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Blindsided Ombudsman?

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CEBU CITY–Did the inclusion of a United Nations finding on violation of human rights in the new impeachment case, blindside Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez?

For the first time, an impeachment charge goes beyond domestic issues,like a 12 percent conviction rate, or acting as bouncer for the former President and clan, in scandals from the ZTE broadband scheme to election computers.

The rap sheet stitches in a March 23 UN Human Rights Commission finding: that the Ombudsman refrigerated the case on Navy Ensign Phillip Andrew Pestaño’s murder aboard the RPB Bacolod City.

The Ombudsman recognized, in August 2007, the need further investigate the Pestaño murder. “None ever took place,” the UN noted. Gutierrez refused to even meet Pestaño’s parents Felipe and Evelyn.

“It’s a waste of time to investigate further,” said Ombudsman Aniano Descierto, equally criticized for taking a dive on key cases.

Not so, says the UN Human Rights Commission. “The State party is bound to conduct an investigation, and ensure there is no impunity…. The Human Rights Committee…is of the view that the Philippines fractured the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

Government should report within 180 days, from receipt of finding in early April “what enforceable remedies and solutions were taken”.

Suddenly, four police probers appeared at the home of Pestaño’s parents asking belated questions.

Felipe and Evelyn Pestaño are principal complainants in the impeachment. Former Akbayan Party List Rep. Risa Hontiveros-Baraquel and Gen. Danilo Lim are co-complainants.

Pestaño had gone to Ateneo and the Philippine Military Academy (Class 1993) with honors. He was 23-years old when he was found shot in RPB Bacolod City. Within 24 hours, the Navy ruled suicide, sans investigation.

The NBI and Military Ombudsman waffled. But Pestaño’s classmates wrote then Senate President (and former Supreme Court Chief Justice) Marcelo Fernan, documenting how Pestaño blew the whistle on Navy ships being hijacked for smuggling.

Senate Report No .800 dismissed the Navy and NBI whitewash. He was bludgeoned, then shot to death while RPB Bacolod meandered on a bizzare hour-and-a-half trip in Manila Bay.

Normally, the trip from Cavite to the Roxas Blvd. pier would take 25 minutes. Logbook entries disappeared.

As cargo master, Pestaño refused to authorize the loading of 14,000 board feet of illegal hardwood logs in Tawi-Tawi. Part of the cargo was a gift of the Governor (Gerry Matba) to the flag- officer-in command (Admiral Pio Carranza).

“Orders from above” over-ruled Pestaño. DENR certified that the logs were inspected on Sept. 25 in Zamboanga. But the boat that day had already docked in Cavite. The logs promptly vanished. Nonetheless, spurious clearances appeared.

Pestaño bucked the peddling of high-powered weapons and bunker fuel, and the loading of shabu. “We’ve received phone calls,” Pestaño’s parents warned him. “They’ll kill you.” The ensign’s reply: Kawawa ang bayan. (Pity the country.), recalls Fr James Reuter, SJ.

The absence of blood spatters, bone fragments, or other human tissues is physical evidence more eloquent than a hundred witnesses,” the Senate report said. Pestaño was bludgeoned, then shot to death somewhere in the vessel.

It is impossible for a person, who sustained a fatal head injury, to walk from some other place, lie on his bed, and drop dead. “The attempt to make it appear that Pestaño killed himself inside his stateroom was elaborate,” the Fernan report says. “No one person could have accomplisghed it by himself.”

Senator, now Manila Mayor Fred Lim declared in a privilege speech.

Amoroso was not a crew member of BRP Bacolod City. He became scarce since then. The Navy wasn’t keen on locating him.

“To date, as like the others, (Amoroso) got off scot-free,” Lim fumed. Was there an intelligence officer who also boarded in Cavite?

Ensign Joselito Colico admitted wiping fingerprints off the .45 caliber pistol. This tampered with evidence, Lim protested. Colico “was not even charged administratively”.

Boat commanders Capt. Ricardo Ordoñez and executive officer Lt. Ruben Roque left the Navy.

“P02 Zosimo Villanueva had tipped Pestaño about shabu stashed in more than 20 sacks of rice aboard the ship,” Lim revealed. A week after Pestaño’s murder, Villanueva was “allegedly washed away in a sea mishap”.

Ensign Alvin Parone was scheduled to talk to Pestaños parents. “He was also a victim of an unsolved murder,” Lim said. The vessel’s radio operator PO3 Fidel Tagaytay vanished when summoned to testify.

“Alam ko po marami siyang alam kasi siya ang duty operator,” (“I know he knew a lot because he was duty operator.”) wife Leonila wrote to then Defense Sec. Avelino Cruz.

Wife Leonila’s efforts to trace Fidel’s whereabouts is brushed off by the bland claim that Tagaytay is AWOL (absent without leave). Is the radio operator then a desaparecido?

“The Pestaño case presents a very strong case against the Ombudsman because it is non-political, says Enrqiue Angeles, who helped the Pestaños shepherd their complain through the UN Commision on Human Rights. “And the victim is a Philippine Navy officer –not a leftist for a change.”

An international document, the UN report buttresses credibility of the indictment against the government as state party — and the Ombudsman which fumbled the ball for the Philippines .”

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