WHO has been jailed for corruption in this country?
In its search for answers, the Philippine Threshold Program launched a study on “Time Served for Corruption” covering 118 cases from 2001 to 2008 of public officials who had been prosecuted by the Ombudsman, convicted by the Sandiganbayan, and sent to jail after the Supreme Court upheld their convictions.
Over three-fourths or 93 of the cases were in different stages of execution proceedings. The small balance of 25 individuals had been served court orders committing them to prison, but nearly half or 11 had been pardoned by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
In short, less than one in every 10 persons convicted of corruption since 2001 has actually been jailed.
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.
OMBUDSMAN SPECIAL Prosecutor Dennis Villa-Ignacio has two framed caricatures displayed prominently in his white office at the Sandiganbayan. One shows him locking up former President Joseph ‘Erap’ Estrada inside a prison cell and shouting “Next!” The other has him knocking out Estrada in a boxing ring.
“They are both gifts to me,” says Villa-Ignacio, the special prosecutor who leads the team of government lawyers in the P4.1-billion plunder and perjury cases against Estrada.