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Other charges vs Syjuco in Limbo

“Retroactive” is how yours truly commented on the piece of Manuel “Boy” Mejorada announcing that Rep. August Syjuco (Lakas, 2nd district, Iloilo) finally received an order from the Office of the Ombudsman to answer his complaint.

Yours truly used “retroactive” to describe the “diligence” of the anti-graft office for suddenly jumping to its feet and giving due course to Mejorda’s complaint circa 2005 yet. He dragged the solon to the Ombudsman for misappropriating some P3 million from the Department of Agriculture to supply farmers of Iloilo’s second district liquid fertilizer. (The amount is part of the infamous P700-fertilizer scam that was spent to fund the presidential bid of the inglorious GMA in 2004 instead of buying farm inputs.)

At around the same period, Mejorada pressed more  charges against Syjuco – “the heavy equipment scam” and “cell phone scandal”.

The heavy equipment scam involved P6 million plus in pork barrel channeled to Tao kag Lupa Foundation which bought second-hand and defective heavy equipment from a shadowy company. Tao kag Lupa subsequently resold the procurement to the Bureau of Equipment of the Department of Public Works and Highways where they currently rot. The foundation and company that originally supplied the equipment are both owned by Syjuco, Mejorada said.

The cell phone scandal involved P3-million that evaporated to thin air in fictitious procurement of Nokia 1100 cell phones purportedly for distribution to barangay chairs in the second district. It hugged the headlines after Sta. Barbara mayor Isabelo Maquino disowned his signature in the delivery receipts of the mobile phones. The alleged supplier was a member of Syjuco’s congressional staff who was engaged in the distribution of softdrinks, not cell phones.

My memory is still vivid the morning after the infamous “Capitol Siege” (January 17, 2007). I was standing beside Mejorada (at the ground floor of the Capitol) who was querying Virginia Palanca-Santiago, de facto Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas and head of its Western Visayas office in Iloilo City on the status of complaints against Syjuco.

The anti-graft officer asked Mejorada to be patient as the cases were moving and all that he needed to do was only to wait.

In the “Capitol Siege”, a platoon of battle-ready hoodlums in PNP ranger uniforms stormed the Provincial Capitol to flush out and arrest then Gov. Niel D. Tupas, Sr. on orders of then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez. The attackers shattered two glass panels at the back entrance with a sledge hammer. Gutierrez was the misfit, who would later resign in shame after being besieged by impeachment raps and unflattering news of her coddling big time crooks in the GMA administration.

We hope that the wind of change, the whiff of fresh air, is now transforming the Office of the Ombudsman from the monster that it was during the watch of Gutierrez to the ideal that it should be as the Constitution describes it: Protector of the People.

Palanca-Santiago, under the administration of PNoy is now back to where she properly belongs. She stopped behaving like a deputy Ombudsman, a post that properly belongs to Pelagio Apostol, Jr. who was sidelined under Gutierrez’s watch.

The people, not just Mejorada, await the outcome of the other charges filed against Syjuco – the cell phone and heavy equipment scams – that were relegated to the back burner by Palanca-Santiago.

The people, not just the Tupases, await the outcome of the investigation that the Office of the Ombudsman conducted in the wake of the Capitol Siege. Then Commission on Human Rights head, Leila De Lima, that same evening of the assault, expressed her horror after watching the TV footages. She minced now words in declaring that  the government used “excessive force”,  that there was abuse of power and overkill.

Meanwhile, the team of Palanca-Santiago who trooped to the Capitol the morning after, is yet to release its findings.

Palanca-Santiago told reporters they came to determine whether or not Gov. Tupas et al were indeed guilty of sedition or inciting to sedition.

That was an idiotic statement to say the least, prejudging the victim as the culprit instead of seeing bare facts that the Capitol Siege was a naked display of raw power.*


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