Ex-Ombudsman tells successor: Follow anti-graft law 'to the letter'

Jamaine Punzalan, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Sep 24 2020 09:34 AM | Updated as of Sep 24 2020 10:48 AM

Former Justice Conchita Carpio Morales delivers her speech during the graduation of the University of the Philippines (UP) Economics Graduation rites held at the UP Theater in Diliman Quezon City on June 28, 2019. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News/File

MANILA — Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Thursday told her successor to follow the anti-graft law "to the letter", following his restriction of public access to the wealth declaration of government officials.

"Follow to the letter the provisions of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act, as well as the Code of Ethics," she said in an ANC interview, addressing current Ombudsman Samuel Martires.

"You may have an interpretation that still goes along the spirit of the law, but for anyone to ward off the provisions, that’s not acceptable to me," she added.

Martires this month limited public access to Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs), allowing their release only for official investigations, by court order, or upon authority from officials themselves.

"It goes against the constitutional principle that public office is a public trust," Carpio Morales said of the move. "You are supposed to be transparent."

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On Tuesday, Martires told lawmakers that SALNs were unnecessary in corruption probes against officials and that the document could be weaponized against them.

However, Morales said the document was "important if it (investigation) involves quantifying things that make a difference whether he (official) made money or enriched himself while in public office."

"Whether or not it has been weaponized by critics, enemies of politicians, that is something which is debatable," she said.

"If he (Martires) believes that this is being weaponized… that is the concern of the politician. No one can refuse the request of anyone to use or copy a SALN for as long as is not against public policy."
 
The Ombudsman should also refrain from relying solely on testimonial evidence to go after corrupt officials. Investigators can get gather documentary evidence like the SALN, records from the Anti-Money Laundering Council, and other physical and circumstantial evidence.

Martires on Tuesday floated the idea of abolishing the Ombudsman because a shortage in witnesses has stumped its investigations.