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Kaso laban kay Pnoy, inatras

Umatras ang Office of the Ombudsman sa kasong isinampa laban kay dating Pangulong Noynoy Aquino sa Sandiganbayan kaugnay sa Mamasapano massacre apat na taong nakaraan.

Sa isang “motion to withdraw information,” sinabi ni Ombudsman Samuel Martires na binabawi muna ng Ombudsman ang reklamo nito laban kay Aquino at dating PNP chief Alan Purisima dahil kulang ang ebidensya na kasama sa kaso.

Ano ang ibig sabihin nito? Na makakatakas si Abnoy sa pananagutan niya bilang Commander in Chief sa pagkamatay ng #SAF44 na mga police commandos?

Hindi po.

Kasi nga, noong isinampa ang kaso ni dating Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales bago siya nag retiro, napansin na ng mga legal experts na mahina o “weak” ang reklamo, at malamang ay mahuhulog na lang ito sa acquittal, o pag-walang sala kay Aquino.

Kinakailangan mag-conduct muli ng Preliminary Investigation ang Ombudsman upang makatanggap ng mas malakas na ebidensya.

Sinadya talaga yun ni Carpio-Morales na i-akyan ang kaso kahit kulang ang ebidensya upang maka-iwas si Aquino sa pagkabilanggo.

Kasi nga may tinatawag tayo na “double jeopardy”. Kung nakaharap na ang isang tao sa paglitis sa kaso at ma-walang sala ito o ma-acquit, hindi na siya puwede pang kasohan pa ulit sa parehong kasalanan.

Mabuti na lang at napahinto ni Ombudsman Martires ang trial kaagad-agad. Ito ang paraan upang hindi mag-apply ang “double jeopardy” rule.

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Is the battle against corruption worth fighting?

Sometimes I get to ask myself whether all the sacrifice, and risk to my personal safety, are worth it when I dig into leads on anomalous transactions in government. And that question once more came to mind yesterday (March 23, 2018) when I read in the news that the graft case I had filed against Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco, Jr. in connection with the P3.25 million fertilizer fund scam in Iloilo’s 2nd District was dismissed by the Sandiganbayan due to the Ombudsman’s inordinate delay in conducting its preliminary investigation.

I filed the case in 2004 while I was still provincial administrator of Iloilo. But it took the Ombudsman more than 11 years to wrap up its preliminary investigation and file an indictment against Syjuco. The Sandiganbayan had no recourse but grant the motion to dismiss filed by Syjuco’s lawyers as the snail-paced preliminary investigation violated Syjuco’s right to speedy justice. I was also a victim, because my right to the speedy prosection of my complaint was violated. It is a right afforded to both parties to a case.

The Sandiganbayan was only being consistent. It had dismissed a long list of cases based on that ground alone. It wasn’t even about the evidence, because in this case, there was abundant documentary evidence to show that the entire transaction happened only on paper. Not a single drop of liquid fertilizer reached the hands of supposed beneficiaries in Alimodian. The list of “farmers” were only made up by Syjuco’s own men. Syjuco, through his Tawo kag Duta Cooperative, pocketed P3.25 million. It could have been P5.0 million which was the allocation for the 2nd district. But my investigation into the case scared off Syjuco’s people, and aborted the effort to collect the balance.

The other cases I had filed are at risk. These had also taken more than six years to resolve at the preliminary investigation stage. Syjuco’s lawyers will most certainly try to get them dismissed on the same ground.

Which brings me to the question: Is the Ombudsman even committed to obtaining the conviction of Syjuco and other public officials charged with graft? Sadly, the track record of the Ombudsman doesn’t give reason for me to answer in the affirmative. It has already lost a number of big cases because of that ground alone. In other cases, sloppy lawyering led to the dismissal of the cases.

It’s not just sloppy lawyering that has hindered the Ombudsman’s ability to run after the crooks in government and punish them for their corruption. I’ve become aware of specific instances when Ombudsman investigators offered to dismiss graft cases in exchange for millions of pesos. The very agency that is mandated under the Constitution to run after crooks in government is engaged in corrupt practices. Justice is also for sale at the Ombudsman.

