The story of the post-Independence quest for good governance in this country has almost entirely been the story of one institution, namely the Committee on Accountability of Public Officers, a.k.a. the Blue Ribbon Committee of the Senate. True, the Executive branch of the government has fielded its special investigation agency—e.g., the PCAPE (Presidential Commission on Administrative Performance and Efficiency) and the PAGC (Presidential Anti-Graft Commission) in that quest, but ferreting out bad civil servants has almost entirely been the job of the Blue Ribbon Committee.
Not anymore. Where there was only one government gun—at most two—blazing against the malefactors in government, now there are at least four guns blazing.
The leader in the fight against good governance is still the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, but it is no longer fighting alone. Now it has company.
At the top of the list of new Senate allies in the fight against bad governance is the Office of the Ombudsman. A Constitutional body, the Office patterned after similar offices in the Scandinavian countries, is mandated to seek out and punish the bad eggs in the government. The office of the Ombudsman and its earlier occupants were regarded with near-disrespect, even derision, by the Filipino people during the administration of President Gloria Arroyo and her predecessors, but things change with the assumption of office of PNoy Aquino’s appointee to the position of Ombudsman.
Conchita Carpio-Morales, a former Supreme Court Justice, has shown the nation what an Ombudsman truly is and how her Office should function. She dusted off cases that had not been acted upon by her immediate predecessor and went hammer-and-tongs after allegedly corrupt, oppressive and incompetent government officials. The latest official to experience her disciplining authority is the suspended mayor of Makati City.
Another of the Senate’s new allies in the fight against good governance is CoA (Commission on Audit). Slow moving and unfocused under a succession of not-top-caliber chairmen, CoA came back to life with the assumption of the chairmanship by Grace Pulido-Tan and the appointment as Commissioner of Heidi Mendoza, now a UN Undersecretary General.
Working in collaboration, CoA and the Office of the Ombudsman have built cases against a growing number of high-profile government malefactors, including high-rank military officials and local-government heads. Undoubtedly, the most celebrated victims of this newfound cooperation between the two institutions have been the participants in the alleged PDAF (priority development assistance fund) scams involving Janet Napoles.
The latest newcomer to the list of Senate allies against bad governance is the AMLC (Anti-Money Laundering Council). Created in order to make possible the Philippines’ removal from the Financial Management Council’s blacklist of suspected money-laundering countries, AMLC has been instrumental in the indictment of numerous Filipinos—including public officials—for undertaking financial transactions violative of the Anti-Money Laundering Act. AMLC reports and data have figured prominently in the 2014-2015 Senate investigation of the allegations of wrongdoing by Vice President Jejomar Binay and his son Jejomar Jr.
Working together closely, these four institutions—the Office of the Ombudsman, the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee, COA and AMLC—have been, and are, a formidable force for good governance. They are our foremost bulwarks against bad governance in this country. Together, they will, in the coming days, hold accountable appointed and elected public officials who engage in such activities as overpricing public facilities, flouting bidding procedures, demanding kickbacks, maintaining dummies for their illegally acquired assets and filling public payrolls and beneficiary lists with non-existent people.
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