Small Fry

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Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales seems all over the place all the time these days, suspending and dismissing mid-level government officials for alleged corruption. And that’s well and good, really - except that I never hear Morales going after the real big fish.


I’m not talking about the police generals and provincial governors that Morales has been removing from office on an almost daily basis. Those officials are like third-string basketball players who don’t really count as far as Team Noynoy is concerned.

Morales apparently enjoys the adulation she’s been receiving as the born-again nemesis of the corrupt in government. But I won’t join in the chorus of those singing her praises until she goes after three people who I feel truly deserve the Ombudsman’s wrath.

I’m talking about the Big Three of the Aquino Cabinet: Budget Secretary Florencio Abad Jr., Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala.

Sure, Abad is supposedly being investigated by the Ombudsman for his involvement in (his masterminding of, really) the pork barrel and Disbursement Acceleration Program scandals. But I really don’t put much stock by this probe, because Morales included President Noynoy Aquino in the investigation she’s conducting - —and surely the Ombudsman must know that an incumbent President can’t be sued.

As for Abaya, I’ll just single out one of his most questionable official actions: his signing of the contract that allowed an under-capitalized and inexperienced company to maintain the now-dilapidated Metro Rail Transit 3. Abaya said he signed the contract just days after he took over at the department and was cleared by the Ombudsman, which charged Abaya’s subordinates for involvement in the deal.

Regarding Alcala, even Aquino himself has done the unprecedented act of handing over some of the most important agencies of the agriculture department to another person, Francis Pangilinan, virtually admitting the incompetence (at the very least) of his old Congress buddy from Quezon. Under the watch of Alcala, who convinced Aquino about the fool’s gold of rice self-sufficiency, artificial shortages and large-scale smuggling of just about every important agricultural product have taken place - and yet he’s still there, long after Pangilinan has left to run again for the Senate.

So spare us the drama, Madam Ombudsman. Go pick on someone with some real standing and leave the small fry to your subalterns.

* * *

But if Morales wants to continue going after lightweights, perhaps she can look into the case of former Camarines Sur Rep. Arnulfo Fuentebella, who is running for office again next year. Fuentebella, a House speaker during the Estrada administration, was named in the 2007-2009 special audit report of the Commission on Audit as behind the alleged anomalous release of at least P40.27 million worth of pork barrel funds.

Fuentebella is the patriarch of a political dynasty that has held sway for over a century now in CamSur’s fourth or Partido district, where many of the province’s poorest towns (including his hometown of Tigaon) are. He is running for congressman once more in place of his son Felix William, who used to head the graft-tainted Partido Development Authority, while his elder brother Arnulf Bryant, mayor of Tigaon, is running for governor; Fuentebella’s wife Evelyn is seeking reelection as mayor of Sagnay.

Based in part on the CoA findings, anti-graft NGO filed last Oct. 20 a plunder case against Fuentebella and his wife Evelyn to make them “accountable for illegal amassing of wealth and for plunder of public funds to the great prejudice of the Filipino people.” Danilo Hassan, who chairs ZeroTolerance, accused the former Speaker in a statement of misstating his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth in 2010 because his family has managed to accumulate wealth valued at about P186 million while in office.

Hassan also took note in his statement of Fuentebella’s unaccounted PDAF outlays worth P11.36 million, an amount allegedly used to buy thousands of sacks of rice from the National Food Authority without any official project proposal that ostensibly ended up in the hands of “ghost” beneficiaries.

According to the CoA report, Fuentebella coursed a portion of his PDAF outlays to the Partido District Development Cooperative Inc. for a rice procurement project that ended up in the hands of dummy or even “deceased” beneficiaries.


“ZeroTolerance was informed that the distribution list contained fake signatures including some that belonged to deceased individuals,” Hassan said. Sounds like a job for Morales, to me.