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Protector?

According to the Constitution, the mandate of the office of the Ombudsman as protectors of the people is to act promptly on complaints filed in any form or manner against officers or employees of the Government and enforce their administrative, civil or criminal liability in every case where the evidence warrants in order to promote efficient service by the Government to the people.

Its website lists its mission as to be “An Office of the Ombudsman that will transform public accountability into the norm and recognized as the central corruption prevention arm of the government.”

Ombudsman Samuel Martires, the supposed protector of the people has instead been busy protecting the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth of high government officials such as President Rodrigo Duterte from being scrutinized by the media and ordinary citizens based on the belief that the public document is apparently being weaponized to destroy the reputations of public officials.

In September 2020, Martires issued Memorandum Circular No. 1, restricting the release of SALNs. He directed their release only if the request was made by the government official, or his or her official representative who filed it; if it is legally ordered by the court in relation to a pending case, and if it made through the Office of the Ombudsman’s field investigation office for the purpose of a fact finding probe.

Given that cozy blanket of protection offered by Martires, officials who have faced pressure to release their SALN to the public such as President Duterte have not released the document to the public since 2018. While Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque has repeatedly said that it was up to the Ombudsman to release the SALN, legitimate requests for the public document have so far been denied.

Ombudsman Martires doubled down on the protection of the SALN on Thursday when he pushed for tough penalties, including jail time of five years, on anyone who would comment on SALNs of government officials and employees.

By fervently restricting access to the public document that is the SALN and pushing for the criminalization of SALN commentaries if ever one somehow gets out, whose interests are the Office of the Ombudsman truly working to protect?*

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