BY PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
Merceditas Gutierrez’s resignation on April 29 did not spur public jubilation
but it prodded cynics like yours truly to disbelieve her.
She was stepping down May 6 to spare the country the agony of a full-fledged
public trial at the Senate. What she does not say is that will also spare the
country an opportunity to see her being further unmasked as a crook who might not have been part of the broad daylight robbery but is as guilty nonetheless for undermining investigations on monumental cases of thievery in public office.
Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr. (LP, 5th district, Iloilo), chair of the committee on
justice, said Merci bowed out after discovering that some subordinates had
lined up as witnesses against her.
Tupas’s job is not yet done with Merci packing up. The Office of the Ombudsman, notwithstanding her departure and the resignation of its top apparatchnik, Mark Jalandoni, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, needs to be further purged of misfits.
Over the years under Merci, it has become a bastion of corruption and a pillar
of the culture of impunity.
That culture is seen in state forces in a rampage, implementing the program of extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances; over 1,000 Filipinos died from summary executions and above 200 were disappeared. As “protector of the people” vested on it by the Constitution, the Office of the Ombudsman did nothing, thereby making itself tacitly complicit with perpetrators who got away with their high crimes.
That culture of impunity was typified during the hated GMA regime, 2001 – 2010 where crooks openly roosted on their loot and still got away with it. We had FG Mike the premier suspect in the $300-million NBN-ZTE but still laughed his way out while whistle blowers were forced into hiding due and running away from threats and harassments brazenly done by state security forces.
Corruption at the Office of the Ombudsman is not gone with Merci and Rep.
Tupas’s job is not done. He should investigate gangsters at the Office of the
Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, notably, its Western Visayas Office led by Virginia Palanca-Santiago.
Grand thievery cases have been lodged in that office in 2004 yet, among them the P130-million Pavia Housing Scam lodged against Jerry Treñas et al, the heavy equipment scam against the couple Augusto and Judy Syjuco (P16 million), and the ghost cellphone anomaly (P6 million).
City taxpayers bleed P17,000 daily to pay the interest of the 130-m housing
loan. None of the 413 units was completed but the principal suspect then mayor, now Rep. Jerry Treñas, still paid the contractor P90 million. Further, he needlessly transferred depository bank, from the PNB to the PVB, that bled the city P12 million in “transfer” and “documentation” costs. Three criminal
complaints were lodged versus Treñas et al before the 2004 elections. Virginia Palanca-Santiago sat on it.
Iloilo provincial administrator Manuel “Boy” Mejorada hailed the Syucos in 2006 for the heavy equipment and ghost cellphone anomalies. In his radio commentary, Mejorada said he furnished Virginia Palanca-Santiago documents on how Syjuco, then congressman, formed a corporation that “sold” a set of heavy equipment to “Tao kag Lupa Foundation”, an NGO financed by him. Tao kag Puso bought the set, using funds from Syjuco’s pork barrel, and later resold it to the Bureau of Equipment, DPWH.
The heavy equipment rotted at the junkyard of the DPWH at Zarraga, Iloilo,
overpriced despite defects. Mejorada filed criminal raps against Syjuco with
the office of the Ombudsman in Iloilo City, but its head, Virginia
Palanca-Santiago, then the OIC deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, slept on it.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s hands can be fast and rig decisions. Atty. Judel
Romero recalls that his client, Barangay Kasing-Kasing, Molo lost its hall
because Palanca-Santiago so ordered. A matron wanted the structure out because it obstructed her view. The hall stood on the roadside, a public property.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago, in 30 days from receipt of the complaint, ordered it demolished without giving the barangay chance to answer the complaint, Romero rues.
But one big boo-boo of Virginia Palanca-Santiago was she rigged her decision in People’s Graftwatch vs Jaime Esmeralda et al. The case was filed in February 2005. Without waiting for the answers of respondents, she declared the complainant’s evidence “strong” and ordered the respondents preventively suspended for six months in March. (to be continued)