By ANNE MARXZE D. UMIL
MANILA – “Merceditas N. Gutierrez’s constitutional duty as Ombudsman is to act promptly on complaints for acts filed in any form or manner against public officials or employees of the government, or any of its subdivision, agency or instrumentality, including government-owned or controlled corporations, and, in appropriate cases, to notify the complainants of the action taken and its result,” read a portion of the impeachment complaint filed by Bayan and other progressive organizations against Gutierrez.
During her five years-term as Ombudsman, the complainants said, Gutierrez has miserably failed to act on various cases filed against Arroyo and other high ranking government officials involved in anomalies.
This is an impeachable act of gross betrayal of the public trust and culpable violations of the Constitution, read the complaint filed by Bayan et al.
“Far from the zealous and impartial body envisioned by the Constitution, the Office of the Ombudsman has instead become synonymous with inaction, delay, partiality and corruption in favor of high-ranking government officials,” the groups said.
Pagbabago added that Gutierrez’s acts of omissions or failures contradict the very essence of the position she currently holds. “Contradictory to what her title “Protector of the People” dictates, Ms. Gutierrez has protected the interests of the few. She has played an important role in leaving many erring government officials unaccountable for their mistakes, in perpetuating corrupt and other illegal practices in government offices and in cultivating a lack of fear of the law.”
Among the major cases filed before the Office of the Ombudsman is the “Fertilizer Scam.” The groups accused Gutierrez of failing to act on the anomalous disbursement of P728 million ($16.9 million) funds allegedly used in the 2004 presidential campaign of Arroyo. The Senate has already transmitted in 2006 its committee report explicitly finding anomalous transactions in the fertilizer fund disbursement. A separate complaint detailing the same anomalies was also filed by the peasant group KMP, the late journalist Marlene Esperat and former solicitor general Francisco Chavez.
The Ombudsman also failed to act to prosecute retired police Director Eliseo Dela Paz, now known as the Euro General who was caught carrying EUR105,000 out of the country in 2008. Dela Paz was detained at the Moscow international airport after the money he was carrying was discovered. According to reports, it was later revealed that De la Paz was actually carrying P9.2 million ($213,954), of which P2.9 million ($67,441) were for travel expenses and P6.9 million ($160, 465) were “for contingencies.”
The progressive groups also included in their impeachment complaint the inaction of the Ombudsman on the anomalous poll automation contract awarded to the Mega Pacific Consortium. In 2003, the Commission on Elections signed a contract with the Mega Pacific eSolutions, Inc. for the procurement of election counting machines which costs P1.3 billion ($3.02 million) for the Automated Election System project. This was declared as anomalous and void by the Supreme Court in 2004.
Also, Instead of acting on the cases filed by public sector employee organization COURAGE against former Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, son of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, for the younger Arroyo’s failure to declare in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) the plush houses he owns in the USA, Gutierrez has even issued more stringent rules on how the public can access an official’s SALN, Gaite of COURAGE said. He added that under Gutierrez, several strong cases against GSIS President and General Manager Winston Garcia were dismissed, including the P2 billion ($46 million) dividends that were alleged directly remitted to the Office of the President instead of to the National Treasury, and the corruption cases against former Department of Labor and Employment (Dole) Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas.
Gutierrez also failed to act on the NBN-ZTE broadband deal that involves both Arroyo and former first gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo. In April 2007, the Arroyo government had entered into a $329.5-million contract for building a national broadband network with the ZTE that would have supposedly improved the government’s communications capabilities. However, Joey De Venecia III, president of the Amsterdam Holdings, opposed the ZTE project and revealed in a Senate hearing that the first couple was involved in the awarding of contract. He said the then president Arroyo had even personally gone to China for the contract signing. In September 2007, amid intensifying criticism Arroyo was forced to terminate the deal. Although Gutierrez self-inhibited herself from the case, the resolution on April 19, 2010 by the Office of the Ombudsman absolved the Arroyo couple despite evidences linking them to the cancelled deal. The resolution said the president was immune from suits and there was insufficient evidence of wrongdoing against Mike Arroyo. (Bulatlat.com)