Press Release
August 31, 2011


Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said that she will file a bill directing the Ombudsman to waive or at least to give priority to preliminary investigations of criminal cases recommended for filing by the Senate or the House of Representatives.

Santiago said that last year, she already filed a resolution "expressing the sense of the Senate that the Ombudsman should strictly comply with the periods provided under the Rules of Court in the investigation of cases referred to it by Congress."

Santiago's resolution is apparently pending in the Senate justice committee.

In the same resolution, Santiago also asked for an amendment of the Ombudsman Act, to set a time limit for preliminary investigations conducted by the Ombudsman.

At present, the Ombudsman Rules of Procedure provides that preliminary investigation should be conducted according to the Rules of Court.

"Under the Rules of Court, once the complaint is filed with the fiscal, the accused is given ten days to submit counter-affidavits and the hearing is held within five days. The investigating officer is given ten days after the investigation to file a resolution either dismissing the complaint or filing it in court," she said.

"Under the Rules, the Ombudsman has about 25 days to finish a preliminary investigation. But in many criminal cases that the Senate recommended for filing in court, the Ombudsman did not act at all or the Ombudsman let the cases languish pending preliminary investigation," the senator said.

In her resolution, Santiago enumerated the cases of delay in the preliminary investigation by the Ombudsman, including: the 2006 fertilizer fund scam; the 2008 case of the euro generals; and the 2009 road board scam, as well as the NBN-ZTE scandal.

"Despite the recommendations made by the Senate, the office of the Ombudsman failed to resolve these cases promptly," Santiago said in her resolution.

Santiago said that the sense of the Senate should be conveyed that the Ombudsman should "strictly comply with the periods provided under the Rules of Court in the investigation of cases referred to it by Congress."

Further, Santiago also said that "the proper amendment to the Ombudsman Act should be passed by Congress, in order to reflect the periods provided in the Rules of Court. This shall serve as a clear guide in the disposition of cases before the Office of the Ombudsman."

Santiago recently told media that Senate investigation in aid of legislation lacked value.

The senator explained that after lengthy probes in the Senate, the Ombudsman in the past failed to act promptly on the Senate recommendations.

Santiago said that the euro general's case, where she led the investigation, was probed by the Senate in 2008, but it was only now two years later, that cases were filed in court.

In the same vein, Santiago said that the road board scam where she also led the investigation was recommended for prosecution in 2009, but until now no action has been taken by the Ombudsman.

"Maybe the Senate blue ribbon committee should investigate the inexplicable delay in the preliminary investigation of these cases. When the Senate makes a recommendation for prosecution, usually the evidence is already contained or identified in the committee report. If the Ombudsman fails to act on a Senate recommendation, in effect the Ombudsman renders the Senate probe useless," she said.

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