Who will guard the Ombudsman, herself?

The past week we’ve seen the Ombudsman in action. Perhaps, this is the first time since its inception that the awesome powers of the Ombudsman was shown to the public. And taken for a spin.

Muscles flexed. Achievement unlocked.

You could almost see the Senators quiver in their seats after they digested the testimony of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales on her analysis of Chief Justice Corona’s Dollar Accounts. You could almost see people go bug-eyed as the Ombudsman talked about directing the Anti-Money Laundering Council to release its records to her. It has given the Opposition pause. And it has given the Senator-Judges pause. What’s to stop the Ombudsman from going after them?

Did Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales over-reach her power?

The 1987 Constitution is clear. Article XI, section 13 reads:

The Office of the Ombudsman shall have the following powers, functions, and duties:

(1) Investigate on its own, or on complaint by any person, any act or omission of any public official, employee, office or agency, when such act or omission appears to be illegal, unjust, improper, or inefficient.
(2) Direct, upon complaint or at its own instance, any public official or employee of the Government, or any subdivision, agency or instrumentality thereof, as well as of any government-owned or controlled corporation with original charter, to perform and expedite any act or duty required by law, or to stop, prevent, and correct any abuse or impropriety in the performance of duties.

(3) Direct the officer concerned to take appropriate action against a public official or employee at fault, and recommend his removal, suspension, demotion, fine, censure, or prosecution, and ensure compliance therewith.

(4) Direct the officer concerned, in any appropriate case, and subject to such limitations as may be provided by law, to furnish it with copies of documents relating to contracts or transactions entered into by his office involving the disbursement or use of public funds or properties, and report any irregularity to the Commission on Audit for appropriate action.

(5) Request any government agency for assistance and information necessary in the discharge of its responsibilities, and to examine, if necessary, pertinent records and documents.

(6) Publicize matters covered by its investigation when circumstances so warrant and with due prudence.

(7) Determine the causes of inefficiency, red tape, mismanagement, fraud, and corruption in the Government and make recommendations for their elimination and the observance of high standards of ethics and efficiency.

(8) Promulgate its rules of procedure and exercise such other powers or perform such functions or duties as may be provided by law.

So clearly, as empowered by the Constitution, the Ombudsman can investigate on its own. It can direct officers of the government to furnish it with documents, and it can request any agency for assistance.

It is like having your own real-life superhero with all the deputized power of the people to go with it. It has the real rank of a Constitutional Commission precisely for it to be taken seriously. It does not prosecute cases. It merely investigates and becomes the “lawyer of the people”.

So what’s to stop the Ombudsman from abusing these awesome powers? What’s to stop the President from using the office the ombudsman? Or future presidents? As Juvenal asked, “Quis custodiet ipsos custodies,” Who will guard the guardian themselves?

That’s why the Ombudsman is one of the impeachable officers. Congress can prosecute, and put the ombudsman on trial.

According to a transcript of the Record of the Constitutional Commission dated July 26, 1986, Commissioner Nolledo remarked, “Let our Ombudsman, called the eyes and ears of the people, the super lawyer-for-free of the oppressed and the downtrodden, raise a new hope in our people who must be given the reassurance that the government really cares for them.”

If this week is of any indication then it is appropriate to say, “Achievement unlocked.“ What to do with all the other cases pending with the Ombudsman? Make it happen.

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.

  • Manuelbuencamino

    Read Stupid’s comments below.

  • UPnnGrd

    Inquirer-dot-net  also quotes Senator Joker Arroyo  (  not Arroyo the congresswoman but Arroyo the senator ):
    ….“If we offend Malacañang, if we do not follow Malacañang, they can
    proceed against us with the information gathered through (AMLC). It’s a
    disturbing thought.”

    But members of Yellow Army would say … what’s wrong with following Malakanyang?   There’s a new sheriff in town,  so  ganuon iyon!!!

  • UPnnGrd

    Malakanyang  (a nd PersiNoynoy in particular ) has to have a one-one meeting with Senator JP Enrile  so JP Enrile can be corrected.   Did you see what Inquirer has reported that Senator JP Enrile has said?    Of course, what it is on INquirer-dot-Net  may have typographical errors but below is cut-and-paste. But it seems Senator JP Enrile has thoughts that Malakanyang has to follow the law.

    ………..: “If that’s true, then they’re not respecting the law anymore. They’re not following
    the law, which they’re supposed to obey and implement. The executive department is the implementing body.”

  • Manuelbuencamino

    We have a guard who is not sleeping on the job. Anybody who enters public service puts himself at the mercy of the guardian. If you don’t want to be at the guardian’s mercy do not join the government or join government and stay straight. There is no need to guard the guardian, the guardian is us. The guardian is supposed to keep our workers in line.

  • baycas

    It may appear at present that Ombudswoman Carpio-Morales is overzealous in her job against high-profile grafters and corrupt top public officials as advanced by some senators.

    However, the real score in this fight is that former Ombudswoman Gutierrez did not do anything to prosecute high-profile grafters and corrupt top public officials during her time. Most of the senators did not do anything to right the wrong then.

    I am against a “peanut butter” approach in a defense BUT I am certainly for a “peanut butter” approach in the attack by the incumbent Ombudswoman against those who perceived themselves as untouchables like the senators (and gods like the SC justices!).

    Don’t spread the blame
    to avoid penalty

    Spread the penalty
    to all blameworthy