Former budget secretary and now Congressman Rolando Andaya told the Committee on Finance at the Lower House yesterday that the Millennium Challenge fund, which was recently secured by the Aquino administration, was actually the product of years of hard work by the Arroyo administration, most especially, the Office of the Ombudsman.
The Office of the Ombudsman led by Merceditas Gutierrez contributed greatly to process the grant which requires a lot of things. One of them, an excellent performance from the anti-graft agency of government.
IN 2008-2009, the Office of the Ombudsman worked hard to get a 56% prosecution rating, 16% higher than the 40% requirement of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the US agency tasked to process the funds grant. It was under the leadership of Assistant Ombudsman Mark Jalandoni of the Ombudsman Field Investigation Unit, that the Office of the Ombudsman made the highly successful prosecution rate.
The US$434 Million grant is a 5-year compact between the MCC and the GRP. It intends to help the government reduce poverty. The funds will be used to support reforms and investments to modernized the BIR, expand and improve a community-driven development project, Kalahi-CIDSS and rehabilitate a secondary national road in Samar province.
There were 17 indicators that were put forth and one of them pertains to the anti-graft and corrupt record of the applicant-country. Unknown to many, the Ombudsman is the only constitutional body tasked with investigating cases of graft and corruption. It acts as a prosecuting body, much like the prosecutors of the Department of Justice.
However, the Ombudsman can only investigate and file charges against government and/or private individuals involved in nefarious acts. It does not have the power to try them because it is another constitutional body, the Sandiganbayan, which has the mandate to act as a court.
Let us laud the Office of the Ombudsman for doing such a fine job in the anti-corrupt and graft practices campaign of the government.
Yesterday, however, I learned that the Aquino administration has significantly reduced the budget allotted for the Ombudsman. Why?
I still remember the inaugural speech of President Noynoy Aquino which essentially lay down a platform against graft and corruption. If this administration will reduce the budget of the Ombudsman, it likewise reduces its capability of going after the big-time thieves and corrupt men of our government.
Congressman Rufus Rodriguez supports the budget proposal of the Ombudsman and even suggested that it be increased. Rodriguez, a former BID commissioner, knows exactly how important the budget is, especially to a constitutional body such as the Ombudsman. Governmental agencies need a big budget to fund its various campaigns, especially in going after these people who raid the public coffers and line their pockets with the people's money.
To hell with the impending impeachment proceedings against Merceditas Gutierrez. The people are not interested in politics. What the people want is justice. And how will the Ombudsman, as a Constitutional institution, honestly work for the full implementation of its mandate if this government tries to defang it to the detriment of the People?
This government must set aside politics and consider one thing--the implementation of its core agenda which is the fight against graft and corruption in governance.