File photo by Lian Buan/Rappler
MANILA, Philippines – One common name can be found among most complaints filed against government officials in recent months: Jacinto “Jing” Paras.
The subjects of most of Paras’ complaints are officials seen to be behind supposed efforts to “destabilize” President Rodrigo Duterte.
Most recently, he filed a complaint on Tuesday, October 3, with Malacañang against Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang over his alleged "illegal and unlawful disclosure" of Duterte's bank transactions.
Paras also tagged Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales as the mastermind behind the “maneuvers” against the President. When asked how he knew this, Paras said it is because he is “intelligent.”
But who is Jing Paras really?
‘Gang of Five’
In 1998, Paras was elected 1st district representative of Negros Oriental. He held the position for 3 terms until 2007.
For someone who has been filing – or at least trying to file – cases left and right against various government officials, Paras is no stranger to corruption allegations which were hurled against him during his stint at the House of Representatives.
A Newsbreak piece published in 2001 named him as a member of the “Gang of Five”, which reportedly received P2 million to delay a congressional inquiry into the collusion of telco networks Globe and Smart over the reduction of free text messages.
Paras, who was then on the last year of his first term as legislator, was even the one who filed the resolution to jumpstart the congressional probe. He was also then the chair of the committee on transportation and communication.
The other members of the “Gang of Five” were then representatives Aniceto Saludo Jr of Southern Leyte, Eduardo Veloso of Leyte, Rolex Suplico of Iloilo, and Prospero Pichay of Surigao del Sur.
They, however, denied receiving any bribes while the cellular phone companies denied giving any money.
Aguirre’s ‘case expediter’?
In 2010, after 3 years outside government, Paras tried but failed to take the congressional seat from then Negros Oriental representative Jocelyn Limkaichong – losing by at least 46,781 votes.
He once again failed in his bid to return to the House of Representatives during the 2016 elections.
Lately, after his failed attempt to win a government seat, Paras has been busy working as a volunteer lawyer for the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC).
His position in the political sphere became obvious in September 11 when Senator Risa Hontiveros showed a photo of an apparent text message exchange between Paras and Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre during a Senate probe into the death of 17-year-old Kian delos Santos.
The text messages showed Aguirre asking Paras to expedite a case against Hontiveros who has been very vocal against the violence under Duterte's war on drugs.
Despite the two becoming the subject of criticism from other officials and the public in the aftermath of the "exposé", Paras and Aguirre still played the victim and called Hontiveros' move a violation of privacy – labelling it as wiretapping.
In fact, Aguirre filed a criminal complaint and an ethics complaint against the senator on Monday, October 2.
Still, the case the two was planning to expedite based on the text messages materialized on September 25: Paras filed a kidnapping complaint against Hontiveros for taking custody of minors who were witnesses in the killing of Delos Santos.
Paras was also part of a plunder complaint filed in June 2016 before the Ombudsman against former Comelec chairman Sixto Brillantes Jr and 6 others over a P240-million contract with Smartmatic in 2015. In September 2017, he told reporters that Ombudsman Morales sat on it because of no updates since 2016.
Who will be his next target? – Rappler.com
Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and also hosts the weekly podcast Newsbreak: Beyond the Stories. She joined Rappler in 2014 after obtaining her journalism degree from the University of the Philippines.