Merci faces raps for fertilizer scam

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 10 2011 02:41 AM | Updated as of May 10 2011 10:41 AM

MANILA, Philippines - Barely 3 days after Merceditas Gutierrez stepped down from the Office of the Ombudsman, militant farmers groups and fisherfolk filed a criminal complaint against her - the first since she stepped down from office - before the Department of Justice (DOJ) for inaction and delays in prosecuting those responsible for the P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

In a 10-page joint complaint affidavit, Anakpawis Party-list representative Rafael Mariano, the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilinas(KMP), Pambansang Lakas ng Kilusang Mamamalakaya ng Pilipinas(PAMALAKAYA), AMIHAN, Unyon ng Manggagawa sa Agrikultura(UMA), Kalipunan ng mga Samahang Magbubukid sa Timog Katagalugan(KASAMA-TK), Alyansa ng mga Magbubukid sa Gitnag Luzon(AMGL), Dangayan Dagiti Manalon Ti Cagayan Valley(Dangayan) and the National Union of People's Lawyers(NUPL) charged Gutierrez for violations of the Anti-graft and Corrupt Practices Act; negligence or tolerance in the prosecution of offenses; perjury; and obstruction of justice.

Complainants said Gutierrez should be made to answer for her inaction and failure to prosecute those responsible for the scam for a period of 5 years, this, in spite of at least 40 Fact-finding Investigation Reports recommending the filing of criminal and administrative complaints against specific personalities.

"It must be said that the criminal and administrative complaints were filed as early as 2004, yet, the cases were resolved only in March 2011 and approved by the Office of the Ombudsman in April 2011.  These resolutions were issued more than five (5) years since Ombudsman Gutierrez assumed office in 1 December 2005.  These resolutions, moreover, were issued almost five (5) years (after) Task Force Abono submitted its first two Fact-Finding Investigation Reports on June 20, 2006 and July 20, 2006; and they were issued almost four (4) years already since Task Force Abono submitted the rest of its Fact-Finding Investigation Reports as of July 31, 2007," the complaint read.

"Ano man po ang mga kadahilanan na siya'y nagbitiw sa kanyang tungkulin, hindi naman po dapat na hindi siya managot. Hindi po pupwedeng ang isang impeachable official sa kanyang pagbibitiw ay kakalimutan na ang lahat," Mariano said. 

"Simple lang ang mensahe ng pag-file ng NUPL, in joining the farmers organizations in filing the complaint:it's not over. This puts to task people (in government) not only to be competent but also to be diligent in their tasks," NUPL Secretary-General, Atty. Edre Olalia, said.

KMP Secretary-General Danilo Ramos, meantime, alleged Gutierrez sat on the fertilizer fund scam case to protect officials of the previous administration.

"From the start, resigned Ombudsman Gutierrez was determined to demolish all investigations on the Fertilizer Fund Scam that would lead to the portals of Malacañang and would pinpoint the Arroyo mafia as the principal syndicate behind the P728-million fund scam," Ramos said in a statement.

Task Force Abono probe

Complainants cited the first fact-finding investigation report of Task Force Abono - a special probe body formed by the Office of the Ombudsman to investigate the fertilizer fund scam - dated June 20, 2006 recommending the following, among others:

-The filing of a criminal complaint for preliminary investigation for violations of Article 220 of the Revised Penal Code against the following public officials:Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, Ibarra Poliquit, Cong. Nanette C. Daza, Cong. Federico S. Sandoval II, Cong. Oscar L. Gozos, Gov. Carmencita O. Reyes,  Dir. Dennis B. Araullo, Belinda Gonzales, Emma S. Gonzales, Balagtas J. Torres, Juvylee C. Obice, Rodolfo M. Guieb, Marie Paz Jasmine M. Cabucol, Raymundo E. Braganza, Abelardo Bragas, Felix Ramos, Ofelia Montilla, and Gregorio Sangalang;

-The filing of a criminal complaint for preliminary investigation for violation of Section 3 (e) and (g) of RA 3019 against the following public officials and private individuals: Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante, Ibarra Poliquit, Cong. Nanette C. Daza, Cong. Federico S. Sandoval II, Cong. Oscar L. Gozos, Gov. Carmencita O. Reyes,  Dir. Dennis B. Araullo, Belinda Gonzales, Emma S. Gonzales, Balagtas J. Torres, Juvylee C. Obice, Rodolfo M. Guieb, Marie Paz Jasmine M. Cabucol, Raymundo E. Braganza, Abelardo Bragas, Felix Ramos, Ofelia Montilla, Gregorio Sangalang, Linus C. Villanueva, Remus C. Villanueva, Phydias B. Bañez, Fernando F. Gallarte, and Frederico P. Quevedo; and

-The filing of an administrative complaint for preliminary investigation against the above-mentioned public officials, except Jocelyn I. Bolante, who was no longer in government service, and the three members of the House of Representatives: Cong. Nanette C. Daza, Cong. Federico S. Sandoval II and Cong. Oscar L. Gozos, for violation of Section 52(A) paragraphs (1) Dishonesty, (3) Grave Misconduct, and (20) Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of the Service under the Civil Service Law.

No action on recommendations

Complainants slammed Gutierrez for failing to act on these recommendations.

Succeeding reports of Task Force Abono were also cited by complainants, and again, they accused Gutierrez of failing to act on the recommendations.

"The failure of Ombudsman Gutierrez to act promptly on the complaints is inexcusable because (1) a period of more than five (5) years already constitutes inordinate delay in the administration of justice; (2) the reports and evidence gathered by the Task Force Abono, the Senate, and the Commission on Audit finding culpability on high-ranking government officials and private individuals have long been submitted and known to Ombudsman Gutierrez as early as during the first quarter of 2006; and (3) the said failure is contrary to the Ombudsman’s duty to give priority to complaints filed against high ranking government officials and/or those occupying supervisory positions and to complaints involving grave offenses and large sums of money," the complaint read.

Complainants feared that these delays may be invoked by those recently charged with plunder before the Sandiganbayan for the scam as violations of their rights to due process and speedy disposition of their cases.

"Clearly, the respondent used the power and mandate of the Office of the Ombudsman to protect the respondents in these cases and to frustrate the ends justice by not making them accountable for the well-documented and highly publicized fertilizer funds scam.  Her failure to resolve the cases, whether deliberate or by negligence, may be invoked by the respondents in the GMA Fertilizer Fund Scam for the dismissal of the cases against them," the complaint read. 

Complainants revealed they will file a motion next week seeking the inclusion of former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in the plunder information against Bolante, et al. They claimed the release of the P728-million fund would not have been possible without the knowledge of the former chief executive.

"Hindi namin hahayaan na ang usigin lang ay si Cito (Lorenzo) at si Jocjoc. Paghahandaan ng mga magsasaka na kasama si Gloria Macapagal Arroyo," Atty. Jobert Pahilga, complainants' counsel, said.