ILOILO CITY, Philippines
16 October 2008
– The Freedom from Debt Coalition-Iloilo Chapter has expressed dismay on the failure of the Office of the Ombudsman Visayas to act on the complaint filed by the group against Iloilo City's top politicians exactly one year ago.
In September last year, Mayor Jerry Treñas, Vice-Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog and numerous City Councilors traveled to Taiwan to inspect the operations of existing coal-fired power plants in the country.
The said "study tour" was termed by the group as the city officials' "Taiwan rendezvous" after Mayor Treñas revealed over the media that it was a proponent sponsored trip and not the local government.
This prompted FDC and other groups to file a complaint against the city officials before the Ombudsman for violation of Republic Act 6713 or the "Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees" and for grave misconduct October in 9 last year.
Section 7 of R.A. 6713 provides that: "Public officials and employees shall not solicit or accept, directly or indirectly, any gift, gratuity, favor, entertainment, loan or anything of monetary value from any person in the course of their official duties or in connection with any operation being regulated by, or any transaction which may be affected by the functions of their office."
"What they did was a clear violation of the law. A public office is a public trust and we believe that they must be accountable of their deeds and misdeeds against the people," said lawyer Romeo Gerochi, chairperson of FDC-Iloilo.
In a follow-up letter dated October 8, 2008 addressed to the Ombudsman, Gerochi underscored, "it has been 12 months since the complaint was submitted yet we have not received any official response from your office."
"Our complaint might again be gathering dust in some unlabeled cabinets at the Ombudsman. Its neglect is giving us the impression that the Ombudsman is being selective on what cases to act upon and who to prosecute," stressed Ted Aldwin Ong, secretary-general of FDC-Iloilo.
"Our previous complaint met the same fate at the Ombudsman. Considering that the people involve in the complaint are city officials who are allies of Mrs. Arroyo, we cannot help but doubt on these delays as deliberate initiatives," averred Ong.
The group was referring on its complaint which also involves Iloilo City Mayor Jerry Treñas – the controversial P130-million Pavia Housing Project which was resolved by the Visayas Ombudsman on May 9, 2005. Final resolution has been pending then after Tanodbayan Merciditas Gutierrez left the case languishing in his office.
"The fight against graft and corruption requires the participation of citizens' groups. We are serious in doing our part. Thus we challenge Deputy Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol to "undust" the cases we have filed before his office and act on it right away," says FDC. -30-
Freedom from Debt Coalition - Iloilo Chapter
Apt D., Gerochi Law Office Compound, La Paz District
5000 Iloilo City, Philippines
Telefax: (63-33) 509-2028 *Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Atty. Romeo P. Gerochi, Chairperson, @ +63 919 575 5658
Ted Aldwin Ong, Secretary General, @ +63 915 774 7413