No return, no exchange


Former Iloilo governor Niel Tupas Sr. holds the singular distinction of having been indicted by the beleaguered Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, twice in a three-year period.

In January 2007, Tupas was slapped the penalty of dismissal and perpetual disqualification from public office for allegedly pocketing P20,000 that the Iloilo provincial government gave a national organization of provincial board members as financial assistance. Tupas stood his ground and refused to step down as he questioned the order before the Court of Appeals. It was nothing more than political persecution, he believed, because he withdrew his allegiance to Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. He was among the governors who sympathized with the Hyatt 10 over the “Hello, Garci” issue and stuck to the Liberal Party position of fighting the corrupt administration of GMA.

Tupas knew the risks, but he stood firm on principle. When the dismissal order came, he refused to kneel and beg before GMA through her lieutenant, then DOJ secretary Raul M. Gonzalez. This steadfastness nearly proved deadly. The GMA administration, using the Ombudsman order of dismissal, sent 300 heavily armed policemen to storm the Iloilo Capitol to forcibly remove Tupas. The timely fax transmission of a temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Court of Appeals in Cebu stopped the policemen in their tracks as they prepared for the final assault to break open the door to the governor’s office. People would have been hurt, or lives even lost, had that happened.

Eventually, the Supreme Court ruled that the Ombudsman order was invalid. Tupas was denied due process, and the penalty of dismissal was an overkill in relation to the alleged offense he committed. This is a classic example of the distorted sense of justice that Gutierrez dispenses: protect the plunderers while sending the small fry to the gas chambers. And this was clearly a fabricated charge that had no basis in truth and in fact.

As the wheels of justice ground to a complete halt in its supposed investigation of mega-anomalies like the ZTE-NBN scandal, P720-million fertilizer fund scam, the multi-million highway robbery of Boboy Syjuco, the Ombudsman’s machinery was revving when it came to cases filed against Tupas.

Just two weeks before the May 10, 2010 elections, the Ombudsman handed down the second decision on the supposed irregularity in the grant of a quarry permit to a businessman in Iloilo. This is now the case that leaped to the centerstage in this epic impeachment drama. In the most stupid of stupidity, the Ombudsman, through Over-all Deputy Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro, ruled that Tupas should suffer the severe penalty of dismissal from office AGAIN in the administrative aspect of the case.

But, as the stupid decision put it, Tupas was absolved of any liability in the administrative case under the Aguinaldo doctrine. Tupas overwhelmingly won over his opponent in the 2007 local elections by a 220,000 vote margin, which extinguishes his administrative liability, if ever, over an alleged offense committed in 2004. Any lawyer would know that the proper thing to do, as the case was filed in 2008, was to dismiss the administrative complaint outright on the basis of the Aguinaldo doctrine. Gutierrez, hiding behind Casimiro, did not. She used the case to harass Tupas.

Anyway, the criminal complaint was rushed to the Sandiganbayan less than 24 hours after the resolution was penned. The indictment served another purpose — negative propaganda against Tupas, who was running for Congressman of the 4th district of Iloilo against incumbent Rep. Ferjenel Biron. It was an express train that was intended to throw Tupas off-balance trying to fend off a warrant of arrest two weeks before the elections. Actually, the plan was to keep it under wraps and spring an ambush on Tupas by serving him a warrant of arrest a few days before the elections. It was by accident that I stumbled upon the story through the ABS-CBN website at 5 o’ clock a.m. The element of surprise was deleted.

Tupas filed a motion for reconsideration on the decision shortly afterwards. He lost to Biron in the face of super-massive vote buying, but his son, Niel Jr., trounced his first cousin, Rolex T. Suplico, the 5th district of Iloilo. As fate would have it, Rep. Niel Jr. was chosen to become chairman of the House justice committee, and it was on his laps that two impeachment complaints were lodged against Merceditas Gutierrez. The younger Tupas didn’t ask to be made justice committee chair; he didn’t orchestrate the filing of impeachment complaints against Gutierrez.

