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Only less than 10 cases in truth body against Arroyo

By Christian V. Esguerra, Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:04:00 12/12/2010

Filed Under: Graft & Corruption, Judiciary (system of justice), Politics

MANILA, Philippines?Before it was struck down as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court earlier this week, the Philippine Truth Commission had received more than 50 complaints of corruption against the previous Arroyo administration.

Less than 10 of the cases mentioned former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, said commissioner Carlos Medina.

?If only people could see the complaints filed so far, if only we would be allowed to operate first, they would know that the former president is not being targeted,? he said.

Medina revealed this presumably to dispute the argument used by the high court in invalidating President Benigno Aquino?s Executive Order No. 1, which created the five-member commission.

By a vote of 10 to 5, the high tribunal ruled that EO 1 violated the equal protection clause of the Constitution, pointing out that the commission appeared to have been ?crafted to tailor-fit the prosecution of officials and personalities of the Arroyo administration.?

He said the complaints did not include ?known? cases like the $327-million National Broadband Network deal and the alleged P728-million fertilizer fund scam.

One of the complaints was against the Ampatuan political clan of Maguindanao and their allegedly ill-gotten wealth, he said.

Of the 50 or so new complaints, many involve local government transactions on such matters as licenses, permits, titling of lands, which, ?taken together and over the years, could show a pattern of massive graft and corruption,? according to Medina.

He said one-third of the new complaints also pertained to military transactions, involving procurement of supplies and equipment.

The single biggest case in the new batch of complaints involved P200 to P300 million, he said.

?But we still have to dig into them. For the moment, these are mere allegations. We?ve done no interviews or hearings yet,? Medina said.

Next specific individual

Mr. Aquino had envisioned the commission to investigate people and institutions involved in allegedly massive cases of corruption during Arroyo?s nine-year term from 2001 to 2010.

?The claim that the commission is targeting a specific individual is really without basis,? Medina said.

He declined to provide details about the complaints, including those that involved the former president, who is now a House member for Pampanga.

Not keen on impeachment

Mr. Aquino yesterday indicated that he was not keen on having the Supreme Court justices impeached in retaliation for the setback suffered by his Truth Commission project.

?We have six years to do what we have to do. The proceedings, according to the Supreme Court itself, run up to six years,? he told reporters in Tarlac where he observed barangay assembly day with a group of barangay leaders.

?If we are going to [engage in] intramurals such as an impeachment case, our attention and focus will be diverted. There will be many lost opportunities,? he said.

The President appeared to be clarifying earlier remarks he made about some congressional allies becoming upset over the Truth Commission being ?blocked? and raising the possibility of initiating an impeachment case against the high court justices.

He made clear yesterday that his priority remains ?bringing closure? to the unresolved scandals of the Arroyo administration, and ?how best to achieve the aim in the fastest time.?

Anticorruption gains negated

A United Nations official, meanwhile, said the Supreme Court decision against the creation of the commission had somewhat negated the gains made by the country in ratifying a treaty to fight corruption.

?The Philippine Truth Commission could have been an effective mechanism in making real the anticorruption thrust of the Aquino administration,? said Renaud Meyer, country director of the UN Development Program (UNDP).

The ruling came just as the world was celebrating International Anti-Corruption Day, and the Philippines was marking the fourth year of its ratification of the UN Convention Against Corruption, Meyer told the ?Talakayan? forum at the University of the Philippines last Thursday.

While one of the commission?s functions was to prosecute big-time corruption in the previous administration, it could also have been a valuable venue for policy reform that could contribute in addressing, if not eradicating, corruption in the country.

According to Meyer, recent estimates placed the cost of corruption in the country at about 20 to 30 percent of the national budget.

He said this translated to less classrooms, less hospitals, less kilometers of farm-to-market roads, and less protection from diseases, among other things. With Cynthia D. Balana

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