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President prefers a mass murderer’s word

AFTER AN investigation that lasted nine months from May 2008 to February 2009, five Manila policemen were found guilty of grave misconduct for illegally detaining a 30-year-old chef, attempting to extort P200,000 from him, and forcing him to swallow a packet of shabu.

Two different independent bodies recommended that they be fired from the force, their retirement benefits forfeited, and banned for life from ever joining government: the Philippine National Police’s regional headquarters and then the Office of the Deputy Ombudsman for the Military and Other Law Enforcement Offices.

Nothing more has been heard of four of the five rogue cops. Their leader, two years later, would become a mass murderer, killing eight innocent people, four of whom were women. This, of course, was former Senior Insp. Rolando Mendoza, who hijacked a tourist bus and went on a killing frenzy in August last year.

In order to get public sympathy for his horrendous act, Mendoza, frothing in the mouth in his madness, shouted to media that he would have been a cop again if he had coughed up P150,000 to Deputy Ombudsman Emilio Gonzalez. But he didn’t—or couldn’t—even say if it was Gonzalez himself who demanded the money, or some janitor at the Office of the Ombudsman.

Gonzalez has been a law professor at the University of Santo Tomas for 18 years and worked at the Office of the Ombudsman for 22 years. He has been nominated six times by the Judicial Bar Council to different positions. Would you believe such a person would extort money from a dismissed cop with a violent, criminal past, who would likely still be armed and have armed buddies?

President Aquino and his officials, however, prefer to believe mass murderer Mendoza rather than an official of a constitutional body. His order to fire Gonzalez was mainly on the grounds of Mendoza’s allegation against the deputy ombudsman. The decision said: “There is substantial evidence to support (Mendoza’s claim).” Nowhere in the decision, however, does it cite evidence to prove it.

It is indeed amazing that Mr. Aquino’s inter-agency Incident Investigation and Review Committee even shed tears over Mendoza, portraying him in its report as a victim, one among “otherwise ordinary and simple men (who) turn into murdering monsters at a snap, because they feel oppressed and need justice but are asked for money.”

But the March 31 order to fire the deputy ombudsman goes overboard. It virtually makes a hero out of a murderer who killed eight tourists, wounded nine, and shamed our country. It described this killer as follows: “Mendoza was a bemedaled police official who served the Philippine National Police for 30 years prior to his termination ordered by the Office of the Ombudsman. For the liberty of his hostages, Mendoza’s lone demand was his reinstatement in service.”

Check it out for yourself at www.gov.ph, and you will be shocked that nowhere in the decision does it say that Mendoza killed anybody. “Regrettably, the long-drawn drama ended with, the murder of eight, the injury of seven and the demise of Mendoza.”

The decision to fire the deputy ombudsman, in fact, even absolved Mendoza and his four accomplices of their crimes in 2008, dismissing the complaint as “uncorroborated.”

The order that, in effect, absolves Mendoza of his crimes in 2008 and then in 2010 was prepared by the Office of Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs (ODESLA) in just a month, in sharp contrast to the 10-month investigation that led to his firing in 2009.

Drafting the decision were ODESLA staff Rowena Turingan-Sanchez and Carlito Catayong, both of whom have never been crime investigators but desk-bound legal staff.

Unlike the usual presidential orders signed by the President himself and witnessed by the executive secretary, the decision was routed to be signed by several officials, probably in order to diffuse accountability. The pro forma space “Reviewed By” was signed by Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Ronaldo Geron; the “Recommending Approval” space by Senior Deputy Executive Secretary Jose Amor Amorado; and the “Approval/Disapproval” line by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.

That leaves one wondering: Is it really the President’s order or was it simply a decision of the Office of the Executive Secretary, which has no authority to fire an officer of the Office of the Ombudsman?

There are intriguing information about two of those responsible for the report. Turingan-Sanchez is the wife of former National Electrification Administration chief Manuel Luis Sanchez, who was fired from his post in 2004 by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo over alleged bidding irregularities. Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez filed a different graft and malversation case against him, which is still pending at the Sandiganbayan.

Geron was formerly the provincial administrator and spokesman of the late Batangas Gov. Armand Sanchez, allegedly one of the country’s most powerful jueteng lords. During Sanchez’s term, the resident provincial ombudsman was assassinated as he was investigating corruption in the provincial government.

Gutierrez pursued graft charges against the governor and ordered him suspended. Although a court restrained the suspension, the publicity over it was a major factor in his defeat to Vilma Santos in the 2007 elections—and consequently Geron’s termination as provincial administrator, which was said to have been a lucrative post in Batangas.

Have we really come to such a despicable level? Even the tragedy of the Luneta hostage crisis is being used to rouse the lynch mob against the Office of the Ombudsman. Blame is being shifted from the Aquino regime’s incompetence and blundering in the hostage crisis to one official: the deputy ombudsman, who had nothing to do with it. All for political vendetta and media spin.

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Outlook archives at www.trigger.ph, also a copy of the order to fire the deputy ombudsman, and his biodata.
From the Philippine Daily Inquirer