Ombudsman, a lethal weapon

By Ermin Garcia Jr.


FORMER Provincial Administrator Raffy Baraan and Provincial Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Office (PHUDCO) chief Alvin Bigay are finally absolved of allegations of serious misconduct by the same system that deprived them of justice due them four years ago.

It was poetic justice when the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals reversed the Ombudsman’s determination about the alleged black sand mining.

Even before conducting an impartial investigation demanded by due process, the office of the Ombudsman already determined both Messrs. Baraan and Bigay guilty as charged not only by suspending the two, but disqualifying and forfeiting all benefits without a conviction by the Sandiganbayan.

The Ombudsman’s authority and power far exceeded those given to trial courts, the Appellate Court and Supreme Court!  We have an Ombudsman who is literally the prosecutor and judge (and executioner) all rolled into one. As Mr. Baraan swore, the charge of grave misconduct was like a death sentence!

I do hope the planned amendment of the Constitution will consider amending the authority and power of the Ombudsman.

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POLITICAL AGENDA.  The alleged black sand mining was clearly a demolition job that aimed to derail the reelection of then Guv Spines.

There was no black sand mining. Unfortunately, one has to be a golfer to know and understand what it takes to develop a golf course. President Ramos who signed the original declaration that provided for the possible development of a golf course in Lingayen is a golfer. He knew the tourism potential of a golf course with international rating. Guv Spines, an avid golfer, had the capitol complex’s grounds developed and maintained like a golf fairway, a sight that awed all guests to the capitol.

But of course, the criminal and administrative cases were filed not really to question the budget allocated for the project, nor the logic for developing a golf project near the beach. The plotters knew that a charge for violation of the anti graft and corrupt practices act for black sand mining would be credible.  Know that allegations of black sand mining around the country have preceded the Lingayen project but with one difference—these were clearly mining activities with no other economic activity or purpose in mind.

The presence of black sand extracted in Lingayen as a result of the preparation for the golf course was appreciated by the Court of Appeals but not the Ombudsman that was fixated on serving the political agenda behind the black sand mining charge.

In our country, the biggest and worst enemy of development is politics that uses the judiciary as its lethal weapon.

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PARALLEL OBJECTIVES. I hasten to point this out in hindsight because I am seeing the same strategy being used by the political enemies of President Duterte in his war on drugs.

The Commission on Human Rights accuses the current administration of wanton killing of the downtrodden in the country, never mind that illegal drugs trade has destroyed and killed families, corrupted the law enforcers and local government officials. All the LP survivors of the political debacle in 2016 chant human rights violations, citing outrageous numbers to achieve the desired reaction from media.

At the very start of the campaign, LP talking heads were already mouthing 13,000 alleged EJK victims when there were no more than 1,500 killed in police operations. On cue, Messrs. Antonio Trillanes and Rep. Gary Alejano presented “witnesses” and tallies of victims of “Davao death squads”, US media have been coopted to lead the offensive overseas, international human rights groups were made to weigh in, cases were filed with the International Criminal Court and UN Human Rights Commission, the Catholic clergy wittingly joined the fray with its own chant “Thou shalt not kill,” etc.

And yet who would best understand the very serious threats posed by the proliferation of illegal drugs but the vulnerable families, they who consistently give President Duterte high approval ratings, two years into the war on drugs! But a biased media would not give that a chance to counter the offensive. The political enemies of DU30 even completely turned a blind eye to the more than a million drug users and pushers who surrendered to avail of rehabilitation as a direct result of the earnest campaign.

Yet as Mr. Duterte plainly said, he has declared war on drug syndicates, meaning there will be casualties. He knew that drug syndicates and their protectors will not yield an inch without as much a violent resistance to stop him. That statement was used against him to buttress the argument charging him of violation of human rights.

My point is—Mr. Espino simply wanted to promote the province as a golf destination. Mr. Duterte wanted to stop the drug syndicates. Their political enemies used their advocacies as the wherewithal to knock them out of the political ring.

Fortunately, their advocacies can withstand a tsunami of demolition jobs.

Meanwhile, the collateral victims have been made to suffer: Messrs. Baraan and Bigay, and the private companies engaged to develop he course, and the vulnerable families and the expendable drug pushers caught in the middle of the war.

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NEIGHBORS KNOW BETTER. As of this writing, the touted list of barangay kapitans involved in illegal drug trade has not been released.  But frankly, I see no value for the list besides highlighting the campaign contra illegal drugs.

Barangay folks need not be told whether their respective kapitans were or continue to be involved in the illegal drug trade. In fact, if the list does not include names of their notorious kapitans, it will simply leave the residents in wonderment—How could that be?—and will insist they know better.

So, the drug pushing kapitans whose names are not listed should not feel relieved because their neighbors do know better than the national government.

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A REFORMED SK. The Sangguniang Kabataan elections are just as important and crucial as the barangay elections. Know that this will be the first time that the provisions in the SK Reform Act of 2015 will come into play.

The law has also specified the adoption of activities that will promote 1) Good governance, 2) Climate change adaptation, 3) Disaster risk reduction and resiliency, 4) Youth employment and livelihood, 5) Health and anti-drug abuse, 6) Gender sensitivity, and 7) Sports development.

Finally, our SK chapters will no longer exist for donating basketballs, organizing parties, and token beautification activities from which they earn kickbacks, all for the self-serving lofty aim of “developing the youth”.

For these programs to be implemented, the young voters should be reminded that absentee SK officials (those studying in Metro Manila or cities outside of Pangasinan) should not be elected.  For many years, most SK chapters were inactive because the children of politicos were all studying in colleges in Metro Manila.  And those who stayed in their towns/cities did all to cover-up the illegal activities of their politico parents.

With the reform act in place, the young in our barangays can now look forward to more meaningful engagements to serve their communities.

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I’d like to acknowledge two loyal PUNCH Kabaleyan Club members who never cease to help us see to the continued operation of our free online service for the benefit of overseas Pangasinenses by regularly renewing their membership, namely Jose Ceralde (New Jersey) and Art Barberan (California). Salamat ya balbaleg ed sikayo! May your tribe increase!

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