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Virginia Palanca-Santiago’s exercise of raw power (36)


By Pet Melliza/ the Beekeeper

Somebody named Gloria slumped in her seat last July 25 when someone called P-Noy named Conchita Carpio-Morales, a retired Supreme Court justice, the next Ombudsman, during P-Noy’s state-of-the-nation address (SONA).

Gloria was rushed to the hospital.

Carpio-Morales replaces Merceditas Gutierrez who resigned last April after being besieged by public opinion and tormented by a looming trial at the Senate  sitting as impeachment court. P-Noy promises that the next Ombudsman will perform according to his battlecry of plodding the “straight path” (matuwid na landas): Ombudsman Carpio-Morales will run after crooks in government, particularly Gloria and company who to date remain untouchables because Ombudsman Gutierrez shielded them.

The clean up will be tedious and  we join the new Ombudsman in praying that she will live up to public expectations.

Ombudsman Carpio-Morales must continue cleansing her institution so to transform it truly to what the Constitution calls it: “Protector of the People”. For a decade under the watch of Merceditas Gutierrez, the Office of the Ombudsman mutated into a monster whose function was to protect Gloria and co-conspirators who robbed the Filipino people blind in broad daylight.

The Office of the Ombudsman under Merceditas Gutierrez was corrupted, with key players becoming merchants turning decisions into commodities for sale to the highest bidder.

The botched hostage drama at Luneta August 23 last year was an eye opener. Emilio Gonzalez III, Deputy Ombudsman on Military Affairs, and Mark Jalandoni, Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, catapulted to national shame for rigging a decision that pushed Police Major Rolando Mendoza to hijack a busload of foreign tourists, mostly Chinese, that ended in carnage.

The two were party to rigging the decision, twisting facts to justify the verdict on Mendoza – dismissal from service, forfeiture of retirement benefits and perpetual disqualification from public office. Before his rampage, Mendoza was cursing  Gonzalez for demanding P150,000 in exchange for a favorable decision.

Gonzalez was ordered dismissed by the Office of the President while Jalandoni retired ahead of Gutierrez after receiving an order from Malacanang to answer the complaint filed against him for usurpation of authority. The departure of the trio – Gutierrez, Gonzalez and Jalandoni – is just a step in the cleansing process.

Columnist and former Iloilo provincial administrator, Manuel “Boy” Mejorada writes that a “structure” has been erected by Jalandoni in the Office of the Ombudsman to protect Gloria and her cabal of plunderers.

Mejorada, quoting Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas, Pelagio Apostol, Jr., identifies the “protective structure set up by Mark Jalandoni” in the Visayas as Virginia Palanca-Santiago, concurrently the Assistant Ombudsman for the Visayas and the head of its Western Visayas office at Iloilo City.

She is the star in this series, the 36th already which brands her “embalmed version of Mommy Dionisia, a moral pygmy whose sense of right and wrong is as revolting as her looks”. Since this space ran the series, Palanca-Santiago made her presence scarce in Iloilo.

She practically ran the show, acting as the capo di tutti capi in the Visayas by virtue of the “protective structure” that emasculated Apostol of his power as chief of the Ombudsman Visayas.

Palanca-Santiago, a subordinate, acted as Apostol’s superior. She bypassed him with impunity. When she rigged her decision administratively convicting Igbaras Mayor Jaime Escanlar, municipal treasurer Cynthia Cabanero and the secretary to the mayor Pio Elumba,  and subsequently in executing the order of dismissal on the latter two, Apostol was helpless in asserting his supremacy.

However, Palanca-Santiago pushed her luck too far. She continued despite the ascent of P-Noy – she singlehandedly reversed Apostol’s decisions.

In 2007 – 2008, then Iloilo Vice Governor Rolex Suplico slapped  Rep. Niel “Jun-jun” C. Tupas, Jr. (LP, 5th district, Iloilo) multiple graft charges. Apostol dismissed all of them for lack of merit.

Early this year, while Rep. Tupas was in the thick of  preparation for the impeachment of Gutierrez, he got a notice from Palanca-Santiago ordering him to answer the very charges that her superior earlier dismissed.

By this time, hopefully, Jun-jun Tupas and Apostol must have already slapped Palanca-Santiago administrative and criminal charges for usurpation of authority and grave misconduct, sufficient grounds to kick her out with all the accessory penalties of forfeiture of benefits and perpetual disqualification.

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