Using AI To Gain Clarity on Propaganda

We are currently awash with political propaganda on our social media news feeds and this morning, I asked Perplexity AI to help me gain clarity on the real political issues. This is yet another example of using AI to sift the news on our social media feeds and determine which ones are truly worth our time.

One of the loudest political “propagandizers” last week was former Senator Antonio Trillanes and he came out in headlines accusing former president Rodrigo Roa Duterte and his former chief aide now Senator Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go of plunder as well as graft.

Trillanes’ complaint was filed with the National Prosecutorial Service of the Department of Justice rather than the Office of the Ombudsman or the Sandiganbayan. This seems to be an issue because, if Trillanes’ complaint really “held water” the logical thing to do would be to file directly with the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan.

By going through the NPS, Trillanes is essentially asking the DOJ to conduct the investigation into his complaint and in effect, bolster it for him. It puts the onus or work of getting the complaints to prosper on the DOJ NPS, thereby, lending credence to the idea that it could be a politically charged case rather than a true crusade against corruption. Because, if it were a true crusade against corruption, Trillanes complaint would contain the necessary evidence to support the accusations he made.

Rather than read the entire document, I uploaded it to Perplexity AI and asked it two things: First, identify the allegations and two cite the evidence supporting the accusations. Below was its response:

The basis for the complainant, Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV, in alleging that plunder was committed by the accused, including Christopher Lawrence Tesoro “Bong” Go, is primarily derived from the following points:

1. Public Expenditures: The case involves public expenditures of billions of pesos, which have far-reaching implications of paramount public interest and transcendental importance. This significant public spending is a key factor in determining the locus standi to file the suit[1].

2. Investigative Journalism: The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) released an investigative journalism series titled “Build, Build, Build Hits Chokepoint,” which exposed the top contractors in the Davao Region, including CLTG Builders and Alfrego Builders & Supply, which are allegedly owned by the father and half-brother of Respondent Bong Go. The article discussed how these contractors secured government infrastructure projects despite their limited financial and operational capacity, leading to extended delays and unfinished public works[1].

3. Audit Reports: The Complainant requested and received audit reports from the Commission on Audit (COA) that detailed the contracts between CLTG Builders and Alfrego Builders & Supply with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The reports confirmed that CLTG Builders was awarded PhP4.6 billion worth of projects from 2005 to 2016, while Alfrego Builders & Supply won PhP88 million worth of projects from 2005 to early 2016. Combined, the two companies received at least PhP6.6 billion worth of government contracts from 2007 to 2018[1].

4. Financial Capacity: The financial capacity of the contractors, as determined by the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB), is a critical factor in the classification of contractors. CLTG Builders and Alfrego Builders & Supply were classified as mid- and bottom-tier contractors, respectively, indicating that they may not have had the necessary financial capacity to handle the scale of projects they were awarded[1].

5. Licensing Requirements: The Contractor’s License Law (Republic Act No. 4566) requires contractors to secure proper licenses from the PCAB. The law aims to ensure the safety of the public by allowing only qualified and reliable contractors to undertake construction projects. The financial requirements for license categorization and the schedule of allowable ranges of contract costs for registration for contractors are laid down by the PCAB. The complainant argues that the contractors involved in this case may not have met these financial and operational standards, which could be a basis for plunder charges[1].

These points collectively form the basis for the complainant’s assertion that plunder was committed by the accused, as they allegedly secured and executed government contracts without meeting the necessary financial and operational standards, resulting in significant public expenditures and potential financial losses to the government.

Citations:
[1] https://ppl-ai-file-upload.s3.amazonaws.com/web/direct-files/18926921/2770adb7-4fde-45a1-aa2f-f6f7c9cecda8/PLUNDER-COMPLAINT-AFFIDAVIT-BONG-GO-FINAL.pdf

Then, I asked Perplexity AI, “What is the definition of plunder in Philippine laws? And do the allegations made here constitute plunder?”

