Ombudsman Morales: All bark, no bite

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Maybe there’s a reason why the porkbarrel indicted senators are still smiling.

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For all her bluster, President Aquino’s handpicked anti-graft official, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, hasn’t won any case she has filed at the Sandiganbayan since she assumed the post in July 2011.

And given the Sandiganbayan’s snail pace in resolving cases, Morales is likely to be in cozy retirement in her 80s when the anti-graft court convicts or absolves these first senators ever to be tried for corruption.

Carpio-Morales’ underperformance is all the more glaring since she filed a lot of cases in the past two years—a total of 1,432 “criminal informations.”

The anti-graft body even boasted in a recent press release: “In the Sandiganbayan alone, 961 informations were filed in 2013, which is the highest in the last 18 years and double than the 2012 figures.”

But filing of criminal informations is just one stage before the Sandiganbayan actually takes up the cases and issues its warrants of arrest. Using the Sandiganbayan’s own data, that its pending cases increased only from 2,164 in 2008 to 2,239 in 2012, the anti-graft court has probably taken up to be tried probably merely a fifth, at most, 100 of the Ombudsman’s cases.

Talk of “justice delayed, justice denied.”

Talk of “justice delayed, justice denied.”

“They’re just filing a lot of garbage with us, that many here are getting sick of it,” said a source at the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court. “Some are even suspecting all these might be extortion plots,” he said smiling, “if you know what I mean.”

As if timed to emphasize that her bark is really much worse than her bite, consider one of Morales’ high profile cases, that against former agriculture secretary Luis Ramon “Cito” Lorenzo and five of his officials at the Quedan and Rural Credit Corp.

This case was dismissed on the same day she filed with a lot of fanfare her pork-barrel cases against senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Ramon Revilla, Jr., and about a dozen other people.

The Sandiganbayan’s decision was quite harsh against the Ombudsman, labeling the case speculative, and even implying that the prosecutor was ignorant of government procurement regulations.

The Sandiganbayan dismissed the case againsnt Lorenzo so fast—it was filed only July last year—that it was viewed in legal circles as a humiliation of the Ombudsman.

Sources said it was a message that the anti-graft court has become sick and tired of the current Ombudsman burdening it with weak cases, which were merely filed to boost the Aquino administration’s flagging “anti-corruption” image.

In fact, Ombudsman Carpio-Morales in the past three years has been on a relentless propaganda campaign. Her office has been regularly issuing press releases to portray that she’s been winning at the Sandiganbayan—when the cases were those filed years before her term, as early as 1995.

For example, its most recent press release issued last week boasted: “The Office of the Ombudsman secured the conviction of a former mayor for unlawfully paying 1,500 bags of cement worth P247,500.” That case was filed by the Ombudsman’s Office in August 2002, or nine years before Morales stepped into this office.

Another of the Ombudsman’s press releases on Feb. 24, 2014 said: “Sandiganbayan Convicts Mindoro Ex-Gov.” That case was filed in 1997, or 17 years ago. It goes on and on.

Among the 21 cases the Sandiganbayan listed on its website as having been decided in 2013 and 2014, all except one were filed before Morales’ watch. Six of the cases were filed in the 1990s.

The single case that the Ombudsman under Morales won involved a Nueva Ecija mayor who was proven not to have actually solemnized a marriage, and therefore technically falsified public documents.

His conviction, for a fine of P5,000, would bar him from holding any public position. The complainant? His political enemy, the vice-mayor.

The next two years would give Ombudsman Carpio-Morales a small window to show that it is not entirely her fault that she is failing to win any cases at the Sandiganbayan.

But the fact of the matter is that our justice system moves so slowly, that many of the accused die of natural causes in their twilight years. Indeed, the Sandiganbayan in many cases wasted its time in court hearings in which lawyers merely presented the official death certificate of the accused so that the case could be officially dismissed.

It takes the Sandiganbayan an average of nine years to resolve a case, according to a September 2013 World Bank study on our justice system, the slowest among the higher courts that include the Supreme Court (1.9 years), the Court of Appeals (2.3), and Court of Tax Appeals (2.1).

The plunder case of former President Joseph Estrada took six years, from April 2001 to September 2007. Take note, however, that this case had full-time private prosecutors in hearings before a full-time, special division of the Sandiganbayan.

In the pork-barrel cases, there are 45 charges against a dozen accused, which will be tried by the court’s regular divisions.

How many cases is the Sandiganbayan handling now? It cannot suspend hearings on these cases; otherwise it could be accused of selective implementation of our justice system.

