Tuesday, July 20, 2010

No mercy for Mercy

by Perry Diaz
For the second time in little over a year, Ombudsman Merceditas “Mercy” Gutierrez will soon be facing impeachment charges against her in the House of Representatives when the 15th Congress opens on July 26, 2010. But this time around, with her protector — former president and congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo — no longer in power, Gutierrez will be dealing with a House dominated by a coalition allied with president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Last week, in an attempt to defend herself, Gutierrez held a press conference where she defiantly declared: “There are no grounds for me to be impeached.” However, she meekly added that she’ll leave her fate to Congress. It was a different tone from what she said in response to the first impeachment complaint against her in March 2009 where she arrogantly said, “I have my mandate, I have my term and I believe this is my duty, my service to our countrymen.” With “my” repeated four times in one sentence, one wonders if she really cared much about what her “mandate” was all about.
What prompted her outburst then was the filing of an impeachment complaint against her before the House of Representatives by 31 civil society leaders led by former Senate President Jovito Salonga. The group — called “Kilosbayan” (people’s action) — said that the Office of the Ombudsman was synonymous to inaction, mishandling or downright dismissal of clear cases of graft and corruption, many of which involved Gloria herself or her closest associates.
What made the impeachment complaint extraordinarily unusual is that Gutierrez, as the Ombudsman, is the“Tanodbayan” — literally, the “Protector of the People” — who is duty-bound to prosecute corrupt public officials who use their positions to enrich themselves. That’s her mandate. If she failed to perform her mandate, then she would be derelict of her constitutional duty to “protect the people.” That would be tantamount to “betrayal of public trust,” an impeachable offense.
Appointed to a seven-year term of office by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on December 1, 2005, the constitution stipulates that the Ombudsman can only be removed from office “on impeachment for, and conviction of, culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes, or betrayal of public trust.”
Prior to her appointment as Ombudsman, Gutierrez was appointed by Gloria as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel and Chairman of the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission — or Anti-Corruption Czar — in December 2004. Her two concurrent appointments made her one of the most powerful officials in the Arroyo administration.
But it was during Gutierrez’s “czarist” days that corruption dramatically increased. In 2004, before she became the Anti-Corruption Czar, the Philippines was the fifth most corrupt country in Asia. In 2005, during her first “czarist” year, the Philippines became the third most corrupt country in Asia. In 2006, during her first year as Ombudsman, the country moved up to second place. In 2007 and 2008, the country became the most corrupt country in Asia.
The basis for the first impeachment complaint against Gutierrez involved at least five cases of corruption in high places which Gutierrez allegedly failed to investigate or prosecute. They are the P1.3-billion Mega Pacific poll computerization case against former Comelec Chairman Benjamin Abalos, the $2-million extortion case against former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez, the P728-million fertilizer scam scandal involving Joc-joc Bolante, the P6.9-million case involving the “euro generals,” and the rigged bidding of multi-billion World Bank-funded projects in which the First Gentleman was implicated.
When Gutierrez took office, she declared, “I will be merciless to the grafters… no one can bribe me!” But within eight months, “Mercy,” as she is affectionately called by her friends and associates, was accused of being too merciful to influential people suspected of graft and corruption. On July 31, 2006, the Malayaeditorial said: “The Office of the Ombudsman has become a joke after Merceditas Gutierrez, a classmate of Mike Arroyo, succeeded Simeon Marcelo. How many big-time corruption cases have been sleeping the sleep of the dead on the desk of Gutierrez?”
The Malaya editorial outlined several “sleeping” cases, to wit:
(1) The case against former Justice Secretary Hernani Perez who allegedly received millions as payoff for awarding a sovereign guarantee to an Argentine company. It was reported that the Swiss government provided information to the Philippine government on deposits made to bank accounts of Perez and his wife.
(2) The case against Comelec officials over the election modernization scam was completed by Gutierrez’ office. However, the findings of investigators were overturned by Gutierrez, leaving only Resurreccion Borra among the commissioners to face the music.
(3) On the fertilizer fund scam, Gutierrez failed to take action despite the massive volume of testimonial and documentary evidence transmitted by the Senate committee on agriculture and the Blue Ribbon committee.
Indeed, the impeachment complaint filed in 2009 by Kilosbayan mirrored the three “sleeping” cases exposed by Malaya four years ago and the two scandals involving the “euro generals” and the rigged bidding of World Bank-funded projects.
Although Gloria had publicly distanced herself from the impeachment complaint against her three-time appointee and friend of her husband, many believed that Gloria pressured — or bribed — most of those who signed the impeachment petition to withdraw their signatures. As a result only 30 congressmen’s signatures remained on the petition which was not enough to meet the one-third minimum requirement for an impeachment complaint to progress.
But with Gloria no longer around to protect her, it is very likely that this time around Gutierrez would not beat an impeachment. Noynoy’s campaign slogan, “Kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap” (No corruption, no poverty), resonated well with the people. The people took it hook, line, and sinker and gave him the highest electoral mandate since the end of the Marcos era. And with an 88% trust rating prior to his inauguration, Noynoy must make good on his promise and give full support to the impeachment complaint against Gutierrez. Otherwise, his crusade against corruption and poverty would be stymied… and fail.
Gutierrez is like a cork that plugs a bottle. Unless the cork is removed, the content of the bottle will not flow out. Similarly, for as long as Mercy Gutierrez remains as the Ombudsman, corruption cases will be bottled up and justice will not be served.
The time has come for Congress to show no mercy for Mercy.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Are Filipino's Really More Tolerant or Just Plain Dumb?


from the blog:  Are Filipino's Really More Tolerant or Just Plain Dumb?

