Ochoa: Snake pit victim? – Philippine Star

A lot of conspiracy theories are coming out over the alleged P100-million bribery attempt to convince senator-judges into junking the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court for the opening of Chief Justice Corona’s dollar accounts, with Executive Secretary Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa’s name being dragged into the issue. One theory going around points to inside sources within the walls of the Palace having floated the rumors linking Ochoa to the alleged P100 million offer to certain senators – with the “revelation” conveniently cascaded to the defense lawyers who hastily called for a press conference Sunday night, accusing Malacañang of trying to undermine the constitutional process and subjugating the Supreme Court.

Apparently, the power struggle between rival factions in Malacañang – which has been described as a snake pit – temporarily stopped because the “snakes” were asleep but now are wide awake once again for the opportunity to sow intrigues to spin against their “frenemies,” Palace insiders disclosed. Predictably, some people are now crying for the resignation of Secretary Ochoa, saying his repeated involvement in “nefarious activities” reflects negatively on President Noy.

Highly placed sources claim the “Little President” has been the target of machinations since he set foot in the Palace snake pit, with some of his more “famous” colleagues allegedly thumbing down their noses on Ochoa since he “practically came out of nowhere” before being thrust into a high-profile, high powered position.  

Speaking of intrigues, it would seem that a recent casualty of the Palace snake pit is Joel Cadiz whose resignation as solicitor general came as a surprise to many. Sources said Cadiz allegedly rubbed some officials the wrong way because he reportedly came off as uncooperative and had “team work” issues with members of the other attached agencies of the Department of Justice. Sources said Cadiz was not too keen on listening to suggestions during tactical discussions and would insist on doing things his way – with disastrous results. One issue that allegedly made President Noy unhappy with the former Integrated Bar of the Philippines president was his handling of the Hacienda Luisita issue which was described as “unsatisfactory.”  

However, rumors are also abuzz that Cadiz was reportedly not well-liked even by his own staff because of his management style, plus he allegedly made some of the ladies uncomfortable for being a tad “too friendly.” His departure was already being anticipated, sources claimed, but Cadiz was reportedly told to “cut” before matters came to a head – hence, the sudden resignation.

Diplomatic connections

There’s a joke going around diplomatic circles about foreign ambassadors finding strategic and more personal ways to strengthen diplomatic connections with President Noy. For instance, recently divorced US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas has lately been dating Ms. Mithi Aquino – who is reportedly a distant relative of President Noy. (A Spy Bits reader recently informed us about Mithi’s Twitter account showing her in a red dress with Ambassador Thomas happily smiling for the camera.)

Not to be outdone, Korea’s Ambassador to the Philippines Hye Min Lee is reported to have jokingly claimed kinship with Korean host and radio jock Grace Lee who is currently the apple of the eye of P-Noy. Lee made romantics (and P-Noy watchers) sit up when a report came out about candid, straightforward remarks that she wants her relationship with the bachelor president to go the whole nine yards and end up in the altar – something which the Korean promptly denied. Bets are now on whether the relationship will take a turn for “the better or for worse.”

Travel expo kicks off

Major players in the travel and tourism industry are all set for the19th Travel Tour Expo organized by the Philippine Travel Agencies Association (PTAA) slated this Feb. 17 to 19 at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia Complex n Pasay. Dubbed “One Stop Shop to the World,” the Travel Expo promises exciting travel options and special packages to visitors, with participation from various embassies seen to strengthen relations with these countries.

Over 450 booths are being put up, among them Hawaiian Airlines which will be offering special airfare deals to Hawaii and the US West Coast. Visitors – expected to exceed the 60,000 registered from all over the country last year – will find the hula dance lessons and photo booth services a lot of fun, with games and raffles to boot, said Joel Aquino, general manager of Hawaiian Airline’s local general sales agent.

The expo is open to the public with minimal entrance fees, and is expected to beef up tourism with the participation of local international organizations, cruise operators, travel agencies, hotels, resorts, travel shops and a lot more. This is certainly a big way to kick off the Year of the Dragon.

Spy tidbit

– A banker friend informed Spy Bits that some large US deposits are starting to show a spike in withdrawals with money now being transferred to other banks outside the country – presumably triggered by the recent decision of the Senate impeachment Court to disclose details of Chief Justice Renato Corona’s dollar accounts. Apparently, local bank officials are concerned that the decision could set a precedent that might result in the violation of bank secrecy laws, leaving depositors exposed and vulnerable. According to the banker, the industry sees the Senate order as a “danger sign” which has already prompted several big account holders to transfer their deposits to Hong Kong, Macau and Singapore – where strict bank secrecy laws are held sacred. 

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Email: spybits08@yahoo.com

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