The answer: about 2,400 cases. This means a current workload of 480 per division.

The caseload of the Sandiganbayan has been increasing and will continue to do so, from 1,674 in 2008 to 2,299 in 2012, to this estimate of 2,400 cases. This is based on the court’s data that it handles 135 new cases a year and is able to decide only on about 84, on average.

Former Chief Justice Panganiban in his newspaper column says: “In all criminal prosecutions, the accused are entitled to bail as a matter of right before conviction, except those charged with offenses punishable with reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment “when the evidence of guilt is strong.”

If I read him right, it could mean that the three senators could argue that they should be allowed bail if they can prove that the evidence of guilt isn’t strong. This despite the fact that “plunder” officially is a non-bailable offense.

This is most unfortunate for Benhur Luy and the other whistleblowers, for despite the national attention this case has generated, this will be another one that Ombudsman Morales won’t be winning. Luy and company will go the tragic way of other whistleblowers who all would be forgotten once the next administration rolls into place.

National media will soon tire of the issue and the boring technicalities of a trial—be riveted instead to the election campaigns for 2016. Enrile will be allowed house arrest, to live a quiet life in his Dasmariñas Village home or even in his vast ranch in his home province.

Estrada and Revilla will almost certainly run again for public office in 2016, portraying themselves as the poor victims of the vengeful haciendero President.

Without an effective justice system, any claim to rid our society of graft is sheer braggadocio, a sham, or just, as more and more believe, outright political persecution.

tiglao.manilatimes@gmail.com
www.rigobertotiglao.com
FB: Rigoberto D. Tiglao

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23 Comments

  1. If I may ask Mr.Singay to name accomplishments that Aquino has made , that I might have missed,then I’ll take my hats off to him,but as far as I know Aquino has not done anything or no accomplishments to speak off not even when he was a congressman nor a senator.All he did is protecting his allies,protecting HLI,running after those non-allies and a credit grabber.I would even say that Erap is way better than him,it’s just that the elite doesn’t like him at all and charges filed against him were all manufactured.With Aquino at the helm,everything was bastardized…Between Aquino and Erap,I’d chose the latter hands down(but only if there’s nothing more to choose from)

  2. Alfred Salon on

    The Tripartite of Powers must consider changing the Philippine Constitution from a Democratic Form of Government into a Parliamentary. The Parliamentary will run the government , thus more flexibility on this; while the Executive will run the State.

  3. Pnoy’s Policy of Two Paths (Straight and Crooked) !

    The much vaunted Pnoy’s slogan of “straight path” is not at all absolute and all-inclusive corruption policy. Its trajectory gets “crooked” when the path of corruption leads to and point to his allies (in the Liberal Party, like Senate President Frank Drilon) and the President’s men (DBM Sec.Abad and Sec. Alcala). Although his anti-corruption policy netted “big fish” worthwhile to hook like the “Three
    Raiders of the Pork Barrel” (Enrile, Estrada and Revilla), the test of its genuiness of objective is when Pnoy crosses the lines of inclusiveness and include these allies and his men denounced in the list
    of Napoles and Benhur Luy. There are 20 Senators and 120 Congressmen (past and present) who were implicated in the Pork Barrel anomalies exposed by Napoles and Luy in their respective lists. In order to claim a fair and broad corruption policy, Pnoy MUST prosecute these fraudsters and scammers on the lists based on the whistleblowers testimonies and records. Pnoy must not defend his allies and cabinet men that list is mere accusation and no evidence linking them to the scam and presumed innocent! The least he could do is “file” the case and ask them to take leave of absence until they proved themselves absolved from charges. If not done, Pnoy’s crusade is tainted with malice, dishonesty and pure “selective” justice. The corruption is a farce and merely launched as another weapon of political opposition destruction.
    Jun Adan
    New York City

  4. Toti de Guzman on

    If the accused are all not guilty, who took the money? Aquino, the Ombudsman, De Lima? Who?

  5. … i was surprised by the fact of mr. tiglao uses some datas which can easily be denied by datas, but no one is dismissing the info he’s sharing, cant help not to admire the man for opening our eyes or maybe helping us see the TRUE picture…KEEP UP THE GODD WORK, SIR…

  6. Johnny Ramos on

    I sincerely doubt if morales and de Lima have evidences that the 3 senators ever signed a voucher or even their staff that could prove guilt. The testimonies of benhur and Tuason is not enough. Amlac failed to see money paper trails on the 3 including that of napoles. These charges were done in haste. Remember jocjoc remains to charged in court after 3 years in office of morales.

