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Ombudsman pussyfooting on QC ghost workers

/ 01:16 AM June 08, 2011

It has been many months since former Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr. exposed at the Kapihan sa Manila at the Diamond Hotel the existence of ghost employees at the Quezon City Council. Each councilor has in the city payroll about 130 employees, the senator said, but only less than 30 of them are real flesh-and-blood workers. The rest are ghost employees. Somebody collects their salaries every forthnight.

There are four councilors for each of the city’s four districts. With 100 ghost employees in the payroll of each councilor, each being paid thousands of pesos per forthnight, you have an idea how much of the people’s taxes is being stolen every month.

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The senator presented a whistle-blower, a QC insider, who is willing to testify against the erring councilors. For starters, they identified three councilors with ghost employees in a complaint to the Office of the Ombudsman. They submitted evidence, among them fake applications and identification documents of the ghost employees. The documents had fake names, signatures and fake photographs bought from photo shops.

That exposé was made many months ago, but until now there is only silence from the Ombudsman, from the city administration, and from the councilors themselves. By keeping silent, they obviously hoped that the anomaly would be forgotten.

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The strangest response comes from the Office of the Ombudsman which was set up precisely to root out corruption in the government. Last Monday, at the Kapihan sa Diamond, Pimentel revealed that he had inquired at the Office of the Ombudsman why there has been no action to the complaints they had filed against three councilors. The reply floored him; it reveals why the Office of the Ombudsman has not gained any headway in the fight against corruption. It appears that their prosecutors would rather look the other way or make plea bargains for the accused instead of prosecuting the grafters.

In his reply to Pimentel, one Assistant Ombudsman Joselito P. Fangon of the Field Investigation Office said that his office has been investigating “anonymous reports in the newspapers of alleged ghost employees at QC Hall.” This is very strange behavior from the assistant ombudsman, much like an ostrich burying its head in the sand.

Why is he chasing after anonymous reports in the newspapers about ghost employees when a City Hall insider, one Jimmy Lee Davis, has already come out, named names, filed complaints against three councilors and presented evidence to the Ombudsman. Yet Fangon is pretending that Davis and his complaints and evidence don’t exist and is chasing after anonymous reports in the newspapers. Where does the government recruit this type of prosecutors? Do they work for the people or for the grafters? Are they being paid by the taxpayers or by the crooks?

“While you’re acting on newspaper reports is to be commended,” an exasperated Pimentel replied in his letter to Fangon, “you and I know that expecting witnesses to come out of the anonymity that they enjoy in the pages of the newspapers is will-nigh unrealistic.

“In contrast, you have a witness in the person of Jimmy Lee Davis, live and living and ready and willing to testify before you. Unfortunately, he has not been summoned to do so despite the fact that he had courageously filed anti-graft cases against three councilors of Quezon City with your office three months ago. And for the nth time, we repeat that the three councilors are: (1) Roderick Paulate, (2) Marvin Rillo and (3) Francisco Calalay.

…“It seems that—and I hope I am wrong—you prefer to start your investigation by searching for ‘ghost’ witnesses who have merely denounced the ghost employees and ghost projects of some Quezon City councilors through the media in lieu of hearing immediately one who has risked life and limb to provide evidence on the wrongdoing in the city legislators concerned.

“Perhaps…the investigative prioritization of your office should focus on charges that are backed up by available witnesses, like Jimmy Lee Davis, rather than on some mystical assertions by nameless accusers lurking in the shadows of media anonymity.

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“…Again, we respectfully suggest that:

‘1. Your Office should kindly investigate and hear the personal testimony and documentary evidence that Jimmy Lee Davis is ready to present to you now before the evil hands of people wanting to silence him in one way or the other get to do their nefarious intentions, and,

‘2. Should your office not dilly-dally in hearing Mr. Davis, I am certain other witnesses would come out of the woodwork.’

“To make a long story short, once you get Mr. Davis to testify, you would also get the evidence you need without making your work more difficult—if what you require is proof of wrongdoing by the concerned QC council members.

“If we evade the issue of the urgency of investigating the Jimmy Lee Davis charges forthwith by citing as you do the need for ‘a more focused investigation and to avoid duplicity,’ I am afraid that, perhaps, the charges of Mr. Davis would suffer from unintended consequences. His charges would be buried in the dustbins of the Ombudsman like many other cases that may never see the light of day.”

Frankly, I am afraid that the pussyfooting by the Office of the Ombudsman is to give the councilors an opportunity to correct the documentary evidence against them—the very reason that accused government officials are suspended so that they cannot tamper with the evidence against them.

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TAGS: columns, ghost employees, Graft and Corruption, neal h. cruz, ombudsman, opinion
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