THE opposition on Monday assailed Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for reviving 10-year-old graft cases against their supporters in vote-rich provinces, and for filing plunder raps against independent vice presidential candidate Senator Ferdinand Marcos Jr. so close to Election Day.
“Of course they are using this as a weapon against me,” said Marcos, one of two frontrunners in the vice presidential race. “If they can’t win in the campaign, then they will give their opponent a problem.”
“It’s sad that the entire force and machinery of the government is being used to go after the opponents of the administration,” he added.
United Nationalist Alliance spokesman Mon Ilagan said the filing of charges against allies of opposition candidate for president Vice President Jejomar Binay showed the Ombudsman was overzealous in trying to damage the reputation of close Binay allies and supporters.
This was part of an orchestrated effort to derail Binay’s bid, he added.
The Office of the Ombudsman has filed graft charges against UNA reelectionist Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia over the construction of the Cebu International Convention Center in 2006.
It also affirmed the graft case against former Laguna Gov. ER Ejercito for an insurance agreement the municipality of Pagsanjan entered into in 2008.
On Tuesday, the Ombudsman announced the indictment of former Special Action Force commander and retired police General Getulio Napeñas in connection with the Mamasapano incident in January 2015. Napeñas is a senatorial candidate for UNA.
Ilagan said the agenda was to derail the campaigns of Garcia and Ejercito, both active Binay supporters, in their respective vote-rich bailiwicks.
Cebu has 2.7 million registered voters, while Laguna has about 1.7 million.
Also on Wednesday, the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court, ordered the arrest of opposition Senator Joseph Victor Ejercito over the alleged anomalous procurement of high-powered guns worth P2.1 million in 2008, when he was still mayor of San Juan City.
Ejercito and 14 others were accused of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.
“That’s the problem. Everything is all about politics. Even justice is being politicized. That’s what they do. If you are not an ally, they will file charges against you. But if you are an administration ally who’s involved in an irregularity, they won’t do a thing. So it looks like we’re now a victim of this, too,” Marcos said in Filipino.
Marcos said the filing of charges one month before the elections and at the height of the campaign season was another way to derail his bid for the vice presidency.
Ilagan questioned the Ombudsman’s timing.
“These cases are about 10 years old, and suddenly they will revive them? It’s quite sad that the Office of the Ombdusman allows itself to be used as a tool by the administration to harass the political opposition,” Ilagan said. “It has also become a willing accomplice to the administration party’s propaganda machine.”
Ilagan said UNA expected the Ombudsman to move, not only against Binay but at other members of the opposition, particularly those who have a strong influence on local politics.
“What Ombudsman Morales-Carpio is doing is to file charges left and right against our allies, but staying away from any allies of the Liberal Party,” Ilagan said.
Up to this day, he said, the Ombudsman has not filed a single case against LP stalwarts who were involved in the illegal Disbursement Acceleration Program like Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and allies of the administration involved in the Napoles pork barrel scam and the P32-billion Malampaya Fund scam.
“We know we can never expect any fairness or impartiality from this administration. Despite the harassment on the ground and in the courts, we remain committed and dedicated in getting our message on poverty through. Our focus is to help the poor and address the issue of poverty decisively,” Ilagan said.
Marcos said the case against him was old.
He said alleged PDAF scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles even cleared Marcos in a judicial affidavit submitted before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee.
Marcos said the Ombudsman’s action show the kind of system he wants to change by bringing back meritocracy in government.
“We have to remember that it is important that government is based on merit, not on politics,” he said.
The Palace denied any involvement in the Ombudsman’s actions.
“The Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional body, and its findings from the investigation that it conducted form part of the legal and public accountability processes… In all these processes, it is our people’s expectation that truth and justice will prevail,” said Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr.
Earlier, a group calling itself iBalik ang Bilyones ng Mamamayan (iBBM), accused Marcos of channeling P205 million of his pork barrel fund to fake Napoles-linked foundations in 2011 to 2013.
They stormed the Ombudsman’s central office in Quezon City and staged a protest before they filed their complaint. The protesters wore red bow ties, alluding to Marcos’ attire during yacht parties in the Martial Law years. With Vito Barcelo, Rio N. Araja and Macon Ramos-Araneta