  7. so how did justice conchita carpio morales even make it to the supreme court? never won a case with the sandiganbyan in all her time as an ombudswoman. did she even win cases when practicing law before she got into government service? i want to know.

  8. If you believe everything Mr Tiglao writes in his column, then you are a fool and as biased as he is against the current administration. Tiglao does not have anything positive to say about P-Noy accomplishment, granted some of his decisions were not popular but overall, he is much better than his predecessor GMA. You all you be thankful Aquino was elected otherwise you would have had Estrada as your President and you all know what he did to this country. By the way, I am an American citizen, a Pilipino now living in the Philippines and is not an Aquinor nor opposition supporter.

    • edmundo de leon on

      the facts and data presented here in his (tiglao) column would not deny the true picture of the justice system here in country!

    • That’s why you are an ignoramus, go back to America. Gloria did more for this Country than Aquino or his mother has…you **** head. Mr Tiglao is spot on.

  9. You have not mentioned the case against Ongpin and the DBP officials which the Ombudsman also lost.

  10. Its like everyone in a position of any authority in this country seems incompetent. Is it just me & other foreigners who think this or do you filipinos also think this. If you also think it then why isnt something being done about it. It needs to start somewhere & im not sure if that somewhere should be at the top, the bottom or somehwre in between. But something drastic needs to happen or this country will forever continue to be a laughing stock to the rest of the world.

    • Sorry, the intelligent upright people of this country wont go near politics lest their morals be tainted and eaten up by our ingrained transactional politics.

  11. SALVACION CAHAYAG on

    The other day, Abnoy talked about entertainers who knows how to dance and sing only. True, Filipinos should not be voting these who only knows how to dance and
    sing just as like the one who years ago she said that she got tolo. Yes, Filipinos
    should not be voting for asawa ng bayan but vote for these who have
    demonstrated themselves as good example to the people. Not these who cannot
    even discipline members of their family.

  12. Alejo Rosete on

    The President?
    The Secretary of Finance?
    The Ombudsman?

    Three birds of the same feather?
    “Birds of the same feather flock together”

  13. THIS IS THE CAUSE OF THE FAILURE OF THE COUNTRY TO UPLIFT IT SELF , THE JUDICIAL MACHINERY IS KAPUT……..THERE IS NO WAY TO FIX IT FROM WITHINN,,,,,,BETTER TO OUTSOURCE THE SUPREME COURT TO COUNTRIES THAT ARE KNOWN TO HAVE EXCELLENT JUDICIAL SYSTEMS…….WHEN THE COUNTRY HAS AFEEL OF WHAT A FUNCTIONING JUDICAIL SYSYTEM, THEN WE CAN SLOWLY DO IN THE PH…
    AS OF NOW THE WHOLE LEGAL PROFESSION IS A FAILURE AND CORRUPT…HONESTY AND INTEGRITY IS A RARE EXCEPTION,

  14. Our Justice Department, the Office of the Ombudsman and Sandiganbayan are incompetent. With the snail pace the Sandiganbayan moves on the pork barrel scam cases against Revillia, Estrada and Enrile, it will take a decade or more before the cases are resolved. When the decision on the cases are made, the judgment will most like be “Not guilty” due to lack of evidence.

  15. Other columnists and opinion writers should follow the excellent habit of Mr. Tiglao to detail all his commentaries with figures and facts based on intensive research, if I may say. Doing so will make those who wants to contradict him only close their ears, mouth and eyes for any kind of rebuttal. Well, we already know who Conchita Carpio-Morales is. She is about to be called a clone of Pork and Bribe King PNoy, the man who likes to talk and does not walk the talk. Nobody in his cabinet and allies have the sense to tell PNoy that he talks to much but never walk the talk. Carpio-Morales is actually following the lead of PNoy, talks to much and take credit even if she does not deserve such.

    • Maxtar Tudtud on

      Guys, be understanding with senior citizen morales.She moves slow.thinks slow and acts slow because of her age. Morales and Penoy have the same personality. both are vindictive to others they despise.

    • a government to be helped needs to admit the wrong and blunders it committed before you can offer help. otherwise, you will be shunned by the self righteous stance and proclamations they can do no wrong!

    • Don’t think Mr. Tiglao is the right person to ask to initiate change. The leaders in the country should be the source of change, change which first of all stop government workers, legislators, government execs from stealing public money. We need Mr. Tiglao’s kind to inform, not misinform. So far he is doing a fine job, like so many others in the Manila Times.