Following the publication of a news item on the decision of the Ombudsman suspending former members of the Bohol provincial board, a story that also saw print in Cebu-based newspapers, the camp of Vice-Governor Dionisio D. Balite took a less-traveled road – and instead of enlightening the public what had really happened in 2006 and in 2009, the defenders of the good vice-governor went into a hysterical mode condemning the fourth estate for running the story.
We have all the right reasons to feel genuine compassion for the vice-governor and for all the former members of the Sangguniang Panlalawigan (SP) and for the former members of the bids and awards committee (BAC) who had claimed innocence and good faith in their action yet were ordered suspended for nine months without pay by the anti-graft body.
On the part of the board members, obviously, they were outside of the transactions entered by the late governor, Erico B. Aumentado, and former general services officer, engineer Edwin Vallejos, when the two initiated the process of purchasing at least 26 heavy equipment units in 2006 and in 2009, all worth more than P160 million.
What our honorable SP members did was in a way ministerial, as what they claimed. They just passed a resolution authorizing the late governor to open letters of credit with the PNB and Landbank as forms of payment to the suppliers of the heavy equipment.
That was many years ago. Then the Ombudsman handed down its decision in a case filed sometime in 2009.
While the rest of the respondents of the case took the issue gracefully, being public servants who are subject to public scrutiny, Vice-Gov. Balite had reacted differently and perhaps had embraced an unusual path offered by his supporters.
The good vice-governor knows the role of media. No need to elaborate on that lengthily. Having a stake in The Bohol Times newspaper, the good vice-governor is no stranger to the hard and painful duty of a newspaper: to tell the truth when public interest demands for it.
Surprisingly, this newspaper became a recipient of tirades, as seen on social media sites, coming from those who did not feel comfortable about our role in society.
In the news item that saw print in The Bohol Tribune, all the facts and statements from both sides were taken from the 23-page document that was publicly released by the Office of the Ombudsman. Nothing more. Nothing less.
And if the Ombudsman did order a suspension on our good Bol-anon officials, it was never the fault of the newspaper. It was the Ombudsman that wrote the 23-page suspension order, of course after hearing both parties. This newspaper, or any newspaper for that matter, did not write the decision of the Ombudsman.
The vice-governor, who was a board member at that time, and the rest of the sued officials had been given time to defend themselves and summon all sorts of arguments in order to win the case.
It was sad, however, that the Ombudsman was not convinced of the arguments postulated by the respondents of the case.
There may be loopholes or lapses in the decision of the Ombudsman, the Court of Appeals will find that out soon, hopefully. But, in the meantime, it was not the fault of The Bohol Tribune that the suspension order had been written by the Ombudsman.
We understand that the camp of Vice-Governor Balite had released a well-crafted line of argument in response to a decided case. And we appreciate their efforts of explaining to the public what had happened. But then again, the case had been decided. The respondents already had their time in court. As one of the pillars of democracy, we have a sacred obligation to inform the public of the contents of the decision of the Ombudsman. The newspaper may not agree with the Ombudsman, but it is not the role of the newspaper to dispute what is not written in the documents released by the Ombudsman.
If the parties involved in the case do not agree with the decision of the Ombudsman, it is best to unleash their legal brilliance at the Court of Appeals who could overturn the case, not on our truth-seeking face.
Whatever we say in public or in private, for now, has no bearing to the decision of the Ombudsman. Let us instead wait for the outcome of the filed motion for reconsideration and the reply of the DILG Secretary to the letter of appeal sent by some of the respondents of the case.
And, yes, we are going to report that, too.