BY PET MELLIZA/THE BEEKEEPER
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez flaunts her innocence in a country where people think otherwise; the public think of her not only as corrupt but an epitome of it. She effectively shielded powerful persons publicly perceived as big-time grafters like former First Gentleman Miquel Arroyo and his cabal.
Her notoriety, incidentally, makes Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr. (LP, 5th district, Iloilo) a rising political star as he presides over the House committee on justice that pushes for the impeachment of Gutierrez.
She is just unfortunate, her impeachment happens at the very time the nation is raging as repentant crooks reveal before the Senate investigating body the incredible level of thievery in the military which happens with impunity because the Ombudsman is not only remiss of her duty or is asleep, but also as partner of the Arroyo cabal in ensuring that big time thievery flourishes in this blighted land.
Ombudsman Gutierrez is now perceived to be in the league of Mike Arroyo, a scoundrel like his wife Gloria the former president of the Philippines.
If ever Ombudsman Gutierrez is thrown to the Senate for trial and eventually convicted, that is, fired from government service, Jun-jun Tupas should open the arena wider to include her lieutenants who dilute their constitutional mandate “protector of the people” into protector of big time grafters.
Jun-jun Tupas should take the impeachment of Gutierrez as opportunity to rid the Office of the Ombudsman of misfits. He need not look far. For one, he should investigate Virginia Palanca-Santiago, assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas and regional director of its office in Western Visayas based in Iloilo City.
Palanca-Santiago is at the center of fire in my series “Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s Exercise of Raw Power” now in its 23rd episode. Jun-jun Tupas should show no mercy on Palanca-Santiago who, like her boss Merceditas Gutierrez, also sits on big time cases and hastily convicts the small fry; she protects big time crooks and is merciless on lowly employees even to the point o f rigging decisions if only to score pogi points.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago sat on the infamous Pavia Housing Scam with former mayor, now Congressman Jerry Treñas at its center wind. Separate charges were slapped on Treñas and cabal in 2003 and 2004 yet for the P130-million housing project. Not one from the target 415 units was finished. The contractor simply packed up when subcontractors exploded the bombshell that they were unpaid and that they used substandard materials.
Treñas continued paying Ace Builders up to P90 million though the latter had already went back to its Manila headquarters, easy money indeed as Treñas refused to take recourse to the last remedy of seizing its surety bonds to reduce loss.
Meanwhile, city taxpayers bleed P17,000 daily paying the interests alone of the loan which is P510,000 monthly and P6,120,000 yearly. That is more than enough to build a school building of two classrooms. Or a calaboose to throw Treñas or, better still, Virginia Palanca-Santiago in.
Manuel Mejorada, former provincial administrator and now, with the staff of Sen. Franklin Drilon, also recalls in his blog “Mejorada’s Views” at Tumbler, that he also slapped graft charges on Rep. Augusto Syjuco in 2005. Syjuco disbursed some P6 million to buy cellphones for barangay officials in the second district of Iloilo. The scam blew to the open after then Sta. Barbara mayor, Isabelo Maquino denied having received the purchased items. The office of Syjuco made it appear that the phones were delivered to Maquino but the latter denied having signed any receipt, in other words, his supposed signature was forged or falsified.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s slothfulness in resolving shocking cases of corruption is equalled only by her haste in resolving small time thievery, even to the point of rigging decisions. That is what she did when she convicted Igbaras mayor Jaime Esmeralda, et al.
Esmeralda was charged before the Ombudsman for a P1 million “ghost” road repair project. The complainant submitted thick wads of sworn statements, apparently lifted from the same template with only the personal circumstances of the affiants differing. Palanca-Santiago sent investigator Roderick Blazo who found traces of implementation.
The ghost project theory had no leg to stand on. Blazo simply shifted theory by swinging to the substandard angle. He was inspecting the re-gravelling of six kilometres of mountain roads in Igbaras but he applied the standards for concreting or asphalting, faulting the respondents for failure to comply with the one-inch thickness of gravel. He further faulted his victims for some segments of the road that were narrower than the standard width. The sight of bags of cement, steel bars and concrete culverts for a drainage canal would have sufficed to trash the ghost project yarn but Blazo, again changed theory, blaming respondents for the deteriorated construction materials without investigating why it happened. He came to the scene in September 2005, five months after the implementation when the rains already damaged much of Igbaras’s mountain roads. Quack investigator Roderick Blazo did not factor that in.
My columns call for an investigation of Virginia Palanca-Santiago, embalmed version of Mommy Dionisia, a moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks.