MANILA - The lack of witnesses to testify against corruption in government is not enough reason to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) said on Wednesday.
IBP national president Domingo Cayosa said the same obstacles were also experienced by the anti-graft body's former chiefs.
“To my mind, it’s not enough reason to abolish the office. Hindi ho basta-basta ma-aabolish ‘yan sapagkat (You can’t just abolish it because) that’s a constitutional body, and Congress, the President, or the Ombudsman cannot just will it away,” said Cayosa.
During a House budget hearing on Tuesday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires had floated the idea of abolishing the office as he lamented that investigators "cannot gather enough evidence because nobody would like to testify."
The office is mandated to prosecute public officials charged with graft and corruption and "enforce their administrative, civil and criminal liability," with focus on high ranking officials facing complaints involving large sums of money, according to the Ombudsman website.
In an interview on TeleRadyo, Cayosa said the Office of the Ombudsman should just put in more effort in doing its job better.
“Sapagka't may sapat naman na poder, resources, mga tauhan at batas para papanagutin sana mga magnanakaw sa ating kaban ng bayan,” he said.
(Because it has the power, the resources, personnel and the law to hold accountable those responsible for stealing from the nation’s coffer.)
But Cayosa said thousands of complaints have been filed with the Office of the Ombudsman, though many have lost interest because it takes a long time before a case is resolved.
“So these complaints na walang nagsasalita, walang nagtetestigo…the statistics of the Office of the Ombudsman will belie that."
(Complaints of no one talking, lack of witnesses… the statistics of the Office of the Ombudsman will belie that.)
But when a complaint is resolved and filed before the Sandiganbayan or regional trial court, the case drags on for a long time. What is key, Cayosa said, is to speed up judicial proceedings.
“It’s really justice bilis sana. Bilis-bilisan nilang mag-usap sa Sandiganbayan, sa mga korte para mapabilis prosecution sa mga nagnakaw sa kaban ng bayan,” he said.
(The Ombudsman, the Sandiganbayan and the courts should speed up coordination to expedite the prosecution of those who steal from the nation’s coffers.)
Last week, the Office of the Ombudsman said it had limited public access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials, allowing only for official investigations, by court order, or upon authority from officials themselves.
The Ombudsman also revealed that he has stopped lifestyle checks on government officials.