New Ombudsman to summon former Duterte lawyer on extortion rap
Earning the ire of politicians and the public is not lost on Samuel Martires, the Supreme Court associate justice chosen by President Rodrigo Duterte to head the constitutional office tasked with battling corruption in the bureaucracy.
On Sunday, the newly named Ombudsman said he would rather let his actions prove his worth as the country’s primary graft buster than answer every allegation thrown at him.
“I do not expect that for every action I take, there will be no criticism because you can never satisfy everyone,” Martires told the Inquirer.
“No matter how you try to convince a person that you are honest and objective, if that person has already a frame of mind that you are a scoundrel and corrupt, then nothing will happen,” he said.
Martires, the President’s first appointee to the Supreme Court, succeeded Conchita Carpio-Morales, who steered the antigraft body in pursuing plunder charges against several lawmakers tagged in the P10-billion pork barrel scam.
To summon Batacan
To prove that he means business, Martires said he would summon Edna Batacan, the President’s former lawyer who claimed that the Office of the Ombudsman became “graft-ridden” during Morales’ seven-year tenure.
“I will talk to Batacan and ask her to identify the [Ombudsman personnel] who supposedly demanded money from her,” he said.
“I will take action on the [allegations of corruption]. I will have it investigated because we need to know if the allegations are true or not,” he added.
Martires lamented that, while insinuation of rampant corruption in the government had been widespread, only a few had come forward to support their claims and sue erring public officials.
“It’s the same in the judiciary. Many people claim that certain judges are corrupt. The problem is nobody would surface and present evidence against the supposed corrupt judges,” he said.
Batacan, who also once served as lawyer for Jose Miguel Arroyo, husband of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was one of the 10 applicants for the top post at the Office of the Ombudsman.
Party to corruption
During her interview at the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on June 25, she claimed the office became corrupt during the term of Morales.
“There is so much corruption now in that office. It’s not like that before,” said Batacan, herself a former Ombudsman prosecutor.
“The Office of the Ombudsman has become graft-ridden. Just to verify a case, you have to spend P50,000 . . . The personnel there had their own respective [illegal] businesses,” she said.
Grilled by a JBC member, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, Batacan admitted that she opted to “dance to their music” and bribed unscrupulous Ombudsman employees.
In response, Morales said: “If you are party to corruption, you are corrupt yourself.”
According to Martires, he had instructed Special Prosecutor Edilberto Sandoval and Overall Deputy Ombudsman Arthur Carandang not to bring any case to the Sandiganbayan until he officially assumes office on Aug. 1.
Martires, who obtained his law degree from San Beda College like Mr. Duterte, said the moratorium also included all pending appeals in the graft buster’s office.
As to the issue of delayed resolution of cases, he said he would immediately buckle down to work and start an inventory of all cases handled by the Ombudsman.
On Friday, Morales said her successor was “lucky” as she had instituted reforms that resulted in the speedy resolution of complaints and investigation handled by prosecutors.
She said she had to deal with some 19,000 pending cases when she was appointed in 2011 by then President Benigno Aquino III.
When she stepped down last week, Morales said the Ombudsman was handling “only” 6,000 cases.
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