Ombudsman confident with DOJ corruption probe
MANILA, Philippines — Despite expressing confidence in the Department of Justice (DOJ) capability to investigate corruption issues hounding the government, the Office of the Ombudsman has assured the public that it would still evaluate investigations done by the agency.
In a statement on Friday, Ombudsman Samuel Martires said that the department’s capabilities are unassailable, especially since they have been partners for several corruption investigations — from the pork barrel scam to the recent allegations thrown against the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth).
“The directive of President Rodrigo Roa Duterte to [DOJ] Secretary Menardo Guevarra to investigate allegations of corruption in the government is most welcome. Secretary Guevarra is an intelligent and decent public servant who is well-respected by his peers and colleagues,” he said.
“The DOJ has been a long-standing partner of the Office in its drive against corruption. It will be recalled that the DOJ and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) played a pivotal role in the investigation of the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam that resulted in the Ombudsman’s swift action in resolving these cases,” he added.
Martires then turned to detractors of Duterte’s plan, saying that there is no basis to undermine the plan.
Under this mega task force meant to rid the government of corruption, issues sprouting from various agencies may be addressed before Duterte steps down from office in 2022 — although the focus may be on the Department of Public Works and Highways.
However, one major criticism of the mega task force is that such a group tasked to investigate government corruption already exists — the Office of the Ombudsman, which then file cases before the Sandiganbayan.
The Sandiganbayan is the country’s anti-graft court whose mandate is to hear cases against public officials and their possible private co-conspirators.
“Given this partnership, there is absolutely no basis to detract or underestimate the laudable objectives of the President in creating the DOJ mega task force. In any case, investigations conducted by the DOJ involving complaints of corruption are subject to the evaluation of the Ombudsman,” Martires said.
“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,” he explained.
The Office of the Ombudsman has recently suspended various officials — 44 from the Bureau of Immigration due to the so-called Pastillas scam; five from the Department of Health for the late release of benefits to frontliners fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, and some PhilHealth execs involved in the anomalous release of an interim reimbursement mechanism. [ac]
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