Press Release
August 10, 2010

Zubiri seeks stronger investigatory powers for Ombudsman

Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri has proposed measure aimed to strengthen the investigatory powers of the Office of the Ombudsman and its institutional capacity to run after corrupt officials.

Zubiri pushed for the measure following cases filed at the Sandiganbayan but were dismissed due to failure of the Ombudsman to substantiate claims of unlawfully acquired properties against erring government officials.

He said the lack of appropriate powers and measures to address the gaps in the evidence gathering process of the Ombudsman should be rectified, to effectively prosecute corrupt government workers and officials resulting to losses of millions of pesos in the national coffin.

Zubiri said the inability of the investigators of the Ombudsman to look into the respondent's bank records without any subpoena issued by the court only provide enough window for the respondents to withdraw or transfer his or her account.

Senate Bill No. 1447 or an "Act Strengthening the institutional capacity of the Office of the Ombudsman by amending certain provisions of the Ombudsman Act of 1989," seeks the following:

  • Enable the Office of the Ombudsman to issue subpoena and subpoena duces tecum, during the preliminary investigation in order to look into bank records even prior to the filing of a case before the court;

  • Motu propio, issue freeze order to unlawfully acquired assets for six months;

  • Provide immunity from criminal, administrative or civil suits to the Ombudsman investigators and prosecutors arising from the regular exercise of their official duties; and

  • Impose penalties to the officer of employee found guilty of the charge even during election period notwithstanding the prohibitions under the Election Code and other similar statues.

Under the proposed measure the Rank and Salary of the Ombudsman and his deputies will have the same ranks, salaries and privileges as the chairman and members of a Constitutional Commission and shall not be subjected to any salary cut during their term of office.

It likewise proposed that members of the prosecution, investigation, legal and administrative staff of the Office of the Ombudsman be entitled to emoluments and salaries not less than those given to similar positions in government.

The proposed legislation also recommends that the benefits and other compensation to the employees and officials of the Office of the Ombudsman be paid out of the national budget and included in the annual appropriations of the Ombudsman's office.

It also specified that no person subpoenaed to testify as witness shall be excused from attending and testifying in all hearings, inquiries and proceedings of the Ombudsman, including preliminary investigations of offenses.

It likewise prohibits any person called to testify before the Ombudsman from refusing to produce books, papers, correspondence, memoranda and/or other records on the ground that the testimony or evidence, documentary may incriminate him.

The Ombudsman, however, may grant immunity from criminal prosecution to any person whose testimony or whose possession and production of documents or other evidence may be necessary to determine the truth in any hearing, inquiry or proceeding being conducted by the Ombudsman or under its authority. It however does not exempt witnesses from criminal prosecution for perjury or false testimony nor shall he be exempt from demotion or removal from office.

Zubiri said: "If the proposed legislation hurdles the legislative process, the Ombudsman can now address the issues of graft cases in the country through a progressive and transparent system of collecting evidence in corruption cases, supporting effective asset recovery and addressing fundamental institutional capacity."

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