4 corrupt practices the Ombudsman is protecting us from (that are pretty petty)

In a recent interview, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who has been pilloried in the media for sitting on high-profile corruption cases, lashed back at critics and asked, “what have you done to fight corruption?”

"NO U!"

"NO U!"

Which is, I guess, a fair response. It’s not like she spends all day in her office thinking up schemes to pervert justice. She does, occasionally, go out and do a token bit of crime fighting. Sure, she’s dropped the ball on the P1.3-billion election automation scam,  Nani Perez case and pretty much every scandal that has hit the headlines since 2005, but that’s forest-for-the-trees thinking.

Here are some (if not the only) ways that the Office of the Ombudsman has been ridding the Philippines of graft, corruption and the occasional irritation.

OPLAN (Operation Plan) Red Plate


If you’re anything like me, seeing a government vehicle being taken for a joyride to the mall, often with police escorts,  is the greatest injustice in the world. If you’re not like me, the greatest injustice would probably be paying taxes for agricultural fertilizer schemes that get diverted into the President’s pockets. It takes all kinds, really.

But, the point is, some of our government officials have made it a habit to use their government-issue  cars for personal trips, much to the consternation of the general public.

Luckily (but also mandated by law,) the Office of the Ombudsman does not tolerate this kind of foolishness. Launched in 2008, Oplan Red Plate has resulted in 300 cases filed against mid-level bureaucrats who are dumb enough to park their official vehicles outside night clubs and other places of leisure.

That’s great, right?

While corruption is one of things where the phrase “at least” doesn’t apply, chasing after a Provincial Board Member (sort of like a congressman, but on a smaller scale) for wasting taxpayer’s money on a road trip hardly puts a dent on the millions that just went into some official’s pocket in the time it took you to read this paragraph.

Also, if all it takes to frustrate graftbusters is a trip ticket, essentially a piece of paper that says your boss allowed you to use the vehicle, then this is only about as scary as getting caught ditching high school Trigonometry.

One might even wonder whether the stolen gas was worth more than the cost of patrolling, apprehending and prosecuting these petty offenders.

Biggest Fish Caught:

The general manager of the Cebu Ports Authority was suspended for six months for using his official vehicle to bring his daughter to and from school.

Task Force SAPAK

Task Force Sama-Samang Pagkilos Laban sa Katiwalian para sa Kabataan (united effort to fight corruption on behalf of the youth, roughly,) was formed to weed out corruption in the education sector.

Finally, action to clean up the corruption-ridden education system that has given us non-existent school buildings, textbooks filled with factual and grammatical errors and has delayed teachers’ wages for months at a time.

That’s great, right?

Or, it could instead probe the issuance of fake high school equivalency certificates for basketball players at one of Manila’s posh schools. Apparently, some guys from De La Salle University pretended to be high school graduates so they could play basketball for DLSU. Also, apparently, this was a big enough job for Merceditas Gutierrez.

In a country where not everyone can go to high school, and where you need a college degree to even qualify as a cashier at ShoeMart, how two jocks were able to fake their way into playing college ball is not on the list of things that actually matter.

This guy doesn't even care, because he's sniffing glue.

This guy doesn't even care, because he's sniffing glue.

And, come on, guys, it’s La Salle. ..

Biggest Fish Caught:

Three public high school principals, for the horrible crimes of extorting money from cafeteria concessionaires, charging computer fees on donated equipment, and wasting their travel allowances.

These are all heinous, to be sure, but the campaign fails to address the systematic corruption that both forces underpaid public school teachers to steal and allows such practices to happen. It’s like cracking down on two basketball players who supposedly faked their high school equivalency certificates, and not on the school that allegedly helped them do it. It’s exactly like that.

Task Force Oplan Illegal Hatak (Towing)


What the double-barreled designation of both Task Force and Oplan is trying to hide is the fact that this campaign is nothing more exciting or particularly hardcore than catching unscrupulous tow-truck operators.

T.F.O.I.H cracks down on tow-trucks that indiscriminately tow away vehicles without telling the owner the violation o to which impound lot they’re taking them .Also,  operators who charge non-standard fees that, in civilized nations, is considered ransom before releasing your car, often with valuables missing.

That’s Great, Right?

No, really. Tow trucks?

Biggest Fish Caught:

Some guy making minimum wage. Or, possibly, Autobot Long Arm.

This guy

This guy

Campaign against smoke-belching

The Office of the Ombudsman has also launched a campaign to enforce the Clean Air Act by going after emissions-testing centers.

All vehicles in the Philippines have to pass an emissions test before the Land Transportation Office renews their registration.

Failing the test means taking your car to a mechanic for a tune-up and a retake, or a bribe. Since bribes are generally cheaper (but the cost to the environment is horrendous!!!), many trucks, jeeps and buses continue  to belch hazardous smoke and making environmentalists cry.  Luckily, Mercy Gutierrez is the sort of sheriff to put those sidewinders down.

That’s Great, Right?

That poorly-maintained vehicles continue to spew smoke on our roads is a failure of the Land Transportation Office, and is a matter for the LTO to resolve.  Failing that, maybe the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources could step in.

And, really, does it take the expertise of the Office of the Ombudsman’s lawyers and field investigators to pin corrupt testing centers down? I mean, it’s not like these guys have a secret base or something.

This campaign is so lame that the Ombudsman didn’t even bother to think up a name for it.

Biggest Fish Caught:

Judging from the pall of smog that shrouds Metro Manila, I’m guessing nobody at all.

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