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Anomalous delays

As new scandals, anomalies and other news worthy items arise one after the other, media tend to set aside and completely forget or bury into oblivion the many other previous headline hugging anomalies and deplorable or sensational happenings that remain without any conclusive or clear ending. The ongoing coverage on the sex scandals, the road diversion mess and other disgusting political developments will surely be a thing of the past as soon as other juicy scandals, anomalies and “flavor of the month” news come up and hug the headlines.

This rather undesirable media practice has been exploited by those involved in the exposés. They just sit tight, keep mum or flee to other countries until the furor dies down and they are shoved out of the limelight. Sometimes they subtly distract media attention by contriving other more sensational news that pushes them out of the headlines. The worst part here is that when the investigations of the exposés end in a cover up, media also ends its coverage until the whole thing is forgotten.

The “Garci” case used to be the best example here until the Bolante P720-million fund scam was exposed. The investigation of this case started way back in 2005 but Bolante fled to another country. Although the Senate continued the investigation in his absence and came up with a report finding probable cause and referring the case to the Ombudsman, the latter sat on it allegedly because filing the charges immediately in court without giving him the opportunity to present his side would be in violation of his right to due process. Another excuse given by the Ombudsman was that it would really entail lots of time before it could file the case since the scam was on a nationwide scale. Hence, media forgot all about his case.

But when Bolante was forced to return because his attempt to seek asylum in the US was unsuccessful, media once more placed him on the limelight as the Senate decided to probe him personally sometime in November, 2008. On the other hand the Ombudsman also went through the motion of requiring Bolante to submit his counter-affidavit on the charges against him and committed to finish its investigation in 90 days. 

However after the Senate terminated its second probe and recommended to the Ombudsman the indictment of Bolante and several others for plunder, the Ombudsman again took its own sweet time and reneged on its commitment to finish its preliminary investigation within 90 days, this time even blaming the Senate report for further delay. Hence the Bolante case once more went off the media’s radar screen as exposés of other scandals and anomalies came up.

More than six months have so far elapsed from the time of the Ombudsman’s self imposed deadline without any resolution on its part concerning this case. The undue delay definitely works in favor of those found involved in the scam not only because of the waning public interest but more importantly because such delay may result in the dismissal of the case even if filed in court because of denial of due process as held by the Supreme Court in the landmark case of Tatad. Or witnesses may lose interest, change their mind or get killed as what happened to an Agricultural Official, a vital witness in the Fertilizer Fund Scam, who was ambushed on the way to his farm.

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Indeed, this delay is already an anomaly itself. Determining probable cause usually takes no more than 90 days precisely because it only involves finding out whether there are reasonable grounds to believe that the persons charged could be held for trial. It does not require sifting through and meticulously examining every piece of evidence to ascertain that they are enough to convict the persons involved beyond reasonable doubt. This is already the function of the Courts.

As they say, “res ipsa loquitor” or “the thing speaks for itself”. And this anomalous delay on the part of the Ombudsman in resolving the Bolante case and filing it before the Sandiganbayan speaks so loudly about the Ombudsman’s culpability for the impeachment charges filed against her and now pending in the Lower House.

And another thing that speaks for itself so loudly is the undue delay incurred by the Lower House in just determining whether the impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman filed by the group of Ex-Senator Salonga is sufficient in form and substance. To be sure, the utterly unfounded inaction on the part of the Ombudsman in resolving this Fund Scam is more than enough proof for the Lower House to declare that the impeachment complaint sufficient in form and substance. Thus this delay of the Lower House of Congress in acting on the impeachment complaint is another disgusting anomaly.

So one thing emerging clearly from all these anomalous and unexplained delays in resolving this Fertilizer Fund Scam is the extraordinary effort to keep this case under wraps and to “freeze the ball” until game time is over for this administration in 2010. Acting either way now will be a costly fumble of the ball that may put this administration on the losing end. If it is resolved now and the case is whitewashed, public indignation may trigger another explosive unstable situation that may be hard to control. On the other hand, if the case is finally filed in Court and the impeachment proceedings push through, the administration will definitely find itself in extremely hot water.

E-mail us at jcson@pldtdsl.net

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