Marel N. Francisco ask the question, "Are Filipino's really more tolerant or just plain dumb?" in her Philippine Daily Inquirer article this week.  

Filipino people claim to be the most tolerant, forgiving and patient people in the world.  They take very seriously the importance they place on not causing anyone to lose face in public.  I have seen people be shunned by friends and even family members because they were responsible for a person or a family to loose face in public.

Before you make a decision if Filipino people are tolerant or dumb I would like for you to consider a few things I have personally witnessed during the years I have lived in the Philippines: 

1.) Filipino's will enter a bank, take a number, take a seat, wait and watch as the security guards let people they deem more important go in front of them; 

2.) Filipino's will take their place in a taxi line at the mall, wait and watch as Filipino's who think they are more important than others walk out of the mall, not get in line and take the next available taxi; 

3.) Filipino's will ask the pump boy at the gas station if they accept credit cards and when told they do instruct the boy to fill their car.  The boy returns to the car for payment after failing to fill the tank and when questioned about not doing as he was instructed reply, "I am sorry, fill it next time I had already set the pump for 500 pesos before I remembered you wanted me to fill the tank."; 

4.) Filipino's will go to the doctor, sign in, wait and watch as friends of the doctor and friend's of friends of the doctor are put in front of them, 

5.) Filipino's will find a small insect in their soup at one of the finer restaurants and report it to the waiter, but receive no apology or compensation; 

6.) Filipino's will get in a taxi on a rainy day and when they tell the driver where they want to go be told by the driver he does not want to go there because it is too far and he wants to meet his buddies for lunch in 30 minutes. They will then vacate the taxi and stand in the rain again for another taxi, etc.   Filipino's will tolerate all these things and not complain because they claim they do not want to cause anyone to loose face or they are very tolerant.

All Filipino's use the words "I sorry" entirely too much.  The words really no longer have meaning in the Philippines.  They are words just uttered to avoid confrontation.  "I sorry" is suppose to make everything okay. The Philippine President in 2004 uttered the words on National television after she was caught violating election laws and speaking with the head of the Comlec.  She felt with those words everyone should forgive, forget and accept what she had done. I would say the vast majority of the Filipino people did not like what she did, but they accepted it and did not demand justice for her doing it.

I think what is more important than if the people of the Philippines are tolerant or dumb is why do they settle or accept the treatment they get.  Why do Filipino's allow themselves to be pushed around by someone who has better clothes, more money, better education, establish family surname, a title. etc.?  I believe the Filipino people have come to believe they do not deserve better and must settle for what they get.  I think a lot of the Filipino people have lost hope of having a better life and have come to expect nothing better.

Senator Santiago, Senator Madrigal and other elected officials would like the Filipino people to believe it is due to the Filipino's colonization attitude which they say is caused by the United States and Spain.  By instilling that thought in to the minds of the Filipino people it allows those elected officials to escape their responsibility for not solving the corruption problems in government, for not solving the land distribution problems that prevent farmers from receiving the land they were guaranteed by the 1987 Constitution, for not creating jobs at home, but instead rely on other countries to provide jobs for the Philippine work force through the O.F.W. system and for not solving the problems that exist in the education system of the Philippines, etc.  If you listen to some of the elected officials you would think that the United States elects the President of the Philippines and controls the Philippine Senate and Congress.  That is not true, but if it were true whose fault would it be other than the elected officials of the Philippines. Perhaps if they would spend less time grand standing on national television during Blue Ribbon hearings, that never accomplish anything and spent more time passing legistlation and seeing to it the legistlation passed was enforced that benefited the Filipino people they would not need to blame outside forces for their failures.

The elected officials of the Philippines through political dynasties, which the Philippine people continue to elect, allow politicians to guarantee that their friends will not be prosecuted - 

1.) for stealing funds that middle class Filipino families have paid into in an attempt to guarantee a college education for their children; 

2.) for holding on to land which was guaranteed to the farmers by the 1987 Constitution; 

3.) for killing hundreds of Filipino's in ferry accidents due to unsafe equipment; 

4.) for pyramid schemes like the one inMakati which caused many middle class Filipinos to loose their life savings; 

5.) for operating colleges that never prepare students to receive their license; 

6.) for using the peoples money like the Marcos' for their personal benefit; 

7.) for committing plunder against the State and being pardoned like Joseph Estrada and yes, even for murder.  This is not the fault of the United States or any other country this is the fault of Philippine bad governance.  The real question is still the same why do the Filipino people tolerate such treatment?

It is human nature to take advantage of people that allow you to take advantage of them.  If the Filipino people wish to be treated fairly and with respect then the Filipino people themselves have to demand fair treatment and respect.  Rude and obnoxious people should lose face in public if that is what it takes to make them do better.  Politicians that continue to protect their own and not care about the people of the Philippines do not deserve to be elected and certainly not re-elected.  My observation reveals that the Filipino people are a people that have been beaten down by outside forces in the past, but continue to be beaten down by inside forces which are their own elected officials and a few wealthy Filipino families.  Edsa One accomplished a lot for the people of the Philippines, but Edsa One, Two, Three, Four, etc. will not solve the problem of inequality in the Philippine unless the Filipino people on a daily basis and in every aspects of life begin to believe they do deserve better and demand better.  The Filipino people are not dumb they have just lost HOPE!