Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez has repeatedly cited a lack of funds, lawyers, and even time in the face of her Office’s progressively increasing caseload. She also points to these impediments whenever she rails against what she refers to as “recycled criticisms” that have painted her and the agency she heads as prone to bias and inefficiency, among other things.
But more than just the supposed lack of funds, donor assessment reports show that the stunningly effete record of the Ombudsman’s Office under Gutierrez is the result largely of her own failure as leader and manager.
In fact, far from a pittance, lots of money from foreign donor and the national budget have been the exceptional privilege of the Office of the Ombudsman since Gutierrez assumed her position on December 1, 2005. In the last five years thus, Gutierrez has not been lacking in funds, and has enjoyed access to more money than any of her three predecessors combined, and could afford to hire more than double the number of personnel they had been allowed to get.
IT ALL started late night of April 9, 2008 when Christian M. Kalaw was arrested by the police for alleged illegal parking and driving without license in Manila.
Two years and four months later, on August 23, 2010 one of those Christian accused of robbery, extortion, grave threats, and physical injuries commandeered a tourist bus and proceeded to hold its occupants hostage.
The hostage-taker would have an 11-hour standoff with the Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team of the Manila Police District (MPD). When it ended, nine people lay dead inside the Hong-Thai tourist bus, which was parked at the Quirino Grandstand in Manila: the hostage taker himself, Senior Inspector (Captain) Rolando Mendoza, and eight Hong Kong nationals.
When the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) on the August 23 Quirino Grandstand hostage incident finally uses the word “extort,” it almost seems like an afterthought. The word is buried in the second to the last paragraph of the last page of the report it submitted a month ago to President Benigno Simeon C. Aquino III.
“This is our society,” the report concludes. “It drives otherwise ordinary and simple men to turn into murdering monsters at a snap. Because they feel oppressed and need justice but are asked for money. They ask for redemption but are faced with extortion. Officials without shame, policemen without competence, politicians without care, reporters without conscience, a nation without luck. Mendoza was only the instrument in the murder of eight innocent human beings.”
© 1989–2018 All rights reserved. Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism.