Political Tidbits is the prestigious column of Belinda Olivares-Cunanan that ran for 25 continuous years in the op-ed page of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, the newspaper that she helped put up with its multi-awarded founder, the legendary Eugenia Duran-Apostol, in December 1985, just two months before the EDSA Revolution.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Ombudsman Carpio-Morales subjects Corona to parallel prosecution by dignifying unsubstantiated complaints against him, when she should await Senate trial’s end; homage to Raul Contreras, advertising and PR practitioner par excellence and thoughtful columnist, who ghost-wrote Chino Roces’ famous ‘highwaymen’ speech in Malacanang in the middle of Cory’s presidency.

News accounts reported that Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales gave Chief Justice Corona 72 hours to answer three complaints filed by allies of President Aquino about his alleged $10 million bank account. The question is why Carpio Morales immediately entertained these complaints and threw the burden of proving innocence right away to CJ Corona---without apparently even confronting his accusers about their evidence. 

As a sidewalk philosopher aptly texted: “Couldn’t she instead have asked CJ’s accusers what the basis and proof of their allegations are?  Was it intended to force CJ to disclose his dollar account before the impeachment court, so that his refusal to do its bidding may ultimately lead to his conviction in the eyes of the senator-judges and public opinion?”

The texter continued: “Are complaints now entertained like an ‘over the counter’ business transaction--- with no questions asked?”  


If readers recall, resigned Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was heavily criticized in the media for allegedly failing to act promptly on cases that implicated former President GMA and her officials. But at least, the charges made before Gutierrez went through proper filing and investigation, even if action in some cases may have been delayed in the perception of some ardent critics.

This actuation of Ombudsman Carpio-Morales toward CJ is worse: she confronted the accused and demanded a reply in 72 hours on charges filed by out and out allies of the President, Corona’s nemesis---that have not been substantiated at all.


Then there's the Senate impeachment trial that resumes on Monday, May 7. It is this court that has jurisdiction over CJ, he being one of the constitutionally impeachable officials---not the Ombudsman as she invokes powers  over CJ that are not  in RA 6770, the Ombudsman Law.  Reacting to Carpio-Morales’ letter-demand, Sen. Miriam Santiago and some of her colleagues correctly asked why she doesn't wait for the outcome of the Senate trial and then file the necessary action afterwards. This way, they stressed, the CJ is not made to fight on two fronts. I might add that plain decency demands that he be protected from such unjust predicament. 


Kung walang magawa si Carpio Morales while waiting for the Senate trial to wind up, perhaps she can implement DOJ Secretary Leila De Lima's order to investigate prosecution spokesperson Miro Quimbo instead. Quimbo was head of Pag-Ibig Fund when it loaned P6.6 billion to Globe Asiatique Realty executive Delfin Lee, which, in turn, he allegedly gave out to thousands of borrowers in the form of fraudulent housing loans.

The Lee case seems like an air-tight case, as the Court of Appeals has sustained Lee's prosecution (which he has appealed to the Supreme Court to stay);  but nothing is heard about the investigation of Quimbo, prompting some critics to query if this is just a moro-moro between the two women officials?


Never mind De Lima who has morphed from a commendably independent chair of the Commission on Human Rights in GMA’s time, to a dog-loyal implementer of President Aquino. What's disappointing is  to see Carpio Morales allow herself to be used in CJ’s alleged $10 million hidden account?  Sure, she is a cousin of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who's said to be behind the campaign to oust Corona. But I would think she should be more eager to preserve the good name she carved in the SC, and not tarnish it in a move perceived as parallel persecution of a former colleague.
The complaints filed by Risa Hontiveros, Walden Bello et al on the alleged $10 million wealth of Corona  tops the bogus list of accusations against him---in the tradition of the bogus list of 45 properties, the bogus US properties and fairy tales spun about securing  bank documents, etc. 


The Ombudsman’s move against CJ completes the circle of government agencies mobilized by the administration for his ouster that began with his bullet-train impeachment by the House’s infamous 188, upon orders of Malacanang.

The persecuting agencies include the Palace and House media machineries with their full backing in the yellow tri-media; the DOJ with its attached agencies, such as the Land Registration Authority and the NBI;  the BIR that’s investigating the entire Corona family, and the Anti-Money Laundering Council that’s under the supervision of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (that apparently began scrutinizing CJ’s bank deposits barely two months after P-Noy was inaugurated in 2010). 


The popular thinking is that  the move of Carpio-Morales to harass CJ  on the unverified complaints is being resorted to by the administration in order to pave the way for a second impeachment case against him on Dec. 13, 2012---a sure sign of  its insecurity about the votes in the Senate.

The above conspiracy will remind impeachment followers of the admonition of Sen. Joker Arroyo at the Senate floor, about how the full brunt of the administration’s might is being brought to bear on the highest magistrate. If this could be done to Corona, Arroyo warned , think of what the ordinary citizen could suffer and what little recourse he can have.  


A dear friend, Raul Legaspi Contreras, passed away last April 16 from complications of kidney failure, after a lingering bout with various illnesses, including worsening eye-sight.  Distinguished friends from the advertising and public relations field paid generous but well-deserved tribute.  Ado Paglinawan, for instance, a Bedan like Raul, recalled how “(he) was almost British in his ways, firm and demanding; those who didn’t know him thought he was over-bearing, but really, this man just had a tickler for the old school rules of propriety.” To Ado Raul was the “consummate story-teller and humorist.”


Tony Baranda, a former business associate of Raul, noted that his last wish was to be cremated immediately and he forbade a wake or any special service for and on his behalf. Tony opined that “that was vintage Raul---unorthodox, strong-willed and full of surprises.”

Noting that he was one of the best advertising practitioners the Philippine ad industry had produced, which brought him to the top of the heap and “to Madison Avenue, the center, the heart and soul of global advertising where he shone,” Baranda also regarded Raul as “a real nationalist who loved his country deeply, a journalist of exceptional writing skill and insight, and a true, genuine intellectual who had enriched the lives of the people he knew and cared for (including his enemies whom he taught valuable lessons).” In short, “a national asset.”


Raul Contreras ran a column for a long time for the newspaper Today, published and edited by TeddyBoy, and while his columns had that subtle and dry humor Ado noted, they were also always deeply analytical --the thoughtful product of a first-rate mind. But for me Raul stood for the best that the political opposition to Marcos offered in those years of our marching up and down Ayala Avenue.  He was very close to Chino Roces who signified that opposition and like many others, Raul followed Chino in supporting Cory Aquino as she became the symbol of the Edsa struggle.

 Like Chino, however, Raul eventually began to be disillusioned with the first Aquino administration. Few probably know that he actually wrote that famous speech Chino delivered right in Malacanang, in front of President Cory, that left us all gaping as he attacked the “highwaymen” around her.  Cory, I suspect, never recovered from that confrontation.

In my columns in the Inquirer in those later years of the Cory presidency, I also began to reflect my own disillusionment and in fact, I recall Raul telling me at some point how he held me as a weathervane of political disaffection.  He told some colleagues: “there is no one more yellow than Bel Cunanan as she covered Cory’s campaign throughout the archipelago. But look at what she is saying now. Things have become bad.”

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