“Jose Velarde,” not the one who was ousted in Edsa II, is back, making backroom deals with Malacañang executives who are pushing for the construction of a memory museum for Edsa I, or the 1986 Edsa People Power Revolution.
Businessman Jaime Dichaves, a member of then President Joseph Estrada’s “midnight Cabinet,” is lobbying fellow homeowners in Corinthian Gardens to agree to a proposal by some members of the Edsa People Power Commission to allocate a portion of the upscale subdivision’s vacant lot as site for the museum.
The proposed site on Castrillo Street is part of the subdivision’s buffer zone along White Plains Avenue in front of the People Power Monument.
Dichaves is facing plunder charges for allegedly conspiring with Estrada to amass illegal wealth, specifically a P189.7-million commission from the P1.85-billion acquisition of Belle Resources Corp. shares in 1999 by the Social Security System and the Government Service Insurance System.
The P189.7-million commission was alleged to have been deposited in the Jose Velarde account in Equitable PCI Bank. Bank executive Clarissa Ocampo testified at the Senate impeachment trial of Estrada on Dec. 22, 2000, that she was just one foot away when the President affixed the signature “Jose Velarde” on documents authorizing a P500-million investment agreement with the bank on Feb. 4, 2000, to lend the money to the Wellex Group.
But Estrada maintained that the account was owned by Dichaves.
Ocampo told the impeachment trial on Jan. 2, 2001, that the then Equitable PCI Bank chair directed her to draw up documents transferring the President’s P500-million trust account to Dichaves, a good friend of Estrada.
Ocampo, senior vice president of Equitable PCI Bank, said she prepared a second set of bank documents that Dichaves signed on Dec. 13, 2000, at the Makati office of Estelito Mendoza, a member of the defense panel in the impeachment trial.
The signing occurred five days before Dichaves wrote the Senate to claim ownership of the Jose Velarde account. Ocampo earlier said “Velarde” was none other than the President.
When the second envelope (containing documents on the Jose Velarde account that the Senate impeachment court, by a vote of 11-10, decided against opening it in 2000) was finally opened a month after Estrada was ousted, it contained a statement by Dichaves declaring that he was indeed Jose Velarde.
The refusal of 11 senator-judges to have the envelope opened led to Edsa II in January 2001 that toppled Estrada, the second President to be ousted by people power since Edsa I in 1986.
Won’t confirm or deny
In a reply to the Inquirer’s questions on the project, Celso C. Santiago, Jr., a special assistant of Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr., head of the Presidential Communications Operations Office, neither confirmed nor denied Dichaves’ involvement and the homeowners’ stand on the project.
“Talks with possible partners are still in the initial stages and the specifications of any contribution as well as the roles of all stakeholders have not yet been identified,” Santiago said.
Dichaves, who was elected president of the Corinthian Gardens Homeowners Association Inc. in February last year, is facing stiff resistance from homeowners who do not want to get involved in politics.
“He just wants to curry favor with Malacañang. Most of us just want to have peace and quiet in our homes, no controversy,” said one homeowner, who requested anonymity.
At a meeting last month, homeowners discussed the proposal of the Edsa People Power Commission. Dichaves proposed to build a multistory, recreational facility, with the memory museum allotted space on the top floor. The project needs to get a majority of the homeowners’ votes for it to push through.
Another proposal calls for the construction of the museum at the Camp Aguinaldo side of White Plains Avenue. Camp Aguinaldo is the headquarters of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.
A source, however, said some Edsa commission officials were worried that this was not allowed under the military camp’s deed of donation. The Ortigas family would regain ownership of the land where the camp is located if the government sold it or used it for other purposes.
Value of democracy
On its website, the Edsa People Power Commission explains the project’s rationale:
“The project aims to preserve the memory of the events that led to the declaration of martial law in 1972. The museum would connect the younger generations to the experiences of the men and women who stood up against the dictatorship. The museum would likewise serve as a cultural instrument that would inspire Filipinos to recognize the value of democracy.”
Last year, the commission held a forum and brought in three foreign guests who related their experiences in establishing memory museums in Peru, Chile and Argentina.
But while the Edsa project has been widely promoted since last year, nothing has been firmed up.
“Given that the planning for the construction of the memory museum is still in its initial, exploratory stages, the specifications of the building and the complex, the budget, and the timeline and roles of all stakeholders have still not yet been identified. The Edsa People Power Commission plans to work with both public and private partners for the fruition of this project,” Santiago said.
Architect, study area
The building has no designer yet, but architect Paulo Alcazaren has been helping the commission in the design of the complex and the surrounding areas that will house the museum, Santiago said.
Based on initial discussions, Santiago said: “There will be a study area where students will be able to access taped interviews of the many people, celebrities and ordinary folk, who have their own stories to tell about those times.
“It is the aim of the museum to make sure that this recent [event] in history is accurately recounted and that [the museum] be a place where the nation can recall one of the most glorious events of our history.”
Santiago said the Edsa People Power Commission was also looking for other sites for other memory museums outside Metro Manila.