Press Release
September 10, 2021

Dispatch from Crame No. 1144:
Sen. Leila M. de Lima on the Ombudsman's proposal to penalize comments on SALNs

If an alien from another planet landed on the Philippines for the first time, it would think that the Office of the Ombudsman was created to defend and protect abusive and corrupt public officials from the citizenry, instead of the other way around. Because that is what Ombudsman Samuel Martires projects to be the mission of his office: to protect public officials from the public, instead of investigating their wrongdoing.

Martires even makes it a point to propose a law penalizing citizens who would comment on the SALNs of public officials (in the off chance that they are even given access to it by the Ombudsman), forgetting all the Constitutional Law lessons he has learned from law school and wrote about as a Supreme Court Justice on what is otherwise well-known to everybody else as the freedom of speech, the unconstitutionality of prior restraint statutes, and finally, the purpose of the constitutional mandate on the filing of SALNs.

Because of his defense of public officials and their SALN from the public, Martires has come out with another inane question. How come, he asks, everybody is interested in the SALN of the President, when corruption is widespread and endemic among all other public officials? Well, because the President is the highest official of the land, and therefore the people are more interested in his honesty and integrity than the rest of officialdom.

Under his watch, Martires has undeniably stood the Office of the Ombudsman on its head, lacking the requisite zeal in running after corrupt public officials and even perceived to be protecting instead of investigating them. If it was all left to him, perhaps, I am sure he won't even investigate and prosecute the suspects in the Pharmally heist, especially if they include his patron Duterte.

For Ombudsman Martires, his job as Ombudsman is clear: keep the President's SALN away from the public, as he has already done after denying the request made by my lawyers, and protect the interests of public officials, rather than that of the public. He must have read a different Article on Public Accountability in the 1987 Constitution, because nothing there remotely supports Martires' musings on what he thinks his job is as Ombudsman.

(Access the handwritten version, here:

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