Guns-For-Hire Saloon

by Juan L. Mercado

“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.

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

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