Thursday, November 13, 2008

Short shrift

This one is for the books --- The Office of the Ombudsman, citing lack of evidence in absolving former agriculture undersecretary Jocjoc Bolante for misusing 432 million pesos in fertilizer funds in a 2003 case, said: “We based it on the merits of the case.”

Since when has the Ombudsman done so?

* * *

Months before, the same Office of the Ombudman filed charges against an incumbent city mayor, a former city mayor, DPWH officials, and private suppliers and contractors over the stinking Cebu lampposts scandal. Remember this case?

Two years ago, the City of Cebu hosted the Asean summit, and the whole metropolis went overboard in trying to put its best foot forward. There was the overpriced and hastily built (a la Imelda) convention centre fronting the reclaimed wharf, along with landscaping galore that made Cebu look like a recreated Aalsmeer, except that weeks after the big bash, the flowers and the plants wilted, money down the drain --- as usual in this benighted land. But more jarring to good sense and everybody’s sensibilities, including the whole nation’s, were ubiquitous China-made lampposts installed so close to each other which gave little actual illumination. What’s more, they were priced so scandalously high, as in immoderately greedy “tongpats” of more than ten times the actual cost.

As usual, the small fry got fried, while the big guys went scot-free, or soon to be. Lapu-lapu city mayor Artemio Radaza, who “won” re-election despite the scandal, for one, now asks the Ombudsman to totally dismiss the charges against him (go to Lapu-lapu and see for yourself) because “the evidence is insufficient”.
So how did they do it this time?
First, let the issue cool off. That’s the usual tactic of the Ombudsman. Patulugin ang kaso, and the classic example is Jocjoc Bolante. Only when his return from exile was imminent did they go through the motions of reviving the case. The Cebu lampposts anomaly went through the same “wringer”.
The defendants were then able to buy time to claim that a number of import documents submitted as evidence in the cases were “spurious” and of “doubtful authenticity”. Aayusin ‘yung supplier.
Now, like a striptease, the defendants are getting off the hook, because “it would be very difficult to prove that the said contract…was indeed manifestly and grossly disadvantageous…based on evidence at hand”.
Same, same. As it was in Bolante, so it is in Radaza, Lala, Ouano, et al. Imagine short and ugly lampposts with different ugly designs uglifying Cebu, Mandaue and Lapu-lapu from the international airport to the convention center complex, overpriced more than ten times their actual cost, now being whitewashed. What used to be an open and shut case, has become shut, period. And the taxpayers go hang, thanks to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Lapu-lapu city mayor Artemio Radaza, who is on his third term, even wants to gerrymander the district so he could run for congressman, and then impose his wife Paz, a barangay kapitana, to be the new mayor of his “kingdom” by the sea.

And Roberto Lala, the DPWH regional director during this construction frenzy in Cebu, has since become the regional director of the National Capital Region! Wow!

Don’t blame Lala though for those ugly lampposts now uglifying Manila, Pasay and Paranaque all the way to the airport and the Coastal Road. Those are mayor’s “rackets”. He,he,he.

May pera na sa basura, may pera pa sa pangit na ilaw. No wonder the bishops say corruption is all over. It is, and it stinks, all over the corners of this globe. Why do you think everyone and his mother has adjudged ours among the most corrupt nations on earth?

* * *

Don’t look now. In the Comelec, two “controversial” post-proclamation cases have stealthily been “cooked”. One involves the vice-gubernatorial race in Batangas, where the proclaimed incumbent won by some 19,000 votes over his opponent. But his opponent is no ordinary person. He is the son of the Dona’s executive secretary.

During the revision of ballots, crooked Comelec employees (aren’t they all?) switched “fake and spurious” ballots (which they themselves supplied), in place of the real, authentic ballots in the towns where the young vice-governor won handily in the 2007 elections. Thus, the lawyer of the protestant can claim that the vice-governor was proclaimed on the basis of “spurious” and “manufactured” votes.

No, they did not write the name of the executive secretary’s son in the fake ballots. It’s still the winner’s name written in the now “fake” ballots. When the commissioners appreciated the ballots, they now had reason to disregard the “fake”, not knowing, (or even if they were into the conspiracy) that the ballots had been switched earlier. The lead of the vice-governor thus gets whittled down.

