Ombudsman creates committee to handle sexual harassment complaints from employees

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 16 2020 03:52 PM

The Office of the Ombudsman's main building in Quezon City. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA— Ombudsman Samuel Martires has created a committee that would look into cases of sexual harassment at the agency, covering incidents committed both inside or outside work premises and those made online and offline.

In Administrative Order No. 2 signed July 27, 2020, Martires said there would be one Committee on Decorum and Investigation (CODI) for the Office of the Ombudsman's offices in Quezon City, Visayas, and Mindanao. 

The Ombudsman’s offices in Quezon City include the Central Office, Office of the Special Prosecutor, Office of the Ombudsman for Luzon, Office of the Ombudsman for the Military, and other law enforcement offices. 

According to the order, sexual harassment may be physical, verbal, or through the use of objects. It could also be made through technology in the form of text messaging and electronic mail, among others. 

Harassment may take place “whether or not actual work is being undertaken” within or outside the premises of the usual place of work, on occasions such as trainings, seminars, in the court of an official business transaction or office-related gathering, or through correspondence which includes the use of social media.

The CODI may receive reports of sexual harassment, conduct clarificatory hearings, and provide support to victims such as counseling services. The said committee could also recommend the complaint to an appropriate agency for action. 

The order of the Ombudsman took its cue from Republic Act No. 11313 or the “Bawal Bastos Law” which imposes stiffer penalties on a range of acts from catcalling, sexist slurs, stalking and cyberstalking.

The law states that sexual harassment includes uploading and sharing any form of media that contains the victim’s photos, voice or video with sexual or sexist content without the victim’s consent. 

The law also punishes invasion of privacy through cyberstalking, and threats using misogynistic, transphobic, homophobic, or sexist remarks made online whether publicly or through private messages.

Decisions of the CODI will be submitted to Martires for his final action.

“Findings of fact of the Office of the Ombudsman, when supported by substantial evidence, shall be conclusive,” he said in the order.

A person found liable of sexual harassment may be reprimanded, fined, suspended, or dismissed. 

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