Strengthen Ombudsman in fight vs corruption – analyst

ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 29 2020 09:43 AM | Updated as of Oct 29 2020 10:11 AM

The Office of the Ombudsman's main building in Quezon City. Mark Demayo, ABS-CBN News

MANILA – Legislators must pass a law to further strengthen the Ombudsman, a governance expert said Thursday, as a long-term solution in the country’s fight against systemic corruption.

By expanding the powers of the anti-graft office, investigations will be more efficient, effective and sustainable instead of creating an ad hoc task force, said Dr. Francisco Magno, associate political science professor at the De La Salle University (DLSU).

"It's a duplication [of Ombudsman], but I think it’s a recognition that's the Office of Ombudsman needs a lot of help, a lot of resources,” he told ANC’s “Matters of Fact”.

“That’s why in the long term, I think there is a need to have a law that will strengthen the Ombudsman in terms of resource enhancement, skills development and even really strengthening the office itself."

President Rodrigo Duterte said Tuesday he had ordered the creation of a “mega task force” to launch a sweeping investigation into graft across all government agencies.

The justice ministry will lead the task force, which will focus on investigating corruption-tainted agencies such as Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth), Bureau of Customs (BOC), Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), Land Registration Authority (LRA) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

For Magno, an ad hoc task force, in the overall scheme of things, is seen as a reactive measure.

"There’s a tendency to investigate when the crisis is there already, when the problem is there. But if you are looking at it as an ecosystem, what I may call as an ecosystem of corruption, then you actually approach the problem in a very comprehensive and systematic manner,” he said.

The Philippine government, he said, can look at Hong Kong’s anti-corruption whole of government approach by creating the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The ICAC adopts a 3-pronged approach of law enforcement, prevention and community education to fight corruption, he said.

“We are actually more liberalized in terms of placing responsibility and accountability upon the individual agencies to exercise controls, leadership supervision and internal controls,” Magno said.

To double down measures against corruption, Magno called for the passage of a whistleblower protection law and the Freedom of Information (FOI) bill, which is still languishing in Congress.

The Philippine authorities, he said, tend to rely on whistleblowers as seen in number of high-profile cases.

“Corruption is a crime of calculation. So you needed somebody who is inside, who will spill beans, so to speak. Some kind of informant,” Magno said.

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