Perplexity answered:

According to Republic Act No. 7080, or the Anti-Plunder Act of the Philippines, plunder is defined as:

“a crime committed by any public officer who, by himself or in connivance with members of his family, relatives by affinity or consanguinity, business associates, subordinates or other persons, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth through a combination or series of overt criminal acts as described in Section 1(d) hereof in the aggregate amount or total value of at least Fifty million pesos (P50,000,000.00).”[1]

The key elements of plunder are:

1. The accused is a public officer
2. The accused, by himself or in connivance with others, amasses, accumulates or acquires ill-gotten wealth**
3. The ill-gotten wealth is obtained through a combination or series of overt criminal acts
4. The total value of the ill-gotten wealth is at least ₱50 million

The complainant, Antonio “Sonny” F. Trillanes IV, alleges that the respondents, including Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, committed plunder by:

– CLTG Builders, owned by Bong Go’s father, was awarded ₱4.6 billion in DPWH projects from 2007-2018[1]
– Alfrego Builders & Supply, owned by Bong Go’s half-brother, was awarded ₱1.74 billion in DPWH projects from 2007-2018[1]
– Combined, the two companies received at least ₱6.6 billion in government contracts from 2007-2018[1]
– The companies were classified as mid- and bottom-tier contractors, indicating they may have lacked the financial capacity to handle the scale of projects awarded[1]

However, the complaint does not explicitly state what criminal acts were committed to obtain the government contracts. The allegations focus on the large amounts awarded to companies connected to Bong Go’s family, but more evidence would be needed to prove plunder under the law.

Citations:
[1] https://ppl-ai-file-upload.s3.amazonaws.com/web/direct-files/18926921/2770adb7-4fde-45a1-aa2f-f6f7c9cecda8/PLUNDER-COMPLAINT-AFFIDAVIT-BONG-GO-FINAL.pdf

Going further, I asked Perplexity AI if the complaint against Duterte and Go would prosper, this is the response that came back.

Based on the details provided in the complaint affidavit, it is unclear whether the allegations against the respondents, including Bong Go, will ultimately lead to a successful plunder case. While the complaint presents several concerning facts, there are a few key issues that may pose challenges:

1. Establishing Criminal Acts: The complaint does not clearly specify the criminal acts committed by the respondents to obtain the government contracts. It focuses on the large amounts awarded to companies connected to Bong Go’s family, but more evidence would be needed to prove the requisite “combination or series of overt criminal acts” required for a plunder charge.

2. Meeting the ₱50 Million Threshold: The complaint alleges that the total value of government contracts awarded to the companies connected to Bong Go’s family amounts to at least ₱6.6 billion. While this is a significant sum, it remains to be seen whether the prosecution can demonstrate that at least ₱50 million of this wealth was “ill-gotten” through criminal means, as required by the Anti-Plunder Act.

3. Proving Connivance: The complaint suggests that the respondents, including Bong Go, were involved in securing the government contracts for the companies. However, directly linking Bong Go to any criminal acts or proving his “connivance” may be challenging without stronger evidence.

4. Contractor Licensing Requirements: The complaint raises questions about whether the contractors met the financial and operational standards required by law to undertake the scale of projects they were awarded. This could be a relevant line of inquiry, but the ultimate legal significance would depend on the specific evidence and how it ties to the plunder allegations.

In summary, while the complaint presents concerning information, successfully prosecuting a plunder case based on these allegations may face evidentiary hurdles in conclusively proving the key elements required under the Anti-Plunder Act. The outcome would depend on the strength of the evidence gathered and how effectively the prosecution can link the respondents to the alleged criminal acts. Careful and thorough investigation would be necessary to determine the viability of the plunder case.

Citations:
[1] https://ppl-ai-file-upload.s3.amazonaws.com/web/direct-files/18926921/2770adb7-4fde-45a1-aa2f-f6f7c9cecda8/PLUNDER-COMPLAINT-AFFIDAVIT-BONG-GO-FINAL.pdf

In fairness to Trillanes, we are not dismissing his complaint against Duterte and Go as being full of air. It may be that the evidence supporting the allegations he made are contained in an annex which has not been made available to the public. Until then, it will seem that the allegations made by Trillanes against Duterte and Go appear unsupported.

 

Leave a Reply