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Weaponizing graft case in BARMM

In other words, the threat of being sued by the Ombudsman and possible incarceration haunts the heads of the dynasties.



The cycle of elections in the Muslim autonomous region has taught us some hard realities. This is sui generis perhaps in the autonomous area because of its peculiar setting, history and culture.

But it is worth dissecting in the hope of changing the status quo and liberating the region from the morass of poverty, ignorance and social malaise.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) has component provinces that have always been on top in the poverty rating conducted periodically by the Philippine Statistics Authority. I am embarrassed no end every time the study is published ranking my province, Lanao del Sur, as the poorest province in the entire country despite its bountiful natural and human resources. My impulse reaction was to rebel against the validity of this finding, but the facts and the truth stare me in the face.

Let us forget momentarily the obvious fact that the presence of well-entrenched dynasties in the region contributed in no small measure to the region’s entrapment in a bog of poverty. This finding is backed up by published scientific and well-researched studies by anthropologists and social scientists whose credentials are exemplary. We will deal with this facet of the region’s condition in another article. Let us draw our attention to transactional politics leading to the perpetuation of these dynasties.

BARMM has the history of electing candidates supported by the sitting administration. This is true specially during the presidential midterm election where elected officials in BARMM kowtow to the wishes of a sitting president. They fear a backlash from Malacañang if they go astray from what the latter wants. Why is this so?

To be brutally frank about it, some of these elected officials have skeletons in their closets. They amassed and wallow in riches derived mostly from the internal revenue allocations, which the local government units (LGU) received monthly from the national government. They treat these funds as their piggy bank to be spent like their own money to any purpose that suits their whims, laws on accounting and auditing be damned.

But what are the auditors from the Commission on Audit doing? Well, either they are intimidated by these political warlords who have no qualms killing anybody who stands in their way or are bribed to manipulate their findings.

This fact is known to the national government. And this knowledge is weaponized cleverly by the sitting administration to ensure support of their national candidates during an election. They employ veiled threats — support us or else you will be audited and face a prison term for misappropriation of public funds.

Some concerned groups who are sick and tired of watching the plunder of public funds gathered enough courage to file cases before the Ombudsman. But the latter, which lately adopted the absurd theory that it cannot release to the public the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth of public figures like the President, is not immune from manipulation.

Appointment to any government office being always tainted with politics, with the appointing authority the top politician of the country, the long-armed influence of Malacañang plays on the fate of these heads of LGU facing complaints before the graft body. If one has Malacañang on his side, these cases will not see the light of day. Others play it safe by just paying the “parking fees” to ensure that the graft cases will be buried in the records of the Ombudsman to gather dust.

In other words, the threat of being sued by the Ombudsman and possible incarceration haunts the heads of the dynasties that they easily succumb to the wishes of Malacañang for support of their candidates. This is a malaise that is difficult to solve.

The best way perhaps is to strengthen the audit institution by legislating measures that will isolate it from politics and provide more muscle toward its independence as envisioned when it was made a constitutional body.

Is this happening only in BARMM?