BY PET MELLIZA/ The Beekeeper
The criminal charges lodged by militant groups against disgraced former
Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez tell us: impunity must end.
That’s similar to the flurry of criminal charges they lodged against retired
Army General Jovito Palparan who murdered, maimed and kidnapped people and still got away with it.
It is not enough that Gutierrez resigned in shame. She has to answer for her
crimes, particularly, for coddling big time crooks.
It is not enough that Palparan retired. He has to answer for his crimes like the
enforced disappearance of Jonas Burgos, an agriculturist for a non-government
organization that taught farmers appropriate technology.
It is not enough that Merceditas Gutierrez resigned. Her minions who have made the Office of the Ombudsman a bastion of corruption must also be ferreted out and brought to justice.
I am referring to Virginia Palanca-Santiago, Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas and concurrently the regional director of the same office in Western Visayas.
One case for which Virginia Palanca-Santiago has to answer is her mishandling of the P130-million scandal misnamed “Pavia Housing”. The Municipality of Pavia has nothing to do with that. The scam involves officials or ex-officials of the Iloilo City government.
Before the 2004 elections, separate charges were filed by Atty. Romeo Gerochi,
Atty. Antonio Pesina and the probe committee of the city council chaired by then councilor Raul Gonzalez, Jr. The charges centered on then Mayor Jerry Treñas et al.
The city obtained a P120-million loan by bond flotation with the Philippine
National Bank (PNB) as conduit, to build 415 units of low-cost houses for
employees. Not one house was completed. The contractor abandoned work. Mayor Treñas continued paying the erring contractor up to P90 million and was about to release the final tranche had it not for the intervention by majority in the city council who disapproved the budget.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago sat on the case. Treñas got reelected for two more
terms. He left unable to finish a single structure; he left with Virginia
Palanca-Santiago still sleeping on the case.
Her inaction nurtured the culture of impunity in this part of the country.
Today, city taxpayers bleed P17,000 daily for interest payment of the loan
alone. Treñas, a lawyer, allowed the contractor to escape, when he could have
slapped him with penalties by seizing its surety and contractor’s bonds to
reduce the losses.
Not contented, Treñas made another questionable move by transferring conduits, from PNB to Philippine Veterans’ Bank (PVB) where the bilas (brother-in-law) of his wife Rosalie sits as trustee. The PNB is only a five-minute walk from the nearest PVB branch. The transfer cost taxpayers P12 million in documentation and other service charges.
Here is a broad daylight robbery and with documentary evidences submitted by
complainants showing the hands caught in the cookie jar. But Virginia
Palanca-Santiago still sits on it. In 2004 until 2007, she was both the
Ombudsman regional director and OIC Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas.
When fellow columnist Peter Jimenea asked her on the status of the complaints against Treñas et al, she answered that the records had disappeared.
Rep. Jun-Jun Tupas (LP, Iloilo 5th district) should not let go of Gutierrez and
cabal. He has to take a second look at Virginia Palanca-Santiago, embalmed
version of Mommy Dionisa who, in contrast, over-speeds in rigging her decision
in the case People’s Graftwatch of Iloilo vs. (Igbaras) Mayor Jaime Esmeralda,
Without waiting for the answers of the respondents mailed on March 14, 2005, she prejudged the case and ruled that the evidence was strong, ordering her victims preventively suspended for six months.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago rigged her decision because her conclusion has no
basis from the evidences presented. The complainants submitted wads of
affidavits, lifted from a single template, attesting that the P1 million road
reg-ravelling was “ghost”.
However, investigator Roderick Blazo saw traces of implementation. Instead of
dismissing the complaint, he shifted theory. The road project was substandard,
in effect, debunking the ghost-project theory. The Commission on Audit (COA),
which inspected it ahead, did not disallow it; it did not see any irregularity
on the implementation.
Virginia Palanca-Santiago, embalmed version of Mommy Dionisia, no longer sets foot in Iloilo after this space ran a series exposing her as a moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is a revolting as her looks. She ignored the COA findings.
The P1 million budget for regravelling that the pack of charlatans decry as
“ghost”, covered six kilometers of mountain roads. P450,000 were allotted for
sand and gravel, P350,000 for culverts, steel bars and cement, which Blazo
personally saw. P150,000 was still at the treasury for labor. (to be continued)