Palace communications team at the Inquirer | Inquirer Opinion
As I See It

Palace communications team at the Inquirer

/ 05:31 AM March 21, 2011

PRESIDENT AQUINO’S communications team composed of Edwin Lacierda, Ricky Carandang, Abigail Valte and Manolo Quezon III (Sonny Coloma was not with them) went to the Inquirer editorial offices Thursday evening (March 17) to communicate with Inquirer columnists, editors and reporters and clarify whatever was not clear in their minds. In a freewheeling question-and-answer session that lasted until 12:30 in the morning, almost all issues were discussed. Some answers were off the record which the journalists are bound to respect.

For me, the most important issue was the stalled anti-corruption campaign of the administration. I will concentrate on this and let the others comment on the other issues.


“Do you realize that there is a general public perception that the administration is very slow in pushing the reforms that Noynoy promised?” the Malacañang team was asked. P-Noy was elected with the biggest majority ever in Philippine history because the people thought that here at last is the knight in shining armor, the son of Ninoy and Cory, who would finally slay the dragon of corruption.

It seemed that their expectations would be fulfilled when P-Noy, in his inaugural speech, banned the use, effective immediately, of sirens by public officials and their escorts and refused to use it himself even when it was necessary in heavy traffic.


But that was all. Nothing else followed. The excessive bonuses and allowances of officials and board members of government corporations were exposed and suspended by P-Noy but it is taking a very long time for the new rules on their pay to be issued. The suspension is almost over and with no new rules, it means that the abusive pay scales would go back to what they were. Happy days would be here again for the GOCC (government-owned and -controlled corporation) officials.

That is not all. Corruption in government continues. Instead of being discontinued, the hated pork barrel, the mother of all corruption, was increased by the congressmen with not a whimper from Malacañang. Worse, another pork barrel from the road users’ tax was added. Government lawyers are losing so many corruption cases in the courts that many people are wondering whether they are prosecutors or defense lawyers.

They lost the tax credit scam against the Chingkoe couple and their cohorts in government, a simple open-and-shut case. The plunder case against Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, the AFP comptroller with the Midas touch, is a high-profile case, the last straw that broke the camel’s back.

Government prosecutors spent more time defending the plea bargain of General Garcia in which the plunder case would be withdrawn in exchange for a plea of guilty for the lesser offenses of bribery and money laundering, plus returning to the government less than half of the estimate P300 million loot he had amassed (he would be allowed to keep the rest.) Unlike plunder, the lesser offenses are bailable, because of which General Garcia is now out of jail, enjoying his freedom and his loot. The behavior of the special prosecutors of the Office of the Ombudsman was so scandalous that it prompted the filing of the impeachment case against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, carrying with it other high-profile cases that the Ombudsman should have prosecuted but did not.

From the explanations of P-Noy’s communication team, it seems that they have found a convenient scapegoat in Ombudsman Gutierrez. With her as Ombudsman, no corruption case would prosper, they said. The prosecutors would find ways to lose cases, not to win them, they argued.

Investigators have unearthed many more corrupt deals in government, they said, but the administration won’t file them with the Ombudsman while Merci is there. In short, Merci is like the cork in the bottle that prevents anything from going in or out of the bottle.

That explains why the administration is pushing the impeachment case against Merci. The government’s anti-corruption drive is permanently stalled while she is there.


What if the Senate acquits her? The administration will wait until her term expires next year.

What about the Department of Justice? Can’t it file the graft cases against public officials?

Answer: Graft cases are the exclusive jurisdiction of the Ombudsman. She would just claim jurisdiction over the cases so nothing would happen.

So there you have it: if the Senate shows mercy on Merci and doesn’t kick her out, we would continue to wallow in corruption and the corrupt would run laughing all the way to their banks. She stays, corruption stays. In short, one woman has been able to block the efforts of “the best and the brightest” in P-Noy’s administration to curb corruption. At least that’s what Malacañang is trying to communicate. Is that one way of warning or pressuring the members of Congress? If our anti-corruption drive falters, it is your fault, not ours.

You let her off the hook.

* * *

Do you know that Manila Water and Maynilad Water have collected from consumers more than P4 billion in additional charges to finance ghost water projects? This was exposed by Bagong Henerasyon party-list Rep. Bernadette Herrera-Dy at the Kapihan sa Sulo last Saturday.

Aren’t the two water concessionaires liable for estafa for collecting fees under false pretenses?

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TAGS: governance, government offices, Graft & Corruption, impeachment, politics
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