New Ombudsman vows to probe ‘parking fees’ and delays
THE NEWLY-appointed Ombudsman has vowed to prioritize the “parking fees” flagged by one of President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s former counsels.
“Yes, that is one of my priorities. I would make the necessary announcement on what has to be done,” said Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel L. Martires, who will head the Office of the Ombudsman beginning Wednesday.
“I will have a meeting with them (Ombudsman officials) on Wednesday when I officially assume office,” Mr. Martires told reporters on Monday.
Edna Herrera-Batacan, a former lawyer of Mr. Duterte, has claimed that she had to pay for “parking fees” to Ombudsman officials to keep a case on hold for resolution.
When asked regarding the possible filing of a case against the former legal counsel of the President, Mr. Martires said, “I just want her to cooperate with us. I told Justice Sandoval (Ombudsman Special Prosecutor Edilberto G. Sandoval) about this and the Overall Deputy Ombudsman Carandang(Melchor Arthur H. Carandang), we should ask or demand Atty. Batacan to identify the officers or employee who received money from her.”
Mr. Martires also said that he would prioritize other “pending cases (and) the issue of inordinate delay, which has been an issue that has been haunting the Sandiganbayan as well as the Supreme Court.”
“I will immediately look into that and the causes for the delay,” he said. — Gillian M. Cortez
Palace says cases against Tulfos ‘should proceed’
THE “LEGAL process should proceed” on the controversial P60-million advertisement deals of former Department of Tourism (DoT) secretary Wanda Tulfo-Teo with her brothers’ Bitag show on government television station PTV 4, Malacañang said on Monday.
“Now, since Ben (Tulfo) said, hindi na sila magbabalik (they will not return the money), so be it. Ang huling deklarasyon po ng Presidente diyan (the previous declaration of the President on that) — and I asked him explicitly — is we will let the legal process proceed…, let those liable be held responsible,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.
On the plan of Senator Antonio F. Trillanes IV to file a plunder complaint against the former tourism chief and her brothers, Ben and Erwin, Mr. Roque said: “Well, the matter is in fact within the cognizance already of the Ombudsman. So, that would be treated as a second complaint. But as far as I know, before her retirement, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales said she had already commenced investigation into this matter.”
In a statement, Mr. Trillanes said, “I intend to file a plunder case against the Tulfo siblings in relation to the P60-million DoT ad controversy.”
He added that he will also call on the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee to act on his resolution “calling for an inquiry into the matter, so we could determine the magnitude of corruption, specifically, how much more of the people’s money was squandered by the previous DoT leadership.” — Arjay L. Balinbin
Duterte open to amending Bangsamoro law
MALACAÑANG ON Monday said President Rodrigo R. Duterte is open to amending the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that he signed last week if there will be complaints from stakeholders.
“[The] President [has said], if you have specific complaints, we are open to discuss these complaints with the view of possibly amending further the law,” Presidential Spokesperson Harry L. Roque, Jr. said in a press briefing at the Palace.
He also said the signing of the BOL “wasn’t really rushed,” because “it’s been there. It has been pending. It took us almost a year to discuss the BOL; there’s been substantial consultations. I note that—you know, the President even called members of the Congress and Senate — if I’m not mistaken — at least three times to the Palace.”
He added, “Nothing is perfect and, of course, the BOL as signed into law is a result of (a) compromise.”
The spokesman said Mr. Dutere is also willing to listen to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) leader Nur Misuari.
“He’s reaching out specifically to Nur Misuari, and he is willing to listen to [him],” he said.
He added that the President is willing to “accommodate” some of Mr. Misuari’s “wishes.”
Asked which provisions in the BOL may be amended, he said, “I do not know specifically what he was referring to. But we all know that Sulu traditionally is the bastion of opposition for BOL. So, he is willing to sit down with Sulu and talk about possible amendments.”
On Mr. Duterte’s pronouncement that he wants to talk to the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), Mr. Roque explained: “He is willing to accept surrenderees from the ASG. So what he meant is that ‘surrender and you would be given a new lease on life.’ That’s as far as I understood the totality of what the President said on the basis of the transcripts.”
Malacañang also welcomed the expression of support by the United Nations and the European Union for the BOL.
“We acknowledge for the first time that positive response that we got from the United Nations and the European Union on the signing of the Bangsamoro Organic Law. Of course, we’re one with the whole world in praying that the Bangsamoro Organic Law would pave the way for lasting peace in Mindanao.”
A ceremonial signing of the BOL has been scheduled for Aug. 6, according to Special Assistant to the President Christopher T. Go. — Arjay L. Balinbin