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Martires wants Office of the Ombudsman abolished, lifestyle checks discontinued

Michelle R. Guillang

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Ombudsman Samuel Martires said the government finds it hard to go after corrupt officials because witnesses are scared to testify.

Thus, it would be better that the office of the Ombudsman is abolished, Martires said during the House committee on appropriations hearing the budget proposal of his office.

Martires said investigators are not able to collect sufficient evidence for pending cases because nobody wanted to give testimonies.

“This is why we cannot arrest any corrupt official because the witnesses themselves are scared. We cannot accomplish anything if this goes on. As I said, maybe we could just abolish the Office of the Ombudsman,” he said.

Martires even proposed that every government’s office could just create its own anti-corruption programs, thus his office could be abolished and would make the government spend less.

Also, Martires said the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) has been weaponized by the rivals of government officials, thus public access to SALN had to be restricted.

He said SALN has only been utilized by political opponents to destroy another official’s reputation and noted that SALN is not needed when a government official is sued for graft and plunder.

The Ombudsman on September 15 declared that SALN can only be accessed by authorized persons such as the person who filed the SALN and the one who he/she authorized; lawful order of the court to a pending case; and for the purpose of fact-finding investigations.

Moreover, Martires revealed that he himself demanded that lifestyle checks of government officials be discontinued due to its consistencies with the provisions stated under RA 6173 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

The law, Martires said, has provisions that seem to be illogical.

“We have a lot to discuss Republic Act 6173. Let’s take a look at it. I will give you my recommendations, those which must be amended to RA 6173, before this year ends,” Martires said.

“There is a problem with the SALN’s form. A big problem. There’s the market value. What should we do with it? Should it be depreciated? Land is a real property that does not depreciate, but a house does,” Martires stressed.

The ombudsman said this is one of the things which should be reviewed in the form of SALN.

“We have to restudy the form of the SALN which is being used as a weapon of the political rivals or whoever is raging against a public official in order to prosecute the official,” he said.

“But the root of this is the ambiguous law, the unclear system of the form of the SALN,” he added.

He underscored that an official cannot be laid charges against just for living extravagantly or beyond his income.

“Who are we to conclude that an official is corrupt? What’s simple living to me may not be simple living to you or to anyone,” said Martires.

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