One normally cheers whenever corruption charges are filed against so-called big fish, like Senator Jose Victor Ejercito. On Wednesday this week, the Sandiganbayan ordered JV arrested over alleged malversation when he was San Juan mayor, for spending P2.1 million in calamity funds on firearms for the police.
That was dazzling speed on a case filed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales just last week. But rather than lauding fast justice, one cannot but contrast the fast-tracked P2.1 million case with Morales’s utter inaction on the largest malversation in Philippine history ever: President Benigno Aquino 3rd’s P157-billion Disbursement Acceleration Program.
Back in July 2014, the Supreme Court declared the DAP illegal and told Morales to investigate it and file charges against its authors. Nearly two years later, there is no investigation report and no charges.
This despite the Supreme Court’s explicit statement in its 14-0 decision that the DAP disbursed funds without any budgetary authorization — the worst kind of malversation, in which money is spent with no legal basis whatsover.
Said Morales’s former SC colleagues: “Upon careful review of the documents contained in the seven evidence packets [presented in the case], we conclude that the ‘savings’ pooled under the DAP were allocated to PAPs [programs and projects]that were not covered by any appropriations in the pertinent GAAs [General Appropriations Acts, the national budget laws].”
An opposition senator is charged and ordered arrested for allegedly spending P2.1 million in calamity funds to buy guns for the police. But Palace officials, who allocated billions of pesos on unbudgeted expenditures, are untouchable.
Can’t Morales request Supreme Court staff, whom she knows from her judicial days, for copies of the seven evidence packets containing disbursements with no apparent budget cover? Then she can ask Budget Secretary Florencio Abad to show where in the GAAs these expenditures were authorized. Any item not in any budget is malversation.
That’s so easy — unless Morales is protecting Malacañang.
If she is, then Morales should know how fatal that can be for her office. Her predecessor Merceditas Gutierrez was impeached by the House of Representatives for breach of public trust because she allegedly showed favor to former President Gloria Arroyo.
Gutierrez supposedly failed to charge Arroyo in such anomalies as the P728-million fertilizer scam, allegedly perpetrated in 2004, and the canceled P15-billion national broadband network project. She was also accused of inaction on other cases, including the voided Mega Pacific contract, which the Supreme Court ordered investigated.
Those unhappy with Ombudsman Morales would have their own list of cases seemingly lacking in prompt OMB action.
Besides DAP malversation, Morales may be lacking in prompt action on such highly publicized anomalies as the disappearance of more than 2,000 untaxed and uninspected cargo containers in 2011, the largest spate of smuggling in the country ever; and the billion-peso procurement of combat helicopters, for which the United States has reported slowed military aid.
Her exoneration of Transportation and Communciations Secretaries Mar Roxas and Jose Emilio Abaya in the graft case over the dubious Metro Rail Transit maintenance contract has also drawn criticism, especially now that principal accused former MRT general manager Al Vitangcol has exposed how Roxas failed to act promptly on maintenance services, prompting the allegedly corrupt negotiated contract with PH Trams, owned by a fellow Liberal Party leader of Roxas and Abaya.
Add to the inaction list the 2011 bidding for police rifles, which President Aquino himself found to be overpriced; and the Land Transportation Office awarding of the vehicle license plate contract in 2013 with no budget cover (see Ricardo Saludo’s article “How the Ombudsman can prove she is not biased” at http://www.manilatimes.net/how-the-ombudsman-can-prove-she-is-not-biased/226156/).
In sum, while the nation is keen to see big fish in the Ombudsman’s net, if bigger fish with administration colors get away, then it only shows that corruption pays if you’re in the ruling camp. That is breach of public trust.