MANILA, Philippines - The Truth Commission may only be laying the ground work for now - but just in time for after 2012 when there will be a new Ombudsman.
The commission, which was created by the Aquino administration to investigate the anomalies during the 9-year term of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, is just biding its time in order that those who are liable would be rightfully prosecuted.
In an interview with radio dzMM, Truth Commission member Carlos Medina said “hindi naman magiging Ombudsman [Merceditas Gutierrez] forever. Her term will end by 2012. By the end of December 2012, tapos na ang trabaho ng Truth Commission. So it is very possible that by the time it ends its work, maaaring bago na ang Ombudsman.”
Medina said it is likely that the controversial $329-million National Broadband Network (NBN) deal with Chinese firm ZTE Corp. will be tackled anew, this time before the Truth Commission.
As then president, Arroyo was dropped from the list of respondents in a case before the Office of the Ombudsman due to her immunity from suit.
This time, her team of lawyers is also trying to prevent moves for her to appear before the Sandiganbayan even as a hostile witness.
One thing that could hamper the commission is its inability to cite for contempt those who will not follow subpoena orders.
It cannot cite in contempt Arroyo, who is now Pampanga 2nd District Rep.
Executive Order 1 allows the commission to subpoena government officials, meaning those in the executive branch. A government official who refuses to appear before it could face administrative or disciplinary actions.
It could also subpoena private individuals, except he or she could not be held in contempt if he or she fails to appear.
“Arroyo is a public official. We have to consider it very carefully since she is a congresswoman. She’s part of a constitutional body,” he said.
Nonetheless, Medina is confident that something will come out of the commission’s investigations with or without the relevant resource persons.
“Part of the job of the Truth Commission will hopefully lead to their prosecution, but part of it will lead to changes in the institution,” he said.
Besides looking for the accountabilities of the guilty, the commission will also look into the “pattern of abuses, institutional accountabilities…,” he said.
“We can come out with recommendations by 2012…what aspects of our culture contribute to the massive graft and corruption,” he said.
The Truth Commission started collating information and other documents last week. It will continue doing so in the months ahead.
The members are asking government agencies, however, to submit relevant information before end-November.
The commission has a budget proposal of P80 million for 2011. Its budget for the year has yet to be determined by the Office of the President.
Its recommendations will be submitted to the President, Office of the Ombudsman and Congress.
Medina hopes that the President will not anymore change anything in its findings considering the length of time it would be delving into facts and pieces of evidence.
“Inaasahan namin na kung sino man ang madadawit ang pangalan, gamitin din nila ang Truth Commission to be heard,” Medina said.
Despite all these, the constitutionality of the Truth Commission has yet to be decided by the Supreme Court. However, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. has already expressed his confidence that the commission’s legality will be upheld.