PH OMBUDSMAN IMPEACHMENT BOOSTS ANTI-CORRUPTION


PH OMBUDSMAN IMPEACHMENT BOOSTS ANTI-CORRUPTION

Erle Frayne D. Argonza

The Philippines has been doing badly in the global corruption indices. Bad governance—and the stinking corruption accompanying it—redounds to slow wealth redistribution, grinding poverty, and high unemployment. Ph needs to shore up its badly tainted image if to solve its centuries-old poverty problems.

Incidentally, a concerted effort to impeach the incumbent Ombudsman, Merceditas Gutierrez, has been ongoing. The House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice just ruled favorably for the impeachment, while the Supreme Court rejected Gutierrez’s motion to stop the House of Representatives from proceeding with the decision to unseat her. This move bodes well for anti-corruption campaigns, and I hope the world watches over this event.

Gutierrez was appointed by the previous president, Gloria Arroyo, to serve for a period that will end in 2012 yet. As anti-graft court’s czarina, she was expected to accelerate the wheels of justice on high-level controversies of graft involving state officials. Instead, Gutierrez slept on those cases, which involved officials close to Arroyo and could have involved the past president herself.

To add insult to the injury felt by the public about lackadaisical treatment of high-level cases, Gutierrez opted for a plea bargain on a corrupt retired general’s case after the latter already pleaded guilty to the wrongdoing. The former armed forces comptroller was found to have amassed over P300 millions worth of ill-gotten wealth from out of the budget appropriations for soldiers.

Both civil society and political parties acted to quickly address the pugnacious state of the justice system. The respond they conceived of was no other than the impeachment of the Ombudsman herself. Civil society groups’ recommendations to the House Committee on Justice were heard enough, and in fact they became the basis for legislators to cast votes on.

Prior to the House Committee’s vote on the matter, the incumbent President Noynoy Aquino called for his party mates (Liberal Party) to an emergency meeting in the presidential palace. The tall order given out by the president was for the irreversible decision to impeach the Ombudsman via the rules and decisions of the Congress.

To recall, the incumbent president campaigned hard on a platform of good governance. The campaign pitch reached a crescendo that was akin to an Inquisition. Though I find that seemingly hard-line note to his party’s campaign unacceptable, and doubted whether his party-mates are clean people anyway, I am in synch with the campaign insofar as it would result to the incarceration of “big fishes” of grafters.

The past president, brilliant as she may have been, left a legacy of further weakening of institutions via high-level graft. The time to break out of the vicious cycle legacy has come, if to reverse centuries-old poverty and decades-old insurgencies whose rationale were built from the anti-corruption discourse.

“Bureaucrat capitalism breeds graft & corruption” has been the much trumpeted Maoist discourse regarding corruption. I am all too glad to see the Maoist Left leaders—of their above-ground parties and civil society groups—bring their advocacies this time to the proper legal-juridical platforms. They were among those civil society groups that petitioned the House for impeachment, while some of their congressmen (party list representatives) voted in favor of the impeachment motion.

For a final note, I hope that the armed Left will take a second look at the anti-corruption efforts now going on, inclusive of those that involve their civil society leaders at the helm of campaigns. Maybe the impeachment of the Ombudsman, which is most likely to come, will be a big boost to the anti-insurgency campaigns too.

[Philippines, 10 March 2011]

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