President Rodrigo Duterte and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, aunt of his daughter Sara’s husband, have decades of experience in enforcing laws.
As Davao City mayor for decades, former prosecutor Duterte fought criminal gangs and the scourge of drugs, though critics accuse him of widespread suspect killings violating the law.
After retiring as Supreme Court associate justice in 2011, Morales was named Ombudsman by then-President Benigno Aquino 3rd. He had her predecessor impeached by the House of Representatives for allegedly failing to hold his predecessor Gloria Arroyo accountable.
In the past week, however, both Duterte and Morales showed apparent bias in acting on possibly criminal acts involving police officials.
Even without an independent investigation, the President publicly accepted the dubious report by agents of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group in Region 8.
The CIDG-8 group said Albuera, Leyte, mayor Rolando Espinosa engaged them in a shootout when they killed him and fellow inmate Raul Yap in their jail cell in Baybay, Leyte. Duterte has publicly taken the killers’ side even before ongoing inquiries by the Senate, a PNP, and the National Bureau of Investigation are done.
Ombudsman Morales also made news when her office announced a probe into PNP Chief Rolando de la Rosa’s Las Vegas trip to watch Senator Manny Pacquiao’s championship boxing match.
De la Rosa told media that Pacquiao paid air fare and hotel accommodations — a possible violation of the anti-graft law barring state officials and personnel from receiving expensive gifts.
The apparent bias here is not in investigating the Vegas trip, but not doing so for another junket involving a leading official and very close friend of then-President Aquino.
In 2012, then-Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. chairman Cristino Naguiat Jr. took his family on a Macau holiday paid for by Japanese billionaire Kazuo Okada, who was seeking a casino license from Pagcor. Then-Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda justified the freebie as “industry practice.”
Now, Madame Ombudsman, which is worse — the Las Vegas trip by PNP Chief de la Rosa paid for by a senator-boxer with no known police concerns, or a Macau vacation for casino czar Naguiat and his family, courtesy of a tycoon angling for a license for his $4-billion, 44-hectare Okada Manila casino resort, scheduled to open this month?
Selective justice wins awards
That Ombudsman Morales plays favorites with the Aquino camp should not surprise anyone by this time. Consider these niceties she has accorded the man who appointed her after removing her predecessor for supposedly favoring the woman who appointed the ousted official.
Morales never investigated the disappearance of more than 2,000 cargo containers in 2011 — the biggest spate of smuggling in the country ever — even if it was so easy to check who kept releasing boxes even after hundreds vanished.
The Magsaysay Award recipient has also dragged her feet on the two-year-old Supreme Court order to investigate and charge authors of Aquino’s illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program, despite the high court’s finding that DAP funds were spent on items not in annual budgets — the very definition of malversation.
Also honored by Ateneo de Manila University for public service, Ombudsman Morales exonerated then-Transportation and Communications Secretary Jose Emilio Abaya over the anomalous Metro Rail Transit maintenance contract, which he signed and the bidding for which his predecessor Mar Roxas had presided over.
Her dismissal order against Senator Joel Villanueva over a 2008 P10-million pork barrel irregularity seems to show evenhandedness, as does her charging of Aquino-era Customs Commissioner Ruffy Biazon, now back in Congress, also over the pork scam. But these are not the real Aquino intimates, several of whom have names starting with A.
Having received public adulation despite her actuations, Ombudsman Morales looks set to continue her selective justice, ignoring criticism like this writer’s article, “How the Ombudsman can prove she is not biased” < http://www.manilatimes.net/how-the-ombudsman-can-prove-she-is-not-biased/226156/ >.
Why Duterte backs killer cops
President Duterte too seems unyielding in backing police accused of extrajudicial killings. But rather than utter confidence in presidential power, what may be steeling his unbridled support for uniformed killers is fear.
Huh? If there’s any trait that the tough-taking, America-bashing, and drug-hating Commander-in-Chief doesn’t ever show, it’s the streak of yellow.
But consider this: As Duterte himself has said, he is marked for assassination by narco-syndicates and their political backers, whom he is unmasking and decimating, with great loss of power, prestige, and pesos.
Add to those wanting Duterte in their gunsights, according to him, is the US Central Intelligence Agency, to stop his avowed pivot to China.
The American Embassy denies it, and incoming President Donald Trump may see Duterte differently than the outgoing leader both of them dissed.
But Washington certainly wouldn’t sulk if Aquino ally Vice-President Leni Robredo takes over and restores relations to pre-July tightness, with full implementation of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA).
To keep powerful entities off balance, President Duterte and his Cabinet have flip-flopped on foreign and defense policy.
Just the past week, after Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana declared that the EDCA and Balikatan war games would go on, his boss nixed the latter, while affirming agreements — for now.
What’s all this got to do with backing the CIDG-8 shootout claim against rubout allegations?
The main force to counter contract killers, coup attempts, and any other regime change plots is, of course, a loyal police and army, not just upholding duly constituted authority, but protecting the President as their own ally and protector.
Thus, Duterte toured military and police units soon after he assumed office. And more than rallying them to his anti-drug campaign, he pledged to defend soldiers and law enforcers against accusations of rights abuses and extrajudicial killings.
That final promise not only solidifies police and military resolve in the war on crime, drugs and terrorism. It also ties the legal and political cover enjoyed by security forces with Duterte’s rule.
So expect him to always stand up for cops and troops, even when they’re wrong. Then they’ll make sure he stays alive and in charge.
Of course, if investigations unearth damning evidence, even the President can’t protect the guilty. And they can be punished without turning the guns protecting Duterte against him.