Sometime in the 2nd week of September 2010, Tupas was surprised to find Casimiro waiting at his office. The House justice committee had commence its work on the complaints, and had in fact poisted to vote on the sufficiency in form and substance. Casimiro engaged Tupas, in the presence of his legal assistant, Atty. Joenar Pueblo, in light talk about his father’s case. “It was really weak right from the start,” Tupas quoted Casimiro as saying. But the deputy ombudsman said he was ordered to indict the older Tupas just the same. It doesn’t take too much brain power to figure out who could order him to do that.

“Then, Casimiro told me the case can be dismissed by way of approving the pending motion for reconsideration,” Rep. Tupas said. Casimiro’s voice dropped in a conspirational whisper: “What can you offer the Ombudsman in exchange?”

It was a horse-trade that Casimiro had proposed — unethical, illegal and unprofessional. The Ombudsman will drop the case against the father provided the son treats Gutierrez with leniency and allow her to squirm her way out of the impeachment. A very tempting offer, indeed, said Tupas.

But Tupas said “no”. His father will face the case squarely. He will not hide. He will not drop to his knees and pray for reversal of the indictment. “I cannot abandon my principles in exchange for my father’s case,” the younger Tupas said. The former governor agreed. The same issue had been decided by a Regional Trial Court in Iloilo in 2005 after a full-blown trial. The quarry permit was validly issued, the individual who obtained it was qualified, and then Gov. Tupas did nothing wrong. That decision was, and is, the best evidence in favor of Gov. Tupas.

Rep. Tupas revealed this secret offer immediately after the Ombudsman, again through Casimiro, rejected the motion for reconsideration. “I didn’t disclose it earlier because I didn’t want to sidetrack the focus,” Rep. Tupas said. “But I continued to fulfill my mandate despite this sword of Damocles hanging over the head of my father,” he added. Now that the Ombudsman had revived the case in apparent retaliation to the unshakable principle shown by the younger Tupas, he felt this attempt to bargain with him had to be exposed.

Casimiro, as expected, denied having tried to lobby for his boss. But he can’t hide the fact that he visited the office of Rep. Tupas in September. I am told there was even a second visit in which Gov. Tupas was present; Casimiro came to reiterate the offer. The logbooks would show that he went to see the son at his office. Was it just a social call? Did Casimiro go there to have coffee and just engage in friendly banter? He was the one who signed the original decision, as often happens when Gutierrez wants to wash her hands from a case. Certainly, Tupas wouldn’t feel too comfortable chatting with a man who tried to fire his father a second time.

The firm position taken by Tupas has frustrated Gutierrez. Her usual tactics didn’t work this time. She tried to deal with a person who adopted a “no return, no exchange” policy. No barter, no withdrawal of cases. Now she wants to use the issue to cast doubt over the credibility of Tupas. However, her lies will not bring her anywhere. The public isn’t likely to be deceived. A coincidence? The resolution was dated August 10, 2010. The lapse of five months before it was signed only reinforces the story of Rep. Tupas. It was kept hanging to be used as a bargaining tool.

Merceditas Gutierrez has done the country grave wrongs. There is growing anger among Filipinos as details about her anomalies are revealed. It is the position of the Tupas family that they can take the blows for the sake of making sure that the ends of justice and equity are served. Gov. Tupas survived an assault by 300 heavily armed policemen. He is not about to run away from this case, much unlike Merceditas Gutierrez who is getting more desperate in trying to stop the impeachment process.

About Manuel "Boy" Mejorada
Manuel "Boy" Mejorada is a journalist and social media activist. A former Iloilo provincial administrator, he is now waging a crusade against corruption and narco-politics.

4 Responses to No return, no exchange

  1. MichaelTanate says:

    She’s hiding behind her galamays… Walang delicadeza.. She should step down immediately. A disgrace among gov’t officials..

  2. Tony Mariano says:

    I seriously advice Rep. Junjun Tupas to show on TV the video showing his near deadly encounter (to him) with the police in the Iloilo Provl. Capitol, particularly where he was shown fearfully shielding his sister from the guns of the assualters. It would be a good reminder to all of the vindictiveness and visciousness of Ombudsman Gutierrez & the Arroyo administration against their enemies.

  3. Nell Suerte says:

    Truths will prevail…impeach Gutierrez..

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: