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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.

ANIANO DESIERTO, the country’s second Ombudsman, used to be a broadcast newsman, but current chief graftbuster Merceditas N. Gutierrez has turned out to be more of a media creature than he ever was. She has been, in fact, a “tri-media personality,” running a personal column in a business daily, even as she co-hosted a radio show and a TV program on state-run media.

WHEN IT comes to hailing to jail alleged crooks in the military and police, the Ombudsman practically accords star-rank officers a mere slap on the wrist. Only 19 generals of the Armed Forces have actually been prosecuted for alleged corruption in the 22-year history of the Office of the Ombudsman.

ALLEGATIONS OF millions of pesos given and received as send-off money to a string of Armed Forces chiefs of staff have been traded on the floor of Congress. The charges have been triggered by the trial for plunder and bribery of former military comptroller Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia that has been whittled down to a much-maligned plea bargain deal.