POSTSCRIPT / May 10, 2012 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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With Corona precedent, even Aquino is fair game

PRECEDENT: Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales may have set an interesting, not necessarily dangerous, precedent when she directed Chief Justice Renato C. Corona to explain his alleged $10-million hoard in the bank(s).

One way to test the purity of her intentions in investigating Corona, an impeachable official and head of an independent branch of government, is to file a complaint against the President or any other impeachable public officer.

Following the Ombudsman’s assertion of her powers granted under Article XI of the Constitution, a complaint against, say, President Noynoy Aquino should also involve asking the Chief Executive to answer the accusation.

The Ombudsman’s running after the President or another impeachable official is possible on the theory that nobody is above the law and that Ms Morales is right in invoking Section 13 of Article XI (Accountability of Public Officers) to check on impeachable officers.

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TEST CASE: Section 13 says among other things that the Ombudsman has the power and duty to “investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of ANY PUBLIC OFFICIAL, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.” (Capitalization supplied for emphasis)

As the Ombudsman’s action has demonstrated that an impeachable officer is not beyond her reach, the President, the Vice President, the members of the Supreme Court and the members of the Constitutional Commissions are fair game.

Section 13 also says that even without a complaint being filed, the Ombudsman is duty-bound to investigate or act on her own whenever and wherever she sees accountability violations.

Somebody may want to file a test case. Proving the violation is another matter, yet it is still interesting to see how the Ombudsman will handle it.

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PRESSURE ON CJ: While the Ombudsman’s action against Corona is apart from the impeachment trial, it dovetails into Malacanang’s campaign to unseat him.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, presiding over the trial, has pointed out that Corona is not being impeached for unexplained wealth, where the alleged $10-million hoard – if true — could be used as evidence.

He said, however, that the non-disclosure of the dollar account, if such exists, may prove relevant to the charge that Corona did not file an honest Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

With the mounting pressure for him to come clean on the alleged dollar account(s) – including repeated calls from President Aquino to explain, and now the investigation by the Ombudsman – Corona has decided to testify on his behalf.

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SEEKING TRUTH: Corona said he would testify provided Morales and the others who have aired charges that he held secret dollar accounts are also summoned to repeat their accusations under oath and present evidence.

Last we heard, the Ombudsman and other persons have picked up the challenge — promising a battle royal in the coming days on the dollars.

It is early to say whether or not Corona made the right decision to take the witness stand and the risk of being bombarded with all available weaponry of the prosecution.

As Albert Vill said yesterday in Twitter: “Corona in agreeing to testify was like Marcos agreeing to call for snap elections in 1986. The rest is history.” I have the same premonition.

But whatever comes out of Corona’s taking the witness stand, his move should be welcomed by all those who seek the truth.

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TABLE SURVEYS: If the Aquino administration is worried about surveys showing hunger stalking the land, an obvious quick solution is to fix the surveys.

The better known survey firms are reportedly owned or managed by kamaganak or kaibigan of the President. If the report on hunger was not contrived to elicit more grants from foreign donors, he can ask the survey firms to gradually shave hunger statistics.

Many people have said that they were not so sure the survey firms actually do field work. By that, they probably mean that the figures were just made up in “table surveys.”

This is akin to making up income tax returns. In an act of self-defense, a harassed taxpayer sometimes decides how much to pay the government, then works down the computations to justify the small tax due/desired.

In table surveys, the operator decides what results to report, depending on the “usapan” with whoever commissioned it, and then works out the figures among the regions and sectors to be cited.

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TSUP-TSUP: In the self-rated hunger surveys, if they want to actually go out and ask people, the thing to do is prepare the target respondents.

Social workers can draw from the billions set aside for the Conditional Cash Transfer program. They then can embark on a feeding program for the intended survey respondents.

By the time the interviewers arrive to talk to the pre-selected respondents, they would be well-fed. A respondent is likely to reply, with a burp, that “No, hindi po ako gutom. Salamat po, P-Noy, tsup-tsup.”

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TWO BIRDS: The last survey reported that around 4.8 million families were hungry. Imagine that, whole families – involving 24 million Filipinos (4.8 families x 5 persons per family) — claiming to be hungry!

Is it possible they were interviewed before they had breakfast? Or the government’s doleout brigades had been sleeping or pocketing the CCT billions?

The survey was reportedly conducted among 1,200 respondents March 10 to 13. How is hunger measured? Do they listen to their growling stomachs?

The interviewers should have brought with them burgers, handing one to every respondent to motivate him to give the right answer.

That would be hitting two birds with one burger: they complete the survey with the desired results and mitigate hunger.

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of May 10, 2012)

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