On the right track
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales and her team has done what President Aquino could not, but should have—suspend Philippine National Police Director General Alan Purisima along with a number of other top PNP officials, to clear the way for the investigation of corruption charges lodged against them. All this time, Purisima had seemed immovable in his post simply because of his closeness to the President, even as serious issues serve to question his conduct in office, from accepting unethical donations from big-ticket companies with business ties to the PNP to amassing properties that apparently were not reflected in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.
If the President was willing to bend over backward to accommodate his friend, to the extent of doing further damage to his claim that his “daang matuwid” campaign would spare neither friend nor foe, the Ombudsman was having none of that old boys’ club chumminess. In one fell swoop, she sent Purisima and other ranking police officers packing, at least for now. Malacañang could only say afterwards that it would respect the Ombudsman’s directive and that Interior Secretary Mar Roxas would implement it “as soon as he receives the orders.” If Roxas and the Palace want to be taken seriously on their vow to clean up the PNP, they can consider the Ombudsman’s action as an unexpected but welcome chance to start anew with a suddenly clear slate.
The other accomplishment the public should thank the Office of the Ombudsman for is its vigorous prosecution so far of the plunder cases filed against Senators Bong Revilla, Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, and their coaccused Janet Lim Napoles et al., in connection with the pork barrel scam. While glaring compromises have been made—the three senators remain in special detention facilities when they should be in regular jails—the proceedings have demonstrated the capacity of Morales’ office to prosecute the pork barrel cases with dispatch, conviction and, most crucially, thoroughness. Its presentation of the evidence has been meticulous and persuasive, and no counterarguments of the defense so far have made a dent on the basic integrity of the charge that Revilla, Estrada and Enrile, in conspiracy with Napoles and associates in and out of government, siphoned millions of pesos from their allotted pork barrel funds into their private accounts via bogus nongovernment organizations set up by Napoles.
At this point, the Sandiganbayan appears convinced that the Office of the Ombudsman has presented compelling evidence and argument to buttress its charges. The antigraft court recently denied Revilla’s petition for bail—“an affirmation by the court,” it said, “that the evidence of guilt is strong, and if he is unable to disprove the evidence against him, conviction will follow.” That decision should spell sleepless nights for Revilla’s coaccused, who have pending separate petitions for bail in the court.
In denying Revilla’s request, the Sandiganbayan took note of the weight of evidence presented against him so far: the fact that he himself confirmed in a letter to the Commission on Audit that the signature appearing on documents from his office endorsing projects to Napoles’ fake NGOs was his; that the subsequent appearance in court of a handwriting expert testifying that his signature was fake was a “feeble and unacceptable” rebuttal, not only because the expert’s examination was based solely on photocopies of the original documents, but also because he admitted to have been paid P200,000 by Revilla for his services; and that the Anti-Money Laundering Council presented bank transactions showing that Revilla’s money flow corresponded intriguingly with the timeline attested to by whistle-blower Benhur Luy, with huge deposits happening after completed transactions with Napoles, and a flurry of bank accounts closing once the pork barrel controversy had blown up in the national news.
The court did caution that the denial of Revilla’s bail petition “shall not be regarded as a prejudgment on the merits of the case…” Indeed there’s a long way to go from here to even a semblance of a just conclusion for this historic case. And, lest we forget, the three senators plus Napoles are but the tip of a vast criminal undertaking
involving several dozens, perhaps hundreds, of individuals who participated in the plunder of public funds.
But it’s an encouraging sign that the Office of the Ombudsman is on the right track.
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