"What they have done is simply unconscionable."
Placing at least 89 barangay chairmen under preventive suspension for six months on orders of the Office of the Ombudsman, in connection with irregularities in the cash aid distribution under the Social Amelioration Program (SAP), must have sent a message that hit home at the grassroots level of local politics.
The 89 barangay captains are among a total of 463 individuals, including 227 elected barangay officials, 104 appointees, and 132 co-conspirators against whom the Ombudsman is pressing graft charges.
These numbers may not seem a lot considering the rampant irregularities in the cash distribution delegated to the officials of the 42,042 barangays nationwide.
But I would say it’s a good start or a good sampling of the administration’s determination to stem corruption from the top down to the bottom of governance.
A barangay captain’s six-month suspension must cause quite a stir among his constituents as this may disrupt the culture of impunity that abusive village officials have perpetrated.
To me the Ombudsman’s order means the government will not tolerate the barangay officials who have shamelessly exploited the pandemic during which our poor fellow Filipinos experienced extreme hardship.
It is simply unconscionable for these barangay officials to have defrauded and denied their residents of what little the government could dole during the six-months lockdown. This is particularly true for those who practically died from hunger.
We are strongly hoping that the Ombudsman’s action would lead to convictions and dismissal of those found liable. Better yet, those who deserve jail time must be given exactly that.
Majority of the cases are violations of RA 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, while some cases are violations of RA 11469 or the Bayanihan to Heal As One Act, Code of Conduct Ethical Public Standards; perjury; estafa; falsification of documents; great coercion, and malversation of public funds.
Indeed, we welcome this development just as we anticipate the report of the Task Force PhilHealth headed by Department of Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra to be submitted to President Duterte.
As of this writing, Guevarra’s task force was expected to beat the September 14 deadline imposed by the President for the submission of the result of its investigation on the multi-billion peso irregularities in the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
We expect the task force would finally unmask the PhilHealth mafia headed by top officials who have over the years pocketed billions of pesos in agency funds.
At least 13 ranking PhilHealth officials have been ordered placed under preventive suspension for six months without pay. The order came from the Office of the Ombudsman.
These PhilHealth officials who have fleeced the agency of its funds in massive scale seem to dwarf those barangay officials who deprived their starving constituents of their measly P5,000 to P8,000 cash under the SAP..
Note, however, that the PhilHealth funds largely come from the contributions of similarly poor Filipino workers, who should not have to beg for such PhilHealth benefits to pay for the costs of their hospitalization.
We are hoping that just like the Ombudsman’s action against the barangay officials, the charges against the PhilHealth mafia godfathers would lead to convictions and jail terms that they deserve.