Former Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales on Wednesday hit her successor Samuel Martires’ proposal to abolish the Office of the Ombudsman.
In a statement, Morales said: “To abolish the office will open floodgates to the commission of more corrupt activities. Allegedly, his policy is to dismiss complaints.”
She debunked Martires’ claim that a Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) cannot be used as evidence of graft and corruption against a public official.
A SALN is an important documentary evidence to establish corruption, she said.
“Testimonial evidence is not the only evidence to build up a case. There is documentary, object, physical, circumstantial evidence. Subpoena duces tecum can be used to produce documents,” Morales said.
Morales and Martires are also both former Associate Justices of the Supreme Court.
While he agreed with Martires’s opinion that a lifestyle check would not be enough to substantiate the involvement of government officials in graft and corruption, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra stressed that subjecting a government official to a lifestyle check could help determine if the person is engaged in any illegal activities and corruption.
“I fully understand where the Honorable Ombudsman is coming from. Indeed, a lifestyle check as a stand-alone measure will not conclusively indicate whether a person is engaged in some wrongdoing to enrich himself,” Guevarra said, in a text message.
“A lifestyle check has to be intertwined with a much deeper process of investigating specific acts of corruption or other crimes. It is meant to strengthen a finding of wrongdoing, as manifested in the lifestyle of the person concerned,” he added.
Martires, in a memorandum circular, earlier directed that access to SALNs be restricted only to official investigations, by a court order or upon authority from officials themselves.
He also suggested that the Office of the Ombudsman be abolished should witnesses decline to testify against public officials accused of involvement in corrupt practices.
During the Ombudsman’s 2021 budget hearing in Congress on Tuesday, Martires told the lawmakers that he had stopped lifestyle checks on government officials.
Guevarra said that regardless of whether they, as public officials, could be subjected to a lifestyle check, they should strive to live modest lives.
“Government officials and employees, no matter how well-to-do or wealthy they are, are encouraged to live and project a modest life as public servants,” he emphasized.