The question which I used as the title of this blog post arises from documents sent to me by friends from the Marcos administration who are deeply concerned by the six month preventive suspension order issued by Ombudsman Samuel Martires against National Irrigation Administration Chief Benny Antiporda in relation to complaints allegedly made by “officers and members” of the NIA.
Even as I attempt to articulate the questions that have sprung up over the suspension of NIA Chief Antiporda, I have no reason to doubt that Ombudsman Martires issued the order with integrity and full commitment to weeding out corruption in government.
I am especially impressed with Ombudsman Martires’ frank admission that he is battling corruption within his own office.
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“I must admit to you, Your Honor — this is not to destroy the Office of the Ombudsman — we ourselves are fighting corruption within the office,” he added.
I can only imagine the kind of mettle one must possess to resist and stand up against the lures of money laden crooks in government who are facing cases at the Office of the Ombudsman.
More power to the likes of Ombudsman Martires!
From Dolomite Beach to Irrigating Philippine Farmlands
Friends and people who follow me on various social media platforms know how I made fun of the Duterte Administration’s dolomite beach which was closely identified with Antiporda.
But whatever I said about it doesn’t go against the fact that I admired the zeal and vigor that possessed Antiporda and others in the Duterte Administration when it came to making sure the people who voted for Tatang Duts would experience his leadership and governance.
Antiporda was then, and according to my sources, still is a firebrand for competent and efficient governance.
I was told by my sources that when President Bongbong Marcos appointed Antiporda to head up the NIA, it was with the knowledge that he would set figuratively set government people’s asses on fire with the objective of delivering on his agency’s mandate.
In the scheme of things, the agency that Antiporda heads is the lynchpin to substantially increasing the productivity of our country’s farmlands with adequate irrigation — which in turn will enable the Marcos administration in making good on the promise of lowering the cost of food.
Yes, the P20 per kilo of rice that might have been a campaign promise not so many months ago!
So there lies my interest in raising issues against the suspension of Antiporda and that is to ensure that the Marcos administration makes good with its promise of feeding its millions of hungry people — myself included.
Suspended Without Receiving A Copy of the Complaint
Usually, when a government official or employee becomes the subject of a complaint, the normal course of due process — as I understand it — dictates that the official or employee is furnished a copy of the complaint and given a period of time to respond to the complaint.
Or in certain cases, a copy of the complaint is furnished together with a suspension order. (Although, in my mind, this probably happens only in cases where the subject of the complaint has committed some manner of despicable crime.)
In Antiporda’s case, however, friends in and around Malacanang tell me that the NIA Chief didn’t even receive a copy of the complaint against him. If I heard it correctly, Antiporda claimed that the only thing he received was the Ombudsman’s preventive suspension order.
With my limited knowledge of the proper legal terminology for this, I would call it so unfair that it borders on persecution — but for what? That’s something I will tackle in the later portions of this article where I juxtapose the complaint against Antiporda and the complaint Antiporda filed against subordinate NIA officials.
The Identity of the Complainant
Before I go into the matter of complaints, one basic and very crucial detail of every complaint is the identity of the complainant. Lawyers are better equipped to explain why this is so, but my simple understanding of this should suffice: If there is anything doubtful or dubious about the complainant, it stands to reason that the rest of the complaint may be doubtful or dubious.
The order issued by Ombudsman Martires dated November 15, 2022 identified the complainants as Officers and Members of the National Irrigation Administration Employees Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP), Lloyd Allain A. Cudal, MIchelle Gonzales Raymundo, National Irrigation Administration Concerned Employee (NIA Concerned Employees).
However, in an official statement issued by the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines and signed by National President Eduardo G. Yu, it says “The National Council of the NIA Employees Association of the Philippines (NIAEASP) categorically disowns and denies any role or participation in the filing of the complaint with the Office of the Ombudsman against NIA Administrator Benny D. Antiporda.”
If the NIAEASP isn’t the one identified as the complainant, then does it stand to reason that the complainant is for a lack of a better word… FAKE?
Moreover, if as NIAEASP president Yu says that their “National Council did not issue any authorization to its chapters and district officers and members all over the country to initiate such action against Administrator Antiporda” then by whose authority was the complaint made?
Was Ombudsman Martires’ Suspension Order The Poisoned Fruit of a Poisoned Tree?
The question now arises, did Ombudsman Martires validate if the NIAEASP officers and members were the ones filing the complaint against NIA Chief Antiporda?
Was there an actual complaint document showing the names and signatures of the so called NIAEASP officers and members?
If Ombudsman Martires didn’t check the veracity of the complainants, how can we then believe the complaints cited as the basis of the suspension order against Antiporda?
Moreover, how then can we trust the justness of Ombudsman Martires’ decision to suspend Antiporda if it proceeds from a “fake” complainant?
Continuing on the same vein, the next question that might be asked… Is this suspension order based on a “fake complainant” against Antiporda a basis for saying that public trust was betrayed in this instance and if so, is Ombudsman Martires courting impeachment?
I will not speculate as to whether it is or isn’t and will wait for our legislators to tackle it in a debate, if ever an impeachment complaint is filed.