We need a politicized Ombudsman like a bullet in the head

Posted by watchmen
September 27, 2021
Posted in OPINION

Ombudsman Samuel Martires has refused to release copies of President Rodrigo Duterte’s Statement of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

A group of lawyers had to petition the Ombudsman after the Palace denied their request for the President’s SALNs for 2016-2020.

Ombudsman Martires denied the request citing his own circular that constricts the circle of people who may be granted copies of SALNs of public officials.


The people are currently unaware of the entries made by the President in his SALN.

In fact, since the President has not published his SALNs, and the Ombudsman will not release copies without the President’s authorization, we do not know whether he had taken the time to accomplish and file them in the first place.

Article XI, Section 17 of the Constitution obligates the President and other high-ranking officials to publicly disclose their SALN.

Section 8 of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act (RA 3019) provides that the public has the right to know the assets, liabilities, net worth, and business interests of public officials and employees.

It would take five minutes to scan those SALNs and post them on the website of the Office of the President. Why it is not being done simply boggles the mind.



The President is a lawyer who held the reins of executive power in Davao City for decades. He knows, or must know, that the filing of SALNs and making them public is a legal obligation on the part of those who seek public office.

The framers of the Constitution injected tools of transparency in the law to discourage government officials from enriching themselves in office. The greater the power, the greater the temptation to steal.



On several occasions Duterte went ballistic over allegations that as Mayor of Davao City he had hoarded wealth way larger than decades in salary could possibly have added up to.

During the campaign in 2016, allegations cropped up respecting a bank account in Ortigas, Pasig, which he initially denied but was forced to admit as existent after skeptics deposited nominal amounts that got accepted by the bank.

Former overall Deputy Ombudsman Melchor Arthur Carandang was at the forefront of the investigation into Duterte’s bank accounts.

In August 2017 Duterte fired Carandang despite prevailing jurisprudence that a deputy Ombudsman is not subject to the disciplinary authority of the President.

According to the Supreme Court, subjecting the deputy ombudsman to discipline and removal by the President would defeat the independence of his office because of “fear of external reprisal from the very office he is to check for excesses and abuses (Gonzales III vs. Office of the President).”



When Ombudsman Martires was with the Supreme Court he concurred in removing then Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno from office for her failure to provide SALNs to the Judicial and Bar Council.

Now that he is being pressed to make the President’s SALN filings transparent, the Ombudsman’s position is that the SALN is being weaponized against public officials.



By the way, the new overall Deputy Ombudsman is Warren Liong who was appointed by Duterte to replace Carandang on November 24, 2020.

Liong is reported to be a former legal consultant of Davao City who helped Duterte’s political party in electoral campaigns.

Prior to his Ombudsman posting, Liong was a director at the Department of Budget and Management Procurement Service (DBM-PS) with Undersecretary Christopher Lao as his boss. The latter is now under fire for awarding billions of pesos in questionable procurement contracts to Pharmally.

In case the opposition wins the presidential election in 2022, Liong will be haunted by the precedent that Duterte has set, i.e., that the Office of the President may replace a sitting deputy ombudsman.

There lies the danger in politicizing an independent office./WDJ

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