Palace pressured Marcelo to drop cases vs GMA allies
By Gerry Baldo
Friday, 10 07, 2005
He couldn't take much more of the pressure from Malacañang amid increasing corruption charges and the unconstitutional methods being utilized by President Arroyo that he saw was destroying the democratic institutions.
This was the reason given by sources close to Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo for his sudden resignation, which, however, takes effect at the end of November.
Marcelo himself claimed that his resignation stemmed from health
problems, but the same sources said the Ombudsman resigned because he had reached the point where he had to draw the line between his legitimate function as an Ombudsman tasked to investigate and elevate corruption cases to the Sandiganbayan, as well as adhere to the letter of the law and continue to remain loyal to President Arroyo by ignoring what he had been taught in law school.
The last straw reportedly came about after a shouting match ensued between his former law partner and now Defense Chief Avelino "Nonong" Cruz and himself, over Executive Order 464 and alleged orders from President Arroyo for the Ombudsman to quash the cases filed against former Justice Secretary Hernando Perez on the $2 million dollar bribe from then Manila Rep. Mark Jimenez, a.k.a. Mario Crespo, among other cases Marcelo was working on, such as the military officials who have been charged or are about to be charged with plunder.
Insiders in the Ombudsman's office told the Tribune yesterday that Marcelo was also under pressure from the HongKong anti-corruption consultant, Tony Kwok and the international community, such as European Union officials who have plunked in funds for his anti-corruption drive, to start filing cases against Perez as well as other administration personalities for the country's anti-corruption drive to have a greater impact.
Palace sources, however also told the Tribune that the President didn't want Perez, who is also the subject of the Swiss authorities for alleged money laundering activities, touched, fearing that her former justice secretary may just get back at her if he is charged by the Ombudsman, even on graft and corruption. The Palace insiders added that "other deals" would surface which would link former President Fidel Ramos, whom Mrs. Arroyo appears to be protecting, in exchange for his political support.
The sources also pointed out that Marcelo quit because he could no longer swallow what the Arroyo administration wants him to do which is for him to forget about his office's investigation on the alleged pay off in the Impsa (Industrias Metalurgicas Pescarmona Sociedad Anomina), the Argentine firm that rehabilitated the Caliraya-Botocan-Kalayaan (CBK) power plant complex in Laguna.
The source from the Ombudsman's office maintained that the Office of the Ombudsman had found prima facie evidence to merit the filing of formal charges against people involved in the scam including Perez and other prominent political figures.
Marcelo, other sources said, was being pestered by calls from the Defense Secretary to pressure the Ombudsman to quash the case as well as prevent his officers from appearing before any Senate hearing in the event they are to be called to testify.
It was claimed that Marcelo refused to do as ordered by Mrs. Arroyo until a shouting match between him and Cruz ensued inside the Ombudsman's office.
"The Ombudsman refused to budge on the moves of Cruz until a shouting match ensued in his office," the source said.
Marcelo, two years ago, said his office would investigate the case "motu propio" even without a complaint filed by Jimenez.
The results of the investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman reportedly showed that money changed hands between Impsa and Philippine government officials in connection with the approval of the contract to rehabilitate the CBK power plant complex in Laguna.
Jimenez in a privilege speech in December 2002 accused Perez of having extorted $2 million from him to exclude him as a co-accused in the plunder case against detained President Joseph Estrada.
The $2 million was later found to have been part of an alleged $14 million bribe for high ranking officials who had grabbed power from Estrada, in exchange for a sovereign guarantee. That guarantee was given on the second day of office of President Arroyo, or four days after the Edsa II coup d'etat.
The Impsa contract was turned down by then President Estrada on the ground of its being disadvantageous to the government.
Sources from the Napocor said Impsa's proposal to rehabilitate the CBK power plant complex in Laguna was uncalled for, as the plant did not need rehabilitation.
Napocor was also reported to have paid Impsa more than $50 million for the first 18 months of its operation, even if the Argentine firm had so far invested only $9 million to rehabilitate the plant.
Documents showed that Coutts Bank Hongkong transactions had deposited $2 million in the account of private banker and the President's fund raiser, Ernest Escaler, and withdrawn a few days later. The funds were later traced to a Swiss bank account, along with a power of attorney assigned by Perez to his wife.
Perez also admitted he was indeed in Hong Kong on Feb. 23, 2001 when the alleged "extortion money" was remitted to the Coutts Bank in Hong Kong.
Perez, however, said he was there to sign the Mutual Legal Assistance Agreement with the Hong Kong government.
To this day however, that agreement remains unsigned.
The source said Marcelo refused to stop the filing of formal charges against Perez despite frequent calls from Cruz that he drop the case. That along with the President's call for Marcelo to heed the EO, a separate source said, was the last straw.
According to the source, Mrs. Arroyo, it seems was wrong in appointing Marcelo who had inhibited himself from investigations and resolutions that involved Mrs. Arroyo's allies.
Marcelo was also about to approve the filing of formal charges against Perez after an investigation found prima facie evidence against the former justice secretary that he had benefited from a power plant deal entered into by the government.
The source said Malacañang was bent on sweeping the case under the rug because the First Gentleman would be implicated in the criminal case.
(From the Tribune, Manila, Philippines, Oct 7, 2005)