“Curiouser and curiouser”

by Juan L. Mercado

Alice  murmured that  remark in “Wonderland”. She chomped “magic cake” — and  ballooned to nine feet.  Lifted from Lewis  Carrol’s book of 1865, the phrase today expresses disconnect between the bizarre and the rational.

“Curiouser  and curiouser”, for example,  tailor-fits  the  Supreme  Court’s  flip-flop on 16  “cities.” Batac in Ilocos  Norte,  Naga, Bogo and  Carcar in Cebu,  Tandag in Surigao, plus 11 others, were demoted into towns.  But  the   “final” judgement”  wilted into a  “semi-final” ruling. The busted towns were  restored — unless the   Court decides otherwise, yet again, this time  on a League of Cities’ protest.

The 16 “cities” legal counsel Estelito Mendoza wrote a “For-Your-Eyes-Only” letter to the Court in January 2009. He asked:  Justices, who didnn’t participate in deliberations, vote anyway.

“Unethical”, fumed League vice chair Paulino Salvador Leachon. “This is completely against the law—to write the court seeking a favorable decision,” the Calapan mayor added…”We were not provided with those secret documents.”

“Curiouser and curiouser” also describes adrenalin outbursts of a once somnolent Ombudsman. Cases mouldered in the Ombudsman’s  dusty files. These included the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, “pillage” of the road user’s tax to the scrubbed ZTE broadband contract,  Senator Miriam Santiago asserted.  The inaction “bordered on criminal neglect.”

Merceditas Gutierrez, fended off raps against the former President and the then First Gentleman. By happenstance, he is Ms. Gutierrez’s school chum. After Ms. Gutierrez found herself on the wrong end of an impeachment rap,  the Ombudsman uncharacteristically  waded  into battle.

She even retrieved a seven year old case over pillaged Cebu Girl Scout funds. Representative Clavel Asas-Martinez allocated funds for scouts from her pork barrel. Some ended up, on Sept, 22 in  2003, in the lady’s  personal account at   Bank of the PI  in Pasay City.. Pag may salaping tangan, pusa ma’y napapasayaw, the old proverb says. “Money can make the cat dance.”

In addition, the Ombudsman  rapped   “Euro generals” for toting an undeclared 105,000 euros thru  Sheremetyevo International Airport in Moscow.. “Excess funds from the intelligence budget of the PNP”, the cops claimed. Nonsense. That’s  “private funds”, probers replied.   

Two years late, the Ombudsman urged graft raps be lodged against former Philippine National Police (PNP) comptroller Eliseo de la Paz,  General Avelino Razon Jr., plus Samuel Rodriguez, Orlando Pestaño, Tomas Rentoy III, Elmer Pelobello, Romeo Ricardo, Emmanuel Carta, Ismael Rafanan, German Doria, Silverio Alarcio Jr., and Jaime Caringal.

What did the confidential letters to high court justices, on allowing 16 towns to rehoist painted–over City Hall signboards, actually seek?

In his Jan. 19, 2009 letter, Mendoza asked the  Court  “allow the participation of judges, who were not physically present,  during the deliberation of the Nov. 18, 2008 order.”

That order “declared with finality”  that conversion of 16 municipalities into cities were unconstitutional. All  16 — including  Baybay in Leyte;  Lamitan in Basilan; Tabuk in Kalinga to  El Salvador in Misamis Oriental – flubbed  the P100-million income requirement.

Hand it to Mendoza. He plugged for Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Roberto Abad and Martin Villarama Jr. And they participated in the December 2009 deliberation. That reversed  a “final” decision.

“Why should a counsel make a request to the Supreme Court when the Court already declared, with finality, that conversion (of the 16) was unconstitutional,” asked the incoming LCP president and San Fernando mayor Oscar Rodriguez.”  

The Girl Scout scandal stemmed  from release of P26 million in three tranches — two in 2002 and one in 2003. Intended as  “financial assistance”, the cash  was to go  to the GSP council in Cebu,   reported Gulf Times of Qatar in it’s Aug 17,2004  issue.

The transfer to Ms.  Martinez  personal  account  was not covered by a GSP council  resolution, the Girl Scout committee report said, alerted by a whistleblower.  .Neither were two  separate transactions  

Bogo town – where Martinez’s son, Celestino Martinez III, served as mayor. received P7.5million  from Martinez’s pork barrel. These were deposited in the GSP council’s trust fund. But  funds were converted into GSP checks payable to cash. The GSP  council never saw a centavo.

The transaction took place when Martinez was president of the GSP-Cebu. Her daughter Ma. Cielo served  as  treasurer.” GSP came to know about the movement of its funds when the Land Bank-Bogo office asked for a resolution” from GSP officials.”

“Hogwash”, Martinez branded the charges. She dared the whistle blower on laundering of GSP funds to surface.  Regional  Deputy Ombudsman Virginia Santiago, however,  had COA do a special audit.

After seven years,the Ombudsman suddenly ordered the preventive suspension of Bogo City treasurer Rhett Minguez and accountant Cresencio Verdida.  ”The order did not mention any action on (Ms)  Clavel Asas-Martinez,” Cebu Daily News noted.

Minguez attested to  availability of funds. Verdida  certified that supporting documents were complete,  The suspended officials “conspired in the release of P11.5 million”, the Ombudsman claimed..

Is this where the buck stops? :“This is getting curiouser and curiouser”, Alice would have murmured.

(Email: juanlmcerado@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

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