De Lima says Martires should resign if he can’t fulfill duty as Ombudsman
MANILA, Philippines — Senator Leila de Lima has decried the refusal of Ombudsman Samuel Martires to release to the public the President’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), adding that he should relinquish his post if he cannot fulfill his duty under the Constitution.
“One can only pull out her hair in anguish at how this otherwise distinguished official has perverted and distorted the rule of law beyond recognition. If Ombudsman Martires cannot fulfill his mandate under the Constitution, he should resign his position,” De Lima said in her recent dispatch from Camp Crame in Quezon City where she is currently detained.
“Hold up Duterte to the same stringent standards that you subjected Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to in the submission and disclosure of their SALNs. Otherwise, you will not only be remembered for your double standard, but for your betrayal of the public trust,” she added.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) earlier released a report which revealed how the Office of the Ombudsman and the Office of the President failed to provide the media a copy of the President’s SALN despite the chief executive’s repeated vow for transparency.
The PCIJ, in its report, quoted Martires as saying that he was looking for “what authority do we have to release SALNs” and that the said document can be obtained from the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary.
Under The SALN Law (Republic Act No. 6713), the Ombudsman is deemed custodian of the SALNs of the President, Vice President, senior officials, and star-rank military and police officers.
The predecessors of Ombudsman Samuel Martires had issued circulars and guidelines that spelled out the procedures for securing copies of SALNs and also affirmed a “public disclosure” policy for citizens to access copies.
“But under Martires, the sixth Ombudsman who Duterte appointed in August 2018 (or six months before Martires’s retirement as associate justice of the Supreme Court), the SALNs of senior officials are now kept under lock and key,” the PCIJ report read.
“All requests for SALNs filed with the national office, as well as with the offices of the Deputy Ombudsmen for Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, and for the Military and Law Enforcement Officer (MOLEO) are now being submitted for approval only by Martires,” it added.
In response to the report, Martires said it was his duty to protect the rights and welfare of government officials and employees.
“Hindi lingid sa aking kaalaman na may karapatan ang mamamayan na malaman ang SALN ng mga kawani ng pamahalaan,” he earlier said in a statement.
“Subalit may tungkulin rin ako na dapat gampanan at ito ang pangalagaan ang mga karapatan at kapakanan ng mga kawani at opisyal ng pamahalaan alinsunod sa nakasaad sa implementing rules and regulations ng (Republic Act) 6713,” he added.
But De Lima reminded Martires that it is his mandate to protect the interest of the Filipino public over that of the public officials and ensure that there are accountability and transparency in public office.
“This government only becomes more disgusting by the day. With Ombudsman [M]artires’s declaration that he will not release Duterte’s SALN because he has the duty to protect public officials, this government’s act of turning all principles of accountability and transparency on their head is now complete,” the senator said.
“With Martires’ pronouncement that this Ombudsman office has now turned its mandate 180 degrees to that of protecting and defending public officials like the President, the people are effectively deprived of their anti-corruption champion,” she added.
De Lima then recalled the definition of “Ombudsman” as she reminded Martires that he is “never” charged to represent the interest of public officials.
“It is a term of Swedish origin which means ‘an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of mal-administration,’” the senator pointed out.
INQUIRER.net has reached Martires for his side but has yet to respond as of writing.
Edited by JE
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