A 1987 Constitution framer, former Commission on Elections chairperson Christian Monsod, on Monday slammed Ombudsman Samuel Martires for declining to publicly release the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) of government officials, including that of President Rodrigo Duterte.
“It seems that the present Ombudsman has forgotten that in a democracy, the people are the principals, and the government officials are their agents, not the other way around,” he said during a Zoom forum organized by the Right to Know Right Now Coalition.
Monsod said the Constitution was not written so that the Office of the Ombudsman would be the “protector of government officials.”
Martires earned criticism for batting for a jail term of five years for any person who “makes a comment” on the SALN of a particular government worker.
Monsod maintained that the Constitution has three provisions supporting the existence of the SALN law — Article 2, Sections 27 and 28, and Article 11, Section 1.
He said the provisions allow the SALN to function as a tool for an accountability system.
Last Thursday, House Deputy Speaker Rufus Rodriguez on Thursday urged Congress to restore the cuts made by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) from the proposed 2022 funding for the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).
During the House appropriations committee hearing, Rodriguez said the DBM’s proposed budget of the OMB for next year is P3.97 billion, which is P654.3 million lower than this year’s P4.62 billion.
Rodriguez cited the Constitution and the Ombudsman Act (Republic Act 6770) mandate that the OMB budget for a given year should not be lower than the previous year’s level, adding that the independent constitutional body “enjoys fiscal autonomy and that its budget should be released regularly”.
“In compliance with the Constitution and the Ombudsman Act, I appeal that we restore the amount of funds taken away by the DBM from our corruption watchdog to make it combat-ready,” he said.
He said the OMB does not even have a capital outlay appropriation and that funds for salaries were cut by more than P800 million.
“I can understand if we reduce capital outlay funds. But why are we reducing compensation appropriations? The Ombudsman should be able to hire additional lawyer-investigators and financial analysts to speed up the investigation and resolution of graft and corruption cases,” he said.
He stressed that the OMB would be less effective in doing its job without sufficient budgetary support.
“The OMB is tasked to ensure that public servants, from the highest official of the land to the lowly clerk, observe the highest standards of responsibility, honesty, integrity, and loyalty. We should give them the funds to carry out that mandate,” he said.
Rodriguez also proposed that the OMB be allowed to use its savings and income.
Ombudsman Samuel Martires, for his part, said his office could operate on the level of funds allocated to it by the DBM and the President.
“We are willing to sacrifice and accept the budget recommended by the executive branch,” Martires said.