Comelec insiders are wondering why a certain commissioner appointed last year and by-passed by the Commission on Appointments twice, suddenly found himself dis-appointed this time. Wasn’t he “cooperative” enough? And who causes and transmits the re-appointments of by-passed commissioners and other officials? Why, the Executive Secretary, of course.

* * *

But that’s not the end of it. Another local official will soon be given “short” shrift. Same modus operandi. Same election lawyer for the protestant, who is a former governor, and a former cabinet member of Dona Gloria. He was roundly defeated by the incumbent governor of this province immediately north of Metro Manila in the 2007 elections.

Real ballots with the name of the incumbent governor were simply changed with “spurious” ballots, his name likewise written in. So, when the commissioners “appreciated” the ballots, these were disregarded. The “smart” lawyer in both cases is a favourite of Garci, but of course.

Who is the hapless governor who will sooner find himself declared a “cheat” by the Commission on Electoral Cheating, the timing postponed because of the noise created by Jocjoc and De la Paz? Masyadong mainit?

Remember him as the one who, together with Among Ed, “embarrassed” Malacanang by publicizing their receipt of the mysterious gift bag with 500,000 pesos inside. Lintik lang ang walang ganti.

* * *

You see, whether in the constitutional office called the Office of the Ombudsman, or the constitutional office called the Commission on Elections, all tenets of law, justice and fair play are given short shrift, whenever the powerful so ordain, or whenever their money talks, better both.

There is no justice in this land benighted by so much “evil”. And there will never be, until and unless we as a people summon the collective courage to throw the rascals out, and vow “never again”!

* * *

As Filipinos, we should be indignant when our president is snubbed by a president-elect of another country, no matter if he happens to be the “emperor of the world” in waiting. But why do most of us take perverse delight in seeing her twist in the wind, unable to seek his audience, unable to hear even his voice?

We are gratified with the realization that while we could not summon the courage to banish this abomination from our piece of earth, the aides of the new emperor gave her “short” shrift. Oh yes, it’s very Filipino. We like others doing the job for us.

These aides of Obama, now hailed as the smartest political tacticians in the US of A, were the ones who refused, politely or not, to hand over the phone to their principal when Dona Gloria came a-calling, not once, but twice.

Why did they give her “short” shrift --- this “iron lady” who presides over the fate of their country’s once-outpost of democracy in Asia, their supinely willing ally, while returning the calls of more than a dozen others, including the Polish president? Never mind Gordy Brown of Britain and Nicky Sarkozy of France and Taro Aso of Japan, even Berlusconi of Italy. But Poland, Pakistan, South Korea, Mexico, and not Her Excellency, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines? Lese majeste!

Those Fil-Ams in California, and yes, Chicago, might go to the streets to protest shabby treatment of their “presidenta”.

But then, that’s what smart aides are for. They screen the unwanted. They vet the credentials of those who seek audience. And smart as they are, they realize that millions and millions of Filipinos, in America or elsewhere, will cheer them for what they did, which is give their illegitimate president “short” shrift. Surely they have read about the corruption, the duplicitous foreign practices of this dubious ally, and the tale of the Garci tapes. Why, the guy she cheated was half-American white, (the poor man died with a broken heart) just like their principal. Why give her then Obama’s time of day? Let her fall in line come APEC in next year’s fall.

These guys, who whipped a frenzy for upstart John Edwards in 2004 when he sought to be the Democratic challenger against the Dubya, settling instead to be the vice-presidential teammate of the almost-won John Kerry, are now basking in the afterglow of historic victory. It is a victory cheered both at home and abroad. The first black man to enter the White House, as POTUS.

Why should their boss suffer someone called Gloria Macapagal Arroyo? Whose interior secretary and prime political adviser was cavorting with the aides of John McCain and those Republican “losers” in the bars of Georgetown last spring? He bet on the wrong horse, so now it’s time to give his principal her deserved come-uppance.

Washington DC, their nation’s capital, and the political capital of the world, is really such a small town. Everybody knows everybody.

I really cared very little if America voted for Obama or McCain. I am not a “little brown American”. I know damn well that it would matter little to the fate of this benighted land whichever way the contest in the US of A went. But then again, I knew the inside story of how close someone is, or was, to the handlers of John McCain. Which is my private little reason for hoping that Obama would win.