Opposition Senator Leila M. de Lima has questioned Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ directive not to appeal lost cases in the Sandiganbayan and the lower courts as a move that would only promote impunity and abuse of power in public office.
De Lima, the first prominent political prisoner under the Duterte regime, said the Ombudsman’s recent directive contradicts its mandate to be an active and effective agent of the people in ensuring accountability in public office.
“[Ombudman Martires] is now preventing our prosecutors to exhaust all remedies against lost cases regardless of the merits of the case,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 389.
“It appears that there is a systematic attempt on the part of the new Ombudsman to reduce the efforts of his office to half-measures. Such trend will not only end up frustrating the ends of justice but also will operate to embolden those who seek to abuse the public office for personal gains,” she added.
De Lima cited recent reports stating that Ombudsman Martires has issued a directive not to anymore appeal lost cases in the Sandiganbayan and the lower courts, including cases at the Court of Appeals.
She stressed out that in the 2001 case of Uy v. Sandiganbayan, the SC noted that: “The prosecution of offenses committed by public officers and employees is one of the most important functions of the Ombudsman.”
As such, she underscored that the Ombudsman’s mandate as the protector of the people impresses upon him and his office the obligation to be an active and effective agent of the people in ensuring accountability in public office.
Under the rule of an authoritarian leader like Mr. Duterte, De Lima said the country needs a strong and independent ombudsman – like former Ombudman Conchita-Carpio Morales – who can and will resist any attempt to abuse public office.
“Unfortunately, the President replaced her with Ombudsman Martires, whose independence from Duterte is suspect at best. In his short stint in the Supreme Court, he has always voted in favor of Duterte’s positions no matter how tenuous they were,” she said.
“This administration’s lack of interest to hold those guilty of abuse of power responsible is so telling; that there cannot be any clearer manifestation of the erosion of the independence and zeal of the Office of the Ombudsman than this,” she added.
The Senator from Bicol, who is currently detained on trumped-up drug charges fabricated by the present administration, said the Filipino people should continue standing up against unjust policies by Mr. Duterte and his allies to win the fight against graft and corruption.