“Disbar the Ombudsman ,” retired businessman Zeferino Arroyo Jr. emailed from Qurezon City. Merceditas Gutierrez thumbed her nose at a Supreme Court order to prosecute those linked to the P1.4 billion Mega Pacific computer scandal. Disbarment adds a fourth option to three being weighed by the incoming Aquino government, the 80-year old businessman argues. All seek to end the scandal of a constitutional public interests defender converted into a legal flak jacket for the outgoing president, family and cronies.
The three options were: (a) Impeachment; (b) forced resignation: (c) legal challenge to term of office, Rep. Erin Tañada ( Quezon) told abs-cbnnews. com/Newsbreak‘s Rufo Aries.
They’d address scams that Gutierrez pigeonholed: Joc-Joc Bolantes’ P728-million fertilizer scam, $329-million National Broadband Network scandal; exorbitant Asean Summit lamp posts; among others. The Ombudsman’s inaction on sleaze — from cited rigged bids for World Bank road construction loans to euro generals – embedded fraud, asserted former Senate President Jovito Salonga and 31 civil society leaders. They filed impeachment charges.
A Lower House controlled by Arroyo partisans torpedoed the charges. “Let Ms. Guiterrez be,” snapped the First Gentleman. “We were not classmates, merely schoolmates,” he added. “Let her do her job.”
There is a proposal to revisit Sen. Francisco Escudero’s legal question on Gutierrez’s stay. The Constitution pegs the Ombudsman’s term at 7 years, Escudero argued. Marcelo served for 3 years. Gutierrez had only 4 years to act as Ombudsman. Her term, Escudero insisted, expired last October 2009.
It’s not that clear cut, cautions UP professor Harry Roque, an Ombudsman critic. RA 6770 states appointment is for a full term.
Disbarment could be anchored to the Ombudsman’s dogged refusal to implement a Supreme Court decision. Under Benjamin Abalos, the Commission on Elections rigged purchase of P1.4 billion Mega-Pacific computers. “Credible, orderly and peaceful elections (were) put in jeopardy by the illegal and gravely abusive acts,” the Court found.
Guiterrez scoffed at the Court order: to get back the money… No one was liable, she ruled. “Where in the world does a major crime occur without a criminal?” asked Viewpoint (PDI/ July 29, 2008). “Onli in da Pilipins.”
Disbarment of a rabid partisan will test a Supreme Court and a new chief justice criticized for partiality for the departing president. “Hit two birds with one stone”, Arroyo urged.
Unless checkmated, Gutierrez would slog for her benefactress well into mid-term of President Benigno Aquino. Would that be hand-in-glove with an Arroyo Supreme Court that gave it’s chief justice a “Cinderalla exemption” thru a midnight appointment?
Such a scenario retain the Ombudsman as a guns-for-hire saloon, as in “bad old days” of Aniano Desierto. Yet, it was not always so.
“There’s only one accolade President Arroyo can give Simeon Marcelo when he resigns,” Viewpoint noted on Oct 20, 2005. “That’s to appoint another Simeon Marcelo.”
“Men of talent, vision and rock hard integrity are the rarest of resources. Reforms will hinge on who the President picks to fill Marcelo’s shoes. But ‘the heart of man and the bottom of the sea, are unfathomable’ And the final decision rests with the President.”
What was in the heart of Gutierrez and her patron are now patent. Philippine Human Development Report 2009 analyzed the track record.
Conviction rates slumped “dramatically to 14.4 percent by first semester of 2008,” PHDR noted. Rates ( dipped) to as low as 5 percent in March, then 3 percent in May. It was zero by June. Three months later, only 7 percent of the 349 cases brought forward by the Ombudsman resulted in jail terms.
That slide persisted into 2009. There has been a parallel erosion in public perception of the Ombudsman’s sincerity. A 2004 survey tracked Marcelo’s rating at +24. In 2008, Gutierrez’s work – or lack of it – whittled down the Ombudsman’s rating tot +4.
Two weeks before the 2010 election, Marcelo told Cebu Business Club: Corruption now saps P434 billion yearly. In the first 100 days of office, the new President should create a task force to recover ill-gotten wealth of past and present administrations.
Such essential reforms will be derailed if the Ombudsman and other anti-graft bodies –, Commissions on Audit and Civil Service, Sandiganbayan — remain shackled by partisan politics. He fretted over the President’s undue influence on the Supreme Court, Cebu Daily News reported.
“The plan to file cases against the Arroyo administration with Ombudsman will look good on TV, radio and newspapers. But unless the Ombudsman is liberated, they’ll just be dismissed.”
Marcelo said he wanted former Sen. Wigberto ‘Bobby’ Tañada to be the next Ombudsman. “If we’re serious about cleaning up corruption, and if you want to have credibility, it’s Bobby Tañada.”
“This is the most important appointment Nonoy will make, bar none,’ Arroyo emailed from Quezon City, “If Gutierrez is ejected, and Tanada is Ombudsman, the cleansing process will start. “
Gutierrez continues to ooze with utang na loob. This is an exquisite Filipino trait Unfortunately, it can also sell the citizen short. “Men are often bribed more by their loyalties and ambition, than by money,” Justice Robert Jackson once said.