“It’s not fair that the accused is not protected from adverse publicity whilst the accuser is guaranteed anonymity, whatever the verdict.” Jonathan King
By Alex P. Vidal
We can’t call Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Neri Colmenares a thief yet unless proven otherwise.
It’s too premature to conclude that he benefited from the alleged anomalous construction of the two-classroom building in Barangay Dela Peña Primary School, Barotac Viejo, Iloilo worth P1.8 million.
The project was reportedly funded by the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), recently declared as unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.
A case filed in court against any individual—government official or ordinary civilian–does not make that individual outright criminal.
In our justice system, the accused has to undergo a trial where he is given the chance to answer the raps against him and clear his name.
The accuser, on the other hand, has to present evidence or evidences to support the charges and help convict the accused.
If the court finds him guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a criminal case, he goes to jail and becomes a convicted criminal.
The graft case filed against Colmenares by the Movement for People Empowerment (MPE) at the Office of the Ombudsman here last August 5, immediately caught fire and brimstone, so to speak, among both the defenders of President Benigno S. Aquino III and the leftist organization represented by the Ilonggo partylist congressman.
Colmenares has been a consistent critic of Malacanang. He and his colleagues in Bayan Muna dismissed MPE’s charges as “harassment.”
Pro-administration allies, including some elected public officials connected with the ruling Liberal Party (LP) immediately “shared” the news about Colmenares’ case in social media, especially in Facebook.
“So the whole world may know,” screamed the caption under an article from Panay News dated August 5, 2014: “Bayan Muna’s Colmenares and company ‘GRAFTBUSTER’ FACES GRAFT CHARGES” posted in the Facebook page of Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog. “Don’t only comment…please also SHARE.”
Colmenares swore he “never stole a single centavo from public funds” explaining that his office only endorsed the project requested by the office of Barotac Viejo Mayor Niel Tupas III to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).
The Ilonggo solon stressed that “based on the reports sent to my office, it was completed last February and like in other projects, not a single centavo was given or passed through me.”
Colmenares said he was willing to undergo a lifestyle check to prove that he is not a crook, a challenge belittled by MPE coordinator Tomas Calderon in a Panay News article dated August 6, 2014 as “alibi.”
Calderon said the same “strategy” was used by jailed and suspended senators Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and even former president and now Manila mayor Joseph Estrada.
It’s too early to say that the graft case was an act of vendetta on the part of the administration since it was not yet established if Malacanang was behind the MPE.
If it hopes to erase doubts in the mind of the public
that it was only picking on critics of President Aquino like Colmenares, MPE should also run after other lawmakers, including senators, regardless of party affiliations, who also clearly and scandalously benefited from the pork barrel fund via the locally implemented infrastructure projects, where the biggest robbery through kickbacks and under the table transactions occurred; where scalawags and thieves really made a giant killing.
A graft case shouldn’t be used as a weapon to harass and intimidate critics of the Aquino administration. Pro or anti administration, the law should be fair to everyone. In the crusade against graft and corruption, there should be no holy cow; no special treatment; no palakasan.
But if evidence shows that Colmenares, et al really
benefited from the Barotac Viejo, Iloilo school building project, they must pay the price and go to jail. No ifs. No buts.