So far, the Ombudsman’s track record has been limited to sending rank-and-file employees to prison. It’s been prosecution the pork barrel scam for many years now, and it hasn’t obtained a single conviction. Its success is counted with lowly clerks being dismissed from the service or sent to jail. It tried to redeem its image by dismissing Jed Patrick Mabilog as city mayor of Iloilo City last year. That action didn’t impress President Duterte.

My only consolation is that my exposes on Syjuco’s anomalies awakened the constituency of the 2nd district of Iloilo to his corruption. In 2013, the voters of the 2nd district of Iloilo rejected Syjuco’s bid for a fourth term as congressman, losing to Arcadio Gorriceta, the three-term municipal mayor of Pavia. In a way, I can claim credit for the lonely battle to educate the people about Syjuco’s corruption. That, for me, was punishment enough for Syjuco.

Syjuco is also facing criminal charges for the corruption at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) in 2004 to 2010. Billions of pesos were plundered in overpriced purchases of tools and equipment, money that could have been spent for the educaton of young Filipinos in vocational skills. I am hopeful that Syjuco would be convicted, even if he doesn’t get to be jailed on account of his age.

Where is Boboy Syjuco?

Two weeks ago, I sat down for coffee with former colleagues in the congressional office of then Iloilo 2nd District Rep. Augusto “Boboy” Syjuco, Jr. It was a reunion of sorts but with one agenda: the corruption cases now pending before the Sandiganbayan against Syjuco. I filed four of these cases (now estimated at 12). The problem is that many other people, including two or three of my former colleagues, were implicated in the cases. They definitely had nothing to do with the crimes. But the paper trail put them in the scene of the crime, so to speak. They were just at the wrong place at the wrong time.

boboy syjuco

Photo credit: Getty Images

The problem was that Syjuco, who served as congressman for nine years (1998-2001, 2001-2004, and then 2010-2013) and Director General of TESDA in 2005-2010, left his former employees to fend for their own. He did not provide them with a lawyer. Syjuco’s corruption also left a trail of misery and legal woes for incumbent 2nd District Rep. Arcadio Gorriceta and Alimodian municipal mayor Geefrey “Kalay” Alonsabe, among others.

Gorriceta was charged before the Sandiganbayan a few months ago along with Syjuco over the P5 million education-for-all project that was implemented through the Pavia LGU in 2004. Gorriceta is being held to account because he approved the disbursement to Syjuco’s NGO, the Tagipusuon Foundation, despite the improper liquidation. Two other former LGU officials were charged in the case.

For his part, Alonsabe was indicted by the Ombudsman’s Field Investigation Office for his participation as municipal councilor in 2004 in ratifying an agreement with Syjuco’s other NGO, Tawo kag Duta Cooperative, for a P5.0 million fertilizer program. The Ombudsman validated my complaint that it was a ghost project. My complaint was only against Syjuco, but the Ombudsman implicated several others, including former employees of “Tito Boboy” and LGU officials.

Syjuco is also facing criminal charges before the Sandiganbayan for the many anomalies at TESDA in which more than a billion pesos are believed to have been plundered. I am just surprised why plunder wasn’t one of the charges filed against him. He should be held in jail without bail.

But where is Syjuco now?

According to newspaper reports, Syjuco was granted a permit to travel abroad last month ostensibly to undergo medical treatment in Singapore. What is his medical condition? Is it really necessary for him to seek treatment abroad? Knowing Syjuco, he will use all kinds of excuses just to avoid trial. His foreign trip caused an arraignment scheduled two weeks ago at the Sandiganbayan to be postponed. His co-accused spent a lot of money only to be told the arraignment would not push through.

Anyway, Syjuco could have left a legacy in the 2nd district of Iloilo. He was super rich when he became congressman, and there was no reason for him to want to steal. But there are things we can’t understand in some people. This guy’s greed was beyond comprehension. I was his chief of staff in 1998. When I saw corruption setting in, I left in 2001.

This is one guy who deserves to rot in jail for his sins against the Filipino people.

Gone is the rule of law

I just received word that the Ombudsman, in less than one month, dismissed my motion for reconsideration in the graft complaint I filed against Senate President Franklin Drilon and several other respondents in connection with the Iloilo Convention Center project anomalies.

The Ombudsman has shown once again its unrivaled speed and efficiency in resolving cases (lopsidedly when it comes to close allies of the President). I filed the motion for reconsideration on June 4, 2015 (by registered mail). The resolution denying it was signed by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on July 9, 2015.
This was not unexpected. When the Ombudsman dismissed my complaint in record time of five months last May, I knew that forces outside the law were at work here. This is an agency that takes five years, on the average, in resolving simple graft cases. Several complaints I have filed against Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog have languished in the central office on review for more than two years (and that’s just REVIEW).
The Ombudsman swept aside the truth, especially on the point that the fund disbursements for the ICC from the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) were illegal and constituted malversation of public funds. The DAP funds for the ICC were disbursed through DPWH even if there was no line item budget for the project in the 2011, 2012 and 2013 General Appropriations Act (GAA). The Ombudsman mocked at the decision of the Supreme Court on the DAP cases when it ruled that those funds allocated to projects NOT INCLUDED IN THE GAA AS LINE ITEMS ARE UNCONSTITUTIONAL AND ILLEGAL. It is so brazen that one wonders where the rule of law has been buried.
This is a concrete illustration of selective justice. The evidence was ignored to favor the respondents, especially Senate President Drilon. I must accept defeat in the face of this herculean conspiracy to bury the truth. I am powerless against them. I have no resources to carry the battle to the higher courts.
I guess this will have to be resolved at a later time when the rule of law is fully restored in our country, and the principle of accountability is strengthened. The Ombudsman is making a huge travesty of the anti-corruption efforts. It is undermining its own mandate.
With my head unbowed, I say, I have fought the good fight.

One small step, a giant leap for justice

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas is set to conduct the preliminary investigation into my complaint that a P13.5-million contract funded from the pork barrel of Senate President Franklin M. Drilon for the development of the Iloilo Esplanade was anomalous.
On Wednesday, I received a letter from the just-retired Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelayo Apostol informing me that a fact-finding investigation done by Ombudsman graft investigators in Iloilo City has been upgraded into a formal charge for criminal and administrative offenses.
The cases, docketed as OMB-V-C-14-0489 and OMB-V-A-14-0347, primarily involves Edilberto Tayao, regional director of the Department of Public Works and Highways, and the chairman and members of the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC).
Apostol’s letter did not mention Senate President Drilon who was listed in my complaint.
A check with the Office of the Ombudsman elicited information that the cases are entitled, “OMB-RO6 and Manuel Mejorada versus Edilberto Tayao, et al.”
For me, the upgrading of my complaint into a formal charge is a giant leap for justice.
I wish to highlight that the Office of the Ombudsman, Region VI, has filed this as co-complainant.
What does this mean? It demolishes the defense of the Senate President who said that the anomalies were just “a figment of my imagination”.
After I filed this complaint on September 10, 2013, no less than Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales ordered the anti-graft body’s investigators to determine whether it had legal and factual basis.
I was told that Ombudsman Morales gave this instruction in a hand-written note on my complaint.
The report of the fact-finding team validated my charges that the items of work stated in the project’s contract were “ghost” or non-existent.
This is enough vindication for me. The complaint is based on facts. The award of the contract was anomalous. Public funds were squandered.

Now, it’s not just me talking, but the Ombudsman Region VI as well.
But it will not, and must not, end there. It should proceed to the next step, which is an indictment of the public officials involved in this corruption.

For a background on this case, you can read this previous post:

https://manuelboymejorada.wordpress.com/2013/08/31/down-the-drain/

Ombudsman seeks COA help in graft probe on Drilon project

Ombudsman seeks COA help in graft probe on Drilon project

NEWS RELEASE

The Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas has asked the Commission on Audit (COA) in Region VI to undertake an audit of the P33.9-million contract to build the Esplanade II project along the Iloilo River which is alleged to be overpriced and the public bidding rigged.

In a 1st Indorsement dated May 6, 2014, Deputy Ombudsman Pelayo Apostol forwarded the complaint of Iloilo journalist Manuel “Boy” Mejorada against Senate President Franklin Drilon and key officials of the Department of Public Works over alleged violations of the government procurement reform law and the anti-graft and corrupt practices act.

Apostol addressed the request to COA VI regional director Evelyn P. Reyes. A copy of the transmittal letter was furnished Mejorada as the complainant.

In his complaint, Mejorada said the DPWH Bids and Awards Committee made a mockery of R.A. 9184 which established guidelines on the conduct of public biddings for government procurement.

Mejorada said that on the face of the information he obtained from the website of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) on the contract, the bidding process was “rigged” with the winning contractor submitted an offer which is only 0.12% below the approved budget for the contract.

The DPWH had set an ABC of P33,950,000 for the development of a 700-meter long embankment on the Molo side of the Iloilo river.

Roprim Construction, which had also been awarded the contract for Esplanade I, submitted a bid of P33,908,791.50, which is just P41,208.50 lower than the ABC. Mejorada said this is an incredible winning bid, as it almost hit the ABC by a hairline difference.

Mejorada said the public bidding was apparently manipulated to favor Roprim Construction, which he described as a favored contractor of Drilon. This is the same contractor that cornered the overpriced Esplanade I two years ago at a total cost of P83.5 million.

On Sept. 10, 2013, Mejorada also filed a graft case against Drilon and the DPWH BAC before the Ombudsman for the apparent ghost implementation of a P13.5 million PDAF disbursement AFTER the project was already completed and inaugurated.

Moreover, the contract price for the project is overpriced by about P20 million, he said.

In addition to these “glaring anomalies”, Mejorada said the DPWH violated the revised implementing rules and regulations of R.A. 9184 with its failure to post the notices of award and to proceed to the contractor within the prescribed number of days.

He said this was done to hide the contract from other interested bidders.

Mejorada said Drilon is being implicated in this case because he is the prime mover for the development of the project. The project was funded from the controversial Development Acceleration Program (DAP) of the Aquino administration, he said.

The Ombudsman’s request for an audit is intended to establish the veracity of Mejorada’s claim that the contract is overpriced and that the bidding was rigged.

Aside from Drilon, Mejorada included DPWH regional director Edilberto Tayao and the entire Bids and Awards Committee of the DPWH Region VI as respondents.

The complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman-Visayas Iloilo field office on March 27, 2014.

 

Drilon’s ‘Midas touch’

Not a few people raised their eyebrows last Sunday when Senate President Franklin Drilon boasted that by this time next year, the City of Iloilo will be inaugurating the P1 billion state of the art Convention Center at the Iloilo Business Park of MegaWorld.

It’s not because they doubted that the Convention Center will indeed by completed by then. The construction of the project has commenced on a 1.6-hectare lot at the heart of the old Iloilo airport in Mandurriao. The reaction was triggered by the amount mentioned by the Senate President as the project cost — P1 billion.

How did the project cost escalate to P1 billion?

When the project was announced back in February 2012, the estimated cost for the convention center was only P350 million. Then in the middle of 2013, the figure rose to P400 million. Towards the last quarter, it had become P470 millon. (The approved budget for the contract as advertised by DPWH was P478 million).

And now Drilon announced the total cost is P1 billion!

Nobody has bothered to tell the people the reasons for the creeping increases in cost estimates, and now this giant leap.

Perhaps it’s the product of Drilon’s “Midas touch”. It’s the same phenomenon that was observed in other infrastructure projects he initiated for Iloilo City. Of course, everybody knows the rise in prices isn’t the result of a legitimate increase in the cost of construction materials. The overprice goes to a bank account that is getting fatter and fatter and fatter every day.

It doesn’t end there. Just this morning, it was reported over RMN 774 (as disclosed by Atty. Pistong Melliza on Facebook) that the convention center, once completed and operational, will be turned over to a private entity for the management and supervision. Does this mean the government will not earn anything from its bloated P1 billon investment?