Ombudsman to stop giving info on complaints vs. gov't officials

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 6) — The Office of the Ombudsman will no longer provide information on complaints filed against government officials and the progress of their investigations.

Ombudsman Samuel Martires on Monday said his office would not confirm whether a complaint has been filed against a government official, even if the complainant informs the media about it.

"From the time we file the case, from the time we find probable cause, lahat sa Ombudsman dapat tikom ang bibig (everyone in the Ombudsman's office would keep mum). The accused can talk, but not the prosecutors," he said.

He added that the complainant will not be given a receiving copy of the complaint, and it will not be docketed.

Government officials will only know a complaint has been filed against them if it reaches the preliminary investigation stage, and they are required to answer the charges.

"Depende 'yun sa complainant kung gusto niyang magsalita (It depends on the complainant if he or she wants to talk), but we can always deny that a complaint was filed before the Office of the Ombudsman," he said.

Meanwhile, the media will only get wind of the complaint once the Ombudsman files a case with the Sandiganbayan.

Martires said he doesn't want information about the complaints to be leaked to protect the privacy of government officials, as the charges are sometimes baseless.

While the public has the right to information, he said the media should not make a spectacle--and profit--out of government officials.

"Hindi porke nasa media tayo na lahat na lang dapat binubusisi o inuusisa natin. Kung minsan wag nating pagka-negosyohan o pagkaperahan ang karapatan ng tao," Martires said.

Translation: Not because you're in the media, you can already look into everything. Don't make money or business out of people's right.

Inordinate delay

Martires also wanted to dismiss all cases undergoing fact-finding investigation after a year.

This is to allow his office to start with a clean slate, he said.

"Probably, tomorrow I will be issuing an office order, dismissing all cases that are more than one year old or one year old more that are undergoing fact finding without prejudice to the filing of these cases and subject to prescription," he said.

The Ombudsman has lost hundreds of cases in recent years at the Sandiganbayan due to inordinate delay, which is sometimes caused by the slow pace of investigations.

Martires had earlier vowed to address anomalies at the Office of the Ombudsman such as inordinate delay and purported corrupt practices that hamper the resolution of some cases.

Under his watch, he said the period of preliminary investigation will be shortened to 90 days.

Investigators may ask for an extension of the period for preliminary investigation, but this cannot go on for more than a year.

Investigation officers, meanwhile, must resolve motions for reconsideration within 60 days, or they will have to explain the cause for delay to Martires.

"We will shorten the period of preliminary investigation. We'll give every investigator only about 90 days, unless for compelling or justifiable reason there is a need to extend the period of preliminary investigation," he said.