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An epic travesty of justice and the Ombudsman office

FORMER President Benigno Aquino III and his budget secretary Florencio Abad’s Disbursement Acceleration Program scheme involving P177 billion of taxpayers’ money from 2011 to 2013 was the most brazen hijacking of government funds ever in our history, something no previous administration had ever done or even dared to do.

Yet Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales cleared Aquino of any wrongdoing, and slapped Abad with a ridiculous fine of three months’ salary, finding him guilty only of “simple misconduct” for “usurpation of legislative powers.”

Abad took over an exclusive power of the Congress, the second of the three branches of government, to allocate the use of taxpayers’ money, and Morales fines him the equivalent of three months of his salary? Morales, in the Ombudsman’s press statement, even claims that the DAP funds involved P72 billion, when even the budget department in 2013 disclosed that the amount was P177 billion.

Aquino was cleared, according to Morales, because the alleged crime was committed when he was President, and therefore immune from prosecution. But President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wasn’t, so she suffered five years of incarceration, on clearly trumped-up charges that she has now been cleared of?

Morales’ decision will go down in history as an epic travesty of justice and of the Office of the Ombudsman.

HER FAVORITE PRESIDENT: Left, Aquino having Morales, instead of the Chief Justice, administer his oath of office; middle, falsely claiming Corona had $10 million in dollar accounts in the impeachment trial; and right, outrage against the Ombudsman.

On the flimsy excuse that these were “savings”—which they weren’t as such “savings” were declared even before the middle of the year in which the budgeted amounts were supposed to be spent—Aquino and Abad illegally channeled funds allocated by two Congresses for the following two main purposes, with the others being merely a smokescreen:

Bribe money
First, P6.5 billion were used to bribe the Senate to convict the late Chief Justice Renato Corona on the flimsiest of impeachment charges—his non-inclusion in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of his dollar accounts, which after all are covered by bank secrecy laws. (The penalty of such inaccurate SALN was to require a government official to file a new, more accurate one.)

From his Day 1 in office, Aquino wanted Corona out since he was appointed by Arroyo, and even publicly insulted him by refusing to be sworn into office, as has been the tradition, by the Chief Justice. Instead, Aquino took his oath of office with Morales, who was then an associate justice, and who, as Ombudsman seven years later, clears him of malversation charges.

The DAP funds given to the senators —as exposed even by those who received them, Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla—were released in P50 million and P100 million tranches purportedly for the senators’ chosen projects, immediately before and after the May 29, 2012, Corona impeachment vote.

One of the newspaper headlines on DAP funds being used as bribe money in Corona impeachment trial.

Aquino and Abad had calculated, correctly, that the very extraordinary request to the senators—to impeach and remove from office for the first time in our history as a republic a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court— required extraordinary funds over and above the pork barrel funds. This was the DAP.

Aquino got to remove Corona, and put in as Chief Justice the most inexperienced of the justices he had appointed in 2011—his college buddy Ma. Lourdes Sereno, whom the nation will have to suffer until 2030.

Ombudsman Morales even played a key role in Corona’s removal. Although the Senate court did not ask her for any help, on her own she went and got the Anti Money Laundering Council executive director Vicente Aquino to release to her data on Corona’s dollar accounts.

In an obviously well-planned script, she then claimed at the Senate trial that the accounts showed that Corona had $10 million in dollar deposits. She deviously counted transactions as Corona’s bank balances, which in reality totaled only $1million. Her false testimony roused such public outrage that 20 senators voted to remove the Chief Justice from office.

Money for 2013 elections
Second, Aquino used P14 billion to buy support for his Yellow Party candidates in the 2013 elections by channeling these funds to projects in their bastions. These funds were released two months before the 2013 elections. These even included P1 billion in infrastructure funds to his home province Tarlac, one of the most overbuilt provinces in the country.

Some P10 billion, according to budget department documents, were given to the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and its leaders, purportedly for a “Comprehensive Peace and Development” package. In reality, the funds were used to bribe ARMM as well as Moro Islamic Liberation Front leaders for them to support Aquino’s peace deal with the MILF, which he thought would win him the Nobel Peace Prize.

Morales also claimed that “the adoption of the DAP was motivated by a good purpose, to spur economic growth and boost the national economy.” That Morales would even claim this shows her total subservience to Aquino, who had made that preposterous claim. Ten billion pesos to ARMM and MILF leaders, given in P1 million checks, and P1 billion in infrastructure funds for Tarlac, and such expense boosted the national economy?

Obviously, Morales didn’t even try to verify Aquino’s claim, but swallowed it entirely. The World Bank realized that its economists were fooled initially by Abad on this claim. Its July 2012 update pointed out that in the first place, the DAP meant only “mere realignment of funds”; secondly, that the DAP amounts were “minuscule (at less than 0.01 percentage points) relative to the size of the economy” and therefore couldn’t have stimulated economic growth.

Morales shames her post as Ombudsman and the nation itself by her utter subservience to Aquino in allowing him to evade justice.

Did she or her prosecutors even summon Aquino and Abad to give their side on the DAP complaint? No. Did she investigate how DAP funds were used, for example the moneys given to ARMM officials in P1 million checks? No. Did she get the complainants to expound on their allegations that Aquino and Abad committed the crime of technical malversation for each of the 3,000 budget releases they made which were not authorized by Congress? No.

For all her arrogance and self-righteousness, Morales has been nothing but Aquino’s attack dog who helped take out Aquino’s enemies— among them Chief Justice Corona, and Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Bong Revilla, and Juan Ponce Enrile, the first two of whom may well have had a shot at the presidency or vice presidency at the time.

And when that task was finished, she assumed the role of Aquino’s lapdog, allowing him to escape justice.