As head of the country’s powerful Ombudsman office, Merceditas Gutierrez has failed to perform her mandate. The Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines is responsible to investigate and prosecute all government officials who defy the law of conduct. Unfortunately, Gutierrez’ leadership seems to be too weak to act on the many scandalous issues of corruption her office is handling. Is it primarily because her appointing officer, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo is mostly involved? Or truly her weak personality dictates so? If this is the case, then moreso, she has no business heading the office.
Before we go any further, let me give you a little backgrounder about Ombudsman Gutierrez. Well, the good Ombudsman is very well known to have been a classmate to former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo, in the Ateneo School of Law, batch 1972. Of which, many believed to have been the reason why she got appointed to office. Also, Ombudsman Gutierrez, outstandingly rose ranks when she entered the Department of Justice as State Counsel to a senior position as Undersecretary. For two different instances, she was appointed twice as Secretary of Justice, filling up vacancies. All of which, GMA was the responsible appointing person, and Im afraid, also responsible to giving Gutierrez her career in the government.
Recently, Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago accused her of “criminal neglect”, for her failure to act on the Senate’s recommendations regarding its inquiries into certain controversial cases, namely; the so-called “euro generals”, the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, the road user’s tax scam, and the scuttled National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with China’s ZTE Corp.
While the Filipino people painstakingly await the culprits to be punished, her office failed to comply with the Department of Justice’s Memorandum No. 12, which provides 60 days for the preliminary investigation of cases filed with the agency. Also, there is a shorter time frame under Rule 112 of the Rules of Court, which mandates that hearings be held within 10 days and terminated within five days. On all of these, Merceditas Gutierrez, simply did not care, at all.
While she always insists, she is doing her job, we see no action on the controversial issues that have cost our country millions of pesos, from the hands of corrupt officials. And for this, here are the four most controversial issues that remained hanging in her hands, that to me, constitute the four reasons why she should not stay as head of the Ombudsman, to wit;
1) FERTILIZER FUND SCAM
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, shortly before the 2004 elections was accused of favoring the congressmen and virtually buying their votes, when she authorized the release of PHP 728million to buy fertilizers and pesticides even though it was already during harvest season.Lawmakers with no agricultural constituencies allegedly availed of the assistance. Later, The Commission on Audit said the fertilizers were overpriced by 682 percent, or at P128 million.
In 2006 and 2009, the Senate Blue ribbon Committee, on two separate occasions, submitted a report and recommended the filing of administrative and criminal charges against former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante. It also said, that President Macapagal Arroyo should also be responsible for mismanagement of funds.
2) EURO GENERALS
On October 11, 2008, PNP Director and Comptroller Eliseo De La Paz was found carrying 105,000 euros (PHP6.9million), at the Moscow International Airport. He said, the money came from the coffers of the PNP for its delegation to the 77th Interpol General Assembly in St. Petersburg on Oct. 7-10. The money was confiscated.
3) $329Million NBN-ZTE PROJECT
Joey De Venecia and former government consultant Jun Lozada accused the then President’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, and then Commission on Elections Chair Benjamin Abalos of bribery and overpricing up to $130million to cover kickbacks.
4) ROAD TAX MISUSE
In 2009, the Senate endorsed a resolution asking the Ombudsman to charge with plunder Rodolfo “Dodi” Puno, then Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane and other members of the Road Board for misusing the road user’s tax. From 2001 to 2009, proceeds from the tax amounted to P60.5 billion.
The Commission on Audit, in 2008 reported on how the road user’s tax was spent. It said the Road Board violated “existing budget, auditing and accounting rules and regulations”.
Given all the above reasons as basis, I see no space at all, why Merceditas N. Gutierrez should remain as the Philippine Ombudsman. Thus, gives me the impression that she just stays in office all day long thinking new schemes on how to pervert justice.
Indeed, former Senate President Jovito Salonga and other civil society groups were right, when in March 2009, they filed impeachment charges before the Philippine Congress against Gutierrez, for mishandling of cases. Too bad, it did not prosper, just like the rest of the issues.