FOUR anti-graft czars and 22 years since its birth on Nov. 17, 1989, the Office of the Ombudsman of the Philippines has failed to strike fear in the hearts of crooks, or summon full respect from the people it is supposed to protect against crooks.
All four chiefs of the Office – the late Conrado M. Vasquez, who served from May 1988 to September 1995; Aniano A. Desierto, October 1995 to September 2002; Simeon V. Marcelo, October 2002 to November 2005; and the incumbent Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez, December 2005 to November 2012 – had launched their stints as the nation’s top graft-busters with firm, elaborate, hopeful reforms to fight corruption.
When the criticisms trickled in – invariably over low conviction rates, perceived partiality toward the presidents who appointed them, and sheer failure to cope with tremendous case loads and hail crooks to jail – all four trudged on. What they ended serving up, though, were not more and better results, but more excuses (Desierto and Gutierrez doing so more than the other two).
WHEN U.S. federal authorities caught the family of Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia smuggling thick wads of dollar bills into the United States in 2003, reporters covering the defense beat scrambled for documents to check out the lifestyle of top officers of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
So in early 2004, defense reporters filed a request for the Statements of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of Garcia and other officers with the AFP Public Information Office and the AFP’s Office of Ethical Standards and Public Accountability (OESPA).
IF HE were an ordinary ex-military man, Gregorio “Gringo” Honasan would be taking it easy, preparing for what aging soldiers are supposed to do next: fade away. After all, he is just three years short of officially turning senior citizen, his hair is a salt-and-pepper gray, and the trim physique women used to swoon over is now just a memory.