Grafters take it on the chin


Just this month alone, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales sacked a number of government officials and employees.

On November 5 eight personnel of the Commission on Audit (COA) were dismissed from the service for receiving millions of pesos in additional compensation and bonuses from the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA). Four LWUA executives got six-month suspensions for approving the illegal payments.

The Ombudsman said the “COA auditors and employees were obviously motivated by malicious intent to favor self-interest at the expense of the public” and that “their acts are contrary to accepted rules of right and duty, honesty and good morals.”

As for the LWUA executives, “their stamp of approval and authorization for fund disbursement as payment for the questioned benefits is a clear transgression” of the salary standardization law and other COA regulations.

On November 4 a former governor of Sarangani and the provincial agriculturist were sentenced by the Sandiganbayan Third Division to 10 to 18 years of imprisonment for malversation of public funds. The two were held criminally liable for misappropriating 1,875 sacks of rice intended for victims of La Niña. Ombudsman prosecutors proved that the sacks of rice were diverted and given to barangay and municipal officials one week prior to the 2002 elections.

Also on the same day, the Ombudsman ordered the dismissal from the service of eight municipal employees of Molave, Zamboanga del Sur, for their involvement in the procurement of expired and overpriced medicines worth P1.8 million in 2009.

On November 3 the Ombudsman announced the dismissal from service of three mayors and 27 other local officials from all over Mindanao for various offenses in the performance of their functions. Dismissed from the government service were the incumbent mayors of Cagayan de Oro; Matanao, Davao del Sur; and Ditsa-an Ramain, Lanao del Sur. They were also perpetually barred from holding public office.

The Ombudsman also said three other mayors, four vice mayors and 30 other local officials in Mindanao had been criminally indicted last month for various charges, including malversation, failure to liquidate cash advances, and irregularities in the procurement process.

All this shows that the government is making inroads in fighting  graft and corruption. But the public also deserves to know why it is mostly the small fry who end up being convicted by the courts while the big fish can get away with murder because they either have the right connections and can buy their way out of a legal mess.

The guiding principle for all those serving in the government is found in Article XI of the 1987 Constitution:

“Public office is a public trust. Public officers and employees must, at all times, be accountable to the people; serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency; act with patriotism and justice; and lead modest lives.” Not all, obviously, take this to heart, and the recent decisions of the Ombudsman and the Sandiganbayan tell us very clearly that much remains to be done to instill honesty among those who choose to work in the government service.

Will PHL win in maritime row?

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio deserves credit for his rigorous study of our territorial dispute with China and for helping the government in crafting our legal position on the issue.

According to the jurist, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague hearing the Philippine case against China over disputed territory in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) is likely to decide in our favor.

Why? Because when the international tribunal ruled recently that it has jurisdiction over the case, it ignored China’s so-called nine-dash line, which includes practically the entire South China Sea.

The tribunal described the disputed Scarborough Shoal as “merely a rock above water at high tide and incapable of sustaining human habitation of its own.  Thus, Scarborough Shoal is entitled only to a 12-nautical-mile territorial sea, and not to an EEZ [exclusive economic zone] or ECS [extended continental shelf].”

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