Ombudsman Martires welcomes Duterte-backed 'mega task force' vs corruption

Adrian Ayalin, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 30 2020 07:00 PM

Ombudsman Martires welcomes Duterte-backed 'mega task force' vs corruption 1
Samuel Martires is sworn in as Supreme Court associate justice by President Rodrigo Duterte on March 8, 2017. Martires was then named Ombudsman on Aug. 8, 2018. Malacañang Photo/File

MANILA — Ombudsman Samuel Martires said Friday the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to create a separate "mega task force" to investigate government-wide corruption is "most welcome" amid observations that the new panel would "undermine" his office's powers. 

In a statement Friday, Martires had nothing but good words for Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, whose department would oversee the new anti-corruption panel.

"Secretary Guevarra is an intelligent and decent public servant who is well-respected by his peers and colleagues," Martires said.

President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he has ordered the creation of a “mega task force” to launch a sweeping investigation into graft across all government agencies.

The justice department will lead the task force, which will focus on investigating corruption-tainted agencies such as the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

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Martires noted that the DOJ and the Office of the Ombudsman have long been "partners" in uncovering corruption, citing their cooperation in the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam and Philippine Health Insurance Corporation corruption probes. 

The two agencies are also members of the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council, a multi-agency partnership established in 1999.

"Several partnership agreements have also been forged between the two agencies to ensure the prompt handling and speedy disposition of cases," Martires said.

The official, however, asserted that any findings of the DOJ-led mega task force would still be evaluated by his office. The Ombudsman has the mandate to bring charges against public officials before the anti-graft court. 

"As an independent constitutional body, the Ombudsman assures the public that it will continue to conduct in-depth parallel investigations as to alleged anomalies in the government despite this Office’s limited manpower and the ongoing reorganization to strengthen the bureaus undertaking investigative functions," Martires said.

Under Martires' leadership, he has ordered the limited public access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials, allowing release only for official investigations, by court order, or upon authority from officials themselves.