Whitewash or Whitehall?

Prof Winnie Monsod calls it a whitewash, Sec Leila De Lima is told to either put up or shut up. This after she was caught verbalizing her mental ruminations to the press regarding the Aquino government’s response to her report on the culpability of public and private individuals in connection to the Luneta hostage taking incident.

Mareng Winnie poses the rhetorical question in her column

What is the point of having independent fact-finding commissions, only to disregard their recommendations? What is the point of constituting an investigation and review committee, only to take someone else’s advice?

She also notes the similarities between the Lima Report and the government response (drafted by Exec Sec Ochoa)

The recommendations of the IIRC and the Ochoa reports were almost identical with respect to Police Chief Superintendent Magtibay, Police Director Leocadio Santiago Jr., Police Chief Inspector Santiago Pascual, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, and the media: gross incompetence and serious neglect of duty; less grave neglect of duty; gross incompetence; referral to the House of Representatives for possible impeachment; and referral to the KBP for possible sanctions for the violations of their code of ethics, respectively.

She then explains why she believes the government’s response is a whitewash

First, the IIRC recommended, for all the government and police officials involved, that preliminary investigations be conducted by the appropriate government agencies, for any possible criminal liability (emphasis added) arising out of the administrative offenses. The Ochoa report gave a blanket absolution from any criminal liability. Which gives rise to the questions: did Ochoa and Presidential Legal Counsel de Mesa conduct their own preliminary investigations? If so, when?

The second major-major difference is where the whitewash comes in. Where the IIRC recommended charges of less grave neglect of duty for Versoza, gross negligence for Puno, and negligence for Moreno, Ochoa cleared them all. And where IIRC recommended that not only administrative but criminal charges be brought against Lim for dereliction of duty and gross negligence, Ochoa gave him a figurative slap on the wrist — simple neglect of duty and misconduct in office.

Many would agree with Mrs Monsod that the government is indeed engaging in a white wash, but the premise of her argument that a government has an obligation to accept any and all recommendations made by an independent investigation or be guilty of a whitewash is totally unfounded.

Those who are familiar with the way independent bodies are used under a parliamentary system know that when the government solicits advice from them, they are in no way bound to accept their findings. The term Whitehall refers to the arterial road in Britain where most of the administrative buildings lie, which is their equivalent of the Beltway in Washington where the bureaucrats that support parliament and the government of the day hold court. One of the devices employed by the bureaucracy in parliamentary systems in pushing their agenda to their political masters is to recommend the formation of independent councils to provide advice on government policy, which they then manage and influence from within once these bodies are formed.

In fact, it is to the credit of PNoy’s government that it did not try to influence the outcome of the De Lima report while the committee was conducting its review. Ms De Lima can hold her head up high for delivering an independent and unbiased set of findings.  What she and all those who were part of the investigative process and feeling aggrieved at this point should realize is that the decision to adopt, consider for future review or reject a recommendation is often a political decision, and politics is not their domain. It is in no way a stain on their reputation, in fact quite the opposite.

Doy Santos aka The Cusp

Doy Santos is an international development consultant who shuttles between Australia and the Philippines. He maintains a blog called The Cusp: A discussion of new thinking, new schools of thought and fresh ideas on public policy (www.thecusponline.org) and tweets as @thecusponline. He holds a Master in Development Economics from the University of the Philippines and an MS in Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University.

  • Pilo

    Pinagpalit na talaga si Shalani kay Puno….

  • manuelbuencamino


    It’s more than just a shooting buddy relationship. PNoy knows Puno and trusts him. That’s the bottom line.

  • This will take us into the realm of speculation, but why do you suppose PNoy chose to keep Puno? If being a mere “shooting buddy” is the reason, it would appear too flimsy given the circumstances. A recent public opinion poll has shown that the national government, PNoy’s administration in particular, is not being blamed for what happened. I suppose it is just a noisy group of commentators in the echo chamber making much hay out of all this.

  • UP nn grad

    “Noynoy” is exceedingly mad that a person who thought “Noynoy” had exceeded his authority had sought a second opinion. The “second opinion” is with authority — A SLAM-SHUT-UP delivered by Supreme Court to Malacanang, and “Noynoy” who won with 47% of the votes is very mad.

    This makes for interesting reading, and a thought to ponder on. Imperial tendencies have to be quashed, which of course becomes unpleasant to him who believes he understands all about legalities and tecnicalities and being mabait sa mga kaibigan at shooting buddies.

    MANILA, Philippines — Stung by the Supreme Court order stopping his removal of a “midnight appointee” of his predecessor, President Benigno Aquino III Thursday accused the tribunal of blocking his program of reform.

    Mr. Aquino used strong words in assailing the high court for granting the petition of Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), which sought a stop to the implementation of his Executive Order No. 2 rescinding the last-minute appointments of then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

  • UP nn grad

    Benigno Simeon “Noynoy” Aquino has over 5 years still as president. He can dodge many questions, for sure.

  • baycas2

    Well, in the not too often times I listen to the radio, I heard P.Noy’s urgent press con.

    When he announced the IIRC report he “purposely” left out the names of Lim and Domagoso (Moreno). People are expecting 12 names at that time. When asked if included, “parang napiyok pa nang sabihin ang mga pangalan.”

    Yesterday, he didn’t categorically deny Malou Mangahas’ “napatapang yata” PCIJ article. He dodged the question (if Mangahas’ article was true or not) TWICE.

  • GabbyD

    to defend monsod’s point of white-washing:

    the IIRC’s recommendation is to investigate more, exp about the possibility of criminal charges.

    note: they didnt say “press charges”, only investigate more!

    however, de mesa/ochoa review is more certain: No criminal charges, no further investigation by the govt.

    THAT IS WEIRD. he is precluding even an investigation? why?

    this is why its a white-wash…

    noynoy never explained why he knows an investigation will result in no further charges.

  • UP nn grad

    Being president has its privileges, among them to create a second (or a third) “independent body” to allow one to reject a recommendation from one’s justice secretary and to choose a set of recommendations that agree more with one’s intuitions about being mabait to one’s shooting buddies and personal allies.

    Before Valentine’s Day 2011, this brouhaha will be forgotten by many Pinoys in Pinas. Maybe not by Hongkong, but surely by many Pinoys in Pinas.

  • manuelbuencamino

    Winnie Monsod should first learn the meaning of “Recommendation” before she shoots her mouth off. Knowing the meaning of the word will then make it easier for her to understand why the President asked for a second opinion and his subsequent actions afterwards.

    Well, as the old cowboy saying goes: “Those who are quick on the draw usually end up shooting their foot.” So will somebody please give Winnie a pair of crutches