16 September 2008

No Arrests During Bad Weather?

Photo courtesy of SubSeaSniper
I am not sure if this is common in other countries but it was reported on 11 September 2008 in major dailies that the Sandiganbayan Warrants of Arrest for Representatives Rodolfo Valencia and Alfonso Umali, Jr. were not served because of a bad weather. Huh?!

Wait a minute here! I remembered there was a big downpour for 3 days (9-11 September 2008), but it was only in the afternoon and not enough to stop children from going to school. I doubt it was enough to stop sheriffs from serving warrants if they really wanted to.

The two Oriental Mindoro congressmen were supposedly convicted by the Sandiganbayan of graft in misusing some PhP 2.5 million worth of public funds when they were still the provincial executives 15 years ago. During those years, the anti-graft court labored to find the truth and when they finally did, they erred in serving the warrants. Hmmm .... maybe another 15 years is needed to do that, and another 15 years for the sentencing part.

Anyway, according to the Fourth Division of the Sandiganbayan, chaired by Associate Justice Gregory Ong, the two congressmen were sentenced to serve at least 10 years in prison and perpetual disqualification from holding public office. The sentenced was handed down after the courts found both lawmakers guilty of conspiring with other provincial officials and used a government-obtained loan to fund the use of a privately owned ferryboat. This is a clear violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (Republic Act 3019).

To counter the move, Valencia and Umali are asking the court to lift the warrants issued against them pending the resolution of their motion for reconsideration. This means another series of hearing on the petitions until who-knows when.

Why not just asked the assistance of the Philippine National Police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to enforce the arrest orders and move on to the next case. At least you can be more efficient and ensure that the taxpayers get the value for their money.

If the two congressmen will post a bail and brings the case to the Supreme Court, then so be it. Just implement the arrest orders. Try to give copies of the warrants to the Bureau of Immigration (BI) also to prevent Valencia and Umali from leaving the country.

The courts now has a chance to show to the public that they can rise after a devastating blow to their image when the alleged corrupt practices in the Court of Appeals was uncovered by the Supreme Court. They should capitalized on these and show to everyone that despite the 'suhulan' mess, they are still committed to ensure that nobody is above the law. Not even lawmakers and powerful local executives.