She gained fame as Miss Caloocan in 2000, which eventually helped her win votes to become a city councilor and later as congresswoman for two terms.
Mary Mitzi Cajayon-Uy believes more opportunities could have been possible for her, if not for the cases filed by unknown parties but endorsed by the Ombudsman which tarnished her name and affected her family.
Cajayon-Uy, a former executive director of the Council for the Welfare of Children, undersecretary of the DSWD, and representative of Caloocan’s second district, said while she was eventually acquitted by the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in November this year, she had suffered financially, morally and emotionally.
“Now that I have been acquitted, there is the so-called ‘danyos’ or demand for compensation, given what we experienced morally, financially, and emotionally. My name has been tarnished, my political rival used the case against me, and my family was affected. I was worried about my children, what they felt and the way they were exposed to the public,” Cajayon-Uy said in a news briefing.
“The fact that I had a mugshot and was treated like a prisoner caused mental anguish that I had to endure. Now that the Ombudsman lost the case against me, how could I regain what I have lost,” the 43-year-old executive asked. It is not about money, she said, but only wanted to clear her name.
“I love our government and I am with the government. What I want is to rectify what was wrong, so the public would know,” she said.
Cajayon-Uy was cleared of graft and malversation charges in connection with the alleged misuse of P10 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund in 2009. The Sandiganbayan’s Second Division, in a 91-page ruling on Nov. 12, said the Ombudsman failed to present sufficient evidence to prove Cajayon-Uy’s guilt beyond reasonable doubt.
Cajayon-Uy, who was crowned Miss Caloocan in 2000, before becoming a city councilor and later a congresswoman, said because of the corruption case filed by an anonymous party with the Ombudsman, she had lost opportunities including the possibility of becoming a Cabinet secretary.
“Honestly, I have lost big opportunities,” she said, while admitting that she was considering filing an application with Malacanang Palace to become DSWD secretary, only to be derailed by the revival of the corruption case against her.
“When I was applying for a higher position, it was denied because of the baggage of the case. I also did not run for an elective post because of the same baggage thrown against me,” she said.
Cajayon-Uy said this is why she was elated when the Sandiganbayan absolved her by looking into the merit of the case.
To push for reforms in the justice system, she said she would run again for Congress where she served for two terms. Cajayon-Uy was among the principal authors of several laws protecting children, including Republic Act No. 10627 (Anti-Bullying Act), RA 10152 (Mandatory Infant and Children Immunization Act) and RA 10630 (An Act Strengthening the Juvenile Justice System).
Cajayon-Uy said that once elected to Congress in 2022, she would file bills pushing for reforms in the Office of the Ombudsman to strengthen its mandate as a public defender and ensure that complaints filed with the office are rigorously scrutinized so that government funds are not wasted.
“Reforms and other measures must be legislated to ensure that complaints filed before the OMB undergo a more stringent screening before cases are filed before the courts so as not to waste government resources,” she said.
She said these reforms are necessary for the Ombudsman to fulfill its mandate and use its funds properly.
Data released by Cajayon’s legal team showed that of the P4.82-billion budget of the Ombudsman in 2019, P643.2 million or 51 percent was spent on Anti-Corruption Investigation Program, resulting in only 17.88 percent criminal and administrative charges.
About P469.3 million, or 37.3 percent of the 2019 budget, was spent on the Anti-Corruption Enforcement Program, contributing to only 25 percent of criminal and civil cases prosecution with actual court resolution.
“Based on these figures, it would seem that only a very small portion of complaints filed before the OMB are actually case-worthy or have enough basis to withstand investigation and trial. The rest can be deemed as frivolous suits or baseless complaints,” she said.
She said she would particularly push for a review of the Ombudsman Act of 1989 and would propose the imposition of fines, payment for damages, and reimbursement of legal expenses to cover all the losses of an accused who stands trial.