Senator Leila M. de Lima has decried Ombudsman Samuel Martires’ refusal to release to the public Mr. Duterte’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) purportedly to protect the interest of public officials, including the President.
De Lima, a former justice secretary, reminded Martires that it is his mandate to protect the interest of the Filipino public over that of the public officials and ensure that there are accountability and transparency in public office.
“This government only becomes more disgusting by the day. With Ombudsman [M]artires’s declaration that he will not release Duterte’s SALN because he has the duty to protect public officials, this government’s act of turning all principles of accountability and transparency on their head is now complete,” she said in her recent Dispatch from Crame No. 680.
“With Martires’ pronouncement that this Ombudsman office has now turned its mandate 180 degrees to that of protecting and defending public officials like the President, the people are effectively deprived of their anti-corruption champion. From Tanodbayan, the Ombudsman has now become the Traydorbayan,” she added.
The Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) recently released a report about Mr. Duterte’s failure to release his SALN over seven months after the April 30 deadline for the filing of the document.
In the report written by journalist Malou Mangahas, PCIJ noted that the Ombudsman had released Duterte’s SALNs in the preceding years and that it was only under Martires’ leadership that it has been delayed – which is supposedly a first in 30 years.
PCIJ likewise quoted Martires as saying that the SALN can be obtained from the Office of the President and the Office of the Executive Secretary, but Presidential Spokesman Salavador Panelo reportedly said in a separate statement that it is the Office of the Ombudsman’s, and not the President’s, responsibility to release the SALN.
In response to the PCIJ report, Martires reportedly claimed that while he understands the right of the public to information, he also has the duty to protect the interest of officials.
In reminding the Ombudman’s that it is “never” charged to represent the interest of public officials, the lady Senator from Bicol recalled the definition of Ombudsman.
“It is a term of Swedish origin which means ‘an official who is charged with representing the interests of the public by investigating and addressing complaints of mal-administration,” she recalled.
De Lima, a social justice and human rights champion, urged Martires to relinquish his post if he cannot fulfill his duty as Ombudsman and if he continues to betray public trust.
“One can only pull out her hair in anguish at how this otherwise distinguished official has perverted and distorted the rule of law beyond recognition. If Ombudsman Martires cannot fulfill his mandate under the Constitution, he should resign his position,” she said.
“Hold up Duterte to the same stringent standards that you subjected Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to in the submission and disclosure of their SALNs. Otherwise, you will not only be remembered for your double standard, but for your betrayal of the public trust,” she added.
This 18th Congress, De Lima filed Senate Bill No. 186, or the Comprehensive Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth Act of 2019, which seeks to address the loopholes in the filing of SALN to make it more effective in eradicating corruption and promoting transparency in the government service.