NEWS RELEASE – May 10, 2011
Casiño: Congress should help in filing cases versus Gutierrez, probe defects in Ombudsman procedures
Bayan Muna Rep. Teddy Casiño, in a privilege speech last night, called on the House to help complainants from peoples organizations and farmer’s groups file criminal and administrative charges versus former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, in particular violation of Sec. 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, among others; and to exercise its oversight and legislative powers in strengthening the institution in the continuing fight against graft and corruption.
“The resignation of Ombudsman is a victory in our continuing struggle against corruption and the protectors of the corrupt. But Gutierrez resigned to cut her losses as well as the losses of Mrs. Arroyo. Congress should now follow through on this through its legislative and oversight functions as well as support initiatives of our people to hold accountable not only former Ombudsman Gutierrez but the officials she was protecting – including former President Gloria Arroyo. We said it then and we repeat, Ombudsman Gutierrez was impeached for protecting the former President. If she has resigned and is being held accountable for this, what more the former President, who is accountable for graver crimes and anomalies?” Casiño said.
The progressive solon said in his speech that Ombudsman Gutierrez systematically hindered her investigators in Task Force Abono from pursuing leads and effectively sabotaged the fertilizer fund scam investigation and case-build up process.
“The House should conduct an inquiry on how the processes within the Ombudsman have been so re-engineered by Gutierrez to make it vulnerable to delay and corruption. For example, the way cases have been dribbled between the Field Investigation Office (FIO) and the Preliminary, Administrative and Management Office (PAMO). Or the way the Ombudsman has centralized all resolutions and reports to her office, thereby undermining the powers of her deputies. Or how centralizing all requests to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) has made it harder for investigators to conduct paper trails of stolen money. The approval of all reports, decisions, and investigations and travel authorization were centralized by Gutierrez. This was done to ensure that no cases in the fertilizer fund scam would be filed,” Casiño said.
“Getting Gutierrez out of the way is one step towards getting corrupt officials accountable. It is high time that we pursue cleaning up and strengthening the institutional processes of the Ombudsman so that all the cases versus Gutierrez and the accountable officials she was protecting can be pursued,” Casiño said. #
Privilege Speech follows.
On the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez
Privilege Speech delivered by
Rep. Teddy Casiño (Bayan Muna Party List)
May 9, 2011
Mr. Speaker, distinguished colleagues.
I rise to avail of the privilege hour to speak about the resignation of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez.
Last April 29, ten days before the opening of her impeachment trial in the Senate, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned, saying that she did not want the House, the Senate, the Executive and the nation at large to be consumed by her removal from public office. She said she would rather that we focus instead on the impelling problems of our people.
Well, that is exactly what we wanted to do with her impeachment – focus on the impelling problem of corruption and remove the biggest stumbling block to holding the corrupt, former President and her officials accountable for their crimes.
Yun sana ang habol natin sa trial, mailabas ang buong katotohanan tungkol sa kanyang pananagutan sa pagtatakip ng mga kaso ni dating pangulong Gloria Arroyo at kanyang mga opisyal.
Her trial in the Senate would have further exposed her gross, inexcusable delays and inaction on cases involving the former president and her corrupt officials, but her deliberate acts to whitewash and sabotage said cases. Not only that, it would have exposed the accountabilities as well of her patron, the former president.
And so she resigned to cut her losses as well as the losses of Mrs. Arroyo.
Kung natuloy lang ang impeachment trial, siguradong tanggal si Ombudsman Gutierrez sa pwesto at muling masasariwa sa publiko ang napakaraming anomalya ng nagdaang administrasyon.
Isang halimbawa lang ng mga dagdag na ebidensya na nakuha ng ating mga complainants, congressmen-prosecutors, private prosecutors at volunteers ay ang pagsabotahe ni Ombudsman Gutierrez sa kaso ng GMA fertilizer fund scam.
Ayon sa mga insider na kanilang nakausap, ang mismong panel ng mga imbestigador na itinayo ng kanyang Field Investigation Office, ang Task Force Abono, ay tinalian niya ng kamay at kinalaunan ay binuwag. Paano ito ginawa? It would be instructive to see how the Ombudsman undermined her own Task Force Abono.
On Feb. 28, 2006, Task Force Abono convened and started its investigations. Within weeks, in March of 2006, Ombudsman Gutierrez issued a Memorandum Order requiring that all resolutions, decisions, fact-finding reports, investigation reports and/or orders shall be approved by the Ombudsman herself. This became a stumbling bloc to the filing of cases by the assistant ombudsman. Prior to such order, the assistant ombudsman was authorized to approve fact-finding and/or investigation reports for the filing of case/s for preliminary investigation or for administrative adjudication. The approval of the Ombudsman was required only if the recommendation was for the closure of investigation/dismissal of a complaint. Samakatuwid, binago ng Ombudsman ang proseso at tiniyak na walang makakapag-file ng kaso laban sa mga sangkot sa fertilizer fund scam kung hindi dadaan sa kanya. At totoo nga, wala siyang inaprubahang pag-file ng kaso sa loob ng limang taon.
On June 2006, the first of 30 reports of Task Force Abono reached the Ombudsman’s office. It recommended the filing of criminal complaints against Jocelyn Joc-Joc Bolante, several congressmen, LGU officials, and private individuals for violating Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code as well as Sections 3 (e) and (g) of Republic Act 3019. It also recommended administrative cases against incumbent officials and the suspension of said public officials pursuant to Section 24, Republic Act 6770. The Ombudsman subsequently sat on these recommendations.
A month later on July 2006, the second report was submitted to the Ombudsman. It recommended criminal charges for violation of RA 3019 Sec. 3 (e) and (g) against 15 public officials and private persons, including those connected to Feshan Philippines, one of the suppliers of the fake and overpriced liquid fertilizers, for violation of RA 9184 Sec. 65 (b) subparagraph 4. Public officials were likewise recommended to be charged for Dishonesty, Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service and slapped suspension orders. Again, the Ombudsman sat on the case.
Task Force Abono’s investigations continued the following year until April 2007. By this time, the Ombudsman had centralized the approval of all travel authorities and was making it hard for Task Force Abono to travel outside Metro Manila to secure records, documents and reports from different COA Auditors’ Offices in Cebu, Davao and other areas, as well as to secure Sworn Statements of witnesses in the Fertilizer Scam.
When Task Force Abono conducted paper trails on the money disbursed in the Fertilizer Scam and found out that several CHECKS in payment to alleged fertilizer suppliers were deposited to a BANK ACCOUNT maintained at Land Bank, Department of Agriculture Extension Branch, Elliptical Road, Quezon City, the Ombudsman issued a Memorandum Order requiring that ALL request or referral to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) for documents, information, or for the conduct of bank account examination of subjects of investigation in the Ombudsman be coursed through the Ombudsman for approval. This effectively thwarted efforts to conduct a more expansive and deeper investigation of the paper trail.
Despite such acts by the Ombudsman, the Task Force persevered. By July 2007, Task Force Abono submitted not less than THIRTY (30) Investigation Reports in the Fertilizer Fund Scam, all recommending the filing of criminal and administrative charges against the concerned public officials and private persons found to have involvement in the scam.
Pero ano po ang ginawa ng Ombudsman sa mga report na ito? Wala.
In fact, rather than support the Task Force in its zeal to prosecute the case, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez transferred one of the co-chairmen of the FIO to the Preliminary, Administrative and Monitoring Office (PAMO), effectively relieving him of his position in the Task Force and putting him in the freezer. This was in August 9, 2007. A week later, on August 16, 2007, The other co-chairman of Task Force Abono was also relieved for no reason and directed to report to his subordinate, a junior officer, the latter being designated as his replacement as the OIC-Director of the Asset Investigation Bureau. This caused the person’s resignation.
The transfer and subsequent relieve of the two co-chairmen effectively disbanded the Task Force Abono and stopped the conduct of the case build-up and gathering of evidences.
Mr. Speaker, my colleagues, kitang-kita dito na hindi lang nagpabaya si Ombudsman Gutierrez kundi aktibong kumilos para talian ang kamay ng mga imbestigador at itigil ang imbestigasyon. For this, she deserves not only impeachment but criminal and administrative charges, in particular Sec. 3 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and Article 208 of the Revised Penal Code, among others.
It is important to note that in her resignation statement, Ombudsman Gutierrez never acknowledged her shortcomings. Sa kabliktaran, nagyabang pa siya na siya ay isang mahusay na Ombudsman at parang siya pa ang biktima. Hindi pwedeng ganyan na lang, na para bang tayo pa ang may utang na loob sa kanya sa kanyang pagre-resign. Her resignation does not and should not get her off the hook.
Thus, we expect other sectors, particularly the farmers groups and other complainants of the impeachment complaint, to pursue such charges in the courts. We urge the House, specifically the Justice Committee, to extend assistance to such initiatives from our people.
More importantly for the House, I think it is important that we conduct an inquiry, in pursuit of our legislative and oversight powers, on how the processes within the Ombudsman has been so designed to make it vulnerable to delay and corruption. For example, the way cases have been dribbled between the Field Investigation Office and the Preliminary, Administrative and Management Office (PAMO). Or the way the Ombudsman has centralized all resolutions and reports to her office, thereby undermining the powers of her deputies. Or how centralizing all requests to the Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLAC) has made it harder for investigators to conduct paper trails of stolen money.
Pero yan ho ay sa usapin ng Ombudsman lamang. The more pressing thing now is to hold accountable the person who the Ombudsman was protecting – and that is former President Gloria Arroyo.
Last year, this representation filed a case in the DOJ against the former president on the issue of the NBN-ZTE contract. A group of human rights advocates have filed cases as well for extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances during her term. A few weeks ago, former solicitor general Frank Chavez filed plunder cases against the former President. Now that Ombudsman Gutierrez has resigned, we expect more cases to be filed. And we expect the new Ombudsman to act on these cases with dispatch.
We said it then and we repeat, Ombudsman Gutierrez was impeached for protecting the former President. If she has resigned and is being held accountable for this, what more the former President, who is accountable for graver crimes and anomalies?
The resignation of Ombudsman is a victory in our continuing struggle against corruption and the protectors of the corrupt. The House should follow through on this through its legislative and oversight functions as well as support initiatives of our people to hold accountable not only former Ombudsman Gutierrez but the people she was protecting.#