BUKIDNON – The following is the full statement of former Bukidnon First District Congressman JR Nereus “Neric” Acosta sent to BUKIDNON ONLINE and MINDANAOAN on the Office of the Ombudsman’s order to file graft charges against him, his mother former Manolo Fortich mayor Socorro Acosta and his aunt Nemia Bornidor before the Sandiganbayan.
Last Wednesday, February 25, 2009,Ombudsman Ma. Merceditas N. Gutierrez ordered the filing of graft charges against the three for allegedly defrauding the government of P10.5 million worth of public funds.
To my shock — although given the climate of suppressing opposition voices, not entirely an unexpected turn of events — I learned today, February 25, 2009, from various media sources that a case filed against me (and my mother, former Mayor of Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon) six years ago will be brought to the Sandiganbayan by the Ombudsman with the intent to file graft charges against us. I (or my lawyers) have not received any formal notice or document pertaining to this development.
This case, used by my political opponents as an election issue against me during my campaign for a third term in 2004, involves my supposed channeling of public funds to private entities (BINHI, a Grameen Banking NGO I worked with prior to being congressman) and a cooperative my mother had helped establish at a time she was not in public office. I trained under Dr Muhammad Yunnus of Bangladesh (2006 Nobel Peace Laureate) in the early 1990s and with family and close associates began a pioneering replication program for Grameen Banking for rural women in Bukidnon under BINHI in 1989-1990. I continued with these projects when I entered politics in 1995, seeking new linkages between government and NGO entities. Today, BINHI is a partner of the Center for Agricultural Development (CARD), which was named Magasaysay Awardee for Public Service in 2008. I stand by my record of environmental legislation (as principal author of the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts), NGO and community-based work in Mindanao, and the legitimate use of public funds for my district during my first two terms. I am fully prepared to present any evidence attesting to this, as we have answered all charges leveled against me and my mother previously.
At the height of the ‘Hello Garci’ scandal and just a few days after my endorsement of the impeachment complaint against President Arroyo in 2005, this case was revived by the Ombudsman. I was stripped of my chairmanship of the Committe on Ecology and did not receive any ‘pork barrel funds’ for the rest of my final term in Congress. In 2006 I was one of four congressmen who again endorsed a second impeachment complaint against the president. In 2007, Mr. ‘Hello Garci’ Garcillano himself ran for congressman in the district I represented for three terms.
I find it utterly malicious that this case is being sent to the Sandiganbayan at a time when Ombudsman Merceditas Guttierrez is under intense fire from various sectors for failing to act on large-scale multi-million graft cases involving the First Gentleman (Jose Pidal, World Bank reports on collusion with private contractors), Benjamin Abalos (MegaPacific deal, ZTE-NBN), Jocjoc Bolante (fertilizer scam), the ‘Euro Generals,’ Mr. Garcillano, and others. At present, I belong to a large group of private citizens and groups led by Bantay Katarungan/Kilosbayan and former Senator Jovito Salonga who are preparing an impeachment complaint against the Ombudsman.
I will face the bar of public opinion and any court of law, as any public servant ought to when called to account for his actions while in office. But if Ombudsman Gutierrez is indeed serious about doing her job and proving that she functions with the independence of her constitutional office, then I issue the challenge for her to file charges as well, in the face of a preponderance of evidence, against all political officials, even administration allies, without fear or favor. To single out opposition leaders or allies while covering up for those in power (or affliated to those in power) only reinforces the very reasons cited by calls for her impeachment: that she has acted unfairly, engaged in ‘vindictive politics’ and has failed to perform independently as the country’s top anti-graft official.
I join and fully support a growing chorus of citizens nationwide that demands an end to a politics that preys on enemies and voices of dissent, uses tools of deceit to hold on to power, and shields those in power from full accountability — and works for a renewed politics that fully respects the social contact between a people and their government, and restores faith in our leaders and institutions.
February 25, 2009