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House panel to look into Gutierrez’s funds

/ 05:40 AM April 25, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez has the financial resources and the personnel to go after corrupt persons in the government and yet has little to show in terms of convicted grafters, according to one of the prosecutors in her impeachment trial at the Senate.

Bayan Muna party-list Rep. Neri Colmenares said the House prosecution team would go into the details of how the Ombudsman spent her average annual allocation of P12.5 million in intelligence funds and P417.25 million in salaries for her 2,175-member staff during her first four years in office.

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Colmenares said Gutierrez’s predecessor, Simeon Marcelo, had an annual allocation of only P1.4 million in intelligence funds—disposable money of high government officials not subject to state audit—during his tenure.

And yet, the party-list lawmaker said, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo immediately raised Gutierrez’s intelligence funds to nearly triple, or P4.12 million, in her first full year in 2006.

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Colmenares said Arroyo apparently did not mind the Office of the Ombudsman’s declining conviction rate under Gutierrez because she gave the latter P23 million in intelligence funds in 2009.

“The question is, Where is she using these funds? No major case of corruption was resolved under her watch,” he said, adding that the House prosecution team would ask the Commission on Audit for a more detailed probe of the Office of the Ombudsman’s budget in the first four years of Gutierrez.

Inexcusable

Colmenares said that with vast resources at her disposal, it was inexcusable for the Ombudsman to post a low conviction rate and produce sloppy work like the recent plunder case she ordered filed against the persons involved in the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, including a dead man.

“She spent a total of P49.97 million for her intelligence fund from 2005 to 2009, and yet she makes these supposed mistakes,” the lawmaker said.

He added: “During the same period, she also spent a total of P1.669 billion in the salaries and allowances of her … personnel of 2,175, and yet this kind of shoddy work is the result.

“These mistakes will surely be used by Bolante and company in their motion to quash the charges against them.”

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Former Agriculture Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-joc” Bolante is the alleged architect of the diversion of the fertilizer fund to the election kitty of Arroyo allies in 2004.

Gutierrez was a law classmate of Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo.

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TAGS: Accounting & audits, Graft & Corruption, Gutierrez Impeachment
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