A Gag Order From The Ombudsman

12 September 2021 / 10:00 AM

A Gag Order From The Ombudsman

Who is Ombudsman Samuel Martires serving?  

Martires was at the receiving end of public criticism after he recently proposed jail terms for persons who will comment about the statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of government officials.

In one of the budget deliberations for the Office of the Ombudsman, Martires said that he will not yield to “public opinion” on releasing SALNs of any government officials as he emphasized that he is more than willing to be removed from office than to release anyone’s SALNs. 

Martires is a retired Supreme Court (SC) associate justice who voted for the ouster of former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno before he was appointed to the Office of the Ombudsman. 

With his experience in the SC, surely he is an expert in the 1989 Philippine Constitution. His loyalty to Duterte stands and the President is reaping the reward. 

Shortly after his appointment to the Ombudsman, Martires issued Memorandum Circular No. 1, series of 2020, prohibiting public access to any government officials’ SALN. The memorandum was issued during the time when Duterte’s SALN was making headlines. 

But Martires, a constitution expert, should know that the Constitution is more powerful than any memorandum order. Martires might have forgotten that Section 8 of Republic Act 6713 states that “SALNs must be available for inspection at reasonable hours” and “Any statement filed under this Act shall be available to the public for a period of ten years after receipt of the statement.”

It is worth remembering also that one of Duterte’s campaign promises in the 2016 elections is to promote transparency and accountability. Martires should at least help the President promote transparency. 

With the way things are going from the Ombudsman, this is one of his ways of being grateful to the man who appointed him. 

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