FOI bill and other issues

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Saturday, February 8, 2014


DEPUTY Ombudsman for the Visayas Pelagio Apostol should stop projecting a good image for his office or seeking “pogi” points because he failed the expectations of the public due to the delay in the resolution of some cases.

After providing the media access to some records in cases where the respondents were dismissed from service, the anti-graft office is streamlining and strengthening its investigative capability in graft cases.

Ombudsman investigators just underwent a seminar on how to gather data about anomalies involving the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (Pdaf) by some congressmen in the Visayas.

“We are training our investigators on how to gather data about the release, implementation and execution of projects using the pork barrel,” Apostol said.

I would advise Apostol to stop daydreaming because I am sure his office cannot implement his plan. He is just giving the public false hopes about eliminating graft and corruption in the government bureaucracy.

His office cannot even speedily resolve simple cases of graft like that one against former vice governor John-John Osmeña's Perdido Lex Foundation.

It took the office ten years to investigate the case.

Another example is the case filed by Mayor Mike Rama against former mayor Tomas Osmeña on the Dodge Charger issue. The said vehicles were donated by Bigfoot chairman Michael Gleissnner to the city but these were personally used by Tomas.

Mind you, the mayor submitted voluminous documents to strengthen his case. But until now it has not been resolved. There are other cases involving high-profile government officials, especially politicians, that have not been acted on by the Ombudsman.

Trabaho muna, sir, bago salita.

***

Neophyte Sen. Jose Victor “JV” Ejercito is here in Cebu for a personal visit. He is scheduled to attend a wedding ceremony today.

Yesterday, he faced selected columnists and editors and talked about various issues, including the passage of the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill.

Ejercito said that the FOI bill was not passed during the last Congress when he was still a member of the House of Representatives because it was not endorsed by Malacañang as urgent. Without the endorsement, Congress was not also keen on passing it.

There was even an instruction from Malacañang to “dribble” the bill. Meaning, to delay its passage.

Ejercito is optimistic that, by March, the Senate would be able to pass its own version of the FOI bill. He said that even administration senators are strongly supporting the bill. Though, he already drafted his own version, he still asked the local media to raise their concerns about the bill so he can incorporate these in his own version.

JV admitted that he has been personally affected by the pork barrel scam issue that rocked the House and Senate especially since his Kuya Jinggoy Estrada is one of those involved.

While he admitted that he still is not on talking terms with Jinggoy, JV said he is saddened by his half-brother's plight. Asked if his kuya is “guilty,” JV smiled and said, “let the law take its own course.”

On rice smuggling that the Senate is investigating, Ejercito said that it's a complicated issue. Many people and government agencies are involved, especially the National Food Authority (NFA) and the Department of Agriculture, which issued import permits to rice importers. But the permits were recycled by unscrupulous traders.

JV is filing a bill seeking reforms in these agencies to at least reduce incidents of rice smuggling.

(bobby.nalzaro@yahoo.com)

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on February 08, 2014.

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