MANILA — Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Tuesday said he is open to the proposal of reviving the assignment of a resident ombudsman in government offices as another anti-corruption measure.
His comment came after Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra proposed the idea of having a resident ombudsman in various agencies of the executive department.
Martires, however, noted that the Office of the Ombudsman may not have enough people to appoint in all state agencies.
“In principle we are agreed na magkaroon ng resident ombudsman. Kaya lang ang problema dahil kulang kami sa tao ang suggestion ko sa kanya kung gusto mo, ide-deputize namin 'yung inyong mga piskal,” Martires said.
(In principle we are agreed that there should be a resident ombudsman. But the problem is the lack of manpower. I suggested that we could deputize fiscals.)
Martires said he is focusing instead on strengthening the field investigation office by hiring more investigators.
He is also planning to hire more people to improve the services of the public assistance unit.
Both Martires and Guevarra acknowledged the challenges of having a resident ombudsman holding office in government agencies and the chances that their work wouldl be compromised.
Martires said that the practice of having a resident ombudsman deployed in government offices was eventually scrapped by former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
“Mayroon yatang mga (There were) resident ombudsman who were given allowances, who were provided with service vehicles which did not fare good with Chit Morales,” Martires said.
President Rodrigo Duterte recently ordered the justice department to lead a task force to investigate all of government for corruption.
Ombudsman filed few cases in 2020
Martires, meanwhile, admitted that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Ombudsman did not file any case in court from April to June this year.
“Hindi kami puwede mag e-filing kasi may mga kasamang ebidensya eh, mga records kaya di uubra ang e-filing sa amin,” Martires said.
(We cannot do e-filing because we need to attach evidence, records.)
The Ombudsman also stressed that other factors have contributed to the lesser number of cases this year.
He also said he stopped the practice of his predecessor of filing cases before the Sandiganbayan if the case still has a pending motion for reconsideration in his office.
“Nag-aksaya ka ng panahon, nag-aksaya ka ng papel para ano? Para ipangalandakan mo sa publiko na andami kong naifile na kaso? Hindi ko gawain 'yun,” Martires said.
(You wasted time and paper for what? To tell the public you have filed a lot of cases? That's not how I do things.)
He also cited cases being filed at regional trial courts (RTC) because of their expanded jurisdiction.
“Kaya nga sabi ko baka mamaya darating ang panahon maging useless ang Sandiganbayan kasi nag-add pa sila ng dalawang divisions from 5 to 7, wala na silang rason para ‘di makatapos kasi with expanded jurisdiction of RTC 'yung bulk ng cases napupunta ngayon sa RTC,” Martires said.
(Sandiganbayan could be useless in the future because they added another 2 divisions, from 5 to 7. They do not have any more reasons to not finish cases because, with the expanded jurisdiction of RTC, the bulk of the cases are now going to them.)
Previously, the Ombudsman filed several cases for a single act but that will not happen under his watch, he said, because it is a form of harassment.
He cited cases of lawmakers involved in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam, with plunder and accompanying graft charges filed before the Sandiganbayan.
“Suwerte mo kung ang kaso mo 2 lang, karamihan 3 o 4 kasi naniniguro 'yung mga dating Ombudsman na at least pag na-acquit dito sa isa mayroon pang mga iba na baka maka-secure pa ng conviction, which I do not agree [with] because that is already harassment so tinigil ko 'yun. One act, one case — period,” said Martires.
(You are lucky if you have 2 cases, many have up to 3 or 4 because some officials in the Ombudsman before used to file several cases to secure the conviction, which I do not agree with because it is considered a form of harassment.)