The Ombudsman And Paul The Octupus
Atty. Merceditas Gutierrez knows her law there is no doubt.
But she is woefully clueless by digging in she is further damaging the already sullied public appreciation of the anti-graft office.
A Sandiganbayan report says that in the first four months of the year, the Office of the Ombudsman lost most of the cases it had filed in the anti-graft court.
Of the 98 cases resolved this year, 78 individuals were either acquitted or saw their cases dismissed. While the anti graft court says that between January and April, it resolved 62 cases involving 98 respondents.
But thanks to the Ombudsman’s case build up only eight persons were convicted. 56 people were acquitted, while 22 people had their cases dismissed even before trial could start.
Like many constitutional officials, the Ombudsman has a fixed term and can be removed only by impeachment. The Constitution enumerates the specific grounds for impeachment. Alleged closeness to the appointing authority is not one of them.
I hope that some quarters stop prejudging the future actions of former Chief Justice Hilario Davide in the same way that this early they are prejudging my actions on the findings of the truth commission—just because I was appointed by the former President.
I am only human. I am affected, but not to the extent that I will give in to any pressure. I am not corrupt. I just don’t know about my detractors. I only mean well. I would just like to make a difference. I come to work early and I leave late at night.
(Gutierrez was appointed in December 2005 by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who faced a string of scandals that included the “Hello Garci” election fraud controversy, the scuttled $329-million NBN-ZTE deal, on top of the long-pending P728-million fertilizer scam. She was a law school classmate of Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo.)
Gutierrez may stubbornly assert that this is just perception, but it is undeniable reality that during her watch the investigations into controversies laced by suspicions of corruption have lagged because of Tita Mercy’s close ties with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is now a representative of the second district of Pampanga.
The 33-page impeachment case filed in March last year by former Senate President Jovito Salonga and 30 other civil society figures accused Gutierrez of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution.
See the complaint as filed here:
Their brief cited violations in how the Ombudsman handled the Mega Pacific and corruption case against former Elections chair Benjamin Abalos Sr., the World Bank mess regarding the sanctioning of three Filipino construction firms over alleged collusion, the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, the extortion case against former Justice secretary Hernando Perez and the euro generals scandal:
The Ombudsman – the ‘Tanod-Bayan’ or literally ‘Protector of the People’ – is expected to be merciless against public servants who pursue their own interests at the expense of the public good…An Ombudsman who fails to meet these expectations fails our democracy and contributes to the disintegration of the delicate relationship between the people and its government.
Unfortunately, with Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez at the helm since 1 December 2005, the public trust has completely collapsed. Ombudsman Gutierrez has clearly failed the Filipino people with her inaction, mishandling, and downright dismissal of clear cases of graft and corruption, some leading to the President herself and that of her closest associates.
The former Senate President’s words:
The Ombudsman, in our opinion, has shown her incompetence by virtue of the acts enumerated in the complaint and this also indicates her culpable violation of the Constitution which is one of the important reasons for filing this complaint.
The complainants aside from Salonga in that first impeachment case included Akbayan Representative Risa Hontiveros Baraquel, former U.P. College of Law dean Raul Pangandangan, Bantay Katarungan executive director Emilio Capulong Jr., former Interior secretary Rafael Alunan III, Bishop Antonio Tobias, former senator Leticia Shahani; former peace process adviser Teresita Deles, former Civil Service Commission chairperson Karina David, former Social Welfare secretary Corazon Soliman, and Black and White Movement spokeswoman Leah Navarro, as well as newspaper columnist Randolph “Randy” David.
The case was blocked by the Lakas-Kampi controlled 14th Congress.
Now a new impeachment case against Gutierrez is forthcoming with the political balance of power having shifted.
This time around with her patrons gone, will her pigheadedness and thick-skinned posture still win the day?
Don’t bet on even Paul the octopus picking Gutierrez.