Other names in government and politics may be provoking bigger headlines given the noise and fog of the coming elections, but the most committed and hardworking person in public service these days appears to be Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales.
In the last few days alone, Morales has filed charges against and/or removed from office a virtual rogues’ gallery of police officers, local government executives, agency heads and their various underlings for graft and corruption, extortion, grave abuse of authority and other such offenses. The flurry of suspensions and dismissals has cut across departmental or party lines.
Camarines Norte Gov. Edgardo Tallado was ordered suspended from office for one year for his refusal to comply with a Civil Service Commission order reinstating the provincial veterinarian. The Ombudsman’s ground was oppression and grave abuse of authority. In another administrative case,
Bacolod City administrator Rolando Villamor was meted suspension for six months and one day without pay because he allegedly served as counsel for a construction firm that had filed a civil suit with the local government—a clear case of conflict of interest. To anyone who might protest that the offense appeared trifling, Morales had a stern reminder:
“Respondent’s transgression erodes the public’s trust in government employees… Any act that falls short of the exacting standards for public office cannot be tolerated.”
Those exacting standards extend to the police force, where Chief Supt. Raul Petrasanta and six former and five active police officials have been indicted by the Ombudsman for multiple counts of graft. Their “gross inexcusable negligence and bad faith,” in Morales’ words, led to the disappearance of 1,000 Russian-made AK-47 assault rifles worth P52 million—illicitly released to private companies, it turned out, which then sold the guns to New People’s Army rebels in Mindanao.
Capiz Gov. Victor Tanco Sr. and his son, meanwhile, were not only charged with graft but also dismissed from service and perpetually disqualified from holding public office, their civil service eligibility cancelled and retirement benefits forfeited. The Tancos allegedly extorted P3 million from a contractor in exchange for the release of funds for a multimillion-peso hospital project.
The Tanco decision echoes the Ombudsman’s action in the case of suspended Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, who was subsequently ordered dismissed from service and likewise perpetually disqualified from public office in connection with “strong evidence” that have “remained unrebutted,” showing massive overpricing and related alleged anomalies in the construction of a Makati City parking building worth P2.28 billion. Ordered dismissed along with Binay were 19 other city officials.
The much bigger case of the pork barrel scam has not escaped Morales either. Last week, she dismissed from service five officials of the Technology Resource Center, including its deputy director general Dennis Cunanan, on grounds of “grave misconduct, serious dishonesty, and conduct prejudicial to the best interest of the service.” Cunanan and four other TRC officers allegedly facilitated the illegal disbursement of the pork barrel funds of three former congressmen: Alvin Sandoval of Malabon-Navotas, Anthony Miranda of Isabela, and Constantino Jaraula of Cagayan de Oro. All three former lawmakers are likewise facing charges of graft for their supposed participation in the scam.
The TRC was one of the most notorious government agencies to emerge from the revelations on the widespread money-laundering operations run by Janet Napoles. Cunanan’s agency reportedly served as a conduit through which kickbacks from the pork barrel allocation of a number of lawmakers, including indicted senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla and Juan Ponce Enrile, were processed. Whistle-blower Benhur Luy also claimed that Cunanan had routinely received a 10-percent commission from the scheme.
Morales had previously denied Cunanan’s request to turn state’s witness. Her dismissal of him from service, on top of the slew of charges he still faces, is a timely reminder from the Office of the Ombudsman that the pork barrel scam, despite having by now largely faded from the headlines, remains a piece of unfinished business for the antigraft body, and that its redoubtable head is not in any way through with it.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.