Palace chides critics of Ombudsman decision on ZTE mess

Malacañang chided its critics Friday for raising doubts about the justice system after Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez cleared the outgoing First Couple from the $329.48-million ZTE broadband deal mess.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said critics doubting the Ombudsman’s decision on the ZTE mess can save their grievances for the next administration.

“Yan ang dapat isipin ng tao, di kung kailan gusto nila idamay ang this or that, masusunod sila, at kung di masusunod, sasabihin nila may failure of justice, di tama yan. Dapat mangibabaw ang justice system at rules dito (That’s what people should consider, instead of wanting to drag down this or that person whenever they feel like it, and when it doesn’t happen, they will say there’s failure of justice. That’s not right. The justice system and its rules must prevail)," Olivar said in an interview on dwIZ radio.

Besides, he said even the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee found no basis to include outgoing President and incoming Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in the list of people to be charged.

He noted the Senate has less stringent rules on evidence than the regular courts.

Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez had ordered charges filed against former Commission on Elections chairman Benjamin Abalos and Social Security System head Romulo Neri for the ZTE mess.

The Ombudsman also ordered the immediate suspension of Neri after it dismissed his appeal of an earlier ruling recommending the filing of graft and administrative charges against him and Abalos.

But it cleared outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from the charges, citing her presidential immunity. First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, a law school classmate of Gutierrez, was absolved due to lack of probable cause.

Malacañang’s critics, including some Catholic Church officials, voiced doubts over the decision, saying it should have included people higher than Neri and Abalos.

“We have to stop, di dapat natin pangunahan ang justice system (We have to stop this. We cannot preempt the justice system)," Olivar said.

On the other hand, Olivar said the next developments on the case will likely unfold under the next administration, which takes over on June 30.

“Ang detalye nito, in the next few months magkaroon ng katuluyan at tingnan natin saan hahantong ang prosesong ito (In the next few months the details of the case will continue to unfold, and we will see where the process leads)," he said.

Meanwhile, Olivar laughed off Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr.’s claim that the Ombudsman’s “last-minute" decision was a peace offering of sorts to the incoming administration.

“Interesting ang statement pero ang importante ang pagsulong ng ganitong proseso, di dapat bahiran ng political consideration (That is an interesting statement but what’s important is that our pursuing the process is not tainted by political considerations)," he said.

On Thursday, senior Catholic Church officials questioned the Ombudsman’s decision to link only a few officials to the ZTE mess.

Former Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines president and Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo said government has much to do in proving its sincerity against graft.

Lagdameo said Abalos and Neri, then National Economic and Development Authority director general, may have gotten “instructions" from someone higher up.

“My question is from whom will Abalos and Neri receive commands? For me, it seems that they were only instrumental," said Lagdameo in an article on the CBCP news site.

Lagdameo also said he expects more information to surface when the two accused face the court.

“I urge them to face the accusation and tell the truth… they are bound to tell the truth," he said.

Meanwhile, the Association of Major Religious Superiors of the Philippines (AMRSP) is pinning its hopes on the new president to address the situation.

AMRSP co-chairwoman Sr. Mary John Mananzan said that she is hoping president apparent Sen. Benigno Aquino III, would be able to keep his promise and fight corruption.

“That was what he (Aquino) promised that he would change the system and that he would fight corruption. The Office of the Ombudsman is one of the hubs of corruption…We look forward to a President Aquino administration," she said.

Mananzan, providing sanctuary to ZTE star witness Rodolfo Noel Lozada Jr., believed that the Ombudsman should not have cleared Mr. Arroyo of graft charges.

“He (Mr. Arroyo) is involved (in the NBN-ZTE deal). They are stupid if they say that he is not involved…He is more responsible because he is on the top," the AMRSP official said.

Source: GmaNews


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