all those orders are just for show, Mr. Duterte? That you just want possibly to please the military elites into believing that you are on their side when in truth and in fact, you are talking with these Communists thru your former bunk mate Bello?
Bello is always quick to downplay accusations of graft against him and even of committing possible sedition, if we are to base it on Paglinawan’s complaint, by saying that these charges are all “trumped up” ones made to oust him from office. And that one of his undersecretaries is the one orchestrating these moves.
These are flimsy alibis meant to just sweep these things under the rug. Bello knows that by simply controlling the media, these charges would not even reach the ears of the president whom many believe does not really know what’s happening right now.
It is still questionable, if indeed, the president would move to punish Bello for using him just to really hide from the public what he really does when he makes those foreign trips. Bello and Duterte’s ties go way, way back at the time when they were still relatively unknown and struggling students in Recto.
Bello was taking his undergraduate studies in Manuel L. Quezon University in Quiapo when he met Duterte who was a San Bedan, a school just a tad away from MLQU. They struck a cord with each other because they were both provincianos– Bello came from Cagayan in the North, while Duterte’s roots are from Davao. They stayed at one dormitory— the YMCA along Taft Avenue.
Back at the time, Bello was a known activist while Duterte became popular because of his association with the Lex Taliones fraternity, which was at that time, getting beaten up during rumbles with their rival fraternity, Lambda Rho Beta.
Bello is also a fraternity man, possibly getting his initiation at MLQU where the APO or Alpha Phi Omega has a chapter. APO law students also clash with Lex Taliones members from San Beda.
Bello and Mr. Duterte knew each other from way back their student days in Recto. Aside from this, Bello’s wife, Regina Gerona, is a close friend of Duterte’s second “official wife” Cielito “Honeylet” Avancena. Formerly beauty contestants, Avancena and Gerona got to get to know their husbands during these pageant days. Avancena caught Duterte’s eye when she won the Mutya ng Dabaw 1988 when Duterte was already mayor of Davao, while Regina got third place in the Mutya ng Pilipinas 1985 pageant, back at the time when Bello was still a struggling lawyer.
Some say that Bello really has an eye for beauty. Some accuse him of being a shirt chaser while others, an exploiter of pretty young belles, which some information Paglinawan included in his complaint.
What is clear here is Bello has some explaining to do. Our government has been dishing out pronouncements left and right about its desire to rid the bureaucracy of misfits and grafters. So far, several got the boot, most of them kicked out from office because they are not really that close with the President.
When issues such as this comes up, a self-respecting administration would surely announce a probe. Why is it that when graft charges are heaped against several Cabinet members with known close ties with Mr. Duterte, these are just set aside and kept inside a freezer with the key? As they say in Filipino, when there is smoke, there is fire.
For the palace, at least attend to this smoke before it turns into a conflagration.