May 1, 2011
The next Ombudsman should immediately review the resolutions in relation to the fertilizer fund scam during the time of Merceditas Gutierrez, according to umbrella group Bagong Alyansang Makabayan.Last April 15, the Office of the Ombudsman ordered plunder raps filed against former DA undersecretary Joc-joc Bolante and other personalities in relation to the P728 million fertilizer fund scam.
“The acting Ombudsman should wait for the appointment of the new Ombudsman before proceeding with the filing of cases in the Sandiganbayan in relation to the fertilizer fund scam. We are concerned that defective information will be filed against Joc-joc Bolante and his cohorts. If Bolante is arraigned on weak charges, the defective information can eventually be dismissed and Bolante et al may no longer be charged again for the same offense,” said Bayan secretary general Renato M. Reyes, Jr.
Reyes, along with Mo Mary John Mananzan of Pagbabago, Danilo Ramos of Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, Ferdie Gaite of COURAGE, Atty. Edre Olalia of the National Union of People’ Lawyers, and Terry Ridon filed the second impeachment complaint in 2010. The Bayan complaint included as basis for the impeachment the Ombudsman’s inaction on the fertilizer scam, inaction on the Euro Generals case and whitewash of the Mega Pacific scam.
“The more prudent thing to do now is to wait for the new Ombudsman before the cases are filed in the Sandiganbayan. We need to ensure that the legal loopholes left by Gutierrez can still be cured. The former Ombudsman may have left ticking time-bombs so to speak, even after she has resigned,” Reyes said.
Bayan said that inordinate delay, a defective preliminary investigation and a deliberately weakened basis for the charge of plunder may be among the loopholes left by the Ombudsman in the belated filing of information against Bolante and his cohorts.
Merci weakened cases during her term
“From what we learned so far from witnesses, the Ombudsman seemed to have undermined the work of her own Field Investigation Office. FIO Reports recommending charges against Bolante et al were already finished as early as June 2006. The formal preliminary investigation should have begun immediately but there was unexplained delay,” Reyes said.
“From 2006-2007, according to sources and records, Gutierrez practically centralized and took control of important decisions that affected the conduct of the investigation and evidence gathering. Working on the case became more tedious and frustration soon set in. Eventually, key personnel doing work on the case were reassigned to do other departments,” he added.
Bayan said that even if the impeachment trial will not push through, the details would eventually be made known at the proper time and venue. “The actual investigation conducted by public prosecutor Rep. Neri Colmenares and the National Union of Peoples Lawyers (NUPL), based on information from key Ombudsman employees and officials, would have presented a detailed picture and timeline of how the investigations were started, completed and derailed,” Reyes added.
Look into new appointees
Bayan also called on the next Ombudsman to look into the recent appointees of outgoing Ombudsman Gutierrez.
“Days before she resigned, Gutierrez promoted eight personnel to the position of Assistant Ombudsman. These include Cesar Asuncion, Joseito Fangon, Elvira Chua, Aleu Amante, Marilou Mejica,, Rolando Zoleta, Cesar Tirol, Rabindranath Uy, according to reports. Their appointments, coming as they are before Gutierrez’s resignation, should at least be looked into by the next Ombudsman,” Reyes said.
“There are also reports that 20 new directors were appointed also during this period,” Reyes added. ###