Restoring the Ombudsman's Probity and Independence

The nature of the Office of Ombudsman is special and extraordinary as it takes on the role of being the watchdog of the citizenry against crimes, and graft & corruption.

The Office of the Ombudsman has been the subject of intense scrutiny under the last two administrations. It is ironic that this independent constitutional body tasked to investigate and prosecute erring government officials has become the prominent target of several impeachment cases.

Less than a year into the term of the PNoy administration, former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez resigned after the House of Representatives impeached her for allegedly underperforming and failing to act on several cases during the term of former President Gloria Arroyo. Recently, on December 2017, several groups filed an impeachment complaint against current Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales for purportedly committing culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft & corruption, and betrayal of public trust.

The Ombudsman is not coterminous with the President; therefore, the Ombudsman's term goes beyond the tenure of his/her appointing authority. As such, it is only logical for the new administration to attempt at dislodging the previously appointed Ombudsman, especially if it senses vehement signs of opposition from the Ombudsman against the administration’s allies in government. This is considering the highly politicized nature in the selection of an Ombudsman.

The nature of the Office of Ombudsman is special and extraordinary as it takes on the role of being the watchdog of the citizenry against crimes, and graft & corruption. A higher standard of credibility and integrity is demanded of the Ombudsman; thus, it must not be seen merely as a rubber stamp of his/her appointing power.

The independence of the Ombudsman is critical in maintaining checks and balances among the three branches of government. It is only prudent for the newly constituted Charter Change Consultative Committee to take into account the manner in which the Ombudsman should be selected. It is also perhaps the time for us to consider allowing the people to choose their Ombudsman through election, based on the same pre-selection process undertaken by the Judicial and Bar Council. In this manner, we could possibly prevent the practice of “utang na loob” on the part of the appointee towards the President. Furthermore, this may insulate the elected Ombudsman from undue political pressure brought about by the current appointment system.

We should have our learned our lessons with the last two Ombudsmen. Our failure to recognize the existing flaws in the Ombudsman appointment system would only perpetuate the filing of cases against succeeding Ombudsmen and effectively weaken the institution.

Our people deserve no less than a strong, independent and apolitical Ombudsman!



About the Author
Mr. Aaron Benedict De Leon is currently a Business Development Practitioner in a private consulting firm. He has more than six years of professional experience in leading and managing political and non-government organizations, specializing in organizational management, policy development and program management. He has had stints with notable political/socio-civic organizations, serving in various capacities as: Secretary-General of the Centrist Democratic Party of the Philippines (CDP) [2013-2015], Founding Chairperson of the Centrist Democratic Youth Association of the Philippines (CDYAP) [2012-2014], Philippine Representative to the International Young Democrat Union (IYDU) [2011-2012], Chairperson of the Christian Democratic Youth [2011-2012], Secretary-General of YOUTH Philippines [2010-2011], and Spokesperson/Communications Director of the GT2010 Gilbert Teodoro Presidential Campaign [2009-2010].
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