IIRC report

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.