By ELLEN T. TORDESILLAS
THE statement of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales that the plunder and graft case filed by Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV against then presidential candidate Rodrigo Duterte is being investigated reassures those who are worried that the issue would be buried with the election of Duterte to the presidency.
Many were afraid that the Ombudsman ‘s office would just sit on the case because of Morales’ relations with the President.
Morales is the sister of lawyer Lucas Carpio Jr, the father-in-law of Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, daughter of the President.
In a talk with reporters after she delivered a stirring speech at the UP Alumni Homecoming Friday, Morales said although she has inhibited herself from the case, “ it is undergoing investigation.”
The case, which about the alleged 11,000 ghost employees in the payroll of the Davao city government in 2014 when Duterte was the mayor, was filed four days before the May 9 elections.
“At time the case was filed, he (Duterte) was not yet President. Under the law, even if a person has immunity or even if he’s impeachable, you still continue the investigation for purposes of determining whether there is misconduct,” she explained.
Morales said if investigators found liability on the part of the President, “there could be a basis for impeachment, if it amounts to the grounds of impeachment under the Constitution.”
Trillanes based his complaint on the 2015 Commission on Audit report that said there is no proof that 11,000 contractual employees hired by the city government in 2014 actually rendered services.
Trillanes said the city government spent over P700 million for the services of the contractual employees.
It will be recalled that last September, Edgar Matobato, a self-confessed member of the Davao Death Squad, said during the investigation on extra-judicial killings, he was collecting a salary from the Davao City government even if he did not work at City Hall.
It will also be recalled that three weeks before the May 9 elections, Trillanes exposed Duterte’s account at the Bank of Philippine islands, Julia Vargas in Ortigas branch that recorded transactions amounting to P2.4 billion pesos. He said some of the suspicious deposits there could be connected to the ghost employees.
The Ombudsman’s investigation could give the public the truth that they deserve.
It is worthy to note that while the Ombudsman was expressing her alarm over “ revisionist-distortionist proclivity” at Makati Shangrila in Makati, thousands were gathered at the Rizal Park protesting the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng Bayani made possible by President Duterte and the Supreme Court.
In her speech, Morales told two stories to underscore her message: one was the parable of the “Ogre that never dies” and the other was about the Navy Officer and the light.
Following is story about the Navy Officer:
“This naval officer had always dreamed of commanding a battleship. Although he had a touch of arrogance and pride in his make-up, it was not enough to hinder his steady climb. Soon enough, he finally achieved that dream. One very stormy night, as the battleship was making its way through the choppy seas, the captain spotted a strange light off the port side rapidly closing with his own ship. To avoid a possible collision, he immediately ordered the signalman to flash this message to the unidentified craft: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the south.’ It was just a minute or two before the reply came: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the north.’ Determined that his battleship would not take a back seat to another vessel, the captain snapped out this order to be sent: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the south – I am the Captain!’ The response was beamed right back: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the north – I am Seaman Third Class Jones.’
At this reply, the captain was now infuriated. He grabbed the signal light with his own hands and fired off: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the south – I am a Battleship!’ Back came the reply: ‘Alter your course 10 degrees to the north – I am a Lighthouse.’”
The lesson from the Navy Officer’s story, Morales said is, “It seems that no matter how highly we regard ourselves, there is still a higher order: there exists the overarching rule of law. The law serves as the proverbial lighthouse that guides a nation as it charts the course of history. It mirrors the matrix of values or mores of a given society .”
There’s a remark related to that story made also last Friday by another distinguished Filipino, National Artist Frankie Sionil Jose at the national conference of the Asian Media Information and Communication Center with the theme “Deconstructing Towards Understanding: The Communication Content and Style of Rodrigo R. Duterte.”
Sionil Jose cited several pluses about Duterte.: sincere, nationalistic, revolutionary, among others. However, he added to the observation by another resource person, public relations expert Bong Osorio that Duterte should check on his hubris. “What destroyed most of our past presidents was hubris,” the National Artist said.
Hubris is defined by Merriam-Webster as “extreme pride, especially pride and ambition so great that they offend the gods and lead to one